Volunteering with Lydia Home’s Safe Families program has been a huge blessing for our family. We knew it would be rewarding to help underprivileged kids on a very personal level, but it has definitely impacted our lives in ways that we had never even considered. The immediate rewards were obvious. The foster children that we have had the privilege of caring for have adapted quickly when provided with a stable, secure home. A little love and a sense of security really does go a long way. The smiles and laughter alone are enough to make the small sacrifices of having them in our home more than worth it, and the moms have been truly grateful, as well. Sometimes, the little things that we take for granted are the really big things to them, and to be able to provide these little things for even a short period of time is very gratifying. These kids openly respond to the natural need to just be loved, but the experiences of the moms have often conditioned them to doubt love and fairness and justice. We hope that by offering the moms a love without reason, we can help them recognize that God’s love is real.
Our first motivation to join the Safe Families program was the obvious desire to help kids in need, but we also hoped to help our own children overcome the price of privilege. Our kids have never known what it means to go without. Our kids, Bailey, Peyton, and Tres, are ten, eight, and seven. We’ve tried to teach them about gratitude and service and Jesus’ desire to help the poor and disadvantaged, but they never really understood what all that meant. To not have a home or a family car or three meals a day or two parents that you can depend on were foreign concepts to our kids. Realizing that not all children have the kind of life that they have has been somewhat of a surprise to Bailey, Peyton, and Tres, but it is teaching them about a much truer, deeper sense of compassion. Of course, there have been some ups and downs and a few trials, but the experience has always taught us and our children things that we needed to learn.
We expected the Safe Families experience to be rewarding and that it would teach our own kids some really important life lessons that they might not otherwise understand, but it has turned out to be so much more. Specifically, it has taught our family a great deal about racial reconciliation, and it has allowed me to be able to more openly talk to others about God. When we decided to become a foster family, it just never really crossed my mind that all or most of the children that would come to us would be children of color. We can talk all we want about prejudice and discrimination, but by having these foster children in our home, we have shown Bailey, Peyton, and Tres that people of different races or ethnicities are no different than we are; that they need to be loved and cared for just the same as we do. More importantly, it has shown them that we all need God’s love in the exact same ways. Having the foster children in our lives has initiated some very open conversations about racism that we may not have otherwise had, but I think our children have learned the most about racial reconciliation just by observing what goes on. These lessons for us and for our children are priceless.
For me, personally, being involved in Safe Families has stretched me in other ways, as well. I can honestly say that I am not an evangelist. It is just not in my nature to candidly talk to acquaintances or total strangers about God. When you go to the grocery store, park, gym, a restaurant, or wherever with three white kids and two or three African American kids, you get a lot of attention. People I know or total strangers often ask “Are all these kids yours?” or “Who are all these kids?”. I tell them about Safe Families and am questioned about why I would want to take this on. I simply say that because we have been so hugely blessed in our lives, we just really want to give back---that it is not only our desire but that is almost our responsibility to give back. This either opens the door for a spiritual conversation or just offers an open demonstration of my faith. Many times, the conversation is with someone I’ll never see again, but I walk away knowing that I have impacted them. They just don’t understand why we would want to take in inner city kids that we don’t know when we have three children of our own and a great life in the suburbs. I think they realize that it is God’s love that motivates us.
So, when I say that being involved in Safe Families has been a huge blessing for our family, it is an understatement. God has worked in our lives in ways that we could have never predicted. As is always the case, by giving of ourselves, we have learned and grown and been abundantly blessed in return.