Amber Patterson, a stay-at-home mom, lives in a small town called Social Circle, where the red dirt grows dusty in the Georgia heat. She and her husband, Larry, are busy entrepreneurs, homeschooling their children and running three businesses—an electrical company, a small farm of dairy goats (SweetLand Farm), and a soap business (SweetLand Soap). For them, life is hearty and chock-full of hustle-and-bustle days.Yet this summer, they discovered there was room in their personal social circlefor one more.
(Karlina pictured above on the far right)
Amber’s sister coordinates the placement of orphans in U.S. homes for New Horizons for Children, Inc., through the agency’s international summer hosting program. Amber decided to give it a try. When 11-year-old Karlina arrived from Latvia, Amber began researching her hometown to better relate to her host child.“I came across the site for Orphan Outreach, and after clicking on the Latvia trips, I saw a sponsorship page and found Karlina’s picture!” Amber said. “Of the host children, Karlina is different. I believe this program at the Latvia Day Center is what has kept Karlina and so many other children safe from the streets; she has seen the love of Christ through this center. They need to be able to minister to these children freely. ”The Latvia Day Center opened in 2007 in the town of Liepaja under the direction of a local pastor. In 2010, Orphan Outreach came alongside the Day Center, and today it serves children from 60 families. When parents have left the children alone to wander the streets and fend for themselves, the children come to the Day Center and receive a warm meal--often the only one they have each day. They play sports, try their hand at art, learn about Jesus' love for them through Bible studies, receive help with their homework, and can talk with the qualified staff for emotional and spiritual support. It is a sanctuary in a country where 18.8% of children live in poverty (UNICEF).“I like singing the songs and hearing Bible stories,” Karlina said of the Day Center. “I want to change nothing.”For Amber—who described Karlina as “sweet, loving, outgoing, easy to get along with, caring, and girly”—hearing Karlina sing songs to her Savior … in English … on this side of the world, fills her heart with joy.“When I heard her sing, I realized for the first time that someone had taught her the love of Christ,” she said. “The Latvia Day Center is amazing! They have invested in a little girl that could have been left on the streets. They not only have taken care of all her basic needs, but also they have really loved on her and shown her she is special.”Karlina’s self-confidence shows in her response to how she views herself: “I am very pretty, and I fear nothing!” Her favorite summer pasttime with the Pattersons? "The animals and swimming. It is very good family."“She truly wants a family that can give her love and attention,” Amber said. “This experience has made me rely fully on God not only to meet the needs Karlina has, but also to trust that God will keep her protected once she leaves and goes back home. I have to trust in God’s perfect plan, no matter what. In this process, God has broken me in areas I did not know I needed to be broken. He has shown me how to love like never before.”When Karlina, who wants to be a hairdresser when she grows up, returns to Latvia in a week, she will return with a tangible, experiential concept of what a family is.Likewise for Amber, hosting Karlina “has been the most amazing thing our family has ever seen! Our hearts will be broken when she leaves, but we will lean on God for comfort. If you want to see God’s glory, host a child. And please,” she added, “give to the Latvia Day Center. I would like everyone to understand that she is not like this because of luck. God has put an amazing Day Center in Latvia, and it needs to continue running for all the children that are being helped there. God is working across the ocean and we need to support them.”Support a child at the Latvia Day Center today!