Many consider serving in the field of foster care and child welfare a calling — they say, you must be called to be involved in this type of ministry. I’ve found this to be true in my personal journey before coming to serve at WinShape Homes and while I’ve had the privilege of being the Director of Group Care here for the past three years. As I’ve discovered and explored my ministry calling, God has shown me the importance of prayer and how much we need to rely on it in foster care ministry.
My journey started with a prayer.
As I was coming to the end of my college career, I sought the Lord — asking for His plan and desire for my life. There the Lord answered my prayer with a distinct calling — a calling that has stayed with me ever since. He called me to serve children and families that society tends to overlook. After graduation, with this answered prayer in mind, I sought out ways to serve in foster care.
My first role was in a children’s home environment. As happens with many jobs, my responsibilities quickly changed and morphed to meet the needs that the organization had at that time. Though not the original intent, all of a sudden I found myself serving in a House Parent capacity; it was overwhelming to say the least.
I was fresh out of college and attempting to parent seven children, ranging in age from four to fifteen, who had all experienced trauma and loss in their lives. Almost immediately, I found myself relying on prayer to navigate through each day. At first my prayers focused on asking the Lord to provide the strength, wisdom and discernment each day required. As time went along and I formed relationships with each child, I expanded my prayers — now toward each child individually and the situations they faced in their lives.
In that season, God taught me a valuable lesson: we cannot control the outcome or the situations of a child’s life. Instead, we must remember that we serve a God who loves each child more than we do and ultimately has a plan for each of them. I have carried that truth with me in each step of ministry I’ve taken — even after that initial season of House Parent ministry ended.
My journey took me through many aspects of the child welfare system. Over time, I served in a licensing and training role with foster parents, provided case management services for children in the group care environment and maintained leadership roles related to foster care licensing and group care. Those opportunities taught me about WinShape Homes and later made it possible for me to join in the exciting work happening here.
Though I’ve been on this ministry journey for many years now, I still feel closely tethered to my first foster care experience — more specifically, to a 15-year-old boy named R.J. R.J. came to our program during my time as a House Parent. He had been in foster care for many years and separated from his siblings. Understandably, R.J. had built up many walls as protections from the trauma he experienced, so forming a relationship with him was a slow process. Through time, encouraging him in activities he enjoyed, laughter and sometimes just the car ride to get groceries from the store, our relationship slowly formed. As it came time for me to move on to different aspects of foster care ministry, I worried for R.J. and the impact that leaving my role and house parent relationship would have on him. That’s when I had to truly remember and apply the lesson God had taught me earlier — ultimately we are not able to control the outcomes in the children’s lives. I had to trust that God’s love for R.J. is greater than my own.
I believe walking that journey and developing that trust was only possible through Christ and my full reliance on Him. So often in foster care we encounter losses and changes; we constantly have to learn to cope with the direct impacts on our lives by relying on prayer and God’s Word.
Even after I left, I was able to follow R.J. and his path through foster care. It had many ups and downs as he navigated through choices and behaviors directly connected to his own experiences in life. My prayers for R.J. intensified as he went from a foster home to an adoptive home to adoption disruption. After he aged out of foster care, he eventually found himself homeless. I would reach out to connect with him throughout these moments. I’d pray for his safety and ask God to help him overcome his situation and stop the cycle of foster care he and his family had endured.
This one connection with R.J. has fueled me in my foster care and child welfare ministry. Now, as I serve at WinShape Homes I often see R.J.’s face in the face of each child that we serve. It fuels me to help be a part of the plan that God has for each of them and meet their needs for unconditional and enduring love.
I get to serve alongside amazing House Parents and bear witness to the incredible prayers they pray for each child in their homes.
I join them in those prayers because I believe that they are heard.
And although answers to these prayers may not be immediately seen, I believe that one day they will be. When I think of praying for and persevering with the children in our care, Galatians 6:9 comes to mind. It says, “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up” (NIV).
This speaks to the prayers of house parents, foster parents, case managers, counselors, teachers and others who come alongside children in foster care. And the need is to stay faithful and serve the part of the plan in the child’s life that the Lord has called you to. To build those relationships even if it requires helping break down walls before they are built back up. To recognize that even in the hardships the Lord loves each of these children more than you or I do. And He ultimately has a plan for each. And most importantly, to not grow weary in praying, not only for the endurance and the equipping to do this ministry but for the lives of each child we connect with — for their hearts and their circumstances.
It has been 15 years since I first met R.J. He will turn 30 this year. We live in different states and do not get to see each other in person. He has navigated many situations and has worked hard to create stability in his life. I still send encouraging messages his way, and randomly throughout the years I will get a phone call or text from him, letting me know about a new job, a relationship, becoming a father and more. I still have opportunities to speak into his life and point him back to the Lord — God’s plan and desire for him.
I am glad to say that R.J. has found stability in his job and relationships. He is an active dad to his little girl. Last year for Father’s Day, I reached out to him to wish him a Happy Father’s Day for the first time. He responded by wishing me a Happy Father’s Day as well. Then he thanked me for being the one person in the world he could say that to. There were many times in the last 15 years when it would have been easy to question whether a positive outcome might have ever be possible. Through on-going prayer and being obedient to remain a part of the Lord’s plan for R.J. despite difficulties, I’ve had the privilege of witnessing a harvest in his life.
For those who share this calling to serve children in foster care, never forget: In your power alone, you cannot make a lasting impact in the lives of these children. However, through the power of prayer we can witness the kind of transformation that only God can do in the lives of children and their families.
Nothing is impossible; no circumstance is too challenging. Every child or family that we interact with can be restored through the power of the gospel. We roll up our sleeves in care and bend our knees in prayer to intercede for those serving in ministry and for the children that we interact with daily.
Through prayer, and in our obedience to stay the course in front of us, we can also have hope in the harvest that is to come.