By Nicole Barlow, FaithBridge Foster Mom
Our family began our foster care journey almost three years ago. I led a small group in an after school Bible club and there was a foster child in my group that captured my heart. During that season, the Lord began a work in my husband and in me, guiding us in His commands to us as His followers to love and care for those in need.
We eventually were called to be foster parents with FaithBridge, and within 24 hours of being approved, we received a call asking us to care for two little boys. We said “yes,” and those sweet boys were in our home for over two years before being reunified with their biological mother. Since then, we have done respite care for several foster families.
For us, foster care is a family ministry that includes our biological son. He was 10 years old when we began this journey, and we made it clear from the beginning that this is his ministry as much as it is ours. It has been a huge opportunity for him, but one that is not without its challenges and lasting effects. Foster care is often a refining process for us all, one where we have to learn to give sacrificially and put others before ourselves. That process can be hard on anyone…especially children. But on the other side of that refining journey, we see a young man who is shining brighter than ever.
- He is more compassionate and empathetic. He has now seen firsthand that many times people have things going on that most don’t see and that behavior can stem from a struggle or past rather than immediate circumstance.
- He has a larger view of the world. Before foster care, he did not see much outside of our little suburban bubble, but he now has a broader view of our world, our nation and our community. He understands that not everyone is raised the same way, not everyone has the same luxuries and not everyone has the same opportunities. He has also seen firsthand that the world is broken, unfair and in desperate need of a Savior.
- He knows that God is real, that His Word is true and that prayer works. Foster care forces us into hard, broken places. In order to make it through, we need God to show up. And He does, each and every time.
- His parents take God and His commands seriously and believe what God says. When we read the Word and it says that we should open our homes to strangers, take care of the widow and orphan and make disciples of the world, our son has seen that we not only study those words and recite those words but also, more importantly, live those words.
- He has learned that it is OK to feel and that sacrifice hurts. As an only child, a good portion of his life was about him. By bringing other children in the home – children that sometimes needed a lot of attention – he has learned that the world is not about him. He has loved genuinely, he has grieved deeply, he has been truly angry and he has been abundantly joyful. And he has learned that whether the emotion is easy or difficult to process, we are called to live and love with all that we are as we show others the love and sacrifice of Jesus.
I am so very thankful for God’s grace and mercy, that He does not leave us as we are and instead adopts us into His family and promises to complete every good work in us that He begins. I am blessed to get to see that process play out in the life of an almost-teenager as he grows into a might man of God and as he serves the children of our community. And while there are difficulties, struggles and sometimes pain along the path that we walk to become more like Jesus, I am grateful for the opportunity for my family to work together as we show people the love and power of Christ!