One of the kids has one of those stuffed animals that lights up. At bedtime, the person who’s holding it gets to start the night’s story, ushering them all to an imaginary world of adventure and laughter. The first narrator sets the stage of the story unfolding and then passes it on to the next participant who writes the next chapter. Giggles erupt, and memories are created.
It’s story time at Camp Veazey.
The Veazey family is one of the many families who participate in foster care ministry by providing respite care for foster families at their church, Dunwoody Baptist. They affectionately call it Camp Veazey at their house. It makes respite weekends have a fun twist on them from the start for the children in their care.
“Our home is their home,” said Sonya, the mom at Camp Veazey. “When they walk through the door, everything we have is theirs – our undivided attention, all of our belongings, our toys, our time. We indulge them with love. We tell stories. We make things. We have picnics. We go to the park. We go to the mall and walk around and ride the merry-go-round.”
About once a month, the Veazey family, which includes Sonya and Mike and their two teenagers, welcome young children into their home as if they were nieces, nephews and cousins, not only giving the foster parents a break from fostering but also being consistent, loving extended family to the little ones who come into foster care and from hard places.
“When I saw Katie with the children in the prayer garden…that was when I thought, we’ve got to be a part of this,” Sonya said.
That decision to be involved didn’t instantly create Camp Veazey. They weren’t quite sure how they’d be involved but were willing to follow God, one step at a time, as He unveiled the plan for their family. They first went to Encounter and learned about the Community of Care. Their foster care path gained clarity, and the Veazey family was approved to have children in their home and provide respite care.
Their family loves it. The teenagers have learned that the mission field is in their own home. They have a new perspective and are challenged to serve and love in ways that most their own age are not. Sonya’s teenage son was adopted himself and that leads to a special, indefinable and unique bond with foster children. They understand each other in a way that creates trust and comfort for those in care.
Camp Veazy is open for all children who are in the homes of those in their Community of Care, and Sonya intentionally reaches out to foster parents and gets on their calendar. A calendars that has to be strategically planned without “all about us” intentions. She said, “It takes time and effort to serve others, and that has been a huge blessing.”
There are a few things that are true about fostering. One is that foster parents could use help to foster well. Another is that some of those same foster parents have a hard time asking for help. Sonya has learned over the years that the best thing they can do as a respite family is to initiate and plan weekends for respite care, which means asking parents if they can give them a break. That is always received well and appreciated.
FaithBridge and the over 400,000 children in foster care on any given day need people to step up to be foster parents. Respite homes are also needed. The Community of Care does not function without all the parts working together; families like Sonya’s make it possible for others to foster.
Respite care is rewriting the story of Sonya’s immediate family to stretch around new “extended family.” It’s shaping the story her teenagers will tell and the choices they will make to love others selflessly and let God use them to draw foster children to Him. Camp Veazey is in the life-changing business.