Pending Match

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What Does Love Require of Me?

June is National Reunification Month, and it is no coincidence that we are reunifying our sweet baby love with family this month. In the past 6 years, we have said “yes” to 12 children, and 11 of them have reunified with their parents or have moved into kinship care with family. When I think of the beginning of our family’s journey to where we are now, I can pinpoint the various moments when we chose to lay our desires, expectations and dreams at Jesus’ feet…when we chose to “get out of the way”, so to speak, so families could be made whole and children could remain with their families of origin.

Now, don’t get me wrong. Loving a child with everything in you…with your entire soul, body & mind and then watching them literally walk out of your life, majority of which we never see or hear from again, is incredibly heartbreaking. 12 goodbyes means that my heart is fractured in ways that will never be made whole this side of heaven. 12 goodbyes means there are moments that trigger memories from seasons of our life that bring a wave of immense joy and immense grief at the exact same time. And…yet…

Jesus laid down his life for mine. Jesus cried out to his Father, begging for another way. Jesus lavishly loved and gave and sacrificed knowing there was nothing that could be returned…knowing his heart, mind, body, and soul would also not receive the wholeness and redemption this side of heaven. When I think of championing reunification, it means I ask myself “What does loving this person at this moment mean? How can I bring a small glimpse of heaven down to them in this interaction? How can I use the love that is poured out onto me and lavish them with that love? How can I align my heart with the Father’s heart for families to be reconciled?”

I heard a question a few years ago that has become the foundation of our fostering journey: “What does love require of me today?” Not just the easy kind of love….not the kind where you only show up for the people who can reciprocate that love…but the Jesus, lay-down-your-life, expect-nothing-in-return, kind of love.

What does love require?

It means waving and smiling to bio dad from my car every visit for 18 months because I was not allowed to have contact with him. Loving him meant making sure he did not feel like the enemy…that even though he would never be able to hear my voice, he would know that he was seen.

What does love require?

It means making newborn footprints into a Christmas tree card framed side-by-side with a photo of baby smiling. It means wrapping that framed gift, tying it with a bow and a note of genuine affection and encouragement for a momma navigating the darkest season of her life.

What does love require?

It means hugging a mother during a Family Meeting as she sobs uncontrollably at the thought of losing her babies. It means holding her face in your hands and looking into her eyes and to tell her to keep fighting…that you will be there for as much of her journey as possible, and that her babies are safe in your care while she works tirelessly to find wholeness and healing so she could bring them home.

What does love require?

It means looking into the eyes of the little girl you’ve known all her life…that you love so deeply that you don’t even know where she ends and you begin….and come to the realization that loving her means you will need to say your hardest goodbye so she can live the rest of her life in the next city over with her siblings. It means actually fighting for that move to happen because, although it’ll break your heart, you know being with her siblings in kinship care is the best place for her.

What does love require?

It means putting on the necklace mom gave to her baby every visit so her beliefs and hopes are seen and respected. It means dressing that toddler for this week’s visit with the outfit mom gave you at last week’s visit. It means advocating for more visits because it is in the best interest of the child and parent to bond. It means texting mom after court and rejoicing with her after a long awaited ruling. It means praying for the mom or dad you will never have the chance to meet, but are loving their child for this season. It means smiling, showing up, adjusting your schedule, expecting the unexpected, looking someone in the eye…Love requires seeing the person in front of you for who they really are, not the choices they have made or the trauma they have endured, or the judgements that have been made of them. Every person I have met in this system over the past 6 years needs someone to see them and have deep compassion.

Choosing to step into this broken world of foster care means we are choosing to champion reunification…it means we are faithfully following the Father as he leads us on a messy, complicated, heartbreaking path toward what we hope and pray is healing and wholeness. It means that we step into every encounter and ask ourselves “what does love require of me in this moment?” 

Christina B.

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Blog

Being a Support Friend During a Pandemic

When I think about our church’s involvement with Foster the Bay, the first phrase that comes to mind is “people stepped up.” Our church is rather small, and instead of wrapping a family in our own congregation, our first team of four wrapped a family who lived in our neighborhood but attended a separate church. There were definitely some steep learning curves, but we hit a stride. While some friends helped with rides and meals, other friends supported with babysitting and play-dates.

Then, March 2020 came, and with shelter-in-place, we didn’t really know what to do. Sure we could send texts and gift cards, but aside from that, we didn’t really know what else to do. If you remember, back then, we didn’t even feel safe bringing a meal or doing grocery shopping for ourselves. A few months later, the thought of expanding ways to serve to include acts such as social-distanced babysitting brought up some debates because there were still so many unknowns. Furthermore, there were different transitions as some folks were helping out our new church plant, and I was moving down to San Diego for a year-long residency.

Yet, in retrospect, I believe that my transitioning out of the Team Lead role was honestly the best thing for our first family. I do believe that God never needs you. He simply invites you into His plans and it is for your good. As I stepped out of the Support Friend Team Lead role, I saw just how much God didn’t need me because the new lead, a mother of three and a support friend, not only took the lead, but she enhanced and beautified it.

She sent out monthly, clear emails that shared updates and ways we could serve. She gently pushed back if our suggestions (such as zoom dates during a time where the kids were inundated with screens) were not the most helpful. Personally, she and her girls would create crafting kits to drop off at our Foster Family’s house and came up with other creative ways to support the family. Although I knew that her family was also experiencing the brunt of the pandemic, she exuded so much grace, hospitality, creativity, and love during a time when it would have been easy (and understandable) if she decided to retreat.

I also think about our other support friend group that actually formed after the shelter-in-place began. Without ever meeting the family they were serving, they began to efficiently meet her material needs using Google spreadsheets. At first, I was a little shocked at the generosity. I wondered about the sustainability — we recommend one big touch and one small touch a month for a reason. Then, I realized that in this moment, that team was ready and willing, and the family they were serving had their very unique circumstances as well (a single mother with two babies). God brought them to us for a reason because He knew what we could do.

This past year and a half has not been easy for anyone. The thought of taking even just 30-60 minutes a month to touch base or send out an email seems simple on paper, but the will to actually do so required so much! Yet once I did, I was the one who was blessed. I got to hear the small wins and testimonies, the ways that we were able to be God’s hands and feet. And, keeping our eyes on Christ and His glory, I was able to glimpse my fellow brothers’ and sisters’ being transformed into that “same image from one degree of glory to another” (2 Corinthians 3:18). My prayers for you is that in reading this, you would feel encouraged to go ahead and send that text, or make that phone call; and that you would find strength in knowing that our finite resources and capacity for love are made infinite through God’s power and His unconditional love.

Junia Kim