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Friday, August 31, 2012

Forgotten Friday: "How can you give them back?"

I found this quote on the Augusta County, VA TFI newsletter from a foster mom named Melissa and I just had to share it!

"When out and about in public I am frequently stopped by folks wanting to ooogle over my beautiful 2 year old and 7 month old babies. Upon finding out that I am their foster mom it is common that the well meaning stranger will sigh loudly and say something like, "OHHHHH, I could NEVER do that! I just could never give them back." Giving a knowing smile and a sympathetic nod to acknowledge that risk I reply:
"Yes, but then you would also miss out on all the joy." Most are taken aback by this. Some look down and walk away. Others press on. "But HOW? HOW could you give them back?" And I say, "’I’ll give them back knowing that I gave them everything I had, that I didn’t hold back for one minute out of fear, and that I wouldn’t trade a day—not one—of having them."


Like Melissa, I have had those same feelings as I attempt to explain to strangers, friends, and family that I try not to make decisions out of fear. That I try to do what is right and trust God with the rest. I am not saying it won't be hard when this precious little girl leaves our home, but what I am saying is that my God is bigger than all of it! He will be my comfort. He will give my family everything we need to survive this. He has already given me more joy in this experience than I ever could have imagined.

I plead with you.......don't get stuck in your fear and say that you could never do it..... because the Bible says that you can:

"I can do all things through him who gives me strenghth." Philipians 4:13

Jesus said "with man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible!" Matthew 19:26.

I believe in miracles and I believe that it is a modern day miracle when a foster parent is able to give back a child that they have been caring for and survive to do it again. God wants us to experience miracles. God wants us to experience Him! He wants us to trust him enough to release control....he wants us to KNOW that HE IS ENOUGH! That he is in control.

Experience the joy.  Experience the overwhelming bliss that fills your soul when you love on a child in need. It is soooooo worth it!

It will be hard. This is what Jesus was talking about when he said "pick up your cross and follow me." Matthew 10:38

We can't live in fear. Jesus said "I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not cloth me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me." Matthew 25:43

What is God calling you to do today? Will you choose to help the people that God places in front of you? Or will you choose to live in fear? God grant me the grace to choose to help, no matter what the cost.

---
Jessi

picture of kids standingJessi 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.

Find needs in the Bloomington/Peoria, IL advocate area.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Advocate Wednesday: Hear from Kristin in Birmingham!


It's a journey unlike any I've been on before.  One of an idea placed in my heart by the Holy Spirit.  One that seemed so logical and easy in the beginning.  One that unexpectedly required great patience and perseverance.  But finally the day arrived, the transformation has begun and it is amazing.

I'm talking about the journey both into the foster care world for my family but specifically for my church family.  God gave me a great picture of an active, thriving Orphan Care Ministry through our church 3 years ago.  And then we decided to change churches.  So shortly after we were settled in our new church home, I asked to get in touch with whoever worked with the Orphan Care Ministry only to hear that there was not one.  “But you're welcome to start one if you'd like,” I was told. 

Honestly I was not there yet.  I had not adopted or fostered.  Truly I knew very little about either, except that God had put this burden for children on my heart and I wasn't willing to ignore it.  So I prayed, I read, I listened until I knew more and until I saw Jami's idea for what is now The Forgotten Initiative.

Armed with my new ministry and likely too much enthusiasm, I approached church leadership about what we could do and was quickly shot down.  It was quite disheartening but I wasn't ready to give up that easily.  I assembled a group of just a few families that I knew had this heart as well and asked them to help me navigate this road and to pray with me.

Things were looking up.  We had Orphan Sunday all planned out for last November.  And then a blessed event occurred and we hired a new pastor!  And his first day was guess when...on Orphan Sunday.  Plans scratched.  Disappointment ensues.  Honestly I sort of put it all aside at this point, concentrating on The Forgotten Initiative and laying aside my dreams for my church.

A few months later, a short talk with our new missions pastor by a local orphan care leader, a lunch invitation to me by that same missions pastor and suddenly The Forgotten Initiative is an official ministry of our church.  In fact, children at risk is an entire focus of our newly refined missions vision.  And talk of having foster parent training classes at our church surfaces.  I hear that our new pastor is playing golf with the head of an amazing adoption/foster care agency in town.  Things move so quickly, it surprises and excites me is a new way!

And that leads me to Sunday.  It was Foster Care Sunday at our church this week.  We had 4 amazing families tell their story of inviting children in their homes, caring for them temporarily or forever depending on God's plans for them and the story of how Jesus can work in and through us both on behalf of these kids as well as their families was told in a powerful way to the entire church.  We were challenged to live out James 1:27.  And people were invited to return later that day for more information.

This story is still being written.  Many people had questions.  Many people showed interest in getting involved.  The foster parent training classes will begin a week from Monday at our church.  The Forgotten Initiative is offering numerous ways for people to get involved.  And The Forgotten were given a voice this Sunday that I hope only gets louder as we begin this journey together as a church to make a difference in the life of a child, an agency worker, a family.

How is God speaking to you?  Are you giving up too easily?  Don't give up.  Keep praying.  Keep speaking up on behalf of the voiceless and see how God will honor this high calling that He speaks into our hearts!

Kristin Solomon family picture---

Kristin

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.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Advocate Wednesday: On a Thursday!


Before God opened my eyes to the forgotten in our community and around the world, I would have told you that I didn’t cross paths with the foster care community because I wasn’t a foster parent. Since then, God has more than given me a heart for these precious children – He has also given me a heart for foster parents. See, it was wrong for me not to care. I didn’t know who was fostering from my church. I didn’t ask foster parents if there was anything they needed and I certainly didn’t think enough about them to pray for them.  I am so thankful for new eyes and for the opportunity to encourage and support foster parents.

You see, some dear friends have accepted and answered God’s call on their life. When it would be easier to say ‘no’…they responded by saying  ‘yes’. Despite the many excuses they could have had, or the rejection from their close family and friends, they have chosen to lean on God and take two young children into their home. What makes this story even more special is the result of them answering ‘yes’.  Because they said ‘yes’, this conversation took place.

“The first night, I was helping B unpack her meager items and she showed me her treasure. She pulled out her Bible that her Sunday school teacher had given her. I told her that my Bible was red and I was a Sunday School teacher too. Her eyes got huge and she started crying. She said, ‘I prayed so hard that God would give me a family that loved him like I did’. I told her that God told us to bring them home and that no matter what He will always be there for her. She could trust Him even when everything is out of her control. We hugged and cried for quite a while. God bonded us at that moment and I have watched God start the healing process in her. To see her even the next day free, being a kid and laughing carefree at the playground was priceless.”

Who in your community and church need to know they are not alone? Who can you encourage? More importantly, how does God want to use you to impact His Kingdom and purposes?

Read more about this family’s ‘Yes’ HERE 

---
 Jen 



Jen Young has a passion to share with others the hope and joy she has found in Christ. Jen worked as a Helping Coordinator for a non-profit organization that offered different resources to the local poor but when her daughter was born, she left her job to become a stay-at-home mom. Through her own journey of parenting and a close friend’s foster care experiences, God began showing her His heart for the foster care community and now Jen serves as a Forgotten Advocate. She and her husband Matt have two children.




Friday, August 17, 2012

Forgotten Friday: from the heart of a caseworker

Sometimes it hurts bad. So bad. You wish you could take their pain away, and you would sacrifice anything to make that happen.....

Today, I was transporting an 11 year old boy, who has experienced more abandonment in his life than what I can hardly wrap my mind around. He was in the foster system when he was younger, was adopted, and as of last fall is back in the system from his adoptive family. Yes, an disruptive adoption for physical abuse. He then moved in with a relative foster mother, who this spring, said she couldn't handle him anymore, due to trying to raise other children in the home. In June, this little guy moved to what we thought was as adoptive home, but as of last week this foster mother gave notice. At 11 years old, this little guy has moved 5 times, with no one to call his family.

This little guy is a "waiting child" which means he is legally free. This spring, his adoptive mother surrendered her rights without saying goodbye. He never got to say goodbye to what he thought was his "forever home." He is left with thousands of questions. Why didn't she want me? Was I not good enough? What do I have to do differently with the next family so they will keep me?

Today in the car he asked me if I could find a home in which the parents are nice. What child wouldn't want that? More importantly, what child doesn't deserve that and more? I replied with, "I am trying real hard to find the perfect home for you." But deep down inside, I know there is no home available in my network that he can call his family. It is moments like this, I want to take his pain away, and I would do anything I could, but the reality is I can't. Every "family" that has come into his life has walked right back out. He doesn't trust a soul. He is dealing with abandonment. He is confused. His counselor and caseworker are the most consistent people in his life. Folks, this is not God's design for children. I pray that I can be of comfort for him in this season, but he needs more.

Much more.

The only way change will be made in the foster care system is if the Body of Christ works together for these children. None of these children deserve this, but yet, we live in a sinful world and these hurts/abandonment are a reality. I plead with each of you who read this...if God is calling you to this, please take that leap of faith. It is a hard road, but if God has brought you to this place, He will be faithful each and every day.
___________
Jenna graduated from Bradley University in December 2010 with a Bachelor's in Social Work and feels God calling her to continue her education in hopes to better serve the forgotten in her community. This summer, Jenna's parents starting fostering a legally-free 13 year-old boy and are open to adoption if the Lord continues to open those doors. To read more on Jenna's experiences working in foster care, visit her blog at www.walkinglifewithchrist.wordpress.com

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Advocate Wednesdays: From my heart

Several weeks ago our family embarked on a short term mission trip.

No, we didn't need a passport, or airplane tickets, or even to pack a suitcase.
What we did need was an open heart and home - a willingness and availability to answer the need for a host family for a seven year old orphan from Taiwan. Madeline was here as part of a tour organized by an international adoption agency in hopes of finding adoptive families for school aged children in Taiwan.

We knew the language barrier was going to be a challenge. We weren't sure what to expect as far as behavior and bedtime and eating and just general adjusting to our family. We expected it to be a stretching time for all of us. But, what we didn't expect was the sheer joy we would feel as we shared the truths of Jesus with her (through a translator app on our phones - gotta love smartphones). She demonstrated true child-like faith - what a blessing to introduce her to Jesus.

I can't help but think of the many people who poured into her life in the short time she was with us. People who prayed for her and hugged her and told her she was loved. Of the many, there is one woman, Eva, who was truly His hands and feet to our Taiwan treasure. After contacting the local Chinese church, I was put in touch with Eva because she speaks Mandarin like Madeline. I was hoping someone could share the gospel with Madeline in her own language. Eva met us at McDonalds and they spent an hour and a half talking about Jesus. I marveled as I listened to them - and prayed that the Lord would plant His truth deep in Madeline's little heart. She asked questions - insightful questions - and wanted to know more. Eva bought her a children's Bible and translated every story (by hand!) into Chinese. Such love demonstrated by this kind woman.

I think of the old song, Thank You For Giving to the Lord - someday in heaven Madeline will be one that says to Eva,

"Thank you for giving to the Lord, I was a life that was changed....I am so glad you gave."

Not one minute of time Eva spent with Madeline went unnoticed by our Heavenly Father. Not one stroke of her pen was a wasted moment.

Thank you, Eva for giving to the Lord. I am so blessed by you.

We all can have this kind of impact. We can all pour into the life of a forgotten one - for a minute, for a day, for a lifetime! I don't want to be too busy or too comfortable to grab these opportunities and run with them. I don't want to allow anything to get in the way of being salt and light in this dark world. I never want to forget the eternal impact even the "little" sacrifices have.

The most exciting thing about this whole experience is the unknown. I don't know what the Lord has planned for Madeline or Eva or our family. But, I know His plans are good. I know that one little girl from Taiwan has heard the gospel, and seen it in action. I know that He promises that His word will not return void. And the thought of her loudly singing Jesus Loves Me (in both English and Mandarin) for all her friends and caretakers to hear - thrills my heart and makes me smile.

Madeline had an impact on us all - (even my 22 month old is singing Jesus Loves Me in Mandarin!) I know our family will never be the same. And I trust that what she experienced here was more than an American vacation, but a real encounter with Jesus!

-----
Becky


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.

See what's happening in Bakersfield!     

Monday, August 13, 2012

Make a Difference Monday: What is your thing?

Every time I walk into our office, I get to see this!


This map represents our vision:  to see the forgotten served in EVERY community across America.  The pushpins point to the areas where this is currently happening. 

Men and women who love Jesus ARE rising up to serve.  More families are choosing to become foster parents, we love hearing from you and we are here to support you!  Churches are coming together to serve in their communities.  Agency visit rooms are being hit by the Project Sunshine bug.  Men and women are stepping forward to become mentors.

What is your thing? 

We need more ADVOCATES:  those who will sound the alarm - tell the stories.  Be the voice for the voiceless.  Connect the Body to the Need.

We need "REGIFTERS" those who feel a tug toward the foster care community, examine their own gifts and talents and then serve accordingly.  What are you good at?  What do you enjoy doing?  Use that.  Serve.  Bring JOY to the foster care community!

We need AMBASSADORS:  those who will step up and out - right into the front lines.  Mentors.  Foster parents.  More people to be Jesus to those who feel forgotten in a very tangible way.  To bring PURPOSE.  Show one child that her life has value.  Show one vulnerable adult that his life matters.. 

What is your thing? 

Today is your day. 

----
Jami

Jami Kaeb is married to Clint and is mommy to six, three of whom they adopted 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.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Advocate Wednesday! Hear from Anna in Columbia, SC!

There are so many things that I could talk about on Advocate Wednesday. Life has changed significantly for our family in the last couple of weeks. The biggest change for me personally is becoming, for the first time in my life, a stay at home mom. Quitting work has given me the ability to spend more time putting together projects for TFI, but more importantly the time to be with my daughter, Layla. 

Layla has just turned 1 and I am astounded at how much personality she has in her tiny little body. There are moments that I can’t help but think how lucky I am that God would entrust her upbringing and care to me. So much of what I do with and around her shapes who she is becoming. I can see how my actions, my tone of voice, my expressions, and my interactions with other people affect her moods and personality.

I started thinking about how important foster parents are in God’s plan for so many young lives across our country. Just as God has entrusted Layla’s life to me, He has entrusted each and every child in foster care to a precious foster parent, whether it be for only a few hours or for a lifetime. A child’s foster parent could be the only positive parental relationship they ever encounter. Each word they speak and the love they show speak volumes to a child that may have never seen christ’s love anywhere else.

Let’s spend this week praying for all of the foster parents out there that have opened their hearts to chase after, nurture, feed, love, and all other things that parents do for children that are not their own. Let’s pray that foster parents will have the patience, strength, and love needed to help show Christ to each child that God entrusts to their care."

Thanks!
--
Anna



     
Anna Schumpert
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. When she stumbled across The Forgotten Initiative on a friend’s blog post one day she realized that this was exactly what God had been preparing her heart for. 
     
“The more I learned about the foster care community and its brokenness, the less I was able to sit still and do nothing.”

Monday, August 6, 2012

Make a Difference Mondays

Every Monday I leave the house... alone.  (my kids are not alone FYI, but I am!) :)

Monday's are my days to work, to dedicate to TFI, to get things done.  Today my day started at the kids' school where I dropped off Dayd's final adoption decree (Yeah!!) so that his last name will officially be Kaeb on all school documents.  It was a beautiful morning and so I decided to grab my bible and walk out to the playground area outside the school.  As I sat down, my thoughts instantly drifted to the start of the school year just a mere few weeks away.

I looked at the playground where my kids (four out of the six) will be running around, interacting with friends, and so on.  I began praying for them  - that they will focus on others, be leaders, look out for the underdogs, be humble and caring and have lots of fun!  I prayed for protection over them from things that might crush their spirits.  I prayed for their teachers and for their friends - that my kids would not follow the crowd but instead be difference makers.

Then I started thinking about those kids who have no praying for them.  I prayed for the kids in foster care who will be playing along with my children and for those kids who go home alone - with no one waiting for them.  My heart broke for the kids around the world and even in the states who suffer under the hands of human traffickers. 

Last night, I woke up at 3:45 after having a horrible dream.  Horrific things were happening to people I loved and I could do nothing about it.  It shook me up.  I had trouble falling back asleep but after waking up this morning I thought, thank You Jesus it was only a dream.

For me it was.

For others, it's their reality.

I'm thinking of those kids who are being trafficked.  For those who are abused and hurt over and over.  It is their nightmare but they can't wake up.

How do we reconcile this my friends?   As I type, I am sipping a coffee.  It's got all the goodies in it and it is quite enjoyable.  And yet as I type, babies are dying, kids are being hurt, children are being enslaved.  I hate thinking about these things because I would rather pretend they do not exist.  I would rather look away and go on enjoying my life but my friends, I can't.

I know too much now. 

And so do you. 

What are we going to do about it?  What is God calling you to do?  How does He want to stretch you and open your arms so that you are more available to Him.  Who is He calling you to love, to advocate for, to PRAY for? 

Let's cry out for our children and for the children who have no one to cry out for them.  Let's be a voice for those who have none.  This is why we are here.  Let's not waste our time.  Their very lives depend on it!

Lord Jesus, lead us on.

------
Jami

Jami Kaeb  is married to Clint and is mommy to six, three of whom they adopted 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.
 

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Advocate Wednesdays—Charisa from Augusta County

I was riding in my car yesterday and I was thinking about what I wanted to share with you today.  It’s been a crazy couple weeks in our our lives and I am still learning more and more about relying on God and waiting on Him.

Waiting.

What a dreaded word at times in my heart. I do not do well with waiting and being still. I want to do and make things happen. 

But yet, sometimes…often, the Lord tells me to wait. to be still.

I was struggling with that this week and I had the realization that I was being Sarai.

http://ebible.com/nkjv/section/22?focus_verse=1016003#99

I was tired of waiting for the promise and was going strive to make things happen—on MY timetable.  (which by the way—never works for me—you’d think I’d learn)

God keeps telling me to let Him work. Let Him do His thing. He will work things out. 

A bonus is that God does it much better than I could anyways! :)

To update you on what God is doing in Augusta County:

We had our first luncheon for the social workers at our local department of social services. They were blessed and we were blessed.

A TFI friend planned Journey to the Heart where we combined all of our journey bag stashes and packed 70 bags!! We had a nice time of prayer as well.

IMG_0762IMG_0765IMG_0768IMG_0780

A local church had Colleen and I come to share about TFI and Colleen shared her amazing testimony—which is below if you’d like to listen.  Their children also packed 40 bags!

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Click play below Colleen Price’s testimony. (the first 15 seconds is quiet but then it’s okay)

http://www.greenmonte.com/messages.html

As I was reflecting on the last couple weeks this song kept coming to me. It was written (by my favorite artist of all times by the way :) ) about people who are fighting for those who are enslaved and denied justice and who desperately need freedom.  It is to encourage those who are on the front lines fighting for those victims.

Freedom. I am learning about so many little hearts in our area that need freedom. Freedom from their hurts and chains of baggage.

Freedom for birth parents to step out of the cycles that they are in and onto a path of wholeness and new starts.

Encouragement. For the foster families and social workers that are on those front lines fighting for these precious ones.

The way is slow and we’ve so far to go—keep your eyes on the prize and hold on.

When you see a child walk free it makes you dream of jubilee. Keep your eyes on the prize and hold on.

Hold on my friends. Hold on.

 

Charisa Knight

_________________________________________________

Forgotten Advocate: Augusta County, VA   Charissa Knight Family picture

Charisa and her husband Greg have 5 children (two of whom they adopted from Ethiopia). Charisa’s was first introduced to foster care as a 6th grader, when she became best friends with her neighbor who was a foster child. Her heart for the orphaned and oppressed compelled her to become a Justice Advocate for IJM and to do more for the foster care community but she wasn’t sure how. When she stumbled upon The Forgotten Initiative, she knew that this was her answer.

“I have been blessed to watch the local church community come together and open up their hearts to the children, families, and workers affected by the foster care system.”