Written by Julie Mikus
Several months ago I received a night-time phone call from a close friend. It was one of those phone calls when you answer you just know something is terribly wrong by the sound of their voice. “My great-nieces are in Children’s Hospital with a social worker. I am not sure what is happening, but I have to go there and bring them to my house for the night.” I responded without hesitation that I would go with her.
When we arrived at Children’s Hospital, we thankfully found the twin girls, age 5, safe and sound. However, they needed kinship foster care. Their great aunt agreed that she would provide the care the little girls needed. After many questions, examinations by the doctors, and tending to the needs of two scared little girls, it was time to take them home. The social worker handed us a black garbage bag with just a few random belongings. I looked at her and asked, “Where’s the rest of their stuff? Where’s their pajamas?” The social worker looked too overwhelmed and tired to answer.
The reality for most foster care kids is that when they enter the foster care system, their belongings are thrown in a garbage bag. We are sending a message from the beginning to foster care kids – here’s your trash. Off you go. At that moment when I saw the garbage bag in the middle of the emergency room with those twin girls – God stirred my spirit to take action.
Shortly thereafter, I began to research ways that Allison Park Church and Network of Hope could respond to the needs of foster care children – and the idea for the Together We Rise “Duffel Bag Project” for foster care kids was birthed. I’m a big believer that God does not place us in situations such as this to observe apathetically. He compels us to consider the world around us, and all of its problems, and then move us to respond, to take action.
On SERVE Day, which was held on Saturday, July 15th, a group of passionate volunteers packed 500 duffel bags at two Allison Park Church campus locations that would later be distributed to local foster care agencies. In addition, 50 bicycles were built for kids about to emancipate from foster care. Volunteers lovingly stuffed teddy bears, blankets, books and other comfort & practical care items into duffel bags which they decorated with messages like,
“You are loved”
“Never forget who are”
“You are never alone”
Every bag was given a handwritten letter to the child, explaining why we packed the bags, written with words of love and encouragement. Grace, age 12, wrote… “Even if you believe noone cares or understands – remember there are always good people in this world. Don’t give up on hope.”
Many tears of love touched those bags while volunteers listened to the experiences of foster care moms, while teens and adults shared their experiences in foster care. Every bag was prayed for – that the child receiving it would never give up on hope. Because of this SERVE Day project, five hundred kids in our local communities won’t be handed a garbage bag when they face their darkest day.
We have such a high calling as Christians to respond to the needs of orphans. God tell us to “look after orphans in their distress.” Throughout the Bible God tells us he is the Father, Defender, Rescuer of the fatherless. He considers their distress, and then compels us to take action. We did just that on SERVE Day.
With 400,000 children in the foster care system, how can we possibly help every child? It is a big mountain to climb. However, God does not call us to fix everything. But He does call us to do something. We can all agree that every child in the foster care system is deserving of our love and support. On SERVE day, God inspired hundreds of volunteers to take action, to do something, to be moved by the needs of others. What an honor it is to partner with the Creator of the Universe to be inspired, to take action.
My encouragement to you is to ask yourself, “What inspires me? What can I do to make a difference in the world?” Don’t delay, start somewhere, begin today. No, we can’t do everything, but we can all do something. Just remember, inspiration from God is always “others-centric.” He is forever searching for ways to deposit seeds of inspiration in you – for the purpose of changing the life of another. I don’t know about you, but I want to be crazy enough to think I can change the whole world…one person at a time.
Julie Mikus serves as the Program Director for Network of Hope. Besides spending time with her husband & son, she enjoys walking her dog Glory, never missing a sunset, and shopping at local thrift stores for treasures and bargains!