The Legacy of Foster Care
My parents were never officially licensed as foster parents, but that did not stop them from taking in children from hard places. My parents were both endowed with the spiritual gift of hospitality, frequently opening up our home to people who were distant relatives or friends. Some would stay with us only occasionally, while others stayed for weeks.
When I was a preschooler, my mother ran a home-based day care. Angela, Donnie, Amber, Patricia, and David were my playmates and were like siblings to me. Each of them had their story. Patricia’s was perhaps most poignant. Patricia, her mother, and her older sister were involved in a very serious automobile accident. Both her mother and sister were killed, and Patricia, who was 4 years old, the sole survivor, was in a full body cast.
Patricia spent all day reclined on our couch. The rest of us played outside almost all day, but Patricia could not join us. My mom moved the coffee table close to the couch, so that she could roll off of the couch onto the table and then roll back onto the couch, since it was the only physical exercise she could do. We were especially proud of that coffee table. My family was very working-class. My dad had just begun his own business, after serving twenty years in the Air Force. We did not have many nice things in our small and modest house. Before I was born, my father was stationed in the Panama Canal Zone. While there, he bought some mahogany furniture, including this coffee table. It was a live-edge, unusually shaped, mahogany table.
When Patricia rolled off the couch onto the coffee table, the plaster cast left scuffs and white streaks on it. Mom said she could not bring herself to be concerned about the table when Patricia seemed to enjoy getting some exercise. Years later, we had the table refinished, and it wound up being even prettier than we realized.
Though mom was not a foster parent to Patricia (not in the strictest sense), she taught me the importance of letting things go to meet the needs of children from hard places. Earthly treasures will not last forever. Eternal ones will.
When I was in high school, a first cousin I had never met came by our house one Saturday morning. He asked if his 9-year-old daughter could spend the day with us while he ran some errands. He did not come back as a primary source of parental influence in his daughter’s life for over five years. For those five years, my second cousin was accepted into our family and became my little sister. I do not ever recall hearing my mother or father ever speaking harshly of my cousin who abandoned his daughter into the care of his uncle and aunt. From that experience, I have learned to be very careful in passing judgment on the parents of children who wind up in someone else’s care.
Our ABCH foster parents are amazing people. They often remind me of my parents, exchanging earthly treasures for eternal treasures. They suspend judgment in order to be able to love children from hard places without reservation. They are missionaries in the truest sense of the word. They live out and preach the gospel in action and word every day to “the least of these.” What an honor it is to serve alongside these minsters of the gospel!