Bowdens recruiting families for orphan hosting ministry
Paul and Lisa Bowden of Alexandria have seen the effects of orphan hosting first-hand. In 2015, they opened their home up to four Ukrainian orphans through the Force for Christ hosting ministry.
After the children returned to the orphanage, Paul and Lisa and could see the effects in the children they hosted and in other children who had been hosted by other families.
"They're the first kids to come talk to us, and they actually look us in the eye," Lisa said. "Orphans are so shunned in their country, and they had hope. You could just see it in their faces."
Their hosting experience led to the adoption of those four children in 2016.
When they were in Ukraine picking up the children, their hosting facilitator, Zhenia, asked the Bowdens if they would partner with him in helping other families host children from other orphanages in Ukraine.
After all they had experienced, the Bowdens knew it was the right next step.
Rallying around families
The Bowdens got the paperwork started before Christmas and worked on contracts between the Ukrainian organizations and their church, Church for the Harvest. They have launched the independent 501(c)(3) orphan hosting organization named Courageous Families.
They selected the name because, so often, the focus is on the orphans, Lisa said. While that is still important, they wanted to focus on reaching out to the host families.
They set up a Facebook page, collected children's biographies from Zhenia, and are now searching for host families.
Courageous Families has the capacity to help about 20 families host, but the Bowdens said that's it's OK if they start small. Her goal right now is to bring about 10 to 12 kids over.
Zhenia will travel to the U.S. with all the children as their chaperone and interpreter. During their stay, he will consistently check in with each family.
The Bowdens' vision for the host families is that local churches will rally around each one to help.
She encourages families to consider welcoming an orphan or two into their homes, as the reward for both that family and that child is worth it.
"It forced us to look at another culture," she said. "I think it helped us get a vision for how we can make a difference in people's lives because sometimes we just get stuck in our rut and forget that there are kids out there that don't know our most basic things, even basic hygiene things. It helped our older kids, too, to take their eyes off themselves and put them on other people."
To be a host
Families that agree to host will fill out an application, undergo a background check and home visit, and select a child to host from those available through Courageous Families.
Ages for available children range from 6 to 16.
Hosts must be at least 25 years old and must be a legally married couple or a single person. It's acceptable for families to already have children.
The time commitment for hosts is five to six weeks, late June to early August.
"It's nice because you have a start day and you have an end day. It's not like you're making an 18-year commitment to a child," Lisa said. "Relationships can be maintained, often, which is encouraging to some families."
Each host family pays a hosting fee, which covers all the expenses for getting the children here, including insurance, passports, flights and in-country travel. They must also provide clothes to the children.
Families must also agree to send the child back to the country of origin. In order to avoid giving false hope, the Bowdens said that they don't talk to the children about adoption while they're here.
Zhenia's travel costs will also be covered through part of that fee. He is also in need of places to stay while in the U.S.
"Doing a missions project in your own home is a good fit for a lot of families that may not want to travel," Lisa said. "Plus, you can give them an experience that you can't give them by going there.
So far, the Bowdens have received three applications and encourage families to consider the possibility of hosting.
Ultimately, their goal is to simply reach anyone who has a heart for helping orphans, whether that's providing scholarships, donating clothes or other essential items, making food and more.
"Just seeing that, wow, hosting really does have an impact, made us want to host and organize and allow other families to host," Paul and Lisa said. "And not only that, but the impact it had on us as a family, people are going to want that impact.
"When you listen to God's calling and step out, He shows up. And His presence makes anything we do worth it."
Contact Courageous Families
The deadline for families to decide to host a child an orphan child from the Ukraine is Friday, May 12.
For more information or if interested in hosting a child or helping out in any way, contact Paul and Lisa Bowden at the Courageous Families Facebook page or email@example.com.