God’s Got This: DeClue Family

“You did it: you changed wild lament into whirling dance; You ripped off my black mourning band and decked me with wildflowers. I’m about to burst with song; I can’t keep quiet about you. GOD, my God, I can’t thank you enough.”  ‭‭Psalm‬ ‭30:11-12‬ ‭MSG‬‬

This thing we call foster care has rocked our little world and tiny home greatly. We opened our home to a teenager who had aged out of foster care in September of 2014 working with Immerse Arkansas. We opened as a  foster home with The CALL on June 30th, 2015. We became adoptive parents on August 2nd, 2017. We became biological parents on January 16th, 2018. In this seemingly short span of time listed we have had just over 20 humans enter our home to shape our house and lives for the better.

God has been evident in everything. I have continued to cling to the statement, “God’s got this. He has a really cool plan. I can’t see it, but He has a plan.” Even when those words were uttered through clinched teeth and tear soaked cheeks.  – Chrissy DeClue

The Art of Broken Things

I recently discovered a beautiful form of Japanese art called kintsugi. As I learned about this ancient skill, my thinking was immediately taken to the faces of our local children in foster care and to the foster and adoptive families who have demonstrated radical hospitality by bringing these children into their lives and homes.

In Japanese philosophy, there exists the idea of “wabi-sabi,” which is to embrace the imperfect or broken. When using kintsugi to repair broken pottery the cracks are highlighted, rather than hidden. Kintsugi is the art of repairing broken pottery with lacquer mixed with powdered gold. The beauty is the way it symbolically embraces brokenness and restoration as part of the history of an object, rather than something to disguise. According to Kenetha J. Stanton who has written about this practice in her book, “Living a Kintsugi Life,” these repaired pottery pieces became so prized that people would intentionally break items to have them repaired in this manner. 1

Our lives are touched every day by broken things: marriages, homes, neighborhoods, cities but particularly, the lives of the children in the foster care system. Through no fault of their own, their lives are disrupted and, as a result, have become incredibly difficult. Even a mature adult would find it overwhelming, but these are children … ill-equipped to navigate these complexities.

But then God steps in! The Psalmist says that “God places the lonely in families.” 2  It begins with a burden. Then, miraculously, God calls a family to step up to bring the stability, structure, resources, and love that begins the healing process in a foster child’s life. Like kintsugi to broken pottery, these foster and adoptive parents are the lacquer that binds up the hurting child’s wounds. And as this family demonstrates the tangible, extravagant love of Christ to these children, something remarkable happens. The love of Christ becomes the gold that adds beauty and meaning to the brokenness.

We celebrate those called to foster and adopt and are mastering the art of broken things. We thank God for those who, while they may not have been called to such mastery, recognize that those who have been called to it, need support, prayer, and care along the way.

Mike Clowers, Development Coordinator
The CALL in Pulaski County

1 Stanton, Kenetha J., “Living a Kintsugi Life” © 2015 akintsugilife.com
2 Psalm 68:6a NLT, Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007, 2013, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.
Image Credit: urushi@me.com © Zedo by Gen Saratani

Worth Our Time: The Hirscheiders

My call to foster care came at a point in my life where my faith was weak. I was profoundly missing the close relationship with Christ that I knew I needed and kept hearing his gentle invitation through the words of James 1:27. I was seeking the “pure religion” described by James and nothing seemed to draw me closer to Jesus than to care for his children.

My husband and I fostered for a few years while our biological family grew, mostly providing respite care. During this time, a handful of foster families and supporters at our church, Pleasant Valley Church of Christ, held a small brainstorming meeting to explore new ways to expand our reach. We began by just acting on the needs God revealed to us. We hosted a Pride training, began trying out new ways to show support to our families, looked into how we could work with existing ministries at our church, and created more fellowship opportunities to build our community.

My role as the CALL church advocate served us well as we planned our efforts. The CALL has provided an enormous amount of support and encouragement over the years and continues to do so, as we navigate the system, learn how to reach out to our church body, and decipher the most practical next steps to take at each point.

Since that initial meeting, about five years ago, God has grown our ministry from about ten households to over 80. I have been immeasurably blessed to get to see Jesus in each of them. The vast majority are not foster parents, but they support in more ways than I can count, and I continue to see love and care for orphans spreading through our church body.

My family and I also grew quite a bit during that time. Both physically and spiritually. My husband and I have four children. Their ages are nine, six, four and two. One came to our family through adoption, and all have been positively affected by our involvement in this ministry. Ministering to children has taught our children more than we, as parents, could have ever accomplished on our own. I cannot wait to see what God has in store for each of them!

Of course, this road has not been easy. There is always a level of chaos and stress lurking below the surface – and more often than I’d like to admit – coming to the top. But working together as a family in this ministry brings us closer together as we all draw closer to Christ. I could not begin to put in the time I have in this ministry without the support and help I get from my husband, and the understanding from our children that this work is close to the heart of God and worth our time as a family.

– Courtney Hirscheider

Sowing Seed: The Turners

Tameka and Timothy Turner of Jacksonville began their journey of fostering and adopting nearly nine years ago. With three biological boys, Timothy, Calen and Cameron, Tameka knew she wanted to adopt a little girl. After attending an adoption picnic hosted by “Project Zero,” they found and fell in love with a five-year-old little girl in July 2009. Six months later, Kennedy officially became a Turner.

Now with a daughter, Tameka and Timothy thought that their family was complete. They had never considered fostering because they “didn’t want to take a kid, invest in a kid, and have the kid taken away.” They felt if a child would come into their home, that child belonged to them. However, God changed their hearts and minds, and they opened their home and became foster parents just a few years ago.

Tameka says God spoke clearly to her and told her fostering is “…sowing generational seed. No matter how long a child is in my home, we can plant seeds in that child that God will grow.” Tameka now understands that even her biological children are not hers, but God’s. With that in mind, the ultimate goal of reuniting foster children with their biological family is just part of God’s plan. Tameka prays for her foster son, as well as his mother, and prays for reunification. The Turners frequently reach out to her foster son’s biological mother to let her know that she is loved by them and by God. Tameka emphasizes to her foster son’s mom that “God loves you so much that He allowed us to take care of your son until you can take care of him.”

The Turners help their foster children learn and grow, but ultimately, they want them to reunite with their biological families. They often show their foster son photos of his biological parents and teach him, “this is your mom, this is your dad.” Tameka has used the story of Adam and Eve with her daughter to explain how sometimes God’s perfect plan gets derailed, but he can still make something right out of something wrong. “God’s plan is for us to be with our biological families, but sometimes, things happen, and the plan is thrown off. Now it is His plan for adoptive and foster families to take care of children in foster care.”

So far, the Turners have had three placements. The first for four months. The second was a very short two-week placement. Now, they find themselves fostering a toddler who has been with them for a little more than a year. With a house full of teenagers, Tameka never thought she would take in a small child, but she wouldn’t change the experience for the world.

The Turners are Church Advocates for The CALL at Emmanuel Bible Fellowship Church, 6012 General Samuels Road in Jacksonville.

by Whitney Holman, Church Partnership Coordinator,
The CALL in Pulaski County

Unpacking The Rep’s “The Call”

When the subject of adoption comes up, especially in a community-wide context, we get excited and pay close attention. We are The CALL, and our objective is to mobilize the Church in Arkansas to love foster children with the extravagant love of Christ.

That’s why we’re excited the Arkansas Repertory Theatre (The Rep) is presenting Tanya Barfield’s thought-provoking play “The Call” through February 11, 2018. Since our organization shares the same name as Barfield’s play and the production centers on the topic of adoption, we thought it would be helpful to our partners, friends, and families to know our thoughts on the production to help shape the conversations that may come your way about the play. We hope to accomplish that without providing too many spoilers.

The primary characters of the play, a Caucasian couple in their mid-30’s (Annie and Peter), have decided to adopt a baby from Africa. The actors in this production are very talented and believable, and the script does a tremendous job of capturing the anxiety and doubt that comes with adoption. Their closest friends are a well-traveled, African-American, lesbian couple who’ve just married. Their exchanges provide a backdrop of middle-class, suburban sensibilities and bring forward some of the preconceived notions about multi-ethnic and cross-cultural life in modern-day America. There is also an exploration of the things that make a family a family.

The play demonstrates the influence of friends and family on the decision to move into adoption. It also realistically portrays the indecision and difficulty that come when things do not go as planned. Our experience is that every foster and adoption situation is unique. In our work, we help families understand the process and, in essence, submit it to God and pray to see His work. The play also brings front and center the trappings of our consumeristic culture that assumes it’s possible to select a child to adopt the same way we would pick out a home or a car. Sometimes, hopes and dreams become a set of demands and result in unrealistic expectations.

The play also touches on an aspect of adoption some call the “Hero Complex.” It’s when an affluent couple hastily decides to adopt because of guilt resulting from seeing a child’s helpless state. These feelings, combined with a lack of understanding of the sacrifice associated with adoption, often summon problems which can lead to disruption. At The CALL, we help couples navigate this phase and assist them with the tools they need to process their motivations. The characters in the play seemed to prioritize their needs over the needs of the child. Their needs were specific and numerous. The child just needed a bedroom.

An important distinction could be made by simply explaining the meaning behind the play’s name “The Call” and our organization’s name “The CALL.”

The play seems to gather its name from the suspense and tension that comes as the couple waits for the phone to ring with the news – any news – about the child with whom they may be matched. That call from a social worker or agency is certainly a poignant moment in the life of every adoptive parent.

The name of the organization “The CALL” is just as specific but in a different way. To be clear, “The CALL” is named to point to God’s call on the lives of Christians to minister to the modern day orphans in foster care in our community. Through no fault of their own, these children have suffered the trauma of abuse or neglect and have been removed from everything they perceived stable in their life. We believe every Christian is called to be a steward who creates or supports a safe, nurturing environment where children can experience the extravagant love of Christ. That is “the call.”

Finally, we should say that while the play mentions God and faith briefly, it does not offer a biblical worldview of adoption. There were a few instances of profanity expressed in moments of frustration. The emotions expressed by the cast are raw and authentic. The Rep gives “The Call” a PG-13 rating. However, we would not recommend this production for children under the age of 18.

Overall, we found “The Call” to be a genuine and compelling way to bring the subject of cross-cultural adoption to our community.

Lauri Currier, Executive Director, The CALL

Mike Clowers, Development Coordinator, The CALL in Pulaski County