There is a five-bedroom compound that rests in Sinkor, a piece of Liberia's capital city along the West African coast.
Like many housing options in the area, it comprises its own gated community. It has the essentials. Bathrooms. A kitchen. A dining room. Some outdoor space, with towering plants and intermittent patches of grass to accent the off-white blend of earthy grounds and compound walls.
It has a supervisor of notoriety in Tupee Garsinii, a Liberian native who helped establish the Thomas Eric Duncan Scholarship, meant to train local health care professionals in honor of her late brother, the first person ever diagnosed with Ebola in the United States.
Heidi De Kruyf, a social worker for New Horizons Adoption Agency, which is headquartered in Blue Earth, holds a Liberian baby during a visit to the West African country. New Horizons is working to open a childcare and adoption center at a Liberian compound it is now renting.
And, if New Horizons Adoption Agency's dream comes true, it will soon house as many as 15 orphaned children, offering 24/7 care with the ultimate intention of finding new homes for Liberian kids who do not have one.
On an international scale, New Horizons is a small venture, headquartered in Blue Earth and licensed in the three Midwestern states of Minnesota, Iowa and South Dakota. But it is big in heart. And its outreach, headlined by efforts to gain additional accreditation as an adoption agency out of the Liberian compound, is one that stretches far. "This touches the lives of families in Blue Earth or Albert Lea or Alden, but it also impacts kids around the world," says Marlys Ubben, executive director for New Horizons. "We don't need to be everywhere, just where God calls us to be, and we believe we're being called to Liberia."
The local adoption agency, which at one point averaged around 70 placements each year, has had its sights set on overseas work, particularly amidst the more than four and a half million people of Liberia, since the early 2000s.
It was only at the dawn of this new year, however, when New Horizons took a prominent step toward, well, new horizons. By securing a rental agreement for the aforementioned compound, a facility with interconnected buildings, the agency took hold of what it hopes soon becomes a safe haven for Liberians who either lost their parents or have been neglected.
"It's a huge responsibility," says Heidi De Kruyf, a New Horizons social worker and newly appointed Liberia coordinator. "It would be 24/7 living and assistance ... but we saw what kind of need there is."
De Kruyf, who said she and her husband, Ryan, had originally sponsored a Liberian child before paying visits to the country, is on top of the project from the states, specifically Sioux Center, Iowa. Her primary point of contact, Garsinii, is stationed in Liberia for direct supervision of the agency's shelter-to-be.
"Tupee worked in a crisis pregnancy center in the (Twin) Cities," Ubben recalls. "And when I met her, she always wanted to go back to Liberia, so she's just got the heart for it, too."
Together, all three women are pushing for that passion for Liberia to produce fruitful results. Dedicating roughly $17,000 per year to rent the Sinkor buildings, not to mention another $300 per month for utilities on top of donated clothes, toys and supplies, they are moving with the belief that, even with adoption accreditation pending, they are meant to leave an imprint on African families.
"It's not by chance we're in Liberia," Ubben says. "We're hoping to do adoptions there, but we work with birth mothers all over, too. God is great, and we just are always amazed."
What does not amaze, or perhaps surprise Ubben is the fact that New Horizons, which also specializes in domestic adoptions organized through its Midwestern branches, has such a vested connection to a country so far away both in physical location and, often, in the minds of Americans.
"Years and years ago, I was told about this woman's education program in Liberia and never got around to it," says Ubben, an original founder of the agency who came out of retirement to return to her post in January. "Eventually, I was on a plane to Colorado for a Focus on the Family conference and ended up next to the woman everyone had been telling me to talk to."
Since that flight more than a decade ago, Ubben says Liberia has been on New Horizon's radar sometimes through partnerships with foreign orphanages, sometimes with temporary shelters established for children of Ebola victims during the 2014-2015 virus outbreak that claimed nearly 5,000 Liberian lives.
What does amaze Ubben and her team, and not in the most promising sense, however, is the ongoing need for child care in the area.
"Some children's parents have passed away," Ubben says, "Others have been neglected. Hospitals may call about children who were abandoned whose relatives were afraid to take them after the Ebola crisis."
It is part of the reason such a local agency feels called to serve on mostly unfamiliar soil.
"And it's not the first time we've done something like this," Ubben says. "We had supported a Guatemalan babies home for years, but when the U.S. closed adoptions from Guatemala, after a year we still had donors but couldn't keep going."
So now the focus is on Liberia. And all its little lives that need assistance.
As New Horizons awaits word from Liberian governmental entities like the Ministry of Health and Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection for permission to kick off adoptive services there, it has plenty to keep busy.
De Kruyf continues to collect donations of kids clothing, bedding and kitchenware that can be stocked abroad. Monetary help to push the project toward self-sufficiency is sought as well.
And then, of course, there are New Horizons' duties at home in and around Southern Minnesota, where the nonprofit's 12-person staff lines up families for adoption, counseling and everything in between.
"This is just one of our projects," Ubben says. "There's a lot of behind-the-scenes work that goes on around here."
If and when the time comes for the Liberia plans to take center stage, however, a five-bedroom compound in Sinkor will be waiting.New Horizons Adoption Agency Inc. is an independent, nonprofit Christian agency founded in 1987 with the support of caring individuals and families.
New Horizons' mission is "to find Christian homes for infants and children," offering domestic and international adoptive services with additional assistance from eight social workers and a Board of Directors that includes adoptive parents.
What is the New Horizons Adoption Agency in BE?