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Friday, September 27, 2013

Forgotten Fridays: From the Children

Quotes from children who have experienced life in foster care... 

“It is very hard in the foster care system. While living in these different places I had to transform myself and pretend to be someone I wasn’t in fear that I would be moved again and unloved. I felt like I was constantly moving, and never had  a place to call home. I was always wondering when someone was going to give me a chance and not give up on me as everyone has. I felt voiceless because everyone made decisions for my life without asking what I wanted, and would ignore me when I tried to speak up.” – Kamika 

“A typical birthday was one of the saddest times in foster care. … at times someone would say ‘Happy Birthday, Josh,’  but usually the day was silent. I would feel worthless, like no one valued my life.” - Josh

“My problem at the time was that I connected with people too quick. I got close to people and that was a problem when I had to leave. Even  if you feel like you can trust that  person—and you can—when the time comes for you to leave, you know you are never going to see them again.” - Lamarr

(These quotes where taken from Time for Reform: Too Many Birthdays in Foster Care.)  

Please pray and ask the Lord for direction on how He wants you to serve your local foster care community.  

"I am only one but still I am one.   I cannot do everything but I can do something.  I will NOT refuse to do the something I can do.” - Helen Keller 

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Advocate Wednesday: I Want to Be Ready

Our family has a unique opportunity. We have two weeks to prepare our home and ourselves for a foster child.  Often, there is barely any notice or information, and maybe a few hours to wrap your head and heart around the situation before a foster child joins your family.   I’m thankful for this gift of unusual advance notice.

In high school, I loved playing basketball and I can (vaguely) remember the mental preparation that I would go through to psych myself up before each game.  Focus, thinking through different defensive and offensive scenarios, fueling my body for the game (with junk food… cause you can do that when you’re 15) trying to relax and remain confident, and remembering our team plays.  If I would do at least some of that, then I had a lot more success during the game.

My pre-game routine is a really good picture of my life right now.  Mentally, spiritually, physically, and emotionally, I am trying to get myself into a place where I have the best chance for success.  I can’t be prepared for everything, but I want my soul to be ready.

I want to be ready for Jesus to work miracles in our lives.

I want to be ready to choose faith over fear.

I want to be ready to trust Jesus as our Provider and Help.

I want to be ready to take His courage and strength for my weakness.

I want to live like this every. single. day.  Ready for Jesus to show up in my life.  Prepared for the opportunities and challenges that God handpicks for me and my family.  We don’t need advance notice for that.  We need a new perspective.  Recognition that every day God is giving us gifts to steward, like this child that we’ll soon welcome.

I’m challenging myself and you to get yourself in game-mode.  Spend some time today readying your soul for what Jesus wants to bring your way.   Push out the fear, and make room in your soul for faith.

“Enlarge the place of your tent; stretch out the curtains of your dwellings, spare not; lengthen your cords and strengthen your pegs…. For your husband is your Maker, whose name is the LORD of hosts; and your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel, who is called the God of all the earth.”  Isaiah 54:2, 5. 

Melisha Meredith
Forgotten Advocate: Columbia, SC
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After having two biological children, Melisha and her husband Ryan, began the domestic adoption process and through this experience, God moved them to also pursue foster parenting. They serve full time in campus and family ministry through GraceLife Church. As a homeschooling mom, Melisha’s motto is “Make disciples!” She is excited to do this in her family and in every opportunity God gives her.

“The Forgotten Initiative will be a great place to come alongside people in their journey with Jesus and lead them closer to Him.”

Monday, September 23, 2013

Make a Difference Mondays: Who do you see?

Some of my favorite verses are Psalm 139: 13-16, "For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb.  I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.  My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place.  When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body.  All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be."

In the past week, the Lord has pointed me back to this piece of scripture in multiple ways and I'm still in wonder at how He brought them to my attention each time.

Psalm 139 tells us how every person on this earth was created by the Lord's mighty hand for a purpose.  He knows our stories.  We each have different and unique stories and He is fully committed to us if we let down our walls and let Him in, set our eyes on His Kingdom, and fully engross ourselves in His purpose.  

I sit in awe, knowing that every good day, every terrible day, every joy, every heart break - the Lord knew before I was even created and prepared me for it.  Not only me, but everyone.  The Lord's sovereignty is indescribable.  

It hurts me to see people hurting.  I ache when I hear of individuals not receiving the love of Christ.  I tense up and shake when I hear of the terrible situations so many in the foster care community are accustomed to and so many of us like to think of them as "made up stories" because our life is comfortable.  Admitting that these stories are true means that we have to acknowledge and do something about it.  I know for a fact these stories are not made up.

The Lord knew the suffering before it began, before that person was even created, and knit each person with distinct characteristics to make it through those terrible situations.  He also knit you together and  has placed you exactly where He wants you so that you can be a difference in someone's life, so that "your light will break forth like the dawn..." (Isaiah 58:8) and bring Jesus into a hurting individual's life.   

There are so many hurting souls right in front of every single one of us.  Not seeing them?  Look a little closer, ask the Lord - He definitely knows - to show you those who need someone, just like you, to step up beside them and help pull them through the dark days. 

The entire foster care community is full of individuals struggling, experiencing reoccurring dark days.  This messy system has turned lives upside down.  Is this the Lord's heart, to have children taken away from their parents, to have teenagers out in the world on their own, to have caseworkers going to work everyday dreading the huge decisons that decide the future of others' lives?  Absolutely not.  His heart is to care for us and experience His love and grace, and he does that through Jesus' hands and feet - US - The Body of Christ.  

The Lord's heart IS to reach out, to love, to share hope with the one who feels forgotten. His heart is restoration and that is where you come in.  

Who is the Lord pointing out to you today?  Step out of the comfort zone, be bold, be Jesus to someone in need.  Make a true, Jesus-focused difference on this Monday.  (And every day!)

Jillian Kellenberger
Administrative & Advocate Support

Jillian graduated from Illinois State University with a Bachelor’s degree in social work. She has a heart for the orphan and those who feel forgotten. Her role with TFI began as a volunteer, a year and a half later she serves full time as administrative and advocates support. Jillian has a passion for loving and reaching out to those who are hurting.

“So many individuals either do not know the needs or misunderstand the needs of the foster care community, I’m burdened to advocate for this forgotten community and ultimately make Jesus more famous.”

Friday, September 20, 2013

Forgotten Fridays: My Story... as a Child in Foster Care

I went into foster care when I was nine. 

I had been abused and neglected and was scared, but what scared me more was what would happen if I didn't leave. I ran away, to my dad first and later to the police. I was desperate. I didn't know what the future held, all I knew was that I had to get out. We struggled financially to the point of eating out of garbage cans, we didn't have socks or underwear, we were physically, sexually and psychologically abused. 

My mom was unpredictable, an alcoholic who brought home men from the bar and I felt like I was living a parallel life. I was in the same house, in the same family, but my greatest hurt didn't come from being whipped, smacked or having my hair pulled. It came from being ignored, resented, unwanted and unloved. 

My mom was low functioning and she never worked or drove. She could barely read or write. By the time I was four, I could and by the time I was five I was reading and explaining bills and other mail. I watched my mom be beaten and raped and somewhere deep inside, I knew I was on my own, alone, there was no one who would come to my rescue, no one who would stroke my hair or read me a story or hold me when I was scared. 

When I ran away the second time, I went to the police because going back to my dad's wasn't an option. He was abusive towards my step-mom and she had tried to commit suicide. I literally felt like I had no one that cared whether I existed or not except my grandmother and a teacher at school. 

Foster care was so hard for me. I had attachment issues and while I wanted to be loved more than anything, I pushed everyone away. 

Twenty-six moves later, I was emancipated and it was over, or so I thought. I was an excellent student, graduated at the top of my class and received a full scholarship from the Department of Children and Family Services, but emotionally, I was a wreck. I had trouble holding a job, had relationship issues, struggled horribly with depression and dropped out of more semesters of college than I can count because it was too overwhelming. There were honestly times that the loneliness and grief nearly consumed me and I wanted to die, but something inside me, a tiny spark of hope kept me going, determined to overcome and heal not just for me, but for my family and my children. 

I honestly didn't know for a long time whether I would be lost or saved, but I knew that I could draw a line in the sand and say, "No more!" My children never had to experience what I did and I thank God for that. I firmly believe that healing is a lifelong journey. Days and days, months and months, years and years later, I am a social worker who just came home from my job working with specialized foster children because we adopted a newborn. We have a 10-year-old who we adopted at birth and I just recently dropped my oldest daughter off for her first semester of college. I have a wonderful, supportive husband who loves me for who I am and accepts me for where I've come from. Life is good and I am genuinely happy. 

In a way, sometimes I wish that was the end, that I could go riding off into the sunset knowing I paid my dues and now is "my" time to experience life the way it always should have been, but if I did, for what purpose would it all have been? My joy and redemption is knowing not only that I survived, but that my story matters! I now travel and speak to foster parents, foster children, case managers and supervisors about the hope they can find and offer in their circumstances and the system, about how I am so very grateful for every step of the journey, no matter how breathtakingly difficult, but because it made me who I am. And my favorite part... I spent my entire life longing to be loved, wondering where I fit, wanting a mom and not only have I found all of those things above and beyond anything I could have asked or hoped for, I can now BE those things to others who are where I used to be. 

Thank you for allowing me to share my story. I am ONE STORY... ONE VOICE! I know it is only one of thousands, hundreds of thousands and for the longest time I wondered what was so special about my story to be told, but I have come to realize that all of our stories, no matter how different, are the same. For those who have yet to find their voice and those who never will... I will speak as long as I have breath... There is hope!

Brandy Sacapanio 

Even thought I bounced around 26 times through the system before finally being emancipated at the age of 17, I grew up wondering what was so special about "my" story.  I mean there are SO many stories, many more tragic than mine.  Then I began working with specialized foster children and began speaking, telling my story.  One day a lady came up to me crying and began telling me about the daughter they adopted, her journey towards healing and the struggles she STILL faces today as a result of abuse. 

Her words: "Thank you so much for doing what my daughter could never do.  You are so brave, an inspiration and are HER voice!"  Wow, suddenly it all made sense.  I tell my story because all of our stories even though they are different  are the same and so many can't.  

That is foster care. 

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Advocate Wednesdays: Mighty to Save

As followers of Jesus, we are called to follow in His footsteps.

If we take a look at the gospels, it’s evident in Jesus life that He lived not to do His own will, but He lived to fulfill His Father’s will. What is the Father’s will? That none should perish and that all would be saved.

Jesus made lame men walk again. He touched blind eyes, and they could see. He healed many in bondage to Satan and his demons by just speaking one word. He washed his disciples’ feet and asked us to follow this example.

I have sung the praise song “Mighty to Save” many times in the last few years… but what does it really mean for us today?

This is what it means… We give Jesus our restlessness for rest, our pain for peace, our guilt for grace, our lust for true love, our cares for comfort, our trouble for truth, our jealousy for joy, our fretting for forgiveness, and our hell for heaven.

This is the message of hope that as believers we have to offer… our God saves.

Isaiah 35:3-6, Strengthen the weak hands, and make firm the feeble knees. Say to those who have an anxious heart, “Be strong; fear not;  Behold, your God will come with vengeance, with the recompense of God. He will come and save you.” Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; then shall the lame man leap like a deer, and the tongue of the mute sing for joy.

Who is God calling you and me to share this message with today? It’s different for all of us. It could be a struggling foster parent, a teenager who really needs someone to step into his life and mentor him, or a child who has never heard the words, “I love you.”

Tell someone in your life, “MY God is mighty to save.”

Emily Schambach
Forgotten Advocate: Elgin, IL
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Keith and Emily have two daughters and a little boy due this summer. They worked at an orphanage in Mexico for three years. After moving back to the states the summer of 2011, they have been praying about what God would have them do to serve Him in their community. Keith and Emily began to read more about TFI and pray about how they could be involved. Ever since, they have pursued starting up TFI in Elgin, God has opened door after door, proving to them that He is going before them. They are excited to see the ministry grow!

“I am excited to step out of my comfort zone and see God do abundantly above all that I could ask or think- to the glory of His name.” (Ephesians 3:20,21)