By Sonia Keillor
The past few months brought our family an opportunity to step out in faith, trusting that where we were lacking, God would provide. Last May, we began the process of becoming a host family for an organization called Safe Families, which provides care for vulnerable children whose mothers often have no safe person to turn to in a crisis.
Our process of deciding to host children took a few months, starting in January. By mid-spring we had finally made the decision to become a host family, motivated partly by the enthusiasm of our children. The process of becoming a host family included providing references, filling out paperwork and having a home visit from a social worker. By the end of July, we accepted a call to have a 7-year-old girl (we’ll call her T.) placed with us for a week.
It’s hard to put into words the emotional roller coaster of that week, which began with anticipation and worries and ended in tearful goodbyes. T. was clearly trying to calibrate what it would mean to belong in our midst. We were wondering the same thing. At first, there was a certain artificiality: extra politeness from her, and special considerations from us, both trying to put our best foot forward. Slowly, as things started to settle, we were all challenged with the limitations of bending over backward. The situation is marvelously complex, and mistakes are confusing to resolve. We needed God’s grace and help (provided, among other ways, by the support and the wonderful meals from our church family)!
In spite of a great variety of challenges and attempts to find a way through them, how sweet it was to just sit and talk in a moment of calm. T. had so many questions—some spoken directly, some between the lines: Do you have to be a “good white person” to be a host family? Did we think people in her sphere were bad? Had we experienced difficult things like having a family member die? Were we glad she was there, like really? The longer she spent with us, the more it became clear that one of the greatest gifts we could give was to listen with love and affection and to be vulnerable about who we are, really, both the good and bad.
By the time we had to say goodbye, we found that we had discovered a lot of belonging in the deep and wide love of God in a very short time. We were thankful for the highs, forever fixed on our memories of the summer, and for the lows, where we felt God’s grace meet us in moments of need. Mostly we are thankful for T. herself and for the friendships she formed with our children. We’re grateful to T.’s mother for making the hard decision to leave her child with strangers so she could manage a crisis in her life.
There is a special way in which children can transcend racial, cultural, socio-economic and even language barriers that we, as adults, can do only with great difficulty. Children are able to bridge a wide abyss, and as we take an arms-open posture toward children in need, they can minister to us. God can use them to break down unhealthy barriers and build reconciling bridges. They give us the opportunity to live truly, as people of God’s great abundance.
In July, feeling the sense of a call from the Lord, a group of people from Minnesota Safe Families stepped out to create a new organization, Together For Good, which supports families in crisis in a similar way. Our church will continue the relationships we’ve already begun with this new ministry, Together For Good. This is an exciting way to be hands and feet for Christ, to give generously, and to open the door for the Holy Spirit to move powerfully in our midst.
There are many ways that you, personally, and our church, collectively, can support this ministry.
- Apply to be a host family
- Support resources for host families
- Offer respite care for children of moms in distress
- Provide relationship development and meal ministry for lonely mothers
- Give financially