In this story, Carol Ohime shares how retirement took an unexpected turn and brought guests to her empty nest.
"I thought to myself, “What's five weeks with a 12-year-old girl?” We were two years from retirement. Our life was heading towards that quieter season. There’s no such thing as too old, right?" - Carol
One evening, about four years ago, I got a phone call from my adult daughter who was volunteering for Project 143. She shared how she had a host child that had been told she was coming to America to spend the summer with a family, but that family could no longer host. Our daughter had been trying all day to find a backup family for the girl and was not finding one. It was breaking her heart to think they would have to leave this child behind. No matter how old your children are, as their mom, you want to fix things. That evening I heard myself say, "We will take her!"
What's five weeks with a 12-year-old girl? We had four adult children and, at that time, nine grandchildren, some of them around her age. Easy. Right? That five-minute phone conversation changed our lives in ways we could have never foreseen. We were two years from retirement and making plans. We knew we would be moving soon, and our life was heading towards a time when we could do as we wanted.
A few weeks later, this sweet preteen stepped off the plane and into our hearts. She was amazing from day one, spunky and could hold her own with my husband. She had a laugh that made you laugh along with her. Her smile melted my heart and she loved doing almost anything with us. We spent the next five weeks baking, cooking, swimming, visiting amusement parks, painting our nails, making jewelry, celebrating her Name Day and so much more. She got to know our friends and made friends with our granddaughters.
Five weeks flew past and it was nearly impossible to say goodbye at the airport. We knew we probably would never see her again, but we also knew she was forever in our hearts and prayers. In the years since, we have stayed in contact with her via social media. We have watched her grow, cried at things we cannot fix for her, rejoiced in things that were good and covered her in prayer. She knows that there are two people in this world who love her unconditionally. That is something she may have never known without hosting.
We enjoyed our summer hosting and went on to plan our retirement. Our daughter hosted and we got to see her sweet host kids, but we didn't think of hosting again ourselves. Fast forward 18 months and we are two people enjoying the warm weather and slower days. A friend called one day and "wondered" if we would like to host again. After praying on it, we hosted. Then, we hosted again the next season. We have now hosted our sixth child. To be honest, I have no idea what we would be doing without teens in our home twice a year. I do know we love the season we are in and will keep doing this as long as we can.
Never think you are too old to host or have nothing to give to these amazing kids. We don’t do anything extravagant. We bake and make meals together. We teach them how to grill. We sit around talking and playing games in the evening. My husband heads up an age-appropriate project each season with our host children. One time, he and the young man we hosted put a floor down in our attic. Our host son loved time spent with a father figure and using tools he’d never seen before. He also learned to run a lawn mower and even played golf that summer.
Sometimes, we take a day trip to the ocean and all the host kids love our above-ground pool. We go to church on Sundays and friends hang out with us. We visit the local amusement park and spend the day riding their favorite rides. We eat ice cream way too often and are always amazed at how much watermelon one child can eat in a week.
At Christmas, we drive around and look at lights, watch Christmas movies, go shopping and wrap gifts. We watch them as they see gifts under the tree just for them; just a few gifts, four each. They so carefully open each one that was chosen just for them. Their faces tell the story of being unsure and excited at the same time. We eat Christmas dinner and play new games. No snow here to build snowmen, but we have had water balloon fights on New Year’s Eve.
Summer or winter, our empty nest becomes family for an older child who needs us. We can’t encourage you enough to consider serving children alongside us.
Thank you Carol for sharing your family's story, and for everything you are doing for these kids!