Thursday, May 3, 2012

National Foster Care Month: The Van Story.

People are always running up to me asking me how the Church can get engaged in foster care ministry.

I'm just kidding. That doesn't happen nearly as often as I would like. The A*Team believes that it's our mission to bring awareness and advocate for these special kids, and it's our goal to carry out our calling as holistically as possible. The foster system can be an ugly place filled with fear, or with the help of the Body of Christ, foster care can be an outlet of God's mercy and grace.

It's National Foster Care Month, so I will be sharing a series of posts during May with the hope of bringing these beautiful children to the attention of the Church, to join in the national foster care conversation as well as suggesting ways to get involved, stories that inspire, God's provision for foster families, and challenges to get involved.
Would you STAND UP with us to make a difference?


It was October 2010 when the prayer first slipped past my lips.

"God, would you please give us a van?"

 Seth and I had just accepted the placement of three children, ages 3 and under.  In case you are wondering, that meant two forward-facing car seats and one rear-facing car seat.  At that time we had two vehicles, a Ford Focus and a GMC Sonoma truck. I was, how do you say, new at this whole parenthood thing, but one thing (maybe the only thing) I recognized early in the game was the limited amount of space in our modes of transportation.  I know people probably make it work this way all the time, but it was going to be a huge challenge for all five of us without any externally complicated circumstances.  That's why I whispered that prayer like a breath.  We didn't have the means to get a different vehicle.  We barely had our Ramsey-friendly emergency savings.  There was no way to get a vehicle.  Unless God answered a quiet prayer, mustard-seed in size and reiterated at every turn of the steering wheel.

Nevertheless, I prayed.  In fact, I asked God with almost every snap of a buckle or a seat belt as I placed our children in the car for the first couple of weeks.  I knew it couldn't have been very safe for them.  They could reach each other with their hands.  This led to The Toddler Wars almost daily (that was enjoyable).  I prayed.  I asked.  I sought.  I knocked.

It was one of those prayers I could have felt guilty about if I hadn't been truly desperate.  We do ministry in a truly economically depressed area, and we see great need, sometimes on a daily basis.  Even as I prayed, I questioned, does this sound like a prosperity gospel, name it/claim it kind of prayer?

Eventually peace came with the understanding that God knew our need, and if it brought Him glory, He would grant it.  If not, I prayed He would make me content (although I have to admit I was much more into him giving us a van.)

Our awesome friend Carla, who is Seth's Administrative Assistant, saw the strain of squeezing those three babies in the back of that tiny car and took action.  FBC Bicknell had a minivan that was gifted to the church from a local funeral home after an unfortunate incident involving a deer.  Carla went to some of the church leadership, explained what we had been doing, and asked if we could borrow the van on a short-term basis until we could figure out another solution.

I was so relieved to put the babies in that van.  There was no more fear of a wreck in my small car and the car seats being so uncomfortably close together.  There was no more stress of trying to hold up an infant seat to find the buckle for another safety seat.  We were so grateful to the church as they had already met so many needs and now this one too!

Still, in the quietness of my times with the Lord, I prayed.  "God, please give us a van that is ours.  One I don't have to worry about giving that will have the title in our name!"

God answered my prayer in the strangest turn of events.    

We had the van at least 6 months when the most beautiful thing happened.  We were at a Wednesday night church business meeting when the leadership made a motion to give us the title to the van as a gift to our family!  I began to cry and praise God for this, the answer to my long-term prayer! 

What a faithful God.

We were in process to switch the title and insurance but it wasn't complete yet. 

That Saturday morning, I got the children up early to head to my hometown for a bit of what we sophistocated folks like to call yard-sailing.  Always trying to save a buck but still have the cutest babies on the block, I had heard from a few fashion-forward mama mavens that they were selling their children's clothes on the cheap, and I was rolling out the driveway before Seth knew what hit his pocketbook!

We found a few sales and I had hit the mother lode for Baby Ty in particular, when I headed to my favorite fast food place in Loogootee.  No trip is complete without a tenderloin from the Dairy Master.  My Loogootee readers, you understand exactly what I mean.  Everyone else, you need to discover what I'm talking about. 

I just hope you don't discover the way I did that day.  My order was delivered to my car (carhops are a DYING ART people), and the children were chattering away in the backseat.  I was admittedly distracted by their fighting and the food and making sure everyone was okay through the yelling and I didn't see the truck coming in the second lane of traffic....

Impact.  Left side.  Shock.  Screaming.  Terror.  Is anyone hurt?  Oh, dear God.  Is everyone breathing? Yes.  They are crying.  That is a good sound.  What about the truck driver?  He is walking toward us.  His son is fine.  Thank you Jesus. All are alive.  
Breathe.  Breathe.
Shame.  Crying.  Hysterical.  Checking my babies for blood.  It could have killed Heather.  It hit right next to her.  What was I thinking?  Everyone is watching as they drive by.  Why wasn't I more careful?  Calling Seth.  He will be mad.  Shaking all over.  Checked out by police and ambulance.  Calm down.  Julie and Curt come to the scene.  They hold me.  Squeeze precious babies in the police cruiser.  Seats are no good after a wreck.  Ma'am, the van is totaled. 
OH NO.  I've ruined God's provision.  It's all messed up.  
Broken car all along the road.  My broken heart too.

Seth was so sweet, as was our church.  Everyone was so incredibly patient with me and so grateful we were alive to tell this scary tale.  On the other hand, I cried into my pillow and wondered what God would do now that I had ruined the very thing for which I had prayed...

I was seeking the Lord the next week about how we were going to remedy the situation as I squeezed those three babies in the back of that Focus.  By now, all of the kids were forward-facing and I knew it was dangerous.  What choice did I have but to cry out?  A fresh tear rolled down my cheek as I asked God if He could really make beauty out of my mess.

Seth and I were talking that night about options and a thought came into my head, obviously from the Father because I don't get great ideas very often!  I remembered the Ministerial Excellence Fund, a trust that pastors apply to receive to help during hardship.  "Yeah, that'd be great, but the church can't afford to do a matching grant so we can't apply..." he trailed off.
I was so disappointed.
Then Seth's face lit up.  "What if the MEF considered the insurance money from the van as a matching grant from FBC?  They might turn us down, but it's worth a try!"
 My heart jumped in my chest...could this be God's redemption for my human error?

Seth emailed a Godly man named Marc Kirchoff and asked if we could arrange an agreement between FBC Bicknell and the Ministerial Excellence Fund to get a van.  We waited on pins and needles until word came...
The MEF agreed to use the insurance money as the match!  Now we just had to find the right vehicle at the right price.  We went to several car lots, but every van seemed to blow our budget away.  We kept our eyes open and sought the Lord, and faithfully, He showed us a 2003 Ford Windstar Van that met our needs and came in under our budget!  As an added kiss from the Father, the dealership gave us a 1,000 dollar discount because we were paying with a check and there was no need for financing.  We were truly moved and humbled by God's generosity, and I was so thankful that my mistake had revealed the creativity of the Father as He worked out the accident to His glory and our good!  God had given us a newer van that will last longer - something only He could do, especially for two adults and three children who had very little resource and a lot of need.

Here's the thing - God cares about orphans. They are close to His heart...and when we stick our necks out for them, God meets any needs that we have -- often so creatively and intricately!

I challenge you...will you live a life that requires audacious faith? Will you pray the prayers of someone who knows the Father's heart of God for His children? You never know...He might answer by doing what seems