This year I become a Mom. No, you didn’t miss a pregnancy announcement. And no, my child probably won’t even be a baby. Or even a young child. They most likely will be a teenager. My child will probably have a different color skin than me, will probably speak a different language, and will definitely come with a past full of hurt. A kind of hurt that I can’t even imagine. To explain, four months ago Payton and I started the process of becoming licensed to be refugee foster care parents. Most of the youth in this program are aged 12 – 17 and they are coming from places like Congo, El Salvador, Guatemala, Myanmar, and a few others. They are fleeing from gangs, genocide, abuse, trafficking, and much much more. So why are we doing this you ask? There are lots of facets to that answer and I will try my best to explain a few of them.
The first one has to do with my brother. For those of you who don’t know, Payton’s parents were refugee foster parents for the past few years. I have a foster brother, Julio, who through some very unfortunate circumstances was recently deported back to El Salvador where his life is daily in danger from gangs. When he was in jail waiting to be deported we only got to see him through a glass wall with a single telephone. Seeing my goofy, happy brother in that prison uniform behind the glass broke my heart in a way it hasn’t been broken before and I knew I would never be the same.
So as you can probably tell, I have some strong feelings about immigration policies, but I am so weary of all the arguing. I wish instead of all the talking on social media that we would turn our angst into action. Because whatever laws are in place, the truth is that there are hundreds of kids sitting in shelters around the US just waiting for a family to welcome them into their home or refugees longing for a mentor to spend even an hour a week with them. Most of these kids did nothing to be in this situation. They were simply born into a country that offered them no future. So yes, I know this is probably going to be one of the toughest things we ever do. We are going to have to give up our selfishness, time, money, and so much more. But every time I question our decision I see Julio’s face behind that glass and am reminded that he and hundreds of kids like him are the reason.
The next reason has to do with my faith. We could sit here all day and argue about religion, but here is what I believe is the heart of religion. “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world,” James 1:27. This verse has often struck me. There are so many things the Bible could have said here. ‘Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to pray for an hour a day. To fast weekly. To read the Bible every morning and evening.’ But that is not what it says. I think we get a direct look at the heart of Papa in this verse. The way he weeps with the orphan who has just watched her whole family be brutally murdered. The way he mourns with the widow who just lost her husband, her rock. Papa yearns to take away their hurt, and one day he will. But until that day, it is up to us to be a light in the darkness. A shoulder to cry on. Please know that I am not saying this to make anyone feel guilty because goodness knows I have done very little, if any of this so far in my life. I’m just trying to explain, in some long winded and probably confusing way, what my convictions are and where they come from.
This next one is very personal, but it was honestly the catalyst to what made us actually say yes. Six months ago I was laying on our guest bed, worried sick that the surgery results would come back revealing the tumor in my chest to be cancer. I could barely get out of bed I was so scared. Many thoughts ran through my head in those two days. The most vivid was this. I was face to face with my own mortality. I am not going to live forever and when I die, where will I go? I remember asking Jesus if I had done enough to get to Heaven. The constant overachiever in me always trying to earn my salvation. I honestly did not think my track record would get me in. I am selfish with my time, often care more about my job than the people around me, I have a hard time loving my enemies, and have not laid down my life for anyone but myself. It was at this point in my depression that I listened to a sermon. I don’t even remember what church it was from or what pastor (although it was probably Matt Chandler because I listen to every sermon he has ever preached). The message was on grace. Oh how I wept when I heard (for the thousandth time) that there was nothing I could do to earn my way to Heaven. I couldn’t ever be good enough to get there. My sins were forgiven when Jesus died on that cross and because of that Papa no longer keeps a track record of my sins and shortcomings. I believe in Jesus, and because of it, I am saved. Saved by a grace that I could never earn and I could never deserve. I was wrecked. The message I had been taught my whole life finally went from head knowledge to a deep knowing in my heart. It was out of this gratitude and awe that I wanted to thank him in some way. Foster care had been on our hearts for a while, but we had always just figured it would be after we have our own children. And if I’m being honest, I thought I would always have an excuse to put it off. But I felt Papa saying, ‘now’. So I told him that if my results came back as benign that we would start the process this year. Fast forward twenty four hours to when I got the best phone call of my life when the nurse told me the tumor was in fact benign. I immediately called Payton and then my Mom. My Mom tearfully asked if I could come over to give her a hug of relief. I jumped in my car and before I was even out of our twenty foot long driveway an ad came on the radio for Bethany Refugee Foster Care. It felt like this was a big billboard of confirmation that yes, this was what Papa wanted from us.
Fast forward to today. We are probably just weeks away from welcoming a child into our home and I have all the feels about it. Some days I am scared to death. Some days I am so giddy that I can’t help but nest and get their bedroom ready. Some days I worry about the finances and the language barrier and having time for everything and if I will do a good job as a mom. But everyday I pray. I pray that wherever they are right now, that they may be safe until they come to live with us. I pray that our home may be a haven of healing for this child. I pray that every time this child enters the doors of our home that they may be overwhelmed with a sense of peace. I pray that they may find friends that build them up and encourage them in their dreams. I pray that we can become a family that laughs together daily and finds joy in the little things. And finally I pray that this child may come to know the same grace that saved my life.
I have zero idea how often and even how I am going to be sharing about this experience. I only know that I will not be able to post pictures of the child for safety reasons. So please bear with me if my posts about being a Mom are sporadic or nonexistent. If you are the praying type, I do ask that you would lift this child and our family up in prayer. Here’s to our next great adventure.
*If you would like more information about this program, please send me a message! Or contact Bethany Christian Services Refugee Foster Care.
We miss you so much Julio.