Our Encourage team recently had an opportunity to travel together to the Children’s Alliance for Orphans’ Summit, held this year in Louisville, Kentucky. This was a wonderful way for our staff to consider how we may better recruit and serve families who provide care for children from local children services agencies in Northeast Ohio.
Our team came away refreshed, refueled and embraced by many wonderful speakers, workshops, and special times of praise and worship. The CAFO conference was a breathtaking reminder to focus on His faithfulness.
The 2019 conference theme, In Brokenness and Beauty, It is Well, resonated deeply with each team member. It was stated by the conference organizers, “We believe that this, after all, is where life-to-the-full is found. Not easy life. But the best life. If beauty and brokenness must come together, we choose both. Whether in times of great joy—seeing good fruit rise from our love and our labors—or grieving in the hurt of it all, we know that the hands of our good Father are beneath and above and all around, holding us in His great love.”
We see this image play out each day with the lives of children placed with our foster families. Children come from very broken and disturbed backgrounds. They are often full of fear, distrust and uncertainty. Through consistent care and kindness, our Encourage families embrace these children and help them go from a place of fear and into an opportunity for God to instill hope and peace.
Here are a few quotes that stood out to our team members:
“If a man’s castle is his home… then a foster home should be a hospital.” – Krish Kandiah
“Behavior is the language of children who have no voice.” – Karyn Purvis
“Don’t guard your heart, open you heart.” – Pam Taylor, Foster mom
“We are on holy ground here, when untold agony begins to find its voice. If there ever is a sacred moment, it is when a soul whose torment has been suppressed and silenced finally begins to speak.” – Richard Fenn
In response to her experience at the CAFO conference, Annita Justice, Foster Care Coordinator, said, “I am forever grateful that we join the broken, vulnerable moments with the children we serve as it empowers us to be agents of change in identifying beauty amidst a painful circumstance. During these challenging times, we allow the children to embrace their beautiful worth in Christ who loves unconditionally.”
Courtney McConahay, Foster Care Coordinator, also reflected about her time at the Summit. “God has called us to care for the fatherless/motherless, orphan, foster child and adoptee. He can restore us and make us new again. Only our Father can do that. It is only through Him that I— that we—can walk along side these children, foster-adoptive parents and bioparents and participate in His will for them, to watch Him break the chains of bondage in all of us. This is where beauty is restored. This is how it is well. My prayer for our agency is that we can lean in and share that encouragement, that we can face trauma and fear head on knowing God is with us and is moving, restoring, bringing beauty from ashes (brokenness) and we can proclaim—It. Is. Well.”
Christian Children’s Home of Ohio (CCHO), the parent organization of Encourage is celebrating 50 years of ministry this year! Throughout 2019, we will be sharing 50 Stories for 50 Years of Ministry to demonstrate the transformational work God has done through our family of ministries (CCHO, Encourage Foster Care and Encompass Christian Counseling).
Story #11 in our series is courtesy of Emily Engman, LSW, foster care assessor and trainer here at Encourage. Emily shares from her heart about foster care and child welfare. She sees the hard times but also the good in the kids and families she serves. She also has a vision for all that is possible when we consider the hope of Jesus and respond in faith.
The hope in Jesus is that there is restoration for each and every one of us. For the parent who hurts their child. For the foster parent that wants to quit. For the child whose behaviors makes them seem most unlovable. There is nothing that brings me greater joy than to help a foster and adoptive family through the struggle of foster care and see them come out on the other side.
Her words are timely as we recognize National Foster Care Month this May. During this month, she gives a special reminder that “each and every foster parent, biological family and foster child has value and meaning beyond ourselves.”