Pete and Carol, happily married for 39 years, were ‘empty-nesters.’ Their 3 children were all in their 30’s, married, and now Pete and Carol were enjoying grandchildren. A phone call from their son, however, changed their retirement dreams. His children had been removed from their home by the Department of Children and Family Services due to substance-abuse and domestic violence.
Distressed by the thought of their grandchildren in foster care, Pete and Carol quickly began long-distance efforts to gain custody of the children. While waiting for their background checks to clear, they endured home studies, attended the required PRIDE foster care training, two court hearings and prayed through a lot of anxiety. They were allowed to visit the children once a week and were thankful to develop a relationship with the children’s foster parents. Six weeks later, Pete and Carol’s nest was full again as they began parenting their grandchildren. A year later, their son and his wife were able to regain custody of their children.
After their grandchildren moved out, Carol realized the positive impact foster parents can make in hurting children’s lives. She told Pete that she would like to continue fostering children. Pete replied, “I could not love a child who is not kin to me.” Carol wisely let the matter rest, however felt such a burden that she began to earnestly pray about it. Two weeks later, Pete suddenly told her, “Call DCFS and tell them we will take a child or two. But if it doesn’t work out, you have to call them to come pick up the kids.”
Soon, Pete and Carol were foster parents to 3 young children, ages 4, 2 and 1. The first night after bathing and night time prayers, they stood outside the children’s bedroom door with tears streaming down their cheeks as they listened to 3 broken hearts crying for their mom. The 4 year old boy was doing his best to comfort his siblings. Pete turned to Carol, “I cannot believe how much I love these children already.”
Carol’s words: “So began a journey that has literally changed our lives. We have made a difference in the lives of the children (over 20!) who have been in our home. But even more, we have been changed by them! And not just us, but our family, our church family & our friends have been changed in intimate & personal ways. We have family & friends who are now fostering/adopting. Pete & I consider this as our ministry, our mission field. People will often ask if we are foster parents (since we often have a “variety” of children with us) and I am not shy about sharing the blessings of this adventure. I encourage people to consider fostering if they want more blessings, if they want to make a difference in the life of a child or if they want a child to make a difference in their life.
‘Austin’ (3) came to us after having been locked up with ‘Matthew’ (4) for several months. They hid under furniture, scavenged for food, cowered whenever you approached them, clawed & bit like animals; they had severe trust issues. After having been with us for 15 months & on the eve of Austin’s 5th birthday, his teacher at therapeutic daycare asked him what he wanted to be when he grew up. “I want to be Poppa!” (Poppa = Pete)
Our greatest joy is in seeing these children recover from their brokenness, heal from their hurts, learn to trust again, and learning about God’s great love for them. And that is not something Pete & I can do without much prayer & direction from the Holy Spirit. We feel blessed to be a reflection of God’s great love to each child in our care.
I think Pete & I are better at the parenting now than when we were younger. We have less pressures of day to day life than we did then. We have a more mature relationship with each other & with the Lord than we had then. We have our priorities in line now, or maybe I should say we know what is truly a priority now compared to then.”
Pete and Carol have been such an inspiration to me. Watching them walk into our foster care support meetings with several little ones, I realized that there is no age limit for being the hands and feet of Christ. And there is no assurance of an empty nest!
*** Some details have been changed to protect the privacy of this family.
The Christian Alliance for Orphans’ annual Summit has become the national hub for what Christianity Today recently called, “the burgeoning Christian orphan care movement.” Summit VIII on May 3-4, 2012 at Saddleback Church in Southern California is expected to draw 1,800 to 2,000 pastors, grassroots advocates, organizational leaders and church ministry heads. Alongside more than eighty workshops, the unforgettable plenary sessions will include Francis Chan, Rick and Kay Warren, Crawford Lorritts, Dennis Rainey, Steven Curtis Chapman, and other global leaders. Summit inspires, equips and connects for adoption, foster care and global orphan ministry.