The Cross We Are Carrying: a Word from Ed to our Host Families

Last week Ed, the founder of Premier Education, hosted an event to honor and encourage our host families. If you’re considering hosting a student in the future, why not read about Ed’s heart and vision for this ministry.

Here are Ed’s words:

“We are very excited about the accomplishments we have so far this year, and in the last five years:

  • We graduated seven students (will have ten this year!).
  • We reached 12 students through winter camp and 15 students through summer camp.
  • We developed characters through events & programs.
  • We launched student-led clubs.
  • We developed new partners in Chattanooga and Boston.
  • We founded Onesheep counseling for Chinese students studying abroad with mental health issues.
  • We published more high-quality online content through blogs and wechat.

Our host families are the true heroes behind every success we have. Let’s look at some amazing statistics. For 29 host families in two cities, at a given school year, you traveled 86,000 miles to transport our students to and from school, spent 4000 hours in the car with them, and sent 12,000 slack messages.

These are huge numbers. I was a number guy when I was working at Dell. But I know there are so many things you can’t measure with numbers.

How many times have you been to your student’s games?

How many times have you prayed with him or her?

How many times have you looked into their eyes, and simply said, “I love you, and I forgive you?”

All of these actions are not quantifiable, but yet they are so important. Because you see, you are not running a homestay business by renting a room to the student and leaving him alone. And, we are not operating an assembly by counting how many students we send to various colleges. We are doing a mission together. We are loving and caring young men and women, God brought to our homes. This is a divine responsibility and calling.

We are doing a mission together. We are loving and caring young men and women, God brought to our homes. This is a divine responsibility and calling.

Ed Wu

We are excited about what the future is going to be for our students and our community. Going forward, we will continue to focus on the whole person development by concentrating on our 5C model, with our Christian faith as the foundation. We will continue to work with our schools and host families to teach our students to love others, develop godly character, discover their unique calling, and become a competent and capable person. 

We will also continue to encourage and lead our students to do hard things, little things, and the right things. These words are not just a slogan, but it’s the way for us to approach life, relationships, and challenges ahead of our students. We will continue to challenge them to get out of their comfort zone, and their “bubbles,” and engage in conversation, and develop a deeply connected relationship. 

Last but not least, we will continue to pray for our students and families. We will pray for them to make wise decisions. We will pray for them to make good friends and to be grateful for what they have. We pray for them to know Jesus. One of the best prayers I heard is this: pray God will expose any darkness in their lives in due time!

I believe together, we can do great things. We can march closer to our mission: transform China one student/family at a time. And we can’t do this without you. You can’t do this without us. Neither of us can do this without God. Amen?

I have three pieces of advice that I want to share with you, as the leader of our organization, but also as a host family since the first day of our ministry:

Love Conquers All

1st Corinthians says, “Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” In a word, love conquers all. I have come to understand this verse more and better in the context of hosting another child from another country and culture. These children become like your child, but they are not. We can try to define the roles and responsibilities in a contract, but the student may expect more than you can offer. We can give them a lesson on respect and honor before they arrive, but their habits don’t change when they step into your home.  

I have come to appreciate more when our host families show this gentle and kind love to our students. Always welcoming them and accepting them for who they are. You can do this by asking, leading, and setting boundaries.

Empathy is an expression of love, and it is love in action. When you hear your student arguing loudly on the phone with his parents, don’t just tell him to be quiet. Wait until he is done, go to his room, put your hand on his shoulder, ask him how you can help, and then pray with him. Maybe his parents put too much pressure on him. Perhaps he felt that his parents misunderstood him. Whatever the case, it’s important to pull him closer to you rather than push him away from you. I’ve come to appreciate more of our students’ courage, independence, and resourcefulness. Think about it; I am not sure my 14-year-old daughter and 12-year-old son can do a better job than Flora or Timmy if they leave us and study in China or another country. 

Embrace Parenting

My second piece of advice is: to embrace parenting. I know parenting is hard. Your children might have already grown up. To parent somebody else’s children, almost from ground zero? Is that something I want to sign up for? I am a student of parenting, definitely not an expert. However, I have learned three things very important, and I hope you have or will implement these in your parenting of a PREP student:

Never Take It personally

This is easier said than done. In my experience as a host parent, there were so many times I got angry. Once I smashed a student’s tablet because he was addicted to video games and lied to me. A couple of times, I almost purchased tickets and sent a student back to China. Once, I wanted to kick a student’s butt because he was so defiant and arrogant. I may still have to make the tough decision to dismiss a student as the leader of the organization if all efforts of healing and reconciliation fail. But I have come to understand that whenever we have a problem, there is a teachable moment. But if I get angry or emotional, then I lose that teachable moment. When your student makes a mistake, that’s an opportunity for us to point him to Christ, the true light of salvation. But if I get upset, I just pushed him further down to the darkness. So I learned not to take it personally. 

Give them work to do

We all know that our students, at least some of them, are spoiled, ungrateful and self-centered. This is not saying that they are bad kids. It is just that they have bad parenting, and have never learned and developed the habit of working, sharing, and contributing. Therefore, don’t let them be lazy at home. Give them work to do. Ask them to clean up the dishes and make their beds. Assign them duties to work on. They can help with the lawn, vacuuming floors, or washing cars. We want our students to be part of your family, not just renting a room from you. If they are indeed a part of your family, then they should contribute to the whole family. The earlier they understand this in their lives, the happier their future lives are going to become.

Use Consequences

I get questions and complaints all the time. My students don’t get up on time. My students don’t clean up their rooms. These are probably the two most common ones. My answer is always the same, use consequences. For students staying in my home, they will need to get ready to leave by 7:40 am. If they are late, they will be responsible for getting a ride to school. They are responsible for keeping their rooms relatively clean, at least no underwear, and no trash on the floor, otherwise, they will lose their phone the next day. It’s plain and simple. Consequence teaches responsibility, and consequences help develop habits. Consequences make a better person. You have to use this based on love, and in conjunction with the first parenting advice, don’t take it personally. If you yell at them and give them a consequence, that only makes them hate you. If you keep calm, set the rules in advance, provide them with plenty of opportunities to learn, show them how to do it, and then when the consequence comes, it will be a life-changing lesson. When my son Joshua didn’t get ready and missed the bus, I made him walk with me to the school for 50 minutes in 100 degrees! He never missed the school bus since then. 

Focus on Hope

My third and final advice is this: focus on hope instead of problems. 

My worst fear is when I receive a text message or email from one of my host families, simply saying, “Ed, can we find 10 minutes to meet and talk?” I’d love to meet with you to talk or have lunch any day, but those kinds of emails/messages typically signal a big issue on the horizon. 

In our five-plus years of history, I had to dismiss a couple of students. I had to face the threat of a lawsuit brought by a student’s parents. I had to suffer a $25,000 loss because a student’s parents lied to us. In San Francisco, our van was vandalized, and we lost $8,000 cash, some credit cards, and a dozen passports. Just a month ago, one of our students staying in our house had to go to the ER at 1 am on Sunday. I can give you more of these kinds of examples.

Of course, these kinds of things don’t happen very often. But day to day life is not necessarily easier. Every single day, our team of student advocates and advisors are handling all kinds of issues: students missing homework, having relationship issues, behavior problems, needing transportation to take the SAT, and even their mental health. We feel that we are doing so much, yet it is never enough. 

In those moments, I felt down, upset, frustrated… but in those moments, I chose to focus on hope, instead of the problems at hand. I look forward to the day when they graduate from high school, the day when they have a girlfriend, the day when they marry, the day when they have kids, and the day when they finally gave up, and say, “I need Jesus!”

One of our students graduated from our program and went to a great college, and he is now a sophomore. Although he had to go along with his host family to the church, he never showed any interest in Christianity. But one day in April this year, I got a wechat message from him, “Uncle Wu, I got baptized!” I thought he was joking, so I had to call him to verify. Well, it is true. He had gone to a small group in college and finally decided it is the time. His host family, just like me, couldn’t believe it. But they were so happy because they know they planted that seed in his heart. God does mysterious things, and all we have to do is to take up our cross and follow Him. For you, and us, in this stage of our lives, hosting and loving our students, maybe the cross God gives us to carry.

So hosting is not easy, nor it is meant to be easy, but for sure, your work is not going to be in vain. Let’s hold onto the great hope we have in our Lord, Jesus Christ.

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