Tuesday, September 17, 2013

PERSPECTIVES: Bridging the Gap

Like all foster families, my wife and I went to our training classes and learned what was expected of us when it came to our relationship with the birth parents of our foster children. We were strongly encouraged to help “bridge the gap” between them and the state by acting as a mentor and to support them in their efforts to get their children back. My wife and I felt a strong prompting that this was something that God was calling us to. Then we read our placement papers…

My heart felt like it broke in two for what our foster children had endured in their short lives.  Now there is a difference between hearing about a child’s situation while being supportive of the “bridge program”, and holding that child in your arms while knowing that child’s story and being supportive of the “bridge program”.  And that difference is ENORMOUS!

Whenever I would think about my foster son’s story, hate would boil up inside of me towards his father who was in jail because of what he had done. I also felt that those feelings were valid because, who does that to their own child?   

A broken person, a broken man… 

This was the answer that I kept hearing over and over.  But this wasn’t the answer that I received from another person, it was the answer that God kept laying on my heart. I was reminded over and over that I had no right to judge him, but as a follower of Christ, I was called to love him.

This was tough to swallow let alone digest, but it gradually took root and my hate turned to compassion and I thought, “Ok, I’m good now, I can forgive him.”  But God wasn’t done.  He used my wife to urge me to go visit him in prison, and I gave her every excuse in the book, even though I knew that was exactly what I needed to do.  After about a week I contacted the jail and scheduled a visit with Thomas. I later found out that the week before my visit, the week that my wife had been prompted to tell me to visit him, Thomas had tried to commit suicide and that he had relinquished his rights to his only child.

The 24 year old man that I met that Sunday afternoon was broken, scared and without hope.  I told him who I was, that his son was safe and healthy and even though he had made a horrible mistake he still had a future ahead of him and that future was up to him.  He told me that he had only had 1 or 2 visitors during the six months that he had sat in his cell downtown.  I encouraged him to talk to the chaplain, I prayed with him and then assured him that someone would be there to visit him every week, either myself or one of the men from my men’s Bible study group.  Two days later when I met with my men’s group, they were shocked.  Not by what I told them, but by the work that God had done in my heart towards this man.  Then like the incredible group of men that they are, without hesitation, they said that they would stand in the gap with me.

Four weeks later Thomas asked if our group could visit with a couple of the guys on his floor.  Later when we visited the other inmates they told us the reason that they wanted us to visit and pray with them was because of the dramatic changes that they had seen in Thomas.  It was unbelievably humbling to discover what God was able to accomplish through our simple obedience. 

As an update, Thomas has accepted Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior (as have two other inmates that our group had been meeting and praying with).  They are by no means “fixed” but they have started down a positive path, which for some of them is a first. I was blessed to take Thomas to his first church service since he was released from prison recently. He raised his hands and sang praises to our Savior, who rescued him from the clutches of Death.  

I tell this story with the hope that the Body of Christ will do more than judge, watch & listen. We need to ACT. It is our duty to help these birth parents with more than a “plan,” because if we don’t, we will never have enough foster parents. Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.” James 1:22

Seth is a devoted follower of Christ, husband and father to 7 children. He is passionate about fighting for the rights of the fatherless and encouraging others to do the same.  To find out more about his family and their journey, follow his wife's blog at http://aspiringearthmama.blogspot.com/.

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