Thursday, September 1, 2011

Host Student Switcheroo

Our college host students that had been home for the summer, Yaw and Ezekiel, headed back to college on August 17th. Ezekiel went back to Gillette College in Wyoming where he and Yaw attended school last year. Yaw started at Dordt College located in Sioux Center, Iowa. ( This year we also decided to try and find a host family for Peprah (our high school host student) that was closer to his school, Des Moines Christian. It was a struggle all last year for Jake to get him to school every morning and pick him up every afternoon with that 45 minute drive! It also didn’t seem fair to Peprah that he had to be so far removed from school activities and friends since we live so far from his school. An awesome host family was found for Peprah, the Storts, and he now lives with them in Des Moines and is only 1 mile away from Des Moines Christian high school (the Storts also have 2 younger kids not pictured here)!

Jake and I were so bummed to see Peprah go…..he was a great role model for our kids, a huge help to me around the house, and brought such a joyful-lighthearted-spirit to our family. But, we know that he will enjoy his high school experience so much more now that he can be closer to his school and friends.

So, within one day Yaw, Ezekiel and Peprah were gone, and on that same day we welcomed in our new host students from the Rosebud Indian Reservation in South Dakota. Kiana, 8th grader (pictured left), and Victoria, 9th grader (pictured right), have now taken over our extra bedroom and will be hanging with us for the rest of the school year. The tables have turned folks! We now have more girls in the house than boys!

Here’s a map of the reservations in South Dakota…Rosebud is there at the bottom center….

We signed up to be a host family for this exchange program through our church, fully knowing that the Native American culture and community is something we have very little knowledge about. Since our initial sign up, Jake and I have slowly come to understand small tidbits of what life is like on ‘the rez’ (the reservation). Although we haven’t been to the rez, the descriptions of gang pressure, sexual assault, suicide, and drug and alcohol abuse give me pictures of darkness and hopelessness. There have been a handful of articles written which give quite a glimpse into the depravity of reservation life… is the link to those: I found the following statistics written into the story of Neleigh, a little girl Jayla’s age, quite piercing….

- As a Native American girl and a member of what South Dakota’s U.S. Attorney Brendan Johnson calls “the most victimized group in America,” Neleigh has a one in three chance of being sexually abused in her lifetime.

- The possibility of her dropping out of school is greater than her getting a diploma.

- She will know people in gangs, and maybe join one herself.

- She’ll have friends who are crammed into inadequate housing with 15 people or more, or who get ready for school with no running water or electricity in their homes.

- On a welfare diet of Ramen noodles and popsicles, she has a 50-50 shot at developing diabetes.

- She is twice as likely to be touched by thoughts or knowledge of suicide as other South Dakota teens.

- And like her mother, who was 15 when she gave birth, Neleigh is growing up in a place where the rate of teen pregnancy is 2 1/2 times the state average.

It appears that often times, the only future hope to escape becoming another statistic is to leave the reservation.

After having our girls with us for a little less than 2 weeks, I can tell you that hosting them is going to be a night and day difference from what we experienced in hosting our Ghanaian host students. But, we are seeing strikingly similar things as to when Sam lived with us. Namely, this is a major spiritual battle. Yaw, Peprah and Ezekiel each came to us with a professed faith in Jesus. They learned and grew in their faith while here, but they originally came to us with a base of a relationship in God. Reading their Bible was not foreign to them, going to church was not foreign to them, and praying was not foreign to them. This is not so with our girls. Everything that has to do with God is foreign to them, and rather uncomfortable. I know that Satan absolutely hates that they are here, and inviting these girls into our home has put us all in the line of fire for the devil’s attacks. But to me, that is the first sign that we are supposed to be doing this. It was the same with our adoption. We know God is in this, because Satan is desperately trying to stop it.

One of the things that I love about hosting students is sitting down a few times a week to do a family bible study. The discussions stay pretty interesting when you get to hear from teenagers on topics of faith and listen to their questions. I love even more that our own kids get to hear insights and thoughts and questions from those not too far off from them in age. During one of our family bible studies last week we went through these verses in Acts:

The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands. And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything, because he himself gives all men life and breath and everything else. From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us. ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’ (Acts 17:24-28)

We talked about how these verses showcase God’s sovereignty in that He ordained for these girls to be sitting there in our living room from the beginning of their lives. And the same with Justice. We talked about how Justice was one of the millions of orphans in Africa, and yet, God literally picked him out from all the way across the world, and now he was here with us. From there the girls opened up and asked some great questions:

Why is God the most important spirit? Why should we worship him alone over all the other spirits?

How do you change when you’ve grown up your whole life believing something else?

Oh man, are they talking to the right people or what?!?!?! Jake and I had these same questions that we ourselves had to deal with just a few short years ago. Although I hate that I’ve spent more of my life as an enemy of God than a follower, I also now see how I can use my past to my advantage. I know where these girls are coming from. I know what it feels like to not have the Holy Spirit inside, and to not really give a care at all to your way of life, not to mention your Creator.

We got to talk to the girls about what beliefs they’ve grown up with. I asked them about their beliefs on death. “When the Sioux Indians die their spirits go to the wind caves,” they said.

“What about us, then?” Jake asked. “Where does the white man go when he dies according to your beliefs?”

“You go wherever you believe it is you go.”

I can see my old self in these girls. And although it is tempting for me to carry the burden of wanting so badly for them to know truth, I know that it is not up to me. Yes, we can open the scriptures with them. Yes, we can openly talk to them about our faith. Yes, we can pray for them. But, God is the one who will open their eyes and reveal His truths to them, just as He did for Jake and I not too long ago.

….so that you may proclaim the praises of the One who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light. ~ 1 Peter 2:9 ~

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