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Friday, June 29, 2012

Forgotten Friday's: It is only a season...It is all a gift (my current mantra)

This life, this season, where I am right now...I have a tendency to bless it and curse it in the same
breath.


The other day, I was walking into the CPS office with my kids - foster and adopted - so they (fosters) could have a bio visit. There was a little boy crying and crying, his foster dad was stoically putting him in the car while the boy's bio mom stood behind the dad and cried. The boy kept saying, "I don't wanna leave!" I thought, I hate this place. Hate that I know these things happen, and by know, I mean I've been the foster mom stoically putting the screaming kid in the car. Hate that I can't unknow. Hate all of it. Hate that I'm dealing with baggage other people packed. Hate how it inconveniences me and affects my family.

Then, that afternoon as my husband was teaching our foster daughter memory verses, and Isaiah and my foster son were playing peacefully (rare). I was humbled that this is what I get to do with my time, my resources, my heart. Sometimes I am drowning, sometimes I am swimming. It's all a gift. The two foster kids who we have now are hard. This placement is hard. It has taken a lot of blood, sweat, tears, and seven months to get to where we are. And by the way, on a good day, where we are is still as uncomfortable as a pair of cheap shoes. When I complain about it, some people have said: "Well, this is what you wanted." So, let me be clear...this is what I want. Even when I feel like I am drowning, this is what I want, because in radical obedience to Jesus, the blessing always outweighs the burden.

It is only a season. I am trying to learn to unclench my fist and let God complete the work. It is only a season. To open my hands and recieve just what it is that he has. It is all a gift. Because my hope is in Jesus I know that it is a long hard road (season) with a good, good end (gift).

---
Rachel
Rachel Clarke has been married to her husband for ten years. In the last three years, she has raised eight children as a foster parent. Two of those can now call her a forever mama. She is grateful for the grace of God. She has a passion for writing with honesty and raw emotion. She is terrible at grammar.

To hear more from Rachel, visit her blog at: 
www.fosterbetterthanempty.blogspot.com 

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Make a Difference Monday...on a Tuesday!

Hi, its Becky from Bakersfield.

Mondays are an opportunity to tell you about someone or something that is making a difference in our community - that's why we call it "Make a Difference Monday". I apologize that it is Tuesday....what's the saying? "Better late than never!" :)

So, it's no surprise that TFI is making a difference in communities all across the United States.

It's no surprise that agencies and social workers are thrilled by the support and help the body of Christ is offering through various initiatives.

It's no surprise that Christians rise to the occasion and meet the needs with great generosity and enthusiasm when we tell them what the needs are.

But, I am surprised by one thing - just how many children pass through our foster care system on a daily basis. I have heard the stats. I know how many children are presently in foster care. The numbers are staggering and yet, I was completely blown away last week when I got the call from my friend at The Dept. of Human Services.

The voice on the other end of the phone informed me, "We are completely out of Journey Bags for children over the age of 2."

At the end of April, 3 volunteers and I delivered 150 Journey Bags for children ages 0-5. Then, 2 weeks ago I took another 30 bags and bunches of diapers.

How can they be completely out? How can so many little ones have passed through the system in such a short amount of time?

Don't get me wrong, I am thrilled to know that all the bags have been handed out. I am blessed by the thought that Jesus has visited these little ones in their distress.

One hundred and fifty little lives have been forever changed -

One hundred and fifty little ones have had someone in Bakersfield be the hands and feet of Jesus to them.

For each of those who packed a Journey Bag, I am so thankful.

For each who shopped thoughtfully and generously, I am humbled.

You are making a difference. You are shining the love and light of Jesus!

I continue to pray for the little ones who received a bag. I pray the same prayer I prayed for our son, Levi while we waited for him.

"The Lord your God in your midst,
The Mighty One, will save;
He will rejoice over you with gladness,
He will quiet you with His love,
He will rejoice over you with singing.”
Zephaniah 3:17


Lord, comfort these children as only You can. Be near to these little ones. Quiet them with Your love and save them.

And as I pray, I remember that today a little one is entering foster care and today, we can make a difference in that little life.
---

Becky De Carlo Family pictureBecky DeCarlo

Becky and her husband Dominic have five children and are foster parents. When their hearts were burdened by the enormity of needs in the foster care system, they desired to be a voice for the fatherless. As an Advocate, Becky has a front row seat in watching the Body of Christ use their gifts and talents to share the love of Jesus with the foster care community.



Friday, June 22, 2012

Forgotten Fridays: the final goodbye

Lisa stayed home with Thomas, who suffered from a stomach ailment this morning. I took the others to church. Mary and I headed to the sanctuary, while Luke walked the foster daughters to their class. A few minutes later, Luke stood beside our aisle with the youngest of them, Jennifer.

"She wanted to come sit with you," he said.

This seemed especially odd to me since she loved her class and had never missed it to sit through a sermon-a fiercely independent child, who at least to this point, maintained a much greater affinity with the wife I left behind.

Had I raised her from birth, I probably would have insisted she go back to class.

Mary offered to hold her, but Jennifer resisted. Again, uncharacteristic behavior. Instead, she crawled up into my lap. I crossed my right leg over my left and let her sit in the space between them. She leaned her head back into my chest and dangled her flip-flopped feet over my shin. I wrapped my arms around her waist for a while, but straight away my legs cramped. The next thirty minutes we spent adjusting, re-adusting and re-adjusting again, all the while my thoughts drifting back to a letter we received just the day before.

The "final visit" letter.

We had waited for this moment with anticipation and dread too. This letter told of the meeting scheduled Friday by the social services office between our two foster daughters, their biological siblings in other homes and biological parents- the meeting where hearts would break deeper and those first relationships from the past be surely severed. That day had loomed heavy on us for several months like a tapestry of billowing, dark clouds obscuring the clearer, blue sky we hoped lingered behind them. We knew the voyage across would be full of turbulence and the final destination in doubt.

And now, the reality of that horizon lay closely in the distance.


As we stood for the invitation song, I grasped Jennifer from my lap and held her like the baby she used to be before our paths ever crossed-made easier in that she is smallish for her age. She held me tight, her head resting peacefully on my right shoulder. Again, I thought of the "final visit" awaiting her on Friday. I wondered about a child-like intuition, and if somehow, she may have sensed inklings of that impending crisis.


The preacher had spoken so eloquently about the role and responsibility of fathers-the love of a great Heavenly Father who crafted the world we know from the vast nothingness of space.


"Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord God Almighty. The One Who is and is to come, " the church now bellowed.

I wondered how she could understand the word father at all and if she really knew what home meant. I wondered how she would define them with her four year old words. I pressed my mouth close to her ear and sang the words loudly, trying to convince the little girl of His providence.


And myself too.


At once, she turned to my oldest daughter and whispered something barely audible to my ears. Mary thought it sufficiently interesting to lean over towards me and relay the remark.


She said, "I love Jesus."


I swallowed hard and tried to suppress the tears collecting in the bottom of my eyelids. I tried to breathe deeply and avoid any noticeable facial contortions that might reveal my emotional upheaval. After all, I'm a guy who is supposed to lead my family by a stalwart example and iron-like strength.
The tears finally began their descent,

and one thought consumed me:

I hope He is listening on Friday,

I sure hope He hears those goodbyes.

And, above all else, I hope

that she will always believe,

He really does

care...
----
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

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Meet Charisa from Augusta County, Va

Greetings from the beautiful Shenandoah Valley!
I have been so thankful and blessed to be part of The Forgotten Initiative and would love to share with you how I have become involved with TFI.
My story starts a long time ago (way long time ago) when I was in 6th grade. On the first day of school a girl I didn’t know turned around to ask me to help get her book cover on.  It turned out that she lived just down the road from me and we came best friends that year.  She and her sister lived with a foster family.  We spent that year being at each other’s house or walking to the park and hanging out.  I remember being at her house and there was always a lot going on. Lots of teens, lots of activities, and lots of love.  It really never hit me as a 12 yr. old the heartache behind the whole situation. I guess I was na├»ve. I just knew she was my friend and she lived with a foster family and I enjoyed being with her and with them.
Fast forward years down the road when God had instilled a love and desire for my husband and I to help and advocate for orphans, widows, and those who need justice.  We became passionate about this calling from God after a mission trip to Zambia which led to our adoption of 2 wonderful boys from Ethiopia.  We are now a family full of 5 children.
We do ministry together as a family and when we saw a post about Journey Bags we thought this was something we could easily do with our friends! I loved it because it was tangible, practical, and easy to do. It would also make a big impact on the kids that received them—and on the kids that helped that do them.
I called and talked with Jessi—as we talked I shared my heart and felt God leading me to be an advocate with TFI as well.
Now, the God part of this story—remember that friend?  We had lost touch over the years but I contacted to her so we could meet  because I wanted to hear her thoughts from the perspective of a foster child.  We sat in a restaurant over lunch and both cried as she shared her heart and I gained so much insight on the hurts and fears of children who go through such things. I never knew how much hurt she had endured and it saddened me…but I am AMAZED at our faithful God who has brought her through it all. 
He has done a remarkable work in her and is she is now ministering to others—through Him! It is a beautiful sight to behold. She is a big part of our TFI-Augusta County and her story has made a huge impact on people.
God is on the move here in Augusta County/Staunton/Waynesboro. I am seeing Him raise up people to be His hands and feet. People who are willing to love, willing to work, and willing to take the risk of heartache to do His work.
I am so glad to be along for the ride- It has a fantastic view!
Charisa
Knight_Web17

You can also visit Charisa on her personal blog over at www.forsuchasthese.blogspot.com

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

when we celebrate together!

Today we at The Forgotten Initiative celebrated some very special folks:  foster care workers! 



We have declared June to be National Foster Care Worker Month and we wanted to take that a step further and actually invite workers in our local community (Bloomington, Normal IL) to an appreciation picnic!  They took us up on the invite - over 70 workers joined us this afternoon and it was a great time, let me tell you!
























Gift certificates, starbucks coffee and more were donated so we were able to give away door prizes every 20 or so minutes.  We were also able to bless two out of the four agencies with bigger prizes - a Kureg with coffees and an Old Fashioned Popcorn maker!  The Judge joined us halfway through, shared with the workers how much he appreciates them, "You are overworked and underpaid....you don't hear "I appreciate you" enough and we all need to tell you more..."  It was really neat to hear him share.  He also drew the two agency names for those prizes so it's all legit. :)



I talked with some workers, many of whom shared some of the very difficult challenges of their job - particularly the impact on their own children when they are called (at all hours) to help in a crisis situation.  These folks need our support!!



Hear what a couple workers said after the fact:


Thank you soooo much!! As a dcfs investigator, I have never been part of an appreciation day on this level with other peers. It was so thoughtful! It helps to know that the community recognizes that we have tough jobs. Some of the days are ...trying, most of them very rewarding. Thank you for the prayers and support. I have personally been blessed by this mission. Our families that we serve have also received out pouring support through you! Thanks for all you do!!!!! GOD Bless you all!

and...


What an amazing day!! Thank you guys SOOOOO much!! Everyone loved it and your thoughtfulness of what we all do means more than anything!!! We appreciate YOU guys for appreciating us!! God is really working through your ministry!!!

I will tell you, it was just so fun to bless these folks!!

Now, to meet some of team TFI! :)
 Jill: Project Sunshine Coordinator (and party planner extraordinaire!)  Jessi: Director of Operations, Brianne: First Response Coordinator, and me!
 

THANK YOU to the men and women who work tirelessly on behalf of children and their families!  You are appreciated!!


----
Jami KaebJami kaeb
Founder/Executive Director
Jami has an enthusiasm and passion for the Lord that spills over onto those she meets. She is married to Clint and is mommy to six, three of whom they are adopting from foster care. It was through a difficult season of waiting that the Lord drew Jami’s heart to those who feel forgotten and in April of 2011, she founded The Forgotten Initiative.

Follow her personal blog:  www.lifewithapersonalgod.blogspot.com

Saturday, June 16, 2012

The Wheels on the Bus

Chance placed us there at that very moment in time. Or maybe something more.

My wife and I stood with our children on the sidewalk outside the school as the buses pulled up through the drive for the afternoon commute. The last bus stood directly in our path.

We all saw her.

She was a foster child who lived with us for a few months. I hadn't seen her since June of 2009, but she didn't look much different than I remembered. Medium length brown hair covered her head and small, oval spectacles sat atop her nose. She wore a pink rain jacket underneath the large bookbag pressing her forward in the seat.

A wave of nostalgia crashed into me.

Into us all.

Most of our time with her had challenged every vestige of our patience and faith. She had been abused in every way a child could be and we were mostly overwhelmed in our attempts to make her one of us.

But, as we stood there my thoughts wandered to one of the few, good days during our time together. We all had traveled to Nashville to visit my brother's family, and on the way back stayed together in a hotel near Knoxville, TN with an indoor pool. She had never stayed in a hotel before and marveled at the entire, fascinating concept-especially a swimming pool inside the walls.

After checking in, the kids all begged to go swimming so I dragged myself and all our stuff down to the pool area. She was always wary and distant towards me, but as we entered the shallow waters she clung close to my side fearful of this new uncertainty. We all splashed around for a while and for some reason she asked if she could go deeper like the others.

I told her to lay on her back and she did so cautiously. I placed my hands under her and slowly pulled her around the outside edges of the other end. She squealed with delight and for the first time she called me, "Daddy." Perhaps she had said the word before, but I couldn't recall when. I certainly didn't remember the warm, vulnerable tone and childish laughter, gently inviting me into a place she had worked so hard to obscure until that very moment in time.

It felt good.

To me and her.

Other victories mostly escaped our grasp during her time with us.

But now, there she sat. Her tiny image perched in the first seat by the window of that big, yellow bus. As she looked up and saw us there she seemed startled for a moment. Then she waved vigourously, as if doing so might rekindle the fire from a not so distant past, and fill the space between her and us.

Then, the friend beside her in the seat looked at her and quickly said something. We all saw her response with amazing acuity:

"MY FAMILY," her lips said, revealing the question just asked by the little friend.

At once the bus roared away in the distance as guilt overwhelmed me-my blessings and bounty beyond the wildest imagination of most in this world.

Suddenly I felt like an indulgent King, warm and well fed, lounging by the crackling fire inside a royal palace. While outside a cold and hungry vagrant peered longingly through the foggy window desperately soaking up the remnants of a life she could never have.

And for my part, all I could do was look away to the dancing flames

and wish her well

on the rugged

and lonely road

that lay

ahead...




----
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

Friday, June 15, 2012

Forgotten Fridays: from a foster mama's heart

It's the birthday of their arrival, and the anniversary of a journey for me.

One year ago today the girls moved in. One year ago, we were entrusted with two souls to be the incarnation of Christ to.

It was five minutes before the first lie was told. Ten minutes before the first tantrum thrown, but I made it a full hour before the first doubt of, What have we done? crept into my limited mind.

Little has changed on the girls' surface. The lies abound more than the truths, and I'm told I'm hated because I'm not mother.

But dig a little deeper with me, She's searching. She's beginning to wonder if she really was made for more. She's testing the waters of the One who will always prove faithful.

She's never known that before.

When we arrive at court in July, some monumental things will happen. One being, it will be the longest either child has lived in one consistent place. Ever.

Dig again with me, but this time, in my own soul.

They have seen my worst. I always thought Benj was the one who had, but I underestimated myself. I have slammed, screamed, and manipulated, mostly God, but my family, the girls I was entrusted with, have had a very substantial share.

I begged prayer for my way to be made known to God, what I knew I could handle.

Then some moment along the way, He reminded me of Whom this journey is for. Not for me, not for them, but for HIM alone.

Our future, their future, is so uncertain. But the deepest well of peace abides within me. The lies haven't stopped, the tantrums are still at full force, and Satan's whispers are ever so loud.

But the difference...

I know the purpose of my life.

I would have said that before, and honestly meant it.

But now I know...

My life is a slave to the one who owns me, the lover of my soul.

Each morning is a new chance to die, to taste His suffering, to drink of the greater joy, to know a little more of this mystery of the Hope of Glory I am discovering.

Each day is a new chance for them to see my wretched, mucky, self-absorbed sin, so that I may take them to my Amazing Savior, the One who pursues them.

Each night is one more chance to fall on my knees, crying out my need for Jesus as I lament my failures and rejoice in His redemptive victories.

I don't know what our future holds, their future holds, but I know that each moment is purposed by the Author, Perfecter, and Finisher of my faith...

The one to whom I am a slave, the lover of my soul.

--
Catie Lumpkin



Jamie and Catie Lumpkin have been licensed foster parents for 18 months and cared for thirteen children during that time period. They have three young biological sons and three long term foster children. Their journey daily takes them to the foot of the cross, where they find strength to love and serve their children's families, their caseworkers, and other parties involved.

To read more from Catie, visit her blog at: www.thishighcalling.blogspot.com


Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Advocate Wednesdays: Following His Lead

Hey!  It's Anna from Columbia, SC.
My journey to becoming a Forgotten Initiative Advocate has been full of uncertainty, setbacks, and answered prayers.  Every time I look back on the events of my life, I feel as if God has been leading me here all along.  He opened my eyes to the orphan crisis while I was still in High School.  I knew very early in my Christian life that He was calling me to care for these forgotten children.  Originally, I was bound and determined to move to Africa and work in one of the orphanages there.  After meeting my husband, Ryan, we both felt that God was telling us that Africa was not His plan for our lives.  He had something for us here, in our own backyard, but we had no idea what it was.    We knew that adoption was in our future, but had decided that we would have biological children before adopting any others.  God had other plans.  Shortly after we were married in 2009, we suffered two grueling miscarriages.  In our despair, He gave us a verse that will forever shape our lives, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but one day you will understand.” John 13.7.  After months of prayer, God spoke loud and clear that His plan was for us to adopt and not wait.  He changed our hearts and showed us that adoption is not a plan B, but that our adopted child will be exactly the child that He designed for our family.  Nine months later, we brought home a beautiful baby girl through adoption. 
Since then, God has continued to open my eyes and show me the immense need for foster and adoptive parents in our community.  As my heart grew for these children, I found myself wanting to do something more.  We felt the pull of our hearts towards foster care.  The more I learned about the foster care community and its brokenness, the less I was able to sit still and do nothing.  I wanted desperately to help, but had no idea how I alone could tackle the huge needs of the foster care community. I stumbled across The Forgotten Initiative on a friend’s blog post one day and realized that this was exactly what God had been preparing my heart for all of these years.  We're following God's lead and will be starting training to become foster parents at the end of this summer.  We had no idea how God would use our painful loss to to give us so much.

 


Anna and her husband Ryan are parents to one. God put orphan care on Anna’s heart early in her Christian walk and after adopting their daughter, He opened Anna’s eyes to the immense need for foster and adoptive parents in her own community. As her heart grew for those children, she wanted to do more but had no idea how just one person could tackle the huge needs of the foster care community.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Make A Difference Mondays

I love The Forgotten Initiative.  I love serving the foster care community.  I love dreaming big and praying big, for things I hardly believe could happen to actually come about.  I love having a God who is so much bigger, not just than me or circumstances or bad situations, but who is able to do more than I ask or even imagine.

It's hard to remember what I thought four years ago.  I think in theory we considered adoption.  I think I was sad for children without a home or a family.  But I know for sure I didn't have the heart or passion that I have now for children and families who need Christ in a big way!  And I cannot point to any life circumstance that brought about this fire in my belly.  I can only point back to the Lord.  And some humble prayers for a greater love of His Word.  For a heart that truly reflects His heart for His people.  For a life that actually looks different.

I'm certain I have not arrived on these things but I can see a big God working in an imperfect mom, moving me towards the things that are so important to Him.  And I know that through my prayers and the prayers of many in my community and throughout our country and world, positive changes can be made.  I know that the Church can rise up and take care of the children in our community.  I know that families can help hurting, struggling families see a better way to do life.  I know people can support those bringing children into their homes.  I know these can happen because I see it happening even now.  And because God calls me to pray prayers for huge differences that only He can make.

So now I take baby steps.  I deliver diapers to a foster care agency.  I organize a Project Sunshine to make kids feel special.  I pray for changes both big and small to happen in my community.  And I wait in great anticipation for a God who surprises me all the time with the way He brings about these things.  It's become fun to pray and wait and see how God answers!

Want to join in?  Start today.  Pray for God to work in your heart.  Take a first step to help in a tangible way.  Talk to someone in your church or get in touch with us at The Forgotten Initiative.  Go ahead - God wants to work through you in amazing ways.  All you have to do is ask, trust, take a step...today.

--
Kristin Solomon
Kristin is married to Shane and the homeschooling mom of two boys. God gave her a passion for “the fatherless” as she read His word. For two years she prayed and waited for God to show her what her next steps were and when she learned about The Forgotten Initiative, she felt God was leading her to action.       

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Advocate Wednesdays: Let's do this together!

Hi! This is Denise, Forgotten Advocate from Prescott, Arizona!

I have been married to a wonderful man named Rodney for 12 years. Our eyes were first opened to the needs in the foster care community in February 2012 when we attended a Focus on the Family Wait No More Conference in Scottsdale, AZ.

A foster care licensing worker gave us the statistic that 26% of the homeless population is children that have aged out of foster care.....that's a tragedy! The Body of Christ is called to step up and make a difference in the lives of these children. Why? Because of the Gospel!

1 Corinthians 15:3-4 says “For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures

Christ loved me....Christ gave himself for me! That is the Gospel message and it's motivating. Good deeds grow out of good news. May we have grace to remember that the Gospel is the foundation for every single thing we are and do. “Nothing in my hand I bring; Simply to your cross I cling.

Let's make a difference together for these children and future generations!

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, To preach the acceptable year of the Lord.” Luke 4:18-19

---
Denise Steidinger

Rodney & Denise have 3 daughters and after attending the Focus on the Family “Wait No More Conference” their eyes were opened to the great needs in the foster care community. They are so thankful to be a part of the TFI family - to share these needs with the body of Christ and to play a role in making a difference for this community. 

Monday, June 4, 2012

Make a Difference Monday: Why Foster Care Workers Need Your Support!

From my experience in child welfare as a foster care worker, this job is often thankless and emotionally stressful. At the end of the day you still feel that your work is never done because there is always more you could be doing, the needs are so great. 

As a caseworker, you are responsible for the entire well-being (safety, emotional, educational, medical, etc.) of the children on your caseload and this is a huge burden to carry. There are so many who work long hours, receive crisis calls in the middle of their family time, and struggle to sleep at night because they are worried about a child on their caseload.

Often, there are not ideal or inadequate homes to place foster kids in and as a worker, it is easy to take responsibility for that - worrying and stressing over how their kids are doing. I have seen many workers burn out and run away from this job, because they are emotionally drained or cannot afford to stay (as most caseworkers make less then a teacher's salary).  When a caseworker leaves, the children on their caseload are assigned to another worker which means another new face, another rejection and loss, another person to learn to trust.

What if we as the Body of Christ found ways to support these workers? What if we were able to lighten their burden, surround them with prayer? What if we showed them that we appreciate what they are doing and that their job really matters?   Personally, when I know I am supported, loved and prayed for, I'm stronger.  I just have to believe that it would be the same for any worker who felt loved on by the Body of Christ.  And when you support a worker, you help them better care for 'their' children.

Now is the time!  TFI has declared JUNE as National Foster Care Worker Month!  We are challenging you to bless a foster care worker ONE WAY IN ONE DAY.  We invite you to join us over on our national Facebook page where we will be posting tangible ways to share the love of Jesus to these deserving workers.  And once you do, we'd love to hear from you!  
  
And to all those workers out there, I want to share some verses with you that gave me strength during all of those years of direct service...
"I can do everything through him who gives me strength." Philippians 4:13
"For I am the LORD, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear.  I will help you." Isaiah 41:13
"Because the poor are plundered and the needy groan, I will now arise," says the Lord. Psalm 12:5   


----
Jessi Esterling picture of kids standing

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.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Sometime's They Don't...

Little girls should laugh.

Sometimes they don't.

I met her for the first time last December. Her Mother and Father were abruptly removed from a local shelter, and together with her infant sister and older brother, the five had been sleeping in a car during the cold, early winter nights.

Lisa called me at work.

"They need a place to stay tonight. They have a place for the baby, but want to keep the four year old girl and her six year old brother together," she said.

The hastiness of it all caught me off guard-too sudden for me to adequately prepare effective excuses and the proper defense of the negative position.

"Are you sure we can handle this right now? It's so close to our Nashville trip." That's all I could muster.

"I've already asked our kids and they're all on board. It's up to you," she said.

A few hours later the two new children along with the social worker sat in our family room as I finally arrived home from work.

Both were striking children. Michael was broad shouldered and muscular. Rebecca was petite with short black hair and big brown eyes. He seemed distant and had great difficulty sitting still. His anxiety produced several nervous ticks and he appeared to be developmentally delayed. She appeared very smart, but one much acquainted with sorrow....too familiar with things others discover much later in life.

Our association ended quickly. The boy had extremely difficult needs. He required specialized treatment. The family with the infant agreed to take the younger sister. The transition happened fast. She never saw it coming. After nearly a month, our house returned to normal.

Now, seven months later we stood in line to buy ice cream after our oldest son's baseball game. I heard the voice from behind.

"Hey Jeff!"

I turned around and saw the face of her new foster dad. I had known him for many years and talked with him before we made the switch back in the winter. Immediately I looked down and saw her. Our eyes met. She clutched his leg and closed her eyes as if doing so could exorcise the former demons her young heart was so ill-equipped to handle.

I briefly recoiled, unsure of the wisest course.

Then I walked over. We exchanged pleasantries, he and I. I looked down.

"Hello Rebecca! How are you?" She stood silent squeezing him tight. "Do you remember me?"

She nodded up and down slowly. I didn't know what else to say. She seemed confused and bothered by my presence, showing little emotion on her face. She laughed nervously.

After all, I had abandoned her too.

And then suddenly it occurred to me. A day is soon coming when she'll lie alone in the darkened corner of a lonely bedroom. Overwhelmed by this cruel world, she will deny the pain no longer. A torrent of tears will start, finally replacing the nervous laughter she's relied on for so long.

She'll cry hard...she'll cry until there are no more tears...she'll cry for something real, for something true, for a love won't forsake her again.

Maybe in that room she'll cry out to the One who breathed the life into her lungs so many years before...

I hope she'll find Him ready and waiting...

Mostly, I hope

she'll believe

He really does care...


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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

Friday, June 1, 2012

Forgotten Fridays: from the perspective of a Caseworker

A caseworker's job is heartbreaking, challenging, and can be extremely overwhelming.  We encourage you to read today's post by Jenna - a worker in the trenches - as she shares her heart with us!  To those of you who serve children and their families in this way, we honor and appreciate you!  ~ TFI

Last week, I got a call from my supervisor saying I was receiving a new case. There is always an anxiety that overwhelmes me the minute I am assigned a new case. It means there is a child in my community that has been neglected or abused, which could mean 100 different circumstances. This isn't God's design for children. Children are innocent, precious in God's sight, and it breaks His heart to see the horrific ways parents treat their children.

My supervisor went on to say that my new case was a two day old baby. She continued on that the mother had such high levels for illegal substances, they were off the charts. That meant this baby has been exposed to illegal substances. It is not fair, plain not fair for this precious little two day old baby. He doesn't deserve this, yet he is a victim to his mothers poor choices. Since his birth, he has been in the emergency room, due to his drug withdrawls. He has to suffer through the withdrawls and reprocutions because of his mother's choices. Honestly, my initial reaction is to blow up at this mom. Not only did she expose her little baby to hard drugs, she ran from the hospital right after she gave birth, abandoning him. God has taught me alot about love..unconditional love, since I started working in foster care. It is not my job to judge this mother and her choices, but it is my job to be transparent for Christ and show this mom the love of Christ. It is my job to show her that just like Christ redeemed me in my sin, He can redeem her if she chooses to follow Him. It is my job to show this mom the Gospel message.

Often times, I think it would be easier if I would just run, run far from these issues. Sometimes these problems seem so overwhelming, I don't know where to begin. I can run, or can I be right where God wants me to be. I challenge each of you who are reading this to search out where God wants to use you in caring for the orphans. Not everyone is called to be foster parents, caseworkers, etc..but God does have a specific place He wants to use YOU in caring for the orphans. God doesn't suggest caring for the orphans, His Word commands it. Are you willing to go where He wants to plant you?

Jenna Rieker

Jenna graduated from Bradley University in December 2010 with a Bachelor in Social Work. Jenna has been working at a local social service agency as a child welfare specialist since she graduated. Jenna feels God's calling to continue her education in the field and work towards her Masters in Social Work, in hopes to learn how to better serve the forgotten in the community. To read more on Jenna's experiences working in foster care, you can follow her blog at walkinglifewithchrist.wordpress.com.