My wife, Jenn, and I are privileged to share Jesus’ love with foster children.
Eight-year-old Katie arrived like so many others – scared and timid. Her wide eyes reflected terror at nearly everything, and it paralyzed her, often stealing joy from her life. She wouldn’t enter a playroom alone, fought attempts to wash her lice-infected hair and ran screaming from friendly pets. Slowly, over many months, Katie conquered several of her fears, and now we watch with great delight as she rides horses or frolics in ocean waves.
Fear holds some people back from ministering to hurting children as a foster parent. We often hear others say: “I couldn’t foster parent. Saying goodbye would be too hard.”
We get it. Take it from someone who has been there (18 times so far, with likely six more pending) – we understand the pain. But it’s worth it.
I wish I could say we have learned to make a child’s transition easy or developed a simple three-step plan for trusting God with our most pressing desires, but we haven’t. When the pain of a child’s departure was still fresh, we wanted to give up, quit and close our home. I hated seeing Jenn in such pain, and her struggle caused me to re-evaluate our participation as foster parents. Reading those words may sound cold, detached or even selfish, but it’s honest.
Fear nearly prevented us from ever knowing little Casey. Casey needed a home, but we already had three kids, and I was about to be deployed. I feared that taking in Casey would place too great a burden on Jenn.
After initially saying “no,” we prayed some more, and the next day we surrendered our fears. We trusted the Lord to sustain our family during the upcoming separation and experienced the joy of raising Casey over the following 16 months. His simple presence brought a sense of healing to the other children in our home.
Yes, knowing children will leave, and then watching it happen, hurts. The severing of the relationship often feels terrible. Jenn says she feels like she’s missing an organ without Casey.
But the pain is temporary, whereas love is eternal. More so, God is faithful and present. Honestly, the power of God’s promises helped us overcome our foster parenting fears once we started acting.
I firmly believe that God called Jenn and me to this ministry. We experience enormous blessings through our involvement with foster care and enjoy many incredibly rewarding moments, but saying farewell is rarely a cheerful occasion. Each time a child leaves our home, we wonder what his or her future holds. Yet peace overcomes feelings of anxiety when I remember God is a devoted Father who loves each of us more than we can ever comprehend.
We want to encourage couples considering foster care to remember that God can help conquer any fear. There is a world of hurting children out there who need to experience the love and compassion of His followers.
TJ Menn and his wife, Jenn, have welcomed more than 20 foster children into their home, ranging in age from birth through high school.
They are the authors of Faith to Foster.