While living in California, our family became involved in a ministry called Safe Families for Children. Much like foster care, but without compensation and with a more reasonable, lenient structure that operates through area churches to find host families willing to temporarily care for children in crisis, SFFC had its’ start in Chicago in 2002 and our church in California was just embarking on it.
After going through the background checks and training and approval process, our family got to host our very first placement – a sibling group of 4 sisters! It certainly was a challenge at first, going from 5 kids in the house to 9 overnight, but again, we truly saw God at work in amazing ways and were thrilled to be able to participate in such a fulfilling ministry. It became a family ministry – we all needed to help welcome the kids into our home, be willing to give up some time, comfort, space and convenience – how better to show the love of Christ than to be hospitable to these kids in crisis?
God has used Safe Families to stretch our faith even further, as well as a very visible way for our kids to learn that choices have consequences. Many people who use the ministry are just people who find themselves in a tough spot and needing some temporary help as they are completely without support as they face a crisis, loss of a job, loss of a spouse, temporary setbacks that no one could have predicted; others though, are there because of some poor choices they have made; needing to serve jail time, or go through drug counseling, and are without anyone to come alongside and help with their kids during a tough time.
Better than lectures, better than threats, these real life examples of the fall-out that can happen when we make bad choices spoke volumes better than we could have to our kids.
Better than lectures, better than judging, these real life people see Jesus at work in our lives when we reach out to help them in a practical way during their time of difficulty.
Yes, it was wearying, yes, it was chaotic at times; but did God teach us some valuable lessons through it? You better believe it. Plus it started to build hearts of compassion in our children.
They began to realize that God might not ask us to do grandiose things, but we are all capable of doing the simple things of love and kindness that He asks of we who claim to follow Him. It is a ministry that is still close to our hearts today and that we have stayed involved in, still hosting here in Chicago (the tale of how that move transpired will be shared in an upcoming post).
Four years into it, with multiple placements, I wrote an Open Letter that I dedicated to each of the children we’ve had in our home. It is such a fruitful and fulfilling ministry, I want to share the glorious gift of involvement with everyone I can, in hopes that it might encourage others to take a step of faith in participating in this marvelous and practical way.
Dedicated to Each of the Precious Safe Family Children we have had the Privilege of Hosting:
Little did we know, oh little one, how mightily you would capture our hearts. We thought, when we took you into our home, that we were helping you- but God, in His sovereign wisdom, knew that you were just what we needed as well. Yes, those first few days were hard – we were trying to learn about you, your likes and dislikes, and you, cautiously were learning that we are here to help you, and over time, trust blossomed, and warmth and safety won.
I marvel that we get to watch you grow and discover the world around you, however briefly. Your delight at learning of a whole new world on the ground around our feet was priceless ~ you sat entranced watching the bugs crawl and the ants busily working on their projects, distracted by the wind bending the delicate stems of the nearby flowers, as birds sang their songs of joy into your listening ears. Perhaps, have you never been exposed before to the marvelous melodies of nature? Your peels of laughter as we whirled you through the air, around and around, made me wonder: have you ever laughed with such abandon before?
Your smiles, slow at first, have been the loveliest thing to greet us each morning as you wake; and, as you began to trust that this place is full of love for you, you have softened. A part of you has awakened under the gentle touch of caring hands that hold you when you fall, delighted smiles bestowed from your sweet gifts of colorful pictures scribbled with chubby crayons, contentment as we read books, play games, sing songs and make our way through life, together, for a time.
I don’t know if you will ever know that for this precious and fleeting bit of time, we shared our journey of life – will your young mind ever recall the laughter we have shared? The love that has grown in our hearts for you? Perhaps, some day, far from now, you might have a hazy memory of this time, a little fuzzy around the edges, but certain in the feeling that you were safe and cherished and loved.
I know that our family has been blessed by having you join our circle, even if it is only for a few weeks or months; you have reminded us of one of the best things God has put in the human soul: to have compassion on our fellow man, and the ripples of blessing that follow our acting on that compassion.
Soon, all too soon for us, you will be going back home, to a mom that loves you; not perfectly, but deeply. She has dreams for you, wants good things for you – she must, or she never would have sought the help of people like us who want to support her through a difficult time in her life, to come around and for a while, care for her most precious gift on Earth: her children. She is as precious to us as you are, for she is hurting and alone, in need of the unconditional love that only Jesus offers us; we pray for her healing, for her discovery of the thing she needs the most as she uses this time to build a home for you to come back to, a healthy place for your family to flourish and grow.But when you leave here, do not think that you have fully left us – the memory of you will live on; the stories of what you saw, where we took you, what you learned, how you made us laugh – those things will remain with us, carefully knit into the legacy of stories that will pass down for generations to come; and we will pray for you, just like one of our own. Because, for this little while, you are one of our own. And know, just as we pray now each night beside your little bed, we will continue to plead to God on your behalf after you have gone from here, to watch over you, to protect you and to bring you to Himself as only He can.
So, for today, let’s embrace the time before us and enjoy the simple pleasures that come our way. God holds the future and we can walk with sure steps forward as we take one day at a time trusting in His love and kindness; for now, you are here and life holds great promise; and that is all we need to know.
Matthew 25:40 “The King will reply, “I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.” ~ Jesus
There are so many wonderful ways to be the hands and feet of Jesus; but there are always more people needed to participate in this great ministry… if you are drawn to learn more about Safe Families for Children, please visit www.safe-families.org .
Are there ministries you are involved in that are helping others along life’s journey? I’d love to hear about it!
Let’s talk…you know – between friends.