When their American Airlines flight lifted off at 6:32 a.m., Tuesday, April 18, it carried three little passengers with literally a new lease on life. Calvary said goodbye to the 23rd, 24th, and 25th Children’s Heart Project kids hosted by our church family since joining as a strategic partner a decade ago. Dianne Orth, who helped Calvary launch this program in 2007, summarized what would have been the result had Otgonzaya, Nandinerdene, and Ernar not undergone heart surgery at Mayo Clinic: “Their bodies would have grown, but not their hearts. They would have died before becoming full grown.”
Children’s Heart Project finds children with birth defects in their hearts, and partnering with hospitals around the world, fixes them. In the past 10 years of partnership, Calvary has hosted 25 children, their mothers, and CHP chosen translators from Ecuador, Bolivia, and Mongolia. Mayo Clinic has adopted CHP kids as their only remaining international charity and covers the complete cost of appointments, surgery, and hospitalization. Between the medical team at Mayo and the Cal-vary hosts, these children’s lives are in our hands.
CHP kids are chosen based on need and one-operation-fixability. By need we mean they could not get this life giving heart surgery in their home countries. By one-operation-fixability, we mean that it needed to be a life giving repair that could be done in one surgery since Mongolia is quite literally on the exact opposite side of the planet.
Dianne smiles as she reflects over a decade, “What amazes me is how weak and sick these kids are when they arrive, and how energetic they are when they leave. CHP does a one-year checkup on the kids we have hosted. Sometimes they tell us the children are literally twice as large.” CHP also invites CHP kids to Heart Camp as teens. The result of seeing these young men and women run and jump and play will bring you to tears. (Don’t believe it? Type this link into your browser and watch Sheena dance! https://www.facebook.com/search/str/rochester+mn+childrens+heart+project+network/keywords_top). At Heart Camp, CHP kids are also challenged to get their spiritual hearts healed.
Speaking of spiritual hearts, over the ten years of hosting CHP kids, God has healed the hearts of a number of the moms. They come wondering why Samaritan’s Purse would open their purse, and American host families would open their homes. Before they leave, that question is answered -the love of Jesus. It is the goal of CHP to send interpreters who love Christ and place these moms in host homes where that same love is modeled. That strategy is bearing fruit. A number of moms have trusted Christ as their Savior during their stay in Calvary host homes, and some have even been baptized! This year, Otgonzaya’s mom, Tonga, sat in our living room listening to Pastor Antonio Figuera share his testimony (Pastor Antonio was our guest over a weekend when we were hosting the CHP group in our home.). Her heart was softened. The next day at Calvary, she gave trusted Christ. She Facetime-called her husband in Mongolia and shared she had trusted Jesus. He told her he would start going to church with her. Five days later, on Good Friday, Tonga wrote her name on the painting in the gym representing sins Jesus had paid for, then had her first communion with us and Gaala in the Fellowship Hall.
If this year is any indication of the previous nine years, it appears heart procedures extend to the hosts. The Orvis family hosted Nandinerdene, Otgonzaya, their moms, and interpreter Gaala for the first three weeks of their visit. Here is how Abbie Orvis (age 16) describes the impact the CHP families had on her: “When asked to be-come a host family, we were able to open our home and our hearts to these precious children and their families as they lived at our home for a month while the children were operated on and recovered.As I reflect on the experience, I feel that my heart was changed just as the hearts of the children were.Our guests were strangers to us, not even speaking our language, yet this did not stop life-long relationships from being built between our families.Many would see this experience as arduous, time consuming, and not worth the effort. However, I would not trade this experience for the world.Despite having to make sacrifices such as giving up my room and spending countless hours in the hospital, I was able to serve these people who needed help and in turn, I was blessed by them through this experience.” Annie (age 13 -see photo with Otgonzaya) chimes in, “It’s a wonderful experience opening up our house to babies who need heart surgery.It is so incredible to watch these girls grow stronger and healthier in such a short period of time.I love having the opportunity to share God’s word and the love of Jesus right in our home.We have grown to love them dearly.”
Opening up one’s home to 3 to 5 people for 14 to 18 days can seem daunting. But thankfully, that didn’t stop Dan and Meredith Orvis from making this life-changing experience possible for CHP kids and their own girls. They share, “When first considering the decision to have five people from another country stay with us, we took a while to pray and consider if we were up for it.It does take a lot of effort and puts your household in a crazy, unpredictable state for a long period of time, but it is pretty neat that God has allowed us to be missionaries in the
comforts of our own home.We were able to witness to these moms in a time when they were truly open to hearing the Gospel.It is so amazing to know that we played a small role in their new understanding of who Jesus is and what His love looks like in a practical way.I cannot even imagine what it will be like in heaven to be reunited with the moms we have seen come to know Christ during their visits to America and Children’s Heart Project.On the outside it looks like we are taking the time to bless others, but it has always come back to be such an amazing blessing to us.”
Ed and Linda Laskowski were hosts to Ernar, his mother, Eka and interpreter, Gani. They, too, were touched. “It is awesome to see Jesus, The Great Physician, heal physical hearts. He loves us so much.It is also a privilege to see how His church shows His character and His love to reach spiritual hearts. And it was a blessing for us to get to know these precious people.”
Hosting and getting to know these precious people was made possible by a team of Calvary and Rochester believers who played a role in providing hospital visits, prayer, meals, rides, and respite time for hosts to tend to many of their own necessities. Dianne Orth’s eyes glitter with gratitude as she notes, “This year, Calvary people rose up above and beyond even what was done in the past. This couldn’t happen without a team effort.”
Ten years of caring. Twenty-five children given new leases on life. Moms and families back home impacted by the vivid display of the love of Jesus through their CHP experience. And a number of Rochester hosts who opened their homes, along with the helpers who made that possible, discovered in the process that their own hearts have been transformed.