When God Speaks, You Should Listen
Texas host family and French exchange student on pick-up truck in autumn

Become a host family? Let's pray on it.

“Mom! Let’s get a foreign exchange student!” my daughter Jayme said one day in July (2020). She went on to tell me about how her friend so-and-so hosted a student last year, and she and Carmen became BEST friends, and it was so amazing, and it’s a once-in-a-lifetime chance, etc. etc. My immediate reaction was, “No way hon, I can’t do it.” I proceeded to list off all the reasons why. I have too many jobs already; and there’s not enough time in the day; and how could I possibly take care of another person?

Jayme was sad, but surprisingly, she did not push and push to the point of me wanting to strangle her—which is what she usually does when she wants something. (I love her tenacity but sheesh .) For some reason, I didn’t put the thought completely aside that very minute. Instead, I told her I would pray about it. And I never say that unless I mean it.

So I prayed, and I asked God to let me know if he really wanted me to do this. And in the coming days, Jayme reminded me about the program and asked again if we could do it. I wasn’t quite feeling a yes, so I told her I wasn’t sure. Jayme explained it was getting late, and so I did need to hurry up and make up my mind.

I prayed some more. And Jayme asked me again. But not in her usual pushy (yet loveable ) way. I told her we could meet the PAX coordinator and have the home visit, but I wasn’t promising anything.

We met Cristal the evening of July 30. She was great! She was so nice and easy to talk to. She also did a very thorough job of telling us about the program and what would be expected of us and how we needed to prepare for having a student become part of our family. She told us about the pitfalls and potential problems but also how wonderful it is and how much you come to love the student as your own child.

If I wasn’t convinced after talking to Cristal, it only took reading Elise’s profile to know God was giving me a great big yes! Yes you can do it, Jennifer, and I want you to! Reading Elise’s profile was like reading something Jayme or I would have written. She wrote about being a very dedicated student and gymnast and a hard worker. She wrote about wanting to learn new sports and be with an active family. She wrote about her love for her family and her parents who taught her to be respectful and just everything you would want to read from someone who might come live with you for a year . We asked Cristal to officially start the process that night, and we were so excited.

Fast forward five months: this has been a truly incredible, meaningful experience, and we are SO blessed to have Elise with us. She is a thoughtful, kind, easygoing, intelligent, strong, and amazing young lady.

One day a few weeks ago as we were hanging out on the couch alternating between reading and talking, Elise told me she had seen a picture of Jayme on Instagram in June (two months before we shared any info with PAX!). She showed me the picture, and I recognized it as one Jayme had taken in the backyard before we left for the beach in May. I asked Elise if she was scared to come here. She said she was nervous, but she never doubted she should come to be with us, even with the pandemic and everything. She read our profile and recognized Jayme in the photos and she said, “It was crazy.” I asked if she thought it was a sign that it was meant to be, and she said, “Oh yes, definitely .”

I’m really thankful for Jayme, because it all started with her: her adventurous and big heart and her desire to have a sister and help someone from across the world get to know America. I’m so glad she had the idea; and she pushed me a little; and God made everything else work out .

—Jennifer Hacker (TX), host mom of Elise (France)