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Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Advocate Wednesdays: from our Director of Operations

On August 12, 2011 I sat in a conference and was asked to make a pact with God about my future.  I wrote the following down on a stone:

“August 12, 2011, I will have the faith to begin.  I will follow.  I will give till it hurts.  And you will rescue me.  Then I will tell your story”

This is the moment that I knew that God was calling me to be an advocate.  This is the moment when I knew that God was moving me and placing me in a position that was vulnerable, unknown to me, and to be frankly honest, it scared me a little.  Who was I to take on such a task?  Who was I that God would use me in this way?  But I heard him sternly say in that still small voice “just have the faith to begin.”
Since that day, I have carried that stone with me to meetings, I have placed it on my desk, and I have shown it to friends and family.  This pact between myself and God, these words that I wrote on this stone, are a constant reminder of what I was called to do that day and I have really enjoyed watching how God has brought those words to life over the past year....  
“I will follow.”  By God’s grace I followed him to The Forgotten Initiative and gave up my position at the Children’s Home.  Never in a million years did I think that I would leave that job, but God had something more for me.  It felt like jumping off a cliff into the unknown, but now I realize that I didn’t have to “know,” because God did.  I have never been more happy.
“I will give till it hurts.”  My husband and I got our foster parenting license and this experience has already been flooded with emotion, pain, and strife, but we remain confident that it is what God is asking us to do, even when it hurts.  We battle with our flesh every day and selfishly crave comfort.  I often times wonder how much God will ask us to give of ourselves in this journey, but I know that he will reveal all of that to us one step at a time.  Asking us to do only what he knows we can handle at that specific moment. 
“And you will rescue me.”  I truly believe and have experienced in this journey on multiple occasions that my God is faithful.  He doesn’t promise a life of doom and gloom even though he asks us to do hard things.  He promises to rescue us and to give us life!  He promises a reward in heaven and joy in the journey that is so unspeakable.  There have been so many times that I have been flat on my face crying out to God for comfort and the next day I find myself feeling full of joy, even when the circumstances haven’t changed.  Even when from someone elses perspective I shouldn’t of had joy, yet somehow in God’s goodness, I did.  But mostly, I have learned in the last year that when God rescues, he doesn’t give us a life of paradise.  He doesn’t take away our hardships.  He uses those things to bring us closer to him and in doing so he rescues us from ourselves.  This has been true for me especially in my foster parenting journey.  I have needed those kids, more than they have needed me.
“Then I will tell your story.”  As an advocate, I get to see the Body of Christ meet the needs.  Sometimes people are drawn to the needs in miraculous ways and it proves to me that God, is the real advocate.  It is not me.  I couldn’t have made this stuff happen if I tried.  God is just giving me a front row seat and asking me to tell the story of what he is doing.  He is asking me to share with you that his heart is broken over the foster care community and that we as the Body of Christ need to also be broken.  We need to hurt for these families and hurt for these kids.  We need to be willing to have the faith to begin whatever he is calling us to do for these people.  We need to have the courage to follow God, even when it means we could experience pain or the road ahead looks tough, because in the end it is not about us.  It is about God rescuing us, the families, the vulnerable adults, the foster children, the foster care workers……God wants to rescue all of us.    
On August 12, 2011 I made a pact with God and I wrote it on a stone.  Close to a year later, I can see that my God is up to something.  He is moving to reach the foster care community, and he is using the Body of Christ to do it!  He wants to make a pact with YOU.  He wants YOU to step out in faith and trust Him.  In whatever he is calling YOU to do, he wants YOU to trust that He is with YOU, just like he has been with me in the last year.  He wants to knock your socks off when he answers your prayers in supernatural ways.  And when he does…….will you reveal the pact you made and tell us the story of how he rescued you?  I would love to celebrate Him with you!

Jessi Esterling, Director of Operations Jessi and her husband Zach have two sons and are also foster parents. As a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and the former Director of Foster Care at the Children’s Home Association of Illinois, Jessi has worked in the foster care arena since 2003 where she experienced the overwhelming needs of this community. Jessi began volunteering for The Forgotten Initiative soon after its founding and in December 2012, she became the full-time Director of Operations.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

let's pray these kids into a family!

We recently received this sweet email:

I had to share my little chat with my son (who used to be a foster child himself) about the Forgotten Initiative bands. I bought one for each of my children so they could pray for the child on the band to find their family and feel loved. I explained this to them. He came in and told me that his name isn't on the band and he seemed puzzled by that. Then after telling him again who was on the band and why, he just lit up. Then said,"I have a family now!" he stopped at that minute and started praying for that boy to find his family like he had. Brought tears to my eyes to think he could have been a name on one of the bands. What a blessing we would have missed out on! Keep up the good work.

bands have names of waiting kids (kids in foster care who need to be adopted)

To learn more about Waiting Children, contact your local agency or visit www.adoptuskids.org

Friday, May 25, 2012

Forgotten Fridays: from the perspective of a foster Dad

Two Worlds Collide


The boys were playing with the little girls on the swing set as I finally arrived home from work. It was my first full day back since surgery five weeks earlier. Immediately Luke came in and wanted to throw the baseball, while Thomas asked for a quick ride to the bookstore. I told the elder to grab my glove and hobbled to the backyard.

As I walked out, I assured Thomas we would make time for books later.

I noticed the girls clamoring for attention, but hardly spoke as I brushed past them. We threw for a few minutes in the duskiness of a softening sun. I went back to the house when my hip finally surrendered and the girls followed. Entering the house, I implored Thomas to come downstairs if he wanted to go. He complied. The little ones also asked if they could come along too. Thomas and I left for the store.

Alone.

I meandered for a few minutes, while my youngest, biological child made a selection, and noticed something my wife Lisa might enjoy reading. We left with both books. As we entered our home, Lisa sat at the kitchen table helping the older of the two girls (earlier left behind) with homework. Proud of my unsolicited benevolence, I presented my gift to the mother of my children.

At once, the older, little girl dropped her head, disguising tears with a mass of reddish hair. I bristled-the pouting offending my parental sensibilities.

"What's the problem? There was no gentleness in my tone only impatience. She had no answer.

It took me a second, but suddenly I realized she cried because I had nothing to give her. My hands were empty, and as far as she could tell, my heart too-this child so acquainted with sorrow of many kinds, so unfamiliar with with the languages of love.

Almost begrudgingly, I sat down in the adjacent chair and dragged her onto my lap. She hid her face still and buried her head into my chest. The quiet sobs turned to a torrent of tears as I rubbed her hair and back. We sat together for a moment and I eventually promised to take her and the younger sister to the bookstore the next evening. All I asked is that she let me see her smile.

I wiped the moisture from her cheeks and tickled her sides. She laughed cautiously, lifting her head slightly. A crooked grin cut into her cheeks as I stood to go upstairs. She stayed behind.

"Problem solved," I thought.

Later I heard Lisa summon me to the bedroom of the little girls. This young, new daughter asked for me. I walked in.

"Jeff, I want to show you my pictures."

I sat on the bed as she began to leaf through the small album and explain the few images linked to her troubled past. I had seen them all before. But now, she desperately tried to traverse the chasm between these two worlds-old and new. Her wounded heart struggled to make sense of divided loyalties, while a palpable tension filled the space between us. Finally, she placed the pictures on the nightstand and reached up to tickle me under my arms as I had done earlier. We jostled about for a moment and then I tucked the sheets and kissed her forehead.

Goodnight," I said, walking out of the door and to my own bedroom. She was silent.

A few minutes later, she appeared next to me as I sat on my own bed. She hugged me firmly.

"Good night, Jeff," she whispered.

"Good night, sweetie."

At once she began to walk away.

"Hey," I said, stopping her abruptly.

"What," she asked?

I felt the urge to say "I love you." I think she wanted to hear it too, but my lips resisted.

"We've got a date at the bookstore tomorrow, right?"

"Yeah," and she was gone.

In the course of thirty minutes, the merry-go-round twirled completely about. Now, I could hear Lisa bathing and the distinct yet muted noise of a razor dragging atop her legs. The other kids who normally invade our bedroom in the late evening were occupied elsewhere. An eerie, mostly undisturbed quietness hung about the space around me. And suddenly, I thought I should tell the story of this exact moment in time, because perhaps by doing so I might clearly distill some lesson from it all.

So, I opened up the keyboard,

and began

to type...



---------
Jeff Jordan


Jeff married his high school sweetheart 20 years ago and together they have three biological children and two daughters whom they are adopting from foster care.  He shares from his heart and personal experiences in hopes that those who read will see the Father's heart.

Read more from Jeff at: www.jeffjordanblog.com

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Advocate Wednesdays: Kristin Solomon, Birmingham, AL

Hi Friends!  I'm Kristin, the Forgotten Advocate in Birmingham, Alabama.  Being one of the first Forgotten Advocates, I've really had a chance to see this vision that God gave Jami over a year ago become polished and strengthened into a ministry that is truly having an impact on the lives of children and all who are involved in the foster care community!

Back up just a little so I can share a bit about my journey to become a Forgotten Advocate.  Several years ago, I was challenged by a mentor of mine that if I hadn't read the Bible all the way through, I really should.  That resonated with me and so I joined an online group reading the Bible in 90 Days, from start to finish.  During that reading, among other things, the Lord kept pointing out to me how passionate He is about the fatherless.  I was overwhelmed with a feeling that He was calling me to join in this cause and really felt Him directing me towards foster care.

Because of life circumstances, this was not a good time for my family to become a foster family and I felt very stuck between doing nothing and going all in.  So I decided to just learn as much about foster care as I could and see where God led me from there.  That's when I came upon Jami's blog and became a faithful reader.  When she put out the call for Forgotten Advocates with the new ministry she was working on, I almost didn't think, but just responded that I was in!  Of course, I had no clue what was in store for me!

Over this past year, I have seen my faith strengthened in amazing ways.  I have had tangible things to pray for and times where I couldn't see things working out and my God has shown up.  Prayers have been answered in bigger ways that I could have dreamed.  People have joined in the effort with joyful hearts.  Physical needs have been met in the foster care community and even more than that, I've seen agency workers encouraged and heard stories of children enjoying Project Sunshine rooms designed especially with them in mind and foster parents relieved and encouraged by receiving a Journey Bag.

My prayer is for the next steps to be made in faith, not to please man but to be obedient to our God.  To see families serve in small ways and be encouraged to take next steps towards being more involved.  To see a system that is so broken be taken over by His Church and be changed for the good of children and families who desperately need Christ.  And I know I have a God who longs to answer these BIG prayers!  And so I pray the prayers and ask you to join in with me in prayer and in seeking what your part can be in this transformation of lives and hearts for His glory!

Monday, May 21, 2012

Make a Difference Monday: in Columbia, SC

Happy Monday!  It’s Anna from Columbia, SC.
We’re still getting our feet up under us in South Carolina, but it is so apparent that God is moving in our area.   We’ve recently been able to deliver a batch of Journey Bags to our local foster care agency and the reaction from both the workers and the foster parents has been astounding! 
God has provided a connection to a local Gideon camp in our area which donated hundreds of bibles for us to place in Journey Bags before we deliver them to the children.  The foster parents who have taken in children who received these bags noticed how excited the kids were about having their own things and getting a bible to call their own. 
A local foster parent sent us an email last week saying “I do believe you are bringing sunshine in the life of these children."
God’s word does not return void.  Every time we are able to share Him with the workers, foster parents, and foster children, we are planting a seed. 
Sometimes all they need is a little hope.....
Your donations and prayers are making a difference!  God hears our earnest cry that the battered and broken foster care community be healed and made whole. 
Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm.  Let nothing move you.  Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.” 1 Corinthians 15:58

Friday, May 18, 2012

Forgotten Fridays: from the perspective of a foster mama

Author:  Nicole Sniff

Mother's Day is a day that brings a lot of mixed emotions for me. If it weren't for the work of 3 other women, I wouldn't be celebrating. In fact, I would probably be very depressed. I love celebrating with my kiddos and I love seeing them grow and change just like any other mother. However, as a foster/adoptive mom, there are 3 other women who had that role before me. Sometimes I like to use my imagination and pretend like I have had each one since the beginning so that I could shield them(and myself) from any hurt or pain, but Mother's Day reminds me of the gifts I have been given as well as the reality of the brokenness that comes with this life.

My almost 7 year old was being really silly and having a hard time calming himself down the other morning (Mother's Day). So, I called him in to my bathroom to chat with me as I got ready for church. I asked him what was going on and why he was having such a hard time obeying today. He said, "I miss mommy _____________"(leaving name out for privacy). In my mind I thought, "of course, it's Mother's Day." He came to us at 4.5 so he had the most time with his bio-mom out of all of our kids. I said to him that I bet he does and asked him what he would get her for Mother's Day if he could. He pointed to my makeup bag and said, "this". I asked if she liked wearing makeup, and he said that she would when they had their visits. I explained to him that I was thankful for her and that if she never would have had him in her tummy and been his mommy first, then I wouldn't get to be his mommy now. That was when he made my heart melt by saying, "that's what I'm going to give her for Mother's Day; I'm going to be thankful for her." I hugged him and told him that I love him so much, and he went on his way. He actually had an awesome day after that. So much going on in his sweet little head, and he just needed to be heard.

This made me remember one day when I was having a hard day with my oldest 2. I took them for a walk because we all needed some fresh air. I had read a devotion that morning about being the perfect mom for the kids you have, not being a perfect mom. During my walk, I stopped the stroller and got down in front of my then 2 and 3 year old. I looked at them and said, "I am the perfect mommy for you and you are the perfect kids for me." Obviously, I was speaking mostly to myself.

So, yesterday reminded me of this little walk and the journey of mothering that I have been on. I don't have to be a perfect mom, I just need to be the perfect mom for my kids. While remembering that they are the perfect kids for me. The blessings and challenges are there to help me grow, not to make me crazy. I have to admit, sometimes I don't deal with this as well as I could, and I just need a good cry. Most days, I can say that I am truly thankful for the way that God has created my family and I love being a mommy to this crazy crew.

Nicole Sniff
I am a stay at home mom, who happens to homeschool, and be a foster momma with 4 amazing boys, a beautiful baby girl and a fabulous husband! Every day is kind of a mix of a circus, a roller coaster ride,a school, a coffee shop, a bakery, and a hotel. I love being in Illinois and being close to my family! I love life and the new adventures that every day brings, but most of all I love the Lord...b/c He first loved me! I am blessed to be surrounded by amazing people and enjoy seeing that every good and perfect gift comes from above!

Nicole's personal blog:  www.happy2bme-nicolesniff.blogspot.com


Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Advocate Wednesdays: Jen Young, Champaign County, IL

Hi! It’s Jen – Champaign County Advocate.

My TFI journey began two years ago when God stirred my heart at a conference Jami was speaking at (this was before TFI had a name and officially launched). I heard the words ‘forgotten’ and ‘foster care’ connected for the first time and God touched my heart. What would it look like if Christians surrounded foster parents with support and encouragement? How could we come alongside agencies and  caseworkers and offer to lighten their load? I remember thinking, If the needs are communicated, we would jump in and help! The church can love on the forgotten and have an impact! Little did I know God was up to something BIG and soon after that very conference, The Forgotten Initiative was formed. Jami describes her journey on the ‘Our Story’ page of the website. If you haven’t checked that out already… you need to! But here is a glimpse of what God was up to…

                        Our eyes were opened to the incredible needs of the foster care community and I kept   
                         thinking things like, “More people need to be aware!” or “How can we get the Body of Christ 
                         engaged?” I was seeing pieces of a puzzle but I didn’t know how they all fit together. In April, 2011,
                         the Lord put those pieces together and gave me His vision and The Forgotten Initiative, a ministry
                         dedicated to bringing joy and purpose to the foster care community, was born.

 Even after feeling compelled to ‘do something,’ I had no idea God was softening my heart and leading me to become an advocate in my community but through this journey, my team and I have been able to learn about our local agencies, their needs and hear about the children’s needs. We’ve gotten to know foster parents in the area and learn how support from their churches and friends has a significant impact on them and we’ve seen God answer prayer and move in powerful ways! While I still feel inadequate on my own, I feel extremely blessed & humbled to be used as a ‘connector.’ My greatest joy is seeing the Body of Christ respond. I love how God touches hearts and moves His people, all the while opening our eyes to the 'forgotten’in our communities.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Make a Difference Mondays: In Augusta County, VA!

Greetings from Charisa in Augusta County, Virginia!

We're off to an awesome start with our TFI community here in Augusta County. We were blessed to have 37 people come out to our first meeting to hear from our local foster care moms and dads and from an adult who grew up in foster care.

Their stories touched our hearts. Immensely.


Here's one from our friend who grew up in foster care.

“You are not only changing that life [the foster child’s], you are changing generations. My children’s lives today are different because of my foster mom.”

This is something that we lose sight of at times.

What you are doing for this child right now is make a difference for generations!

The love you are showing as a foster parent, the journey bags you are providing to a child in transition, the funds you are giving to help beautify a room as the children wait, the encouragement you are giving to a tired and weary foster parent, the time you are spending in earnest prayer—all of these have the potential of changing lives for generations.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Forgotten Fridays: the children

Hey, it's Jami and I am happy to welcome you to the very first edition of Forgotten Fridays!  The purpose of Fridays here is to give you a look from behind the eyes of those in the foster care community.  Our desire is to help you see from their perspectives and so it seems rather appropriate to start off with this video.

I encourage you to watch - especially the first minute of this video and as you do, know that this happens over and over across our nation.  When I saw this video back in November of 2009, my eyes were opened for the first time to the children in foster care and God then launched me on a mission which has now become what you know as The Forgotten Initiative! 
(The stats featured in this video are Arkansas specific and was created by a wonderful ministry, The C.A.L.L!)

Now, it's your turn.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Advocate Wednesdays: How I became a Forgotten Advocate

Hi! 
Its Becky - Forgotten Advocate in Bakersfield, CA.


I have been an advocate for four exciting months. It has truly been an amazing ride. I love having a front row seat as the Lord moves on behalf of the forgotten in our community.


I also love telling the "how I became an advocate" story because it really is a reminder of how the Lord works! So, here goes....


My husband Dominic and I have started and stopped the process of becoming foster parents four times in our 16 years of marriage. Finally, in January of 2010 the Lord's call to adopt became so heavy on my heart. I prayed for the right timing, I prayed for the child the Lord would place in our home, I prayed for unity with Dominic. It wasn't until June of 2010 that we were ready to take the next step. We slowly began the process to become foster parents once again. In August, while visiting my brother's church, we heard the testimony of an adoptive father and that was all the confirmation I needed. I told Dominic later that week, "If you are not on board, tell me now - because a fire has been lit and I am ready to run full speed ahead." His answer - "Run." Three months later we were certified and waiting for a placement. 


Levi was placed in our family on February 25, 2011 - he was just 4 months old. (our first placement was a sibling set - they were reunited with their birth parents and we have had the privilege of maintaining contact with them and their little ones!) Anyways, back to the "how I became an advocate" story. We were in love with Levi from the start, but it was hard. He didn't sleep at all and that made for a tired mama for sure. We were just settling in and feeling "normal" when I got a call from the director of our agency asking us to take placement of a six month old baby boy. My first thought, "Twins!" I'd have two boys about the same age and I was all for it. Dominic, on the other hand, was not. His answer? "We can't take every baby they ask us to take, but we can be part of encouraging other Christians to become foster parents, too." 


And so another fire was lit in me! The desire to be a voice for the voiceless. While I had the desire and I knew there was a need, I wasn't sure how to put feet to it. For a few months I worked on a video presentation that could be shown in churches encouraging others to consider fostering/adopting. By the time it was done, the holidays were upon us, so I decided to wait until the first of the year to really "promote" it. 


It was in this time of waiting that I "happened" to come across a blog post of Jami's on We Are Grafted In. I instantly felt connected to her and so I hopped over to her personal blog and found the link to The Forgotten Initiative. Within minutes of reading her story, I knew this was how to put "feet" to my vision! I commented on her blog, she emailed me, we talked on the phone and before I knew it - I was an advocate! 


I later found out that the post I had read on We Are Grafted In was supposed to have been posted a year earlier. A whole year earlier! I would have missed it if it had been posted any earlier than it had been. In the Lord's perfect timing He brought me to a place where I was burdened by the needs in the foster care system and He held Jami's post for just the right time. I am reminded once again, that nothing happens by accident. He is in control and He has every detail of our lives in His hands. 


Our family is more blessed than we could have imagined having Levi in it! We can't imagine our lives without him. I am so thankful we said "yes" to the Lord's call. I am so thankful that our journey through foster care and adoption has opened our hearts and eyes to the need of the foster care community. And I am so thankful for The Forgotten Initiative. 


I look forward to being part of what the Lord wants to do in and through His people in Bakersfield and across the nation. May many come to know the hope and love of Jesus as we seek to obey the command to care for the fatherless. 


To God be the glory, great things He has done! 



Monday, May 7, 2012

one

Hey, it's Jami ~

After launching this blog yesterday, a women from Central IL checked out the needs in Bloomington/Peoria area and read that someone had donated several backpacks that needed to be filled.  She emailed us right away with such excitement because her church had all the items needed for Journey Bags, except the backpacks!  They had been praying for a way to find/fund backpacks and after seeing this need, she knew her prayers had been answered.

This got me thinking.  We can NEVER underestimate our role in the Body of Christ.  Our purpose. 

One buys the backpacks
One fills the backpacks             --------------->>>>>       CHILD receives (backpack, love, prayers...)
One connects to the agency

When each of us does our part, a child in need will be shown Jesus's love.  A worker will see the Body of Christ in action.  An agency will feel supported and appreciated.  Members of the Body are connected in a new way as they work together for one purpose.  When each of us does our part, the ONE who deserves all glory, honor, and praise is lifted up.  The lines blur on who did what and HIS name becomes more famous.  This, my friends is what it is all about!!  Thank you for doing your part.  Never underestimate the power of one!


 

Friday, May 4, 2012

welcome & the rundown


Welcome to the Forgotten Blog - the official blog of The Forgotten Initiative!  We look forward to meeting you here throughout the weeks / months / years!  ahead.  

What you can expect to find in our little corner of the world:

·         Make a Difference Mondays:

o   Be inspired as you read what God is doing around the nation as well as be motivated to make a difference in your community!


·         Advocate Wednesdays:

o   Get to know our TFI Family – specifically our Forgotten Advocates - as they share from their hearts and share how God is moving in their communities



·         Forgotten Fridays:

o   Gain new insights as you see the realities of those in the foster care community


If you are interested in submitting a story that relates to the foster care community, please send those to info@theforgotteninitiative.org.  In the subject line write:  SHARE YOUR STORY. 

Please note that by submitting your story, you give The Forgotten Initiative permission to use your story or portions of your story on our blog, website, or other promotional materials.  Unfortunately, we are not able to notify you if your story is used so check back often!  Thank you for partnering with us to create awareness of the forgotten foster care community and how GOD is working!