Safe Families for Children

Anderson

The Gift of Hosting

I could write for days on why Safe Families is important, why it’s needed, why you should get involved. I believe in and love this Kingdom movement. I thought I would mention an aspect that maybe you haven’t thought of. My husband is an elder at our church. We are involved in volunteering in many different aspects and levels of involvement and so are our children. Often those things have me in one space and him serving in another. Our children are here or there in the midst of it all. Safe Families has allowed our entire family to focus together on loving like Jesus. To work as a team to serve others.

My husband and I have had about a dozen children in our home through SFFCCI. We set out to offer a home to a child that needs it. In our attempt to be obedient to God’s call on our lives, we have been blessed more than we could possibly have given. The single greatest gift in serving as a host family has been that we are all serving together. This is a family opportunity. My children have grown up with Safe Families as a part of our life. Our oldest was nine years old when we started. Our youngest just two. I have watched all 5 of our children develop an understanding and awareness that not everyone has the privileges we do. Not everyone has a roof over their head or food in their pantry. Some children don’t have a mommy and a daddy in their home. My children have known from an early age that not only do some kids not have play rooms, some are lucky to have toys at all. They get that not everyone is born into a family that values the things we do or is taught what they are taught. They understand that doesn’t lessen their value.  My children see the world differently than their peers. They see the world through the eyes of others and that is the kind of children I want to raise. That is a direct impact of our involvement in Safe Families.

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If you think watching your spouse love your own flesh and blood grew your respect and admiration for them, just wait until you see them love a child that is not their own. A child they will give back. You will feel even more proud when you hear them speak words of affirmation and worth to a single mom that may have never been shown respect by a male in her life. Watch them love without fear of losing and with the abandoned power of God’s goodness. It’s an amazing thing to witness.

It has also been eye-opening and life-giving as a mother to watch the gifts of each of my children in action while they serve the children staying with us. I see my soft-spoken son ask a little girl about her teacher at school and her interests to help set her anxious heart at ease. I get to see my ever-the-ham daughter make another child laugh and forget the strangeness of this new home. I see my oldest show them the pictures she’s taken and they see their beauty in the image she’s captured. I hear another encourage and empower with her words that they can do it and how proud she is of them. My other son grabs the ball and starts tossing it with our new guests because he knows that some kids don’t have the words for what they’re going through but the familiar passing and catching of the ball is comforting. I watch as my children show them around the house and where they will be sleeping. I hear the rhythm of the usual with each new guest:  Sure you can use my stuffed animal. Yes, we have enough food for the entire day. Of course, you can play with my doll. No, we don’t use that word, we say thank you in our family. Yes, Daddy lives here.  I see them share and smile up at me with the all-important knowing that what they are doing is much more than sharing. We hear as each of our children pray for this little one’s parents as they work to be better so they can be together. They value and uplift and give worth to each of the lives that come into ours and they are richer and stronger for it. This ministry of opening our home to others has opened our eyes to the eyes of Jesus. It’s given us opportunity to depend solely on Him to guide us through each new situation. It’s allowed us to practice the Gospel in our living room. Together. Mom, dad, siblings working together to show the love of Jesus to our special guest. Not because it fixes everything but because God commands us to. Because everyone deserves the grace, mercy and love of Christ. Because it is a privilege and an honor to serve families that are hurting. Because to whom much is given, much is required. Because He first loved us.

My children and husband have had to share my time, my energy with others. My children have slept on a blow-up mattress while a new friend used their bed. They have been exposed to words we don’t use in our home. They have been sad when a child leaves.  I have missed a child’s game once because I was helping one of our Safe Families’ kids. No we aren’t doing Friday night pizza because our new guest needs shoes that fit instead. It’s true. They’ve made sacrifices. We all have. It is hard to say goodbye and it is impossible to understand many of the circumstances our placing families are in.  It’s messy and unpredictable.  But I’m not trying to raise comfortable children. I’m raising people that love Jesus and share it with others. I’m raising people obedient to God’s call. I’m raising people that will give God their yes when the easier answer is no. Hosting for Safe Families has been the hardest thing we’ve done and the greatest gift we’ve received. Our experience has been invaluable. It’s given us a participatory role in the Gospel of Jesus. We invite you to do the same.

I would love for this blog to create a dialogue: If you have hosted, what are some things it’s taught your children? What have you learned about your family along the way?  Send us a short story or paragraph about your families’ experience to jharris@safefamilies.net

 

~Jen Harris