We are giving the kids we care for a legacy, the legacy of family. This gift comes in two parts: having a family that claims and includes them, and experiencing the everyday workings of a healthy family unit.
When one of our kids first walks through the door, they’re shell-shocked. They bring a grocery sack with a few changes of clothes, but they’re usually wearing the one pair of underwear they own. They’re shell-shocked because someone probably lied to them about where they’re going and for how long – and our hour and a half, bumpy ride into “nowhere” is so unlike the crowded, gang-infested neighborhoods that most come from. Our new kids are also in shock because they can’t conceive the thought of living in a safe place.
Most of our kids have never known a reliable father – for some a father represented absence, or a vague unknown, or abuse. Some of our kids lived under the shadow of prostitution – whether it was their family’s income or their probable future. Some wandered the streets, looking for food. Older siblings were trying to parent younger siblings, often without any food or money to be had. Their stories are of hunger, neglect, abuse, and abandonment.
They are our heartbeat because we believe that, by God’s grace, we can pass on the legacy of family to these young people. They have been absorbed into a thriving family-life with us – yes, messy, yes human – but a family that sticks with them and with each other. It gives them a place to come home to, a model for marriage and child-rearing, a place of safety, a place to belong. Here is where we can change a generation: instead of repeating the same cycles of disfunction and abuse, these young people have a chance to break the mold and model success. This is our prayer. This is our goal.