The call came last Wednesday at 9:25 AM. Was I in town? Could I come talk to a young mother? Yes… and yes.
So began my journey down a new path. I was scared… yet I felt brave – and confident. I had no idea what I was walking in to, but I knew I wasn’t going alone.
Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous.
Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.
A short time later, I found myself sitting at a picnic table with (not her real name) Krystal, her preschool-age son playing on the playground nearby. I listened for a long time, ultimately encouraging her to temporarily relinquish guardianship of her child.
Even with all that’s happened since then, I still find myself feeling a bit numb as I type those words: relinquish guardianship of her child. Oh, how I do not take that lightly!
I hope someday soon to tell you her story, but today I want to share mine – and just how it is I found myself sitting there scared, yet feeling brave… and eerily calm.
I’ve mentioned Safe Families for Children to you here several times recently. The organization first came on my radar during a lunchtime missions event at The Moody Church in Chicago. Sitting next to Renaissance Man on the panel was Dr. David Anderson, founder of Safe Families. I’ll never forget his words: “Before the end of the day, I need to find someone to care for a baby who will be born tomorrow.”
It turns out the baby’s mother had one more month to serve on a jail sentence, but she was doing great and would be able to care for her child. There was no reason to lose custody of her newborn – or for the baby, even temporarily, to become part of an already overcrowded “system”.
This family had a short-term need and, fortunately, Safe Families offered the perfect solution during a stressful time.
That was over five years ago.
Since then I’ve had several opportunities to visit with Dr. Anderson. I’ve watched Safe Families grow from a Chicago start-up to an international ministry. I’ve read stories of families – and churches – transformed because they were willing to practice biblical hospitality, stepping out of their comfort zones and providing respite for families in crisis.
For years I asked God to open doors to bring Safe Families for Children to my own county here in East Tennessee. I know the need is great, so I was perplexed when doors remained closed. I never felt the time was right to formally “start the conversation” – until three weeks ago.
And last week, there I sat…
having the Safe Families conversation not with agency or church leaders – or even prospective host families – but with a single, scared, lonely mother who needed to catch a break for once in her life.
And there we sat…
almost three decades apart in age – and aeons apart in childhood memories. Two mothers whose present realities are the result both of choices we’ve made and choices others have made. Things we’ve done, and things others have done. Two mothers who would do anything to protect our children.
Five days ago, I watched in admiration as a young mother made the most courageous decision she’s ever had to make in her life. She was scared – and brave.
Today she’s hopeful… and grateful for strangers who extended hospitality to her son – and the chance to change the course of their path.
As Krystal told me, the people who should be here for her haven’t been for a long time – so God sent total strangers to take their place.
I’m privileged to be one of those strangers. I’m humbled to be learning a lesson firsthand:
If we truly love children, we will love their parents.
Last summer Dr. Anderson told me of a meeting with a children’s services worker he thought would give his blessing to the idea of Safe Families. Instead, he heard, “Don’t waste your time. Christians only protest things; they don’t do anything proactive.”
I had to stop and ask myself: Are my choices proving him right – or wrong? (I didn’t like my answer, so I’ve spent the last ten months making some major adjustments…)
How would you answer the question?
If you think this is a conversation worth having, why not click on the “share” buttons below this post and start it among your friends. Leave a comment here, too, if you will. I’d really like to know your thoughts…
Behind the scenes… Ironically, the 9:25 AM call came just as I was about to hit “publish” on my last post – the one that challenged you to do something. Talk about having to put my money where my mouth is… and God holding me accountable. Isn’t He faithful? 🙂
UPDATE: Scared is the New Brave – Part 2
I’ll be joining:
Testimony Tuesday at Holly Barrett
Playdates with God at The Wellspring
Unite at Rich Faith Rising
Titus 2 Tuesday at Cornerstone Confessions
#TellHisStory at Jennifer Dukes Lee
#RiskRejection at Amy Sullivan