This story is #mywhy 8 1/2 years ago I was sitting in a meeting in my Bishop’s office (I was the Junior primary president at the time…..yes, we had so many kids at church that we needed 2 primary presidencies😆) when our Bishop mentioned that he had been contacted by a local coordinator, Sarah Candelaria, who needed to find a new host family for an exchange student at Volcano Vista High School who had to move from her current family. I remember writing the info in my notes and feeling some strange urgency to call and offer my family to host her. Gracen was 14 at the time, Gillian Pond was 6 and Garrett was 2. I figured if we moved our toddler out of his room and into ours then we would have a spare room to host – crazy huh?! But I always wanted a bigger family and was denied that due to health complications, so we gave it a shot and I made the call that changed everything.
Little did I know that bringing Naima Abdelcader from Sweden into our home would change our lives for the better. She was beautiful, sweet and smart, but it was a totally new challenge for our family to introduce a stranger into our lives. We were set in our ways, busy, noisy, a little crazy, and had food intolerances. Who would want to be a part of that??!! Turns out, we had had so much to learn from her and a lot to offer by opening our hearts.
Well, next came Cecilia Tang from China, Hannah Roe from Germany, Julien from France, Anna Lena Schmitz from Germany, Marta López Vidalfrom Spain, and now Mia Meier from Germany. Every one of these kids have become part of our family. They have each taught us so much about the world and how love is universal. My oldest daughter served an 18 month mission for our church in Belgium and the Netherlands between 2016-2018. Before she left, Gracen Pond told me that having exchange student experiences within our home gave her the courage to serve as a missionary in a foreign land.
I love that this is also my job. I get to bridge connections for international students and local families and help them navigate the adventures that our family has enjoyed over the years. I’m never surprised that we have so many wonderful repeat host families each year. Making connections with students (who grow up into the most amazing adults) and being their “American Mom” has brought me as much joy as my own beautiful children. I cry when they leave and I cry when they come back to visit or we get to visit them. No, not everything ran smoothly and we had ups and down and issues that had to be worked out, but we are better off because of each of them. I truly love those kiddos and can’t imagine life without them.
– Paula P. (host mom and local coordinator)
(503) 222-9803 in Portland
(877) 222-9803 Toll Free
Fax: (503) 227-7224
1029 SW Washington Street Portland, OR 97205