Foster care timelines are notoriously slippery. Some things take longer than expected, and some things come to fruition rather abruptly. Whenever we believe we have a sense of a timeline, we are typically wrong. We will often scramble to prepare ourselves for major decisions; have intense conversations with everyone involved, seek prayer from loved ones, and prepare our hearts for our family dynamic to change, only for the decisions to be deferred to a later date. We remember hearing in our foster care licensing classes that nothing, no case, no matter what, is a “slam dunk”. The variables that are involved in reunification or family separation are many.
And, now, it has been fairly well documented that COVID-19 has dramatically altered the foster care system. As Kate Cray of the Atlantic put it, COVID-19 has added “another layer of complication and trauma to their lives — not creating new cracks so much as deepening existing ones in an already-fragile system”. When COVID-19 entered the scene in March of 2020, it was like adding another dimension to the existing foster care maze. Although we have come to understood this reality, we still did not expect that our oldest foster daughter would be with us for over a year now, and lots of things (including COVID) have altered that timeline.
This past week, however, we bore witness to the reality that our timelines are not of concern to God. Our rainbow in the clouds has been walking alongside our foster daughter as she grew in her relationship with Jesus. While she had a faith foundation prior to us, something that was brought into her life by her first foster home, it was during COVID-19 restrictions that she began to lean even more heavily into her faith. In that space, God led her to baptism.
To be clear, we have never told her that she has to share our faith. We have simply walked with her, alongside her, and shared our beliefs when she has sought out answers. We exposed her to our faith community through Sunday services, worship music in the car, and church sponsored youth programming. We have done our best to share how our faith impacts our own lives, actions, and decisions. We have shared our testimonies with her and assured her that we have hope because of His sacrifice, forgiveness, and mercy. We have shared the message of the gospel to reflect how Jesus has worked inside our hearts, and have hoped to have a ripple effect on the lives of those around us. We have most certainly made missteps along the way, but we have been deliberate in exposing her to the message of the gospel.
“But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect”
1 Peter 3:15
During such a challenging and uncertain time in her life, with the dual crisis of an elongated foster care experience and a global pandemic, we saw her cling to the foundation of the Christian faith. It gives us great peace that her relationship with Jesus will guide her long after her time in our home comes to an end. Her testimony, below, reflects a powerful journey. For a child that has always, understandably so, shied away from telling people she is in foster care, she felt that her written testimony had to include it as part of her story.
My family never had any religion, the world that I knew around me had no God and and I didn’t have him to go to when I was at a low. But, I know that God was always with me, walking with me on my path even if I didn’t know it and it didn’t seem like it. It wasn’t until I went into foster care that I started going to church and began my new life as a Christian. At first, it was confusing, and I struggled to wrap my mind around what being a Christian meant. Once Coronavirus took over America, I started to grow more in my faith and have more of a relationship with God. Looking back I now see so many changes that I didn’t notice before. I started having long conversations with my foster parents after Awana (or Wednesday youth group at home) about what I learned and any questions I had about Jesus or the Bible. I started getting a lot more excited about church and learning more about God and His word. And I also started praying a lot more. Praying is something that is very important to me now because I know that anytime I pray, God is always listening. One day I finally came to a realization that Christ Jesus our Lord and Savior died on the cross and paid the penalty for our sins so that we didn’t have to. That is the ultimate sacrifice. Ever since then I have kept this verse in my heart, “For I know the plans I have for you declares the Lord. Plans to prosper you and not harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11
Children can have a profound impact on our faith. Afterall, the Kingdom of God must be received like a child (Luke 18:17). As we walked alongside her, I also found myself led to the public commitment of baptism. For several years, it has been pressed upon my heart that I have not been baptized by the Christian church to demonstrate the inward changes that I have experienced since coming into my own faith as a conscious Christian in 2012. As our foster daughter made the decision and commitment to be baptized, and as she enthusiastically embraced her love for Jesus, I too, was compelled to do the same. Below is my testimony.
A plaque in my childhood room broke down my name to its’ Greek origin, meaning “stone, or rock”. On this same plaque was a verse found in Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians: “Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.” (1 Corinthians 15:58) Growing up Catholic, being baptized as a baby, and attending a Jesuit college, I would often cite this verse as my favorite. My whole life, I have intellectually believed in Jesus. Rarely have I ever wavered. However, I didn’t start to make my faith personal and actively seek to develop a relationship with Jesus until my friends convinced me to start attending a Christian church in 2012. As I started to attend church, surround myself with other believers, and dive into His word, I started to see my life shift and my priorities readjust away from worldly items. Currently, I am a foster father of three beautiful girls. Faith has provided our household with that solid rock foundation that my plaque described. I have seen His power transform all of our hearts and it has been abundantly clear to me that He is the one guiding and shaping our lives. I am not a new believer; I accepted Jesus in my heart many years ago. Baptism is my acknowledgment and recognition of an inward change that has occurred over many years. It marks my public commitment to Christ. When I chose to put Jesus’ redemptive leadership, His ultimate sacrifice, and His unwavering love in the foreground of my life, I discovered what my favorite verse has always intended to teach; to stand firm, and let nothing move me from our Lord and Savior.
We got baptized on the same day, by the same pastor, with the same water. Even though our path to Him was, and still is, worlds apart, our lives were inextricably linked the moment we both accepted Jesus into our heart. For me, that commitment happened many years ago. For her, it was this past year. Yet, before we entered into the waters of baptism, symbolizing the “death” that Jesus faced, we both said the same words as a profession of our now shared faith: “Today I am getting baptized, because I am His, and He is mine.”