Thursday, April 9, 2015

Absolute Joy Found by Being Host Family for an NPH Student: It's All About Giving Back

In recognition of National Volunteer Week April 12-18, enjoy this wonderful reflection by NPH USA donor, volunteer and sponsor Cheryl Goodwin as she recounts her and her husband Paul's experience hosting NPH student Magda in their home.




When we agreed to be a host family for one of the NPH Seattle Leadership Institute students this year, I knew that I would be glad I had done it. My family has been involved with NPH since 2007, when my oldest daughter worked at the regional office. She invited us to a Faces of Hope event that introduced us to NPH, its founder, and the children who are part of a large, loving family.  Shortly after that we sponsored our first godchild from Guatemala, and then a second one. 

I have been a Table Captain at numerous events, volunteered in the office, and am currently serving on the Regional Board.  This past summer, I visited the home in Guatemala and was able to meet my godchildren and see first-hand that everything that I had heard about NPH was true. I remember clearly driving through the entrance of the grounds and being brought to tears by the beauty of it all, especially in contrast to the poverty we had passed through on the trip from the airport.

During this trip I was able to visit with several of the young men and women who had been through the Leadership program in Seattle during the past few years.  It was good to see them living out what the program was aiming for – providing leadership and support to their sisters and brothers at NPH. I was also introduced to Luisa, who was planning to come as one of this year’s students.

Paul and I have always opened our home to others.  Our children’s friends were (are) always welcome, extended family members have lived with us for several months, holiday gatherings are frequently at our house, and we have had weekly meals with a  large group of friends for nearly twenty years.  However, in recent years, I kept feeling the call to show “hospitality to strangers.”  We had been asked to consider hosting a student the prior year, but for several reasons had decided it wasn’t the right time.  The idea had stayed in my mind, however, and my visit to the home in Guatemala made everything so much more real than it had been before.  So, when Kara King (the director of the program) asked us to consider it again this year we said yes. 

To be honest, even after saying yes, I was nervous and uncertain about whether or not it was a good idea. Our student, Magda, is from Honduras and she spoke very little English.  Since neither my husband, my mother, nor I speak Spanish, I was worried about how we were going to communicate.  The first couple weeks were a bit of a challenge, communication-wise.  The translation programs on our cell phones were a life-saver, allowing us to at least get the basics of what we were trying to say across. However, we were able to laugh as we fumbled our way through unfamiliar words and as Magda’s English skills increased and we learned a little Spanish, communication became easier.  We now have long, detailed conversations with only the occasional look-up of a particularly difficult word.

I had also worried that we wouldn’t be exciting enough for her – we don’t have kids at home, we aren’t soccer players, and are pretty busy with work commitments.  But we can, and did, provide an opportunity for her to be part of our family, with all of our quirks and goodness. Our friends and church family have loved getting the chance to get to know her.  I was rather surprised at how quickly Magda began to feel like another daughter to us.

As I mentioned earlier, I knew that I would be glad that we had agreed to be a host family and that it was the right thing to do.  What I hadn’t counted on, however, was the joy I would experience in the midst of it.  I love introducing her to our family’s traditions, taking her to our favorite restaurants, participating in holiday activities, spending the evening watching a movie at home, and even helping her with her homework.  I am humbled by the fact that she has been willing to share her life story with us and that she trusts us to love and care for her.  I am blessed by her generosity and kindness toward her brothers and sisters at the ranch. I am impressed with her hard work to learn a new language and a new culture. I know she will take a piece of my heart with her when she returns to Honduras at the end of June, but am comforted by the knowledge that I now have another reason to visit the NPH Ranch there.

An added benefit of being a host family is the opportunity to get to know the other five students and their host families. Each of them, Luisa, Samy, Lucre, Florine, and Nelson, are wonderful individuals who challenge and bless me.  As I near the end of this year, I am saddened by the fact that I will miss them all and so very encouraged by the good work that I know they will all do in the future.

I am grateful that I have been able to play a small part in their lives. I would do it again in a heartbeat.







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