A lot of you know my story. My mom died when I was nine years old, and my dad wasn’t around, so I spent a year in foster care.
That time could have been a bright moment in an otherwise dismal period of my life, but things didn’t turn out so well for me. Instead of support and compassion, I mostly remember feeling lonely, afraid, and desperate.
My past is one of the reasons I’m so passionate about God’s call on believers to care for “orphans and widows” (James 1:27). Another reason is my wife, Jean, who deserves the credit for getting us moving in this area. She said, “You know, Jim, I think we should find a way to participate in foster care since you encourage others to do it!”
I knew she was right the moment she said it. We went through the training soon after, and we’ve had almost 15 kids through our home in the last eight years.
We haven’t been quite as active as Jenn and T.J. Menn, though. They’ve welcomed 24 kids into 8their home and their hearts in the past ten years.
T.J. is a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. He serves as an aviation officer in the U.S. Army and earned a Master’s degree in public policy from the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard and currently teaches economics at West Point.
Jenn graduated from Trinity College of the Bible and is a member of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors. She received her Master’s degree in public administration from the Kennedy School at Harvard University and operates a small counseling practice.
They may sound superhuman, but as you’ll hear on our broadcast today and tomorrow, God has empowered them to serve, and their church has rallied around them and offered prayerful and practical support. Still, when they get a new placement, Jenn says she’s “just like every new mom who might not remember the last time she showered or brushed her teeth.”
T.J. and Jenn are down to earth like that. They’ll be the first to tell you that foster care is demanding, but they’ll also tell you – with a tear in their eye – that it’s worth it.
They talk about Jasmine, who came to live with T.J. and Jenn when she was 4 years old. She had scars all over her body and could hardly speak. Within a year, Jasmine was twirling around in a ballerina tutu … and was smiling. That wasn’t an easy year for T.J. and Jenn, but Jasmine deserved someone to rejoice with her, to cry with her, and to help her discover a new identity, from victim to victor.
Right now, there are about 400,000 other Jasmines in the U.S. foster care system who need someone to give them hope. I’ll be honest: I hope our conversation with T.J. and Jenn will encourage you to pray about playing some sort of role in foster care.
There are a variety of opportunities to engage and to have an impact. There is adoption, temporary foster care, and respite care, which could be a weekend or a couple of weeks. There may also be ways you can come alongside foster and adoptive parents who need a break from what can be a rigorous and demanding schedule.
Join us for “Helping Hurting Kids Through Foster Care” on your local radio station, online, or on our free phone app and see what the Lord may be saying to you. T.J. and Jenn have also written a book titled Faith to Foster. That and other helpful resources are available in our online bookstore.
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