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Friday, June 28, 2013

Forgotten Friday's: When the Church Loves the Vulnerable

I remember when the Lord first opened my eyes to the foster care world.  It was November 2009 and my heart broke as I watched a video of a 6 year old girl who was waiting for a foster home to be found for her.  The worker sat with her and made multiple phone calls to potential foster parents and each one said no for one reason or another.  My husband and I were in our own waiting season during that time and had also been facing multiple rejections.  God used that moment, that experience to awaken me to something I had been blind to before and I had to do something. 

Since that time, I have heard story after story of kids and families affected by foster care and we have experienced this personally with our own three children that we brought into our family to foster and have since adopted them.  My little girl, only 5 years old, still talks of her birth parents but it is different then it used to be - she used to talk of missing them very often.  Recently, her concerns have been more for them then herself.  "Are they in a safe house?"  "Do they know Jesus?"

We have kept in contact with them and because of this, I know they have been going to church and are surrounded by a loving and committed church family.  I believe they have been making good choices are living in an apartment.

The other night, our little girl called me in hours after she had been put to bed.  She couldn't sleep and told me, "I keep thinking about my birth mom and birth dad."  "What are you thinking about?" I asked her?  Her familiar worries surfaced as she was concerned about their safety.  I was so excited to share what I knew.  Her birth parents were making good choices and were living in  a home that was safe.  Even better, they were going to church with good people who love them.

I watched as a big smile transformed my daughter's face and a giggle escaped her lips!  It was like a huge burden had just been lifted off her young shoulders.  The next evening before bed, she told me "Mommy, I'm just so glad my birth mom and birth dad are going to church!"

This is the Body of Christ doing what it is supposed to do.  When you serve, you not only impact the ones you're serving but by loving the vulnerable, you never know how your love will impact the ones who love them.  I am so thankful for this church family who is living out the Gospel. 

Who is God calling you to love?  Please don't hesitate to reach out and walk in obedience.  I want to close with words from Chuck Swindoll.  If this resonates with you, please act.  Do.  Say yes.

"You've thought it through and you've considered all the alternatives.  Your throat is sore from praying and your eyes burn from weeping.  You know it's right but you're scared.  Really scared.  Initially, somebody won't understand and you'll not be able to explain.  Yet you are convinced it's best...it will glorify God...it can be supported by scriptural principles..and it's right. 

So?  So quit procrastinating and do it."




Jami KaebJami Kaeb is a dreamer and a coffee lover!  She is married to Clint and the mother of six – soon to be seven through a Ugandan adoption.  It was through a difficult season of waiting, that Clint and Jami's eyes were opened to the foster care community.  They became foster parents to three siblings who they eventually adopted and in April of 2011, Jami founded The Forgotten Initiative.  Jami views life as a great adventure with Jesus and desires simply to know Him more and share His love with those who feel forgotten.

Follow Jami's personal blog at www.lifewithapersonalgod.org



Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Advocate Wednesdays: As we all are walking step by step in God's direction.....


James 1:2-7
Consider it pure joy, my brother, whenever you face trails of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.  Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.  If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.  That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does.


---

Krista 

Krista is a wife and mother to seven children ages 10 to 2. Her and her husband are passionate about adoption and helping the "fatherless". Their nine year-old-daughter is their "belly" baby, and their six other children were adopted through the state foster care system. They have adopted three sibling groups on their journey. Krista and her husband have seen the need and importance in keeping children together. The last 7 years of their lives have been filled with compassion and a "burn" inside to help. Stepping out to hold, love, and touch a child who has been orphaned due to circumstances beyond their control, allows for an opportunity to see a "soul" and "value" given by God. Krista and her husband have seen the needs of their community and it's foster care system and it is "much". Their desire is to see God move in their area as He leads us to help and love on the least of these.

See local needs in Northumberland County, PA    
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Tuesday, June 25, 2013

"I don't remember..."

Originally posted on 6.22.12

Last night while putting the girls to bed, "Lu" became rather anxious about "scary people coming into our house."  I wasn't sure if this was a "common childhood fear" moment or if this indeed had been part of her past. 


You know it's heartbreaking that it could have been.  It breaks my heart that I don't even know.  She is now becoming my daughter and I know only little of her first 3 years.  This is the stuff that hurts, because she has gone through such pain.  Some of it I was able to be there for her.  When we told her she was going to have her "goodbye" visit with her parents and she just started protesting with tears.  When we found out some startling news (that I'm not comfortable sharing here) that simply broke her little heart.  When she reached up to me and held on to me, arms wrapped tightly around my neck and cried.   This is the stuff that hurts.  It's not fair and it's not okay.  All I can do is simply be there.  Love her through it.  Bend down and sit with her - right in the mess and the pain.  Hold her close and remind her of my love - all the while begging God to pour out HIS love.

Last night after reassuring her that the room was safe and our house was safe and that Daddy was our big strong protector, I took a risk and I did ask.  "Honey, were there ever scary people that came into your Mommy 'D' and Daddy 'Bs' house?  Her response took me off guard and made Raegan who was sitting in the bed next to us start to cry.

"I don't remember my house."

You see, Lu never really lived with her parents.  She spent most of her little life with her Grandma.  Grandma was loving and kind and cared deeply for Lu but she spent so little time with her parents that she can't even remember her house.

That makes me so sad and yet I have seen God take the broken pieces of her little life and bless us with her trust and love and joy.  We have the privilege of loving her deeply.  Adoption is born from loss.  Adoption from foster care presents some very real challenges and wounds (especially when children are old enough to remember life before).  Adoption is a beautiful representation of Jesus's love for us.  He bends down - right in the middle of our mess and scoops us up.  He has a beautiful picture of the life He's called us to and all He asked is that we trust Him and allow Him to take each lovingly crafted puzzle piece and place it where it belongs. 

The adventure awaits you and I.  Sit back, relax, and....hold on tight.  :)  He will hold you, my friends and He will allow you to hold those he calls you to love.

~Jami


Jami KaebJami Kaeb is a dreamer and a coffee lover!  She is married to Clint and the mother of six – soon to be seven through a Ugandan adoption.  It was through a difficult season of waiting, that Clint and Jami's eyes were opened to the foster care community.  They became foster parents to three siblings who they eventually adopted and in April of 2011, Jami founded The Forgotten Initiative.  Jami views life as a great adventure with Jesus and desires simply to know Him more and share His love with those who feel forgotten.

Follow Jami's personal blog at www.lifewithapersonalgod.org


 

 

Monday, June 24, 2013

Make a Difference Monday: At Arms Length

My husband Clint and I were given the amazing privilege of a week long vacation in Fiji (trip through Clint's work!)  While there, we had a very special opportunity to bring some school supplies to children at a local school in need.  The children came to our resort to receive the gifts, riding in on a train and singing, no less!  Many in our group were eating breakfast as the train pulled in.  Those sweet kiddos piled out of the train so that we could take some pics.  Then two children came to shake hands with the President of the company who provided this trip for us and then walked back to the train.

A few members from the company were able to go through a gate to get closer to the children.  I had hopes of hugging on children, kneeling down next to them but it seemed my opportunity was slipping away so I did what I had to do.  I walked through that gate..."Come'on Clint!"  I don't know if technically we were supposed to do that or not but we did and no one stopped us!

These children were precious, beautiful, and so joyful!  As we said goodbye, my heart felt so burdened.  Something just didn't sit right with me.  There were nearly 400 people who won this trip.  Do you know how many school supplies we donated?  Two tables full.  Two.  I know the children were thankful.  I know we helped them greatly, but two?

The children came and the children went.  Most everyone just kept on eating.  The president congratulated us for being so generous.  We clapped and cheered for ourselves.  We felt good about what we had done and then we went back to our breakfast.

Please hear my heart on this.  Isn't it true that so often we want to make a difference in the world without it really making a difference in our life style?  We want to reach out but we don't really want to reach in to the mess of other's lives.  We want to give but not so much that we actually feel it.  We want to serve but on our own terms.  Certainly not in a way that is hard or messy or uncomfortable. 

When we do good, we give ourselves a hand and pat ourselves on the back and then we go back to the routine. We want to stay at arms length so that it doesn't hurt so badly and we definitely don't want to risk affecting our kids in any negative way.  That doesn't feel safe at all.  It's just easier to stay at arms length.  It's more comfortable that way.

But I keep thinking...what if Christ took that approach with us?  What if he didn't want to reach out and touch me, in my sin and pride?  What if I am just too needy or too much of an effort?  It makes me shudder to think about life without Him.

Oh how thankful I am that He said, "Jami, you are worth everything to me."  He says that about you too.  And he says that about your neighbor.  And the difficult child in your son's class.  He says that about the checkout lady in Walmart and the woman on welfare who finds herself pregnant again.  He says that about you and me and He calls us to love others like He loves. 

Will you do this?  Will you be available to reach into someone else's mess and love them like Jesus does?  Not for the pat on the back, not for the applause but simply because JESUS did it for you first? 

Maybe someone comes to mind?  Maybe not.  If not, talk to us.  The Forgotten Initiative exists to connect you to people in need.  There are so many ways to serve, as unique as you and I.  We just need people who are willing.

~Jami


Jami KaebJami Kaeb is a dreamer and a coffee lover!  She is married to Clint and the mother of six – soon to be seven through a Ugandan adoption.  It was through a difficult season of waiting, that Clint and Jami's eyes were opened to the foster care community.  They became foster parents to three siblings who they eventually adopted and in April of 2011, Jami founded The Forgotten Initiative.  Jami views life as a great adventure with Jesus and desires simply to know Him more and share His love with those who feel forgotten.

Follow Jami's personal blog at www.lifewithapersonalgod.org



Friday, June 21, 2013

Forgotten Fridays: What About Her?

The past couple of days my heart has been weighing heavy for the birth moms behind each child we are fostering. We became aware of a recent (horrific) situation leading to the hospitalization of one of the birth moms, while another has been missing for months and another sitting in jail for a year and a half awaiting her deportation trial.

As a mom, knowing how deep the love for your child runs, from the moment you hold them for the first time and lay your eyes on their precious little face. If you are a mother, you know this feeling I am referring to. You know that there is nothing you wouldn't do for your child's safety and happiness. So, why are we so quick to assume it is any different for the birth moms of these little ones in the system?

These women gave birth, loved their children with everything in them... then somewhere along the line, hit rock bottom. Whether we who have our children struggle with anger and forgiveness, eating disorders, alcoholism, infidelity, or even self-worth... we all have days where we feel that we have hit rock bottom. Lucky for us, we all have someone to turn to and even the knowledge of God- to cry out to for the healing or even the strength we need to endure another day!

Most of the mothers whose children we have fostered or adopted have been trying to keep their heads above water all by themselves. Scared, hurting, abused... alone! We are quick to run with the preconceived idea that, "well, they screwed up so it serves them right to lose their child!" Fact being, we all screw up and if God has extended His unconditional grace to us in our darkest hour... who are we to pick and choose who deserves it and who doesn't?! We are all alive, breathing and capable of helping those around us that NEED us. Most of us "mothers" are pleased to just raise "our children" and if we have fed them organic food, clothed them in the trendiest threads, and told them we loved them... mission accomplished!

However, what about the moms who can’t even give their kids a slice of 99 cent white bread for dinner, who is laying in a hospital bed because she was just used- abused-stabbed and beaten by yet another man she was hoping would just love her, who just dumped her baby on a door step because she couldn't handle it on her own anymore, who was born a drug baby- abandoned by her own mother-abused by her uncle who raised her and left alone to deal with the pain?!?!? Yup... these are all situation of moms of little ones in my home. I have been fostering these little ones and doing my best to love on them yet... what about their moms?!?! Why have I not even thought, up to this point, about how much they need someone?!?!

I have hit rock bottom in my life. I turned to my God, my amazing husband, my loving family and unconditional friends. And that's where the difference lies... I have people in my life to encourage me when I feel like I am falling apart, to support me in my decisions, and to see beyond my mistakes and love me anyway! These moms have hit rock bottom and stay there. Who are we to assume that they are not our problem?! If you are reading this post and you consider yourself a follower of Christ.... These women ARE our problem and our responsibility. We are blessed to have the life we have, the friends and family in our lives. It’s time we roll up our sleeves, put someone before ourselves and pray for a heart that breaks for the very things that breaks God’s heart... the lost, hurting and broken!

--- 
Michelle Dahlman 

Michelle is a sewer/crafter, blogging newbie and music lover that enjoys family time, painting, and bike riding. She is a mother of 4 amazing blessings (3 biologically and 1 adopted through fostering). Her and her husband Chris are currently foster parents to 3 little ones.

Michelle has always had a heart for children and grew up in the church community. However, after hitting rock bottom and getting real and personal with God over the past couple years, her heart for the broken and forgotten became way more of a calling and a passion! She has learned that being a "Christian" is not just about a set of "rules" but is a daily calling, a lifestyle that represents Christ, and a relationship so deep that your heart breaks for what breaks His!

Michelle is currently starting up a ministry in her church to engage the body, their hearts and skills in reaching "the forgotten" and with a daily prayer to be an example, to her children, of a servants heart and to be used to the fullest for Gods glory.

To follow Michelle's journey visit her blog at www.hiscommandmyhands.blogspot.com

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Advocate Wednesdays: Lacy in Cincinnati

Most days I fight the doubt that paralyzed me for so long. I’m overwhelmed with thoughts like “what makes you think YOU can really change anything?” or “You have no experience and therefore no business getting involved… it’s not like you’re a foster parent or anything.” And it’s true-I’m not a foster parent or an agency worker. I can’t relate to the trauma so many experience and I don’t know the lingo. I’m an outsider trying to figure out the court system, how different agencies work, and how to love and serve total strangers.

I have a hunch that God is working in the hearts of many of us who feel like outsiders. We aren’t foster parents, don’t know how or where to serve, and don’t have much to give. Our doubts and fears overpower our desire to get involved and we stay away from the Forgotten… just like the enemy wants it.

What if we cling to hope instead of fear? Faith instead of doubt? Outsiders, we greatly outnumber the Forgotten. Greatly. And they need us to love them the way Christ loves us. That looks different for each Outsider. It doesn’t mean we all have to become foster parents (although I’m not opposed to the idea) and it doesn’t mean we have to give all of our time and money (although I’m not opposed to that either!). It means that when God stirs your heart to become involved, drop the doubt and fear and act in faith. I’ve learned that the little things done in love by Outsiders really does count for something. Taking baked goodies to an agency goes a long way. Sending a short encouragement card to a foster mom really does brighten her day. A $5 McDonalds gift card, package of diapers, or a homemade meal actually does bring them joy. Outsiders, we have the opportunity to shoulder some of the heavy load they carry if we’ll only step out of our fears and into the forgotten community. Let’s focus more on them and less on us. Then maybe there won’t be a forgotten community and an outsider community.

I could be dead wrong, but my hunch is that most people share in my doubts and fears and this keeps them from stepping into the forgotten world. The enemy is quick to defeat us with negativity and keep us inactive. Who are “we”? We’re the ones on the other side of the fence who aren’t foster parents, who don’t know where or how to serve the foster community, and who don’t have money trees in the backyard. We’re the average Joe who is experiencing the work of God in our hearts.

---
Lacy


Lacy and her husband Carey, are parents of two children and began the process of international adoption in the summer of 2012. During the adoption process God opened their eyes not only to the needs of the foster care community, but also to ways The Body could meet those needs. 

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Friday, June 14, 2013

Forgotten Fridays: We're having a (foster) BABY!

Okay, so not “we” as in Brian and I, but “we” as in our church community.  Over the last couple years we’ve been blessed to have a bunch of little foster babies make their debut.  Some have been with us just for a season, or for a weekend of respite care and some have ended up permanent members of our family.  I couldn’t be prouder of how families have chosen to help children in crisis either by fostering or by supporting our foster families.

But it wasn’t always this way in our fostering journey.  In part because we weren’t always such vocal advocates for fostering and didn’t feel so bold about making our own needs known.  Sometimes it’s easier to push for changes that help support other families because you know what kind of help you would have benefitted from.  I remember the day after one of our foster babies arrived at our home I was balancing her on my hip while trying to make a meal for a family who had just brought their baby home from the hospital (one they made the old fashioned way).  In retrospect, I probably should have found somebody else to make that meal or just brought them some takeout.  I needed to be focusing on building a relationship with this new child in my arms who really didn’t know or trust me, but I was working hard to keep up appearances that I was capable of doing it all.  I let assumptions go unchallenged that since I wasn’t going through a physical recovery after a birth, I didn’t need help.  It’s now important to me to be sure as a community we are thinking through the VERY real challenges of building a relationship from scratch with a child who may have been in a difficult prenatal and home environment and doing what we can to make that just a little bit easier on foster families.

There has been a learning curve as we have become a community that strives to support foster care and adoption.  The kind of support that is best for a family who has a baby of a race/gender/age/medical need they weren’t aware of or prepared for just the day before is very different from the kind of support we are used to offering new parents.  9 months to get ready for a baby and 90 minutes (which is more than what we had between the time we got a phone call about the placement of our daughter and the time she actually arrived) are two very different situations.  If your church is wanting to come alongside fostering families, here are some guidelines about how to make this work.


Supporting Families with a New Placement

-Respect privacy.  Different states and even different foster agencies within the same state may have differing regulations about what kind of information can be revealed about foster children.  It is best to err on the side of respecting privacy.  Don’t have a church-wide email that states the child’s name or has a picture of the child.  Don’t post anything about the child on social media.  Don’t ask too many detailed questions about the biological family’s situation.  Be understanding if the foster family is vague in their answers.  It is difficult as a foster family because people may make negative assumptions about this child based on the information they receive about the parents.  We need to be guardians of that information in the child’s best interest.  Once we’ve said something, it’s impossible for people to unknow that information and we can’t always control where that information goes.  We don’t want to create prejudice towards the family we are trying to help.

-Provide meals.  Bonding is hard work.  It is extremely helpful to not have to worry about meals for a week or two as you’re beginning that important process.  One of our kids was born too early and with medical needs.  One of them came to us with trust issues and near constant crying for weeks.  It would have been incredibly helpful to have had at least that one aspect of family life covered so we could focus on meeting a child’s need.  Just because a woman isn’t recovering from the physical process of birth or spending her time breastfeeding doesn’t mean she wouldn’t benefit from being cared for by her church community as she meets the full-time needs of a young child.

-Help with initial diaper/clothing/equipment needs.  I can only speak for the state of Nebraska, but right now we are not receiving any kind of stipend up front to help with the initial financial needs of a new placement.  As you can imagine the expense of taking on a child you were unprepared for can be pretty immense.  While there is financial compensation involved in foster care, it generally happens after the first month of care has been provided.  If there’s any way the church can help with the initial expenses by loaning baby equipment/supplies/clothing or providing the first box of diapers, that would be really helpful.  This should not be an ongoing need since payment will be provided after the first month and that amount should be sufficient for meeting the child’s needs.

-Know and be connected with community resources.  In our area there is the Foster CARE Closet that exists to help meet the first clothing needs of kids coming into foster care.  WIC exists to meet some of the nutritional needs of foster kids.  There may be other groups in your area that provide services for foster kids (toys at Christmas, advocacy, free tickets to the zoo, family pool passes, educational services, etc.) that foster families need to be connected with.  It doesn’t make sense for us to double-up on services that are already being provided by an equipped agency.  It’s great when we can support them in their work all through the year so when our families have needs we are easily able to connect them with people we trust.
-Provide emotional support.  Be a listening ear.  Have kindness in your heart towards all involved-  biological family, lawyers, judges, caseworkers, and the child.  One of the best sources of support is other foster parents.  They know the mixed emotions that exist in foster care and can help connect families to solutions through their hard-earned experience.  If there are multiple foster families in your church community, they should be meeting together regularly to share burdens, joys, and resources.  If there aren’t multiple foster families, see if there’s a way to provide your building for foster support so you can bring families to you.  Be connected with agencies that provide support to foster families and see how you can help your foster family connect with others.

-Lower your expectations.  Foster kids may come with issues.  If your expectation is that they will act just like the kids in your community who have been in safe, secure homes since before they were born, you need to lower your expectations a bit.  Foster families may also need lowered expectations when it comes to what kind of  responsibilities they take on outside their home.  They need time to adjust to this new family, so give them a little space.  If you have an expectation that what seems (in your eyes) to be “in the best interests of the child” will happen in this case, you may need to lower your expectations.  We sometimes expect that a case will be clear-cut or go quickly, but that rarely happens.  Learn to live with the tension of not knowing where this child is going to end up without putting stress on the foster family to make things clear for you.

-Be background checked.  Foster parents may need babysitting or respite care (a weekend away).  This can only be provided by approved caregivers, which generally means having a background check.  Talk to a foster family about how to make that happen, or have an agency that provides foster care come to your church to give information about respite care and distribute background check forms.

-Have a prepared church nursery/children’s church.  Be sure you have appropriate sign-in and sign-out procedures so a non-custodial parent wouldn’t be able to collect a child from your nursery without your knowledge.  You also need to be sure your nursery workers are background checked for the protection of the kids and your liability as a church.  This may just be particular to me, but I am a little weird about who changes my foster children’s diapers.  I am trying from their earliest age to protect them and teach them that only people they know and trust are allowed to deal with their private parts.  This means I communicate to nursery workers that I should be contacted if there’s a diaper problem instead of having the nursery handle it.  So be prepared that foster parents may have unusual requests about how kids are handled in nursery or children’s church (if they put them in there at all) that we may need to be flexible about.

Foster parents, I know when you’re feeling overwhelmed with the needs right in front of you, it’s hard to get your head above water enough to communicate what would help.  I hope this list is something you can pass along to your church to help them be a support to you.  Often it isn’t that people don’t want to help, it’s that they don’t know how and don’t want to overstep their boundaries.  We’ve got to be sure we’re giving them opportunities to help in ways that are truly helpful.

---
Maralee Bradley

Maralee is a mother of four pretty incredible kids ages six and under. Three of them were adopted (one internationally from Liberia, two through foster care in Nebraska) and her fourth baby came the old fashioned way.  Prior to becoming parents Maralee and her husband were houseparents at a children’s home and worked with 17 boys during their five year tenure. Maralee is passionate about caring for kids, foster parenting and adoption, making her husband a fairly decent dinner every night, staying on top of the laundry, watching ridiculous documentaries, and trying to do it all for God’s glory. Maralee can be heard on My Bridge Radio talking about motherhood on “A Mother’s Heart for God” and what won’t fit in a 90 second radio segment ends up at  http://www.amusingmaralee.com/ 

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Advocate Wednesday: Letting My Heart Break

Being involved in the lives of hurting children is incredibly hard.  There are days when I sometimes feel that I can't emotionally handle hearing or seeing any more innocent children having to deal with pain and neglect.  It wasn't supposed to be this way.  Kids weren't supposed to have to cope with the things that many little ones in the system have been put through.  Tragically, Sin has put us here.

Working with TFI in a new city is trying.  Many days, I feel completely overwhelmed by the needs of our area.  So many things need to be done, and yet, there seems to be to so few people who are willing to help be a part of the solution.  Lots of churches have copious amounts of red tape to get through in order to even speak with someone who makes decisions about missions.  Living in the "Bible Belt" doesn't automatically mean that people will take up your cause.  On the contrary, many people, including myself, who have lived here all their lives, are numb to the gospel and to the suffering that goes on around us.

As a TFI Advocate, I hate to admit that I have just gone through the motions at times.  The stories of hurt become too much to bear and I simply go about my day and pretend that nothing is wrong in the lives of so many.  I'll go to church and sing my worship songs.  I'll try to be a good mother and wife.  I'll read my bible every day, all the while blocking the heartbreak of others from my mind.

God knows exactly what to say to me when my heart becomes hard and I feel like I can't take any more:   "I know you are enduring patiently and bearing up for my name's sake, and you have not grown weary.  But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first.  Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first."  Revelation 2:4-5

At a time when I'm struggling to find help around me to care for this forgotten section of our community, I need this reminder to push forward.  I need to hear from Him that He is glorified by my passion and fervor for Him and not by how much I actually get done.  There will be seasons where it all falls in place and I'm able to set up 15 service projects and fulfill tons of needs, but God will point to the times where all I hit are roadblocks and ask me then if my heart was in it.  Did I let my heart break for them, or did I push through unscathed?


------------
Anna Shumpert
Forgotten Advocate: Charleston, SC

Anna and her husband Ryan are parents to two little ladies; a 2 month old and a rambunctious adopted toddler. 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.”

Current Needs in Charleston, SC

Monday, June 10, 2013

Make a Difference Monday: Project Sunshine Success!

Project Sunshine:Foster Home Edition SUCCESS! 

It's not too late to help! Join us in bringing joy and purpose to local foster care communities through a donation in honor of this special project.

PROJECT COMPLETE!  


TFI Project Sunshine | Foster Home Edition from Lifesong for Orphans on Vimeo.

We want to say a huge thank you to all who were involved in this project.  The Body of Christ rose up and accomplished an amazing project to bless two foster mom's.  Because of the hard work of 100+ volunteers the improvements to the homes were completed so Ceola and April could continue caring for children in need!  

To find out more about this project visit the Project Blog

To view more pictures than those below visit Flickr!

Ceola's Home - Work completed 
  • Basement of the house was cleaned and organized 
  • Mold was removed
  • Egress window was installed along with 6 broken windows 
  • Upstairs bathroom received a new vanity and plumbing was fixed 
  • The basement storm door was fixed 
  • The yard was cleaned up by trimming shrubs and seeding the yard
  • A basketball hoop was installed 
  • A lot of plumbing work was completed  - leaking pipes, removing old pipes, etc..
  • Smoke detectors were installed 
  • New sump pump was installed 
  • Electrical work was brought up to code
  • Replaced weather stripping and door hardware
  • A used stove was donated for the basement kitchen, as well as a microwave that was installed upstairs.
  • Basement Bedroom – New furniture bed frame, dresser, end table, new bedding, curtain, paneling, paint, carpet, and décor accessories.
  • Basement Bathroom – New paneling, new vanity, toilet, sink, shower/tub, painted. 
  • Basement Family room - New furniture, kitchen table, chairs, benches, sofa, loveseat, end table, coffee table, TV, rugs, and décor accessories
April's Home - Work Completed 
  • The basement was completely cleared out and gutted to studs and concrete walls. 
  • The water heater was moved along with the gas and water lines
  • The water heater had new walls installed around it.
  • Plumbing was reworked in laundry sink and a faucet was added. 
  • 2 egress windows were dug out and installed 
  • Bedrooms were framed out to have walls, with 3 new bedroom doors as well as closets in new locations for each. 
  • Electrical work was brought up to code 
  • Smoke detectors were installed
  • Walls were treated for mold.
  • The yard was cleaned up by trimming bushes, adding mulch and flowers.
  • Installed carpet in all 3 bedrooms.
  • New closet doors and door hardware were added
  • All rooms were painted 
  • Laundry room: new custom shelving, laundry folding table with counter-top with laundry baskets
  • New ceiling tiles and paneling for the new walls that were built
  • New furniture – new beds, dressers, storage shelves, desk, and rug
  • All new bedding, curtains, wall art, and décor accessories were added to each room
Will you share the impact that was made on these foster families?

Forward this link or socially share with your friends and family, asking them to prayerfully consider donating to The Forgotten Initiative. Because of ongoing support, we will continue to mobilize the Body of Christ to bring joy and purpose to local foster care communities!


Together -- we can be the hands and feet of Jesus for those who are hurting, broken and forgotten.



Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Advocate Wednesday: Guest Post, a foster care journey

            Life was good…no, life was REALLY good…as in picture perfect good. We’d been married for about three years, had one sweet, curly head daughter that always said her “pleases” and her “thank you’s”. We were on the farm, had a big warm house, and had plenty to eat.  It really couldn’t have been more perfect…until one day God, in His still, small voice asked, “what are you doing for me?”  I am not sure how it happened, but my husband and I both knew instantly that he was talking about us and our relationship, or lack thereof, to the poor, the fatherless, and the hurting.  And so began our six year journey of foster care. Our picture perfect life became God’s idea of “perfect”- not our own. Our big house suddenly seemed a bit smaller, as other little bodies filled it, and those little bodies definitely didn’t know how to say “please” and “thank you” like we were used to. 
            When I think back to all we learned when helping these hurting children, and also all of the ways that God allowed us to be stretched and molded to be more like Him, I sometimes, wonder how we made it thru. I know HE carried us through each trial and each exhausting day. Our prayer above all was that our experience with foster care would glorify God and model Jesus Christ to all of those hurting children.
            Our first placement was three precious children ages, 6, 3 and 2. They had never lived in a house before. Instead, they lived in their mother’s car and on the streets.  The littlest guy had long, long hair and at the dying wish of his father, his hair was never to be cut. We called him Tarzan as he would practically fly around our yard and any furniture he could climb up inside the house, all the while with that beautiful hair literally flowing down his back. His older brother was quiet, scared, and had so much fear in his eyes. He had to switch schools, ride a different bus, start sleeping in a bed instead of the back seat of a car, and yet through it all, he watched very protectively over his brother and sister ALL the time. Their sister, and the middle child, had the most beautiful big brown eyes I’ve ever seen- and those eyes told you she was VERY angry at EVERYTHING. She was three years old and ready for a fight. She could destroy anything quicker than you could imagine and the tantrums happened daily. I mean, “destroy” as in curtains pulled off the windows, break the lamps in her room, pull out all the drawers of the dresser and throw the clothes everywhere, and then shred everything in the trash can – all in 10 minutes.
            As you can imagine, our daily life drastically changed. But, I was always reminded how much it had changed for them- not just me.  I remember thinking one day when I was very frustrated and wanting to give up... “aren’t I supposed to be a mature, Christian adult, and shouldn’t I be able to hand these little ones - especially when I have God’s help!?”  I don’t think I realized at the time what THEY were teaching us!  These three souls were the ones that were really dealing with major changes- not me. They didn’t know how to sit at the table, chew their food, fold their hand to pray, or say please and thank you. They had never had a bible story read to them at bedtime or went to Sunday school. Over the next few months, we watched them be transformed into polite, calm, less fearful children. We experienced their joy when they knew answers to bible story questions, and when they got rewards for a whole day with no tantrums. Oh, we still experienced hard times- occasional nightmares, major fear during storms, stressful doctor visits, tantrums here and there, but we could see God changing them and helping them to adapt.
            Fast forward four years, and about six foster children later. We now have three children of our own, and it’s been pretty quiet around the farm. Well, as quiet as it can be with three children of our own- ages 7,4 and 2.  I think it just seemed EXTRA quiet because there were no foster children in our home.  We received a call from our agency, and they said that a little six year boy that needed a home- maybe permanently and maybe just for a few weeks- they weren’t sure. After praying as a family as to whether we should take this placement or not, we felt God calling us to say “yes” and we called the caseworker back and said we’d take him. The next day James (name changed) arrived with red hair, freckles, and LOTS of energy. He instantly loved the farm, loved us, loved, loved, loved everything and again, life seemed pretty perfect. HE even seemed perfect…for about two days. The honeymoon ended for ALL of us and reality set in for both James and our family.
He had been thru some tough things in his six short years and struggled in every area of life. We also were struggling thru trying to figure out how to handle him and make it all work. I would look at him and his horrendous actions, judge him for these actions, and become so angry. I would question God and ask why it had to be so hard- WHY , when we were so willing to help the fatherless and the poor, did it have to be so hard! Why couldn’t he just obey us as parents, be kind to our kids, and be thankful for our nice, warm house, plenty to eat, and nice, new clothes to wear!  I mean, we were even teaching him about Jesus, reading him stories and teaching him to pray! Didn’t we deserve a great behaved kid in return! Over time, I realized that God had given us James as a mirror. Sadly, I saw my own actions when I observed his. I might not have been throwing myself on the floor or hitting other people, but I still did the same things over and over and over. I quickly became unthankful when things didn’t go my way or judge someone when I didn’t know the whole story... all things that God had asked me not to do.  And yet, God, forgave me, gave me second chances, and helped me to change. He just kept on loving me harder and longer- even after I sinned over and over.  Each day, I would notice my own attitudes, actions, etc in James’ and would be convicted to change- to be more God honoring in all I was doing to help this little boy. I learned during that hard, hard time that James and I had a lot more in common that I thought- or wanted to admit. 
            We had been getting calls every single day from the principal and were just feeling so hopeless at this point not knowing how to help him.  After sitting down with him one day and explaining to him that while Satan wanted him to be loud in school, to yell at the other kids in the classroom, to hit other boys, etc, GOD (and us!) wanted him to be quiet, peaceful, obedient, and kind. We went over and over this type of stuff day after day after day. We said LOTS of prayers with him at bedtime, before school, at the supper table, etc. just begging God to help him change! He had a behavior folder with a chart inside that recorded green or red marks depending on how he behaved. He ALWAYS got ALL red marks- meaning he was being “bad” in every area at school.  One morning, after the normal routine of getting ready for the day (prayer for good behavior’s and promises of rewards included), we sent him out the door to get on the bus.  Philip and I both were desperate for some changes by this time and decided to fast and pray together for James. A couple of days later, God worked a miracle in James’ life. We normally would get a call by noon to either come and pick him up because they didn’t know what to do with him, or just a call to let us know just how “bad” he had been behaving.  We did not hear from the principal all day that day and were so excited that God seemed to be answering our prayers!  At 3:30 the bus pulled up at the end of the driveway and James stepped off. I will never forget the sight of him running up the driveway, smiling from ear to ear and whooping and hollering the whole way. He stopped when he got to us, put both hands to the sky (with the behavior folder in one hand) and loudly proclaimed, “GOD helped me to be good today- NO red marks!”  Sure enough, there was only green- it had been a perfect day for James! That was a turning point for him. His behavior continued to improve in school and we all continued to praise God when he would get off the bus with green marks on his chart. God was working, and it was so exciting to watch James pray for God’s help and then see the results on his chart!
            Doing foster care was good for us in so many ways. As you can imagine, it can be tough on a marriage. You find out what you’re made of and learn to stick together. Sometimes we learned the hard way that if we weren’t on guard, these kids could quickly drive a wedge between us. Of course, it was an adjustment for our own kids as well. They were young at the time, but their worlds were turned upside down too. Suddenly, someone else shared their toys, their time with Daddy, and took their seat at the table and in the van. Even though there were hard times, I feel like God used these foster children to show all of us that life was not all about “me” and what I want or even think I need.  It’s about giving, about sharing, and unconditionally loving those that are hard to love. While I believe God calls us as believers to reach out to the fatherless and to extend a hand to the poor in some capacity or another, He also taught us a powerful lesson on the journey of doing foster care...Foster care was not “created” JUST to reach out to the hurting children of this world, but it was also designed so that God could REFINE the average, American, Christian like myself.  I know in my heart that WE learned so much more from kids like James than what we could have EVER taught him.
            So, now it is 7 years later and life has once again changed for us. We’ve been married almost 15 years, have five kids and live in Atlanta, Georgia- again, in a nice, big, warm house. Life is good… “picture perfect” good actually. Our own children are 13, 10, 8, 6, and 3, and they all are saying their please and thank you’s (and USUALLY being kind to one another!) . It’s somewhat quiet around our new “farm”….and we can hear that still, small voice…”what are you doing for me?” And so, begins another journey with foster care. It has been 7 years since we’ve had a foster child in our home. In a few months, we’ll have our license here in Georgia, and the journey will begin again! We do not know what God has in store, but we DO know that on this new journey, God will again refine us. We also know that in the refining will be an awesome opportunity to show another little body who HE is… and THAT is what it is all about. 

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Lana Steidinger 
Atlanta, Georgia