My husband, Michael, and I have always seen our children’s friends as an extension of our family. We saw firsthand how many of these friends’ homes were broken, hurting, or neglectful. Just having them share a meal at our table was such a gift to many who couldn’t remember the last time they had had a home-cooked meal. Sometimes just being “present” in a conversation to talk through teenage issues or dating problems was our best gift to them.

Over the years, our children’s childhood and high school friends felt more like family. We have genuinely loved these friends for more than 10 to 15 years now. We have picked them up from parties when they drank too much; we have held them as they cried over a breakup or a parent’s divorce; we have fed them, counseled them, and written dozens of college application recommendation letters for them.

Enter the holidays. Estranged families, faraway families, deployed families, or even deported families led to many of these spiritual sons and daughters (who are now in their twenties) left with no place to celebrate or be cared for.

Christmas has gone from our children’s high school friends hanging out on a day to a two-week onslaught of the 20-somethings in our home! This means many airport runs, a two-cart shopping trip to Costco, buying and wrapping gifts for more than just my kids, and being willing to have my home look much like Tornado Alley for 10 to 14 days. The payoff is hearing our spiritual children call us “Mom” and “Dad” and knowing that we are investing in something bigger than consumerism during the Christmas season. What a joy to provide a spiritual home and family for those who need it!

For some, it will be just one year due to the circumstances of that year, but for our one Korean “son,” this will be a “forever” since his parents were deported back to Korea and can never return to the U.S. Last Christmas, this son said, “I can’t wait to get married and bring my wife and kids here for Christmas.”

Many of our “sons and daughters” know Jesus, and some do not. We see this opportunity to show the love of Jesus knowing that our actions will often speak louder than words to the hearts of these young adults. We pray with them and for them. We offer them a blessing before they get up from their Christmas dinner, and they know and respect what we believe and why we believe it.

This is our tangible offering of love and respect to our children’s friends in the name of Jesus. It is His love that compels us to be ambassadors of His gracious act that made us sons and daughters of His eternal family.