The following entry is by Caitlin Rivera, a member of the Bucks County GCM. Caitlin and the Bucks County GCM are currently serving Christ’s Home for Children in Warminster, PA.
The mission of Christ’s Home for Children is to serve needy or neglected children and youth by providing a stable, caring home built upon Biblical principles while meeting their educational, medical, emotional and social needs.
When we all pulled into the parking lot at Christ’s Home for Children my stomach did a few flips. The worried questions floated across my mind again – “Why am I here? Why are we here together? Do I sincerely have anything to give here?” On these I had spent the days and weeks before doubting, thinking, and praying – almost cyclically. This, of course, is my pattern with the Lord, always having to run back to Him with one more question. My experience at Christ’s Home was no exception.
Rewind some weeks. Our search for the right “mission” in our Bucks County GCM had led us, rather organically, to Christ’s Home for Children. Informed that this was a faith-based resident foster care facility, we found it was a great fit for how we were looking to serve. A place where we could meet varying needs of children, teens, and young mothers right on site.
The planning began. We organized centers to bring for the children. Crafts. Baking. Sports. Equipment. Manicures for the teen moms. Pizzas would be ordered. Everyone of our “team” was essential for the day in some way. Wonderful. There was much excitement and enthusiasm.
Two nights before our big day was when my biggest doubts arrived. I have worked with at-risk children before; first at an inner-city camp throughout high school and then as an elementary teacher. These children can be unpredictable – angry, territorial, mistrusting, rebellious, or completely shut off. Too many sad life experiences that have forced them to become “hard” just to survive. I was ready to rush in with no-fail plans and a “missional spirit” yet these were real lives on the other end.
If you have a child, how painful is it to imagine them in the harshest of life circumstances? Abuse. Neglect. Hunger. Poverty. Abandonment. I shutter to picture my girls enduring any of these. It still leaves me in great despair that some innocent children take the brunt of the world while others thrive in loving, stable homes.
These doubts continued to plague me. Finally, I texted my mother-in-law for her input. She was an elementary teacher and principal in one of the toughest schools in Philadelphia for many years. She has so much experience with at-risk children and families. Plus, she and I have discussed countless times this very dilemma – why are some kids dealt a harder hand in life? She wrote back: prepare for some anger, set up clear boundaries, be consistent, show love, and they will learn to trust. This helped some, not only in sobering me for how to think but also in bringing me to my knees with more questions for God.
Back at Christ’s Home our day went beautifully. The kids, about 14 in all, came out to meet us along with their weekend resident house parents. We ate pizza together and did a little ice breaking. Then everyone naturally seemed to gravitate to what interested them. We all got to know each other a little and were grateful for activities to share in.
I was able to spend some time with a group of three sisters who truly touched my heart that day. One policy at Christ’s Home is to always keep siblings in a house together. These three were very sweet-spirited but also fiercely aware and protective of each other. It was interesting to see their guards which were pretty securely in place at first, slowly relax throughout our time there. The littlest sister, a 2nd grader, went from hiding behind her house parent, to watching me out of the corner of her eye, to finally talking about school, laughing about her sisters, and coloring with me at the craft table.
Many other great connections were made during this time. A teen mom got a gorgeous manicure… kites were brought out… laughter… games. It was a wonderful foundation to build on as we pursue service at Christ’s Home for Children.
As is so often the case, when I asked God the hard questions I never really arrived at an answer. Instead, I kept hearing my pronouns change. This was just not about MY contribution or performance or OUR activities and message to the kids; its much more about HIS Good News, HIS unfailing love, HIS heart that we serve HIS sheep and HIS needy little ones. After all, WE too were at-risk, WE too were angry and mistrusting (still sometimes?), WE too were adopted out of a messed up foster system (sin) and given a new name and a royal inheritance (through Jesus!). I am humbled and excited that HE allows me to watch and be apart of HIS work.