He doesn’t want to grow up.
Not alone. Please not alone.
That’s what he told me with longing in his quiet eyes.
I met this darling Lost Boy in a McDonald’s of all places. I was traveling with New Horizons for Children, interviewing orphans who were hoping to be part of the Christmas hosting program, which would allow them to spend four weeks in America celebrating the holidays with a family.
His caregiver brought him to McDonald’s to meet us, along with two younger boys. This Peter Pan of Eastern Europe was clearly the leader, nervously squaring his shoulders. The others looked to him for their cues.
Interviewing these children is a joy and a struggle all at once—there are language barriers, but there are also fears to overcome. We are Other. We are Unknown. We are Risk. Many Eastern Europeans still do not trust westerners; while they long to see America, they are wary of the motives of Americans. And so, when we go to interview, we often see a mixture of terror and hope in these children. They are stepping out of everything that they know and risking their own selves for this opportunity. They don’t fully comprehend what might be waiting on the other side of the ocean, but still they come. Still they hope. Still they long for the Maybe….maybe this means a connection…maybe this means a family for the holidays….maybe this means a “something” that is not the loneliness that they feel in their current situations.
I am constantly in awe of these brave ones who take a chance on a Something. Ones like this Peter Pan, with his quick smile and quiet eyes.
We began interviewing one of the younger boys first. We asked a question in English, and before the translator could even begin, Peter Pan turned to the little one and quietly translated.
That caught my attention.
Soon it was his turn. The little ones were playing Tic-Tac-Toe at the end of the table, and he moved closer to me so that we could listen to his story. He tilted his head the way teen boys do to slide their bangs out of their eyes.
I am alone, he said. And I’m not ready to grow up. Not by myself.
That caught my breath.
He’s almost 18, the age at which the system ends and children are on their own. He will have to move out of his state-run home and get an apartment. The apartment will likely be something like the one at the top of this page–in poor condition, and in a bad part of the city. He will have to figure out how to pay his bills and manage a home. And he will have to somehow finish another year of high school on top of it. He played with his fingers as he said his two year plan was to figure out how to do this life all alone.
That caught my heart.
He looks maybe 15, this dear one. He wants a long board (skateboard) for Christmas. He works an after school job to make a little extra money. He likes to make things out of wood. He is worried that he won’t be able to communicate in America, but he still wants to come. He has gone to church and knows God’s love, and it helps him wrestle through the loneliness.
This Peter Pan has no family. They are gone, through death or abandonment. He is a lost boy without a Neverland. He is fighting things more dangerous than pirates and crocodiles. His battles are against despair and hopelessness. Desperation and homelessness.
I listened to him. I typed his story into my laptop. I had a hard time moving my fingers, because my heart’s whisper was so loud in my ears.
“This one. This one is yours. Peter Pan shouldn’t grow up…not alone.”
It was so loud I thought he would hear.
He’s mine. I desperately wanted to host Peter Pan for Christmas. My own lost boy, found.
Of course, the others in this clan of mine needed to hear that siren call, too….and I wasn’t sure how that would go.
When I came home from my trip, I told Little Man about some of the children I met. He knows this land and these people, and he loved hearing the stories of their mischievous one-liners and hopes for America. I planned on mixing Peter Pan in with several other stories. But when I got to him, Little Man stopped me.
“This one. He needs a family really badly, Mama. Can we be his family? Please? He can have my room. I’ll share my video games. I bet he’ll like them. Can he come to OUR house?”
Yes, you dear, darling boy, with your giant heart. Yes, yes…..I think. But I needed to ask one other person.
For the past year and a half, Sunshine has told me that I shouldn’t host. “You already have the best of the best children. Why you need more??” And I didn’t. While I felt sad as others hosted, it was always because I wished Sunshine was on the plane, too. Hosting another child seemed ridiculous. There was no way another child could steal my heart the way the two I loved as mine already had.
But Peter Pan snuck right in there with the first flip of his bangs and those quiet eyes.
I was nervous when I approached Sunshine about it. I shouldn’t have been.
“So,” she asked me on Skype. “You find new child? You have a bed in your home and I am not coming for Christmas. Maybe you should help someone else. You are so good woman. You need more children. Where are my new siblings, lazy woman??” and she laughed.
So I showed her Peter Pan’s picture and told his story. She stopped breathing.
“Ohhhh….yes. This boy. He needs us. He needs this family. He needs you. And maybe after Christmas, he can stay in America and go to school? He does not need apartment. He needs family. You give him this.” And then she thought for a minute. “But…if he thinks, no school in America, this is okay too. I will help him. Now he has me also. We are family that stretches two countries wide.”
These children of mine. They want him, too. It is overwhelming to think that through their broken, they not only see hope….but they want to give it to someone else, too. I am not worthy of such as these.
And so, PETER PAN IS COMING FOR CHRISTMAS!!!! He will be here mid-December through mid-January for the holidays.
As we spend time with him, we will be prayerfully considering the possibility of offering him a student visa so that he could come to our family on a more permanent basis. He wouldn’t have to grow up. Not yet. He could be a child for a little longer, and finish high school here without the responsibilities of being an adult too soon (Adoption is unfortunately not an option due to his age).
So please join us as we begin this next chapter in our family’s journey. Specifically:
- Pray for Peter Pan. Pray for his heart, and that he would be blessed this holiday season.
- Pray for Little Man. He will once again be loving sacrificially beyond his years. Some days that is really hard.
- Pray for me as I parent another teen—a boy this time. What in the world do I do with a teen boy???
- Pray for the future of our motley family. I need guidance as I decide what would be best to offer Peter Pan, and how to navigate parenting multiple teens (!!!) across an ocean.
We are also in need of financial support. Hosting costs around $3000, plus some additional flight fees and the cost of purchasing a wardrobe and supplies for Peter Pan (he comes with only the clothes on his back—we want to bless him with a FULL bag to take home with him!). If you would like to support us, you can do that via Paypal here.
Thank you all so much for investing in the lost and the lonely with me. I can’t wait to give Peter Pan Christmas in a family!