EUREKA — Smiling, singing children bearing colorful floral necklaces provided a vivid image for a Eureka High School senior on a recent mission trip to India.
"At each home (for orphans), the kids were lined up by the doors and gave us these massive, like 5-pound, flower necklaces," Sam Metcalfe said. "Then as we walked through, they made a sort of tunnel and they threw flower petals, they sang and they clapped. They wanted to shake our hands. The greetings we received were so enthusiastic."
The children live in facilities supported by Lifesong for Orphans, based in Gridley, where Metcalfe's father, Richard, is program director. The Metcalfes were accompanied on the trip by Lifesong Vice President Andy Lehman and two men from Pontiac Bible Church.
"Dad mentioned to my brothers and sisters and me last fall that there might be a spot open if any of us wanted to go to India, and I thought, 'Yeah, that would be awesome to see the kids and what my dad's work is and how it's affecting these kids' lives,'" Metcalfe said. "I also wanted to see and understand what these kids go through because it will help me to better tell others and raise awareness (for Lifesong)."
The facilities house from 30 to more than 70 orphans. Many times, Indian families manage the homes, with parents and their children responsible for running day-to-day operations.
Ideally, Metcalfe said, "Lifesong would like to get the children adopted, but because of a lot of technicalities it's really difficult to do so. So we provide them a home they can grow up in as opposed to living on the side of the street, which we saw children doing as we drove around the area. The children in the homes really do have a future compared to other kids who aren't in these homes."
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Metcalfe grew up at a Christian camp and retreat center near Sheffield, England, where his parents were missionaries and his father was an administrator. The family of seven moved to the United States in 2010, first to Germantown Hills, then in 2011 to Eureka.
Richard Metcalfe had taught and coached soccer and basketball at Metamora Township High School after his graduation from Northern Illinois University. His parents met at a college Bible study; Richard was an English citizen; Rebecca was American. They both became naturalized citizens of each other's countries and their children were born with dual citizenship.
At Eureka High School, Metcalfe has been active in academic, leadership, service and religious organizations, including a weekly Bible study he founded as a freshman. He plans to attend college and study either engineering or education.
The local chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution recently gave Metcalfe its Good Citizen Award for high school seniors. Being a citizen of two countries gives Metcalfe a slightly different view of patriotism, he said.
"When you think of patriotism you think of putting home and country first, like American patriot George Washington. But for me it's always been a bit more than that, specifically on the home aspect because I've had two homes: England and America. I could say I'm a patriot for both, as I love both countries and I want to see both countries succeed.
"But even further than that, I am a Christian, so for me my home isn't on this world. Putting that first comes before my earthly homes, and that has directed a lot of my life choices, like going to India on this trip. I missed four days of school, had to pay quite a bit of money and had a lot of difficulties, but the experience and the way that we are furthering God's kingdom on earth is important to me."
Besides providing homes for orphans, Lifesong also offers adoption financial assistance, foster care support, family preservation efforts and economic development opportunities for families raising orphans. There are programs in the United States and abroad. For information, go to lifesongfororphans.org.