Being the youngest of six in a close-knit family, I became unaware of much of the trouble many kids face today. Oh, I had ups and downs with siblings and the struggles of growing up, but security within my family as a unit was never an issue. I can’t remember a time when I felt unsafe or insecure as a child. Now with grown sons of my own and grandchildren to boot, my perception of a family was firmly established.
This past weekend was my first encounter with foster-care kids and their families. It was our church’s first annual foster family fall festival (say that three times real fast). It was the first time I was part of an event for foster care, and I didn’t know what to expect. There was some stress, but that was making sure everything was ready for our guests.
Through the Child Protective Services of two counties, hundreds of invitations went out weeks ago with more than three-hundred kids and their families indicating they would come. We were ecstatic to see more than half of these wonderful people show up.
Love in All the Right Places
I worked the check-in table right at the entrance because I wanted to see these families on their way in and on their way out. What I saw was children of all ages, and ethnic backgrounds looking to have a whole lot of fun. Many were gearing up to ride a horse, have their face painted, or to gather several prizes and treats. They were jacked to say the least.
Although I didn’t know the dynamics of each situation, many of these families comprise of family members taking on grandchildren, nephews, and nieces and raising them as their own. Others are with adoptive parents or foster families who are caring for these kids until they can be reunited with their biological parents or placed with adoption.
These kids are like other kids in many ways, but no doubt their stories are different and varied. However, this day, with over 80 church members spending a Sunday afternoon to serve these children and their families, we had a blast and I saw God’s love in all the right places.
A Special Observation
One thing I didn’t do was ask a lot of questions. No, today was a day for these kids to have fun. But I did interact with each child or teen as they entered the festival. I directed them to the various rides and booths and saw their excitement about the prospects of prizes and treats. As I was getting caught up in the enthusiasm, I noticed one young teen, about 15 years-old come in with his foster family. About 20 minutes later I saw a girl a year or two younger come in with hers.
Neither was very responsive (like most teens) to my direction, but when they caught sight of each other, they both broke out into a high-spirited celebration. Brother and sister, no doubt, seeing each other far too infrequent. As I spoke to the social worker working with me about this, she told me these events were the best environment for siblings to see one another. It was then I felt my heart begin to break.
When You Know – It’s God
You see, these kids were never on my radar until recently. Evangelism to me was sharing the gospel to those who didn’t know Jesus. Memorizing scripture, attending weekly service, and praying for those who are struggling with life was a common thread for much of my Christian experience. But about three months ago, God started to direct me toward foster-care kids during my morning devotional. Then He placed me with like-minded Christians to have an impact with this issue. I have learned much in the last several weeks, but on Sunday, God showed me the joy he wants these kids to experience every day.
Okay, what impact did me and my fellow volunteers have on these kids lives this past Sunday? Perhaps a respite for these kids from their situation, or a temporary reunion with loving siblings. But overall, did we change anything in the lives of these kids?
I don’t know everything God did for these kids at this event. I saw some children having a good time with their families and my church. I saw a brother and a sister thrilled and animated to be together if only for a couple of hours. I saw families, kids and adults leave happier than when they came. I saw some amazing things which made the event worthwhile.
But I also felt something take place inside of me. I felt God’s love for these children and their families start to develop inside me, and a resolve which overtook my concept of ministry.
I saw God mobilize His Church who are sensitive to His call and had them make a difference, however brief, in the lives of these kids. I also felt a fire ignite in my heart for these families and a determination spark for me to do more. I am confident, while working with others, we will have a permanent impact on the life of many of these children who have God’s full attention.
If you would like to follow this blog and receive each post via email, please go to the contact page.