When my husband and I first heard about the need for families to host children (through foster care or Safe Families for Children) presented as part of the Every Child Initiative at Summit, we felt the Holy Spirit’s leading to consider this. We knew this would be a huge sacrifice for the whole family and that it really didn’t even make sense to consider in light of the crazy schedule we already manage with our three pre-teen and teen girls’ school and extracurricular schedules, our work schedules, and our church and community involvement. But the tugging at our hearts continued until we, as a family, finally made the decision to step forward in trust and obedience. Little did we know how profoundly God would work in our hearts and the hearts of the children and parents that He brought in our path through the Safe Families for Children program. God has since helped us to understand the eternal impact and gospel influence that comes with each of these hosting opportunities, which is even greater than the practical needs being met in the here and now.
Our first hosting endeavor was with two sweet young girls (siblings), ages 8 and 9, whose family (mom, boyfriend, and 5 young children) had lost their home. The girls’ father is not in their lives, nor is he able to help provide for them financially. Every evening at bedtime, we would pray for their family’s needs together, and thank God for all the blessings that He did and would provide, including most of all, for the hope and salvation found in Jesus. The girls obviously found this to be a new and different routine, but seemed to really look forward to these prayer times. By the fourth or fifth night, the younger one was wanting to lead the bedtime prayers, and her prayers just melted our hearts. She was so quick to thank her ‘heabenly fodder’ for her blessings (giving her and her sister a place to stay with good food to eat), asking God to help her family, and expressing her love for Him. As the days went on, they also began to ask questions about God, the Bible, and wanted to read from the bible each night. They were so hungry to know and understand more! Then came Summit Sports camp week…they came home each day telling of the bible story that was presented, eagerly memorizing the scripture memory verse, and using ‘vacation bible school’ as the theme of their pretend play with dolls and stuffed animals. By the end of the week, when presented with the opportunity to accept Jesus as their Lord and Savior, they eagerly went forward to ask their remaining questions and take this first step in the faith. They came home with many more questions, which was an ongoing process over the next couple weeks that they remained with us, of more fully understanding their decision and how to continue to grow in their new relationship with the Lord. They told their mom on the phone of their decision to accept Christ, and (thankfully!) she was very happy for them. This also opened up more dialogue between mom and myself about mom’s faith and how she had grown up going to church and being a believer, and now wanted to find a church to go to with her kids.
Our second time hosting children was much different than the first. These girls were older, ages 12 and 14, and we quickly began to realize that they came from an environment lacking in structure, routine, and support, which made the transition to our home very difficult for both them and us. We noticed that the 12 year old seemed to really thrive on any affection, kind words, and attention that we gave her. She seemed to have extremely low self-esteem and hated school because she was often teased. She seemed really grateful that I took the time to contact her teachers to discuss the teasing situations that were happening there and attempt to address them. Though there were not as many overt opportunities to share the gospel with these girls (and even some resistance on the part of the older one to even attending church or youth group with our family), I believe that seeds were planted in their hearts. The older one, who was particularly withdrawn, expressed more resentment than gratitude while staying with us. However, she showed a much more affectionate and grateful side a couple of weeks after leaving our house, when I picked her up from school to take her to a follow-up dental visit. She finally opened up to me more than she had in the whole month she stayed at our house, thanked me for letting her stay with us, and asked if she could come back sometime. It was amazing! And it finally gave me the opportunity to share WHY we opened our home to her and her sister… that it was because God had led us to do it, and that we did it out of gratitude for what Jesus did for us on the cross. Although she was not ready to pursue the conversation any further, I know this was a seed planted in her heart and I can trust that over time, God will make it grow.
“So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow.” 1 Corinthians 3:7 NIV
Another area of gospel influence that we hadn’t anticipated was in getting opportunities to talk with and support (both in prayer and in practical needs) the parent(s) of the children we hosted. We soon realized that these families had no support system to help them in this rock bottom time in their lives. Either they had no close family, were estranged from their families, or had families that didn’t live nearby and/or were unable to help financially. They also had no network of close friends that they could call upon for help, probably partially because they had moved around a lot. Both moms shared with me the utter depression they initially experienced at having to have their children separated from them and from each other and staying with total strangers because they were unable to provide for them at that time, even though they were also very grateful to know that their kids were being loved and cared for while they got back on their feet. So when each of these families finally got a home and were reunited with their children, we knew that they had absolutely nothing to put in their homes besides the beds provided to them by a local charity. Everything they had in the past at their previous homes had to be left behind…they were only able to take would fit into a few small suitcases or bags to take to a hotel at that time. And, again, there were no family members or close friends that could help them out and no funds whatsoever to use on anything non-essential. So we rallied support from our Facebook friends, and were blessed to see so many wanting to donate things to these families! We took a couple truckloads of household items to each of them and they were so very grateful. The father-figure of the first 2 young girls that stayed with us talked at length with my husband John about how incredibly grateful he was for all of the donations, and again, it was a God-given opportunity to share WHY we wanted to step up and help them, and to consider these things gifts directly from God, because HE is why we do it. This family continued to need our prayer support over the ensuing months, as the ‘dad’ was laid off about a month after finally finding a job, and they again were in a difficult financial position. Mom would also text me occasionally asking for ‘mom advice’ with her kids, which made me feel truly honored and humbled. We got the opportunity to bless both families again at Christmastime when we and another family from Summit helped them provide some gifts to their children at Christmas. Again, using each opportunity to love on these families as a way to help them feel loved by God!
Looking back on these situations, it has reminded us of what we all, even these families who have hit rock bottom, need most of all. Beyond just needing our physical needs met, we need the HOPE of the gospel! It is Jesus who gives us a purpose for living, peace in our struggles, an assurance of being loved and accepted, and hope for an eternity with Him where all the struggles of this life have passed away. And what a privilege it is to be used by Him to show others the depth of His great love!
Hebrews 10:23 “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.”
1 Peter 3:15 “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.”
John 13:35 “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
by Christine Goll