The Power of Community....

I've mentioned several times before that we are the parents of 7 children.  Four are biological children, three are long-term placement foster children, with the occasional "one-night" foster child added in.  My husband and I both work full-time jobs during the week, and he pastors a church as his part-time job, and we have the usual weekly commitments like sports, school programs, practices, church, youth group, piano lessons times seven kids.  Add in the extra foster care "normal" things like case worker home visits, weekly therapies, family services case worker visit, sibling visits, medicine evaluations, as well as the emotional high's and lows with attachment issues, triggers, behaviors, and you pretty much get the picture...We can't do this on our own!  As much as we tried to be the perfect foster parents that have the line of smiling children sitting nicely at church and keep everything straight with who needs what and when, and show all of these kids the love they need every day, it was just absolutely impossible.  I completely understand why the burnout rate for foster parents in the State of Kansas (and really nationally), is only about 10 months and then foster parents quit.  It's hard.  But let me tell you about the power of community.

My husband and I can tell our foster children they are loved.  We can try to show them that every day by taking care of their needs.  We can try to teach them they are valuable and respect their history by coming along side of them in their trauma rather than always pushing a make-over.  We can tell them about the love of a Jesus who treasures them, created them, and has the power of healing.  We can enroll them in every class, activity, therapy, camp, Bible study, and amazing experience possible.  But that is still just two parents telling them these things.  And given the activities I outlined above, that is clearly two worn-out, overwhelmed parents on a lot of days!  But we have a community around us.  We cannot help these sweet, broken children at the level of need they have if we are doing this alone.  We needed a community around us, and thank God that is what He gave us.    

We have some "grandparents" who stepped in to help with our teenagers.  They built a relationship with them.  They take them to lunch at least once a month and find out how they are doing.  They tell our teens they are loved, special, have a Jesus who loves them, created them, and has the power of healing.  They tell our teens they are valuable in their struggle of painful experiences, but they also can do anything in life in their future.  They come to birthday parties, special events, and give them "family" they can proudly point to as grandparents who love them.  We have an "aunt and uncle" who help take kids to therapy appointments, make sure they get to go to camp, help with school clothes shopping, and do all the fun, crazy, energetic things the cool aunt and uncle have time and money to do.  And while they are doing that they show, and tell, our sweet foster kids they are loved, special, have a Jesus who loves them, created them, and has the power of healing.  They tell our kids they are valuable just as they are, but their future is limitless.  Community are those at church who make us meals during really tough times, or on a night where family visits stir up trauma and we get home right at dinner time.  Community are those who helped make our house into a home where foster children could live by helping with handiwork, painting, baby gates, flooring, and more.  Community are those who join foster parents in prayer for the tragedies that occur in these precious children's lives over and over again.  Community shows God's love in every moment, gesture, gift, word, deed, and by just showing up.  Community is a family that has nothing to do with biology.  Community multiplies the love and commitment of just two foster parents to more and more people wrapping around these children who have been so undeservingly damaged, as well as the foster parents who are choosing to immerse themselves in the midst of the brokenness.  Community shows these children they are loved, valuable, and about a Jesus who is relentless for them.

Our God is a God who multiplies.  He multiplies His love and presence in us through His Son Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit.  He multiplies our resources when we give Him all that we have.  In John 6:1-14, five barley loaves and two small fish became enough to feed five thousand, until "they all had enough to eat" (John 6:12).  One person gave what they had, and five thousand had enough.  What could that do in the world of foster care?  What if each person gave what they have, whether that be a meal, becoming a "grandparent" or "aunt" to a foster child, giving clothes, being a prayer warrior, helping make a baby-gate, or becoming a foster parent.  We would see each foster child who is waiting for a family, and those tired, worn out foster parents "all have enough."   And don't forget the impact on the lives of those who are obedient, as they get to see the miracle where their small gift to God brings such hope and healing to those who need it most.  That is the power of community.  It multiplies the love and and presence of a powerful God who has glorious, unlimited resources (Ephesians 3:16) which we cannot even comprehend.  

We are compelled to bring this experience of community here to Kansas through the physical location of Joy Meadows.  In addition, we are grateful to get to work with churches so they can implement the community ministry of foster care in their church and we see multiplication at work in each faith community.   We are looking forward to being further witnesses to the miracle of this movement of God and hope here in Kansas so that "they all have enough." 

May God bless you and call you to the joy of obedience for His children.

Sarah Oberndorfer