STALLINGS – One local family is stepping out of its comfort zone in exchange for something greater: showing love to someone who needs it.
The McIntosh family, of Stallings, is playing host to Igor – a 12-year-old orphan from the Ukraine – for five weeks through an organization called New Horizons for Children. The Christian-based ministry connects families with orphans from across the world, allowing the families to host children for five weeks during the summer or around Christmas.
Monica McIntosh first discovered New Horizons for Children while reading a blog and again through an email her pastor sent to church members. She learned children in the Ukraine “age out” of orphanages at 16 years old.
Without intervention, 60 percent of orphaned girls will end up in prostitution, 70 percent of orphaned boys will end up on the streets or in jail, and 15 percent of orphaned children will commit suicide within the first two years of living on their own, according to the organization.
After discovering these “startling statistics” and researching, discussing and praying about it, the family decided to pursue hosting an orphan through New Horizons for Children.
“We’d wanted to do something to help with the orphan situation, but we didn’t know where to start,” McIntosh said. “We thought hosting a child for five weeks would be a great starting point.”
McIntosh, her husband, Rondo, and their two sons, Aidan and Logan, ages 9 and 11, all agreed Igor was the child they were meant to host. But before they could welcome Igor into their home, the McIntoshes had to raise $3,000.
“We were kind of like, ‘Lord, if this is what you want us to do, you’re going to provide,” McIntosh said.
McIntosh started a blog, encouraging family, friends and fellow church members to follow the family’s journey and learn more about New Horizons for Children. The donations started flowing in shortly afterward.
“People you never would have expected” gave money, McIntosh said. “It just amazed me how people are willing to give.”
The family met Igor at the airport on June 26, carrying welcome posters and gifts. The McIntoshes have experienced a whirlwind of surprises, challenges and blessings since then.
“It’s one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, but (Igor) has such a sweet heart,” McIntosh said. “There are so many things we try to teach him that he’s never known. He’s never functioned in a family before. We’re teaching him how you get along with a family.”
The biggest challenge, McIntosh said, has been the language barrier, as Igor doesn’t speak English. The family has used technology to translate back and forth and often has relied on Oksana, a friend of a friend, to provide translation. But it’s still been frustrating at times, McIntosh said.
“While we can translate many things to him, it’s hard for him to get things to us at times,” she said. “…Sometimes when (Igor) gets really upset, it’s just a misunderstanding … There are cultural differences we’ve had to navigate and overcome, but he’s really doing good.”
One of the greatest blessings, McIntosh said, is being able to watch Igor take part in activities he loves. A very “on-the-go” child, Igor isn’t crazy about sit-down activities and prefers hours of swimming in the pool, visiting the zoo and rollerskating. The family also plans to visit the mountains and squeeze in a few days at the beach before Igor departs on July 29.
But the best part of hosting Igor has been “getting to experience how sweet he is,” McIntosh said. “He is just so totally open with it. He doesn’t hold back at all. He’s always wanting to open the door, carry my purse freely without being asked … My favorite thing is just to see that sweet, serving spirit, seeing how he has that having grown up without a family in an orphanage.”
McIntosh said it’s also been a learning experience for Aidan and Logan, who’ve developed patience and understanding as they’ve gotten to know Igor.
“It really makes you look at everything around you, makes you appreciate what God has given you. You’re learning about what makes you bond with your family,” she said. “At times you’re tired, but we wouldn’t trade it for anything. We just hope we’re giving (Igor) something he can take back.”
Learn more about the family’s journey at their blog, www.themcintoshcrew.blogspot.com. Find more information about New Horizons for Children at the organization’s website, www.newhorizonsforchildren.org.