A Crazy Idea

               A few months ago, as I went on one of my morning walks with the baby bouncing along in my front pack, I prayed for wisdom and direction for this thing we call Foster the Love MN.  Each morning prior to this, I beseeched the Lord for churches to get involved in caring for their own foster communities in real, practical ways.  This morning, however, a crazy idea formed in my head.  What if we mobilized 10 churches, in just one county, to scatter and gather 50 items each, to pack 100 placement bags together?  I immediately thought of the repercussions of this (i.e. speaking at churches, going to visit pastors (yikes!), and “selling FLM”- I am NOT a sales type of person).  Why do these scary ideas pop up in my head with such a persistence?  I knew my God could do this, but I wasn’t sure I wanted to be the one to lead such an endeavor. 

                A little later that morning, my new pastor’s wife came over with some of her kiddos for a visit we had planned the previous week.   As the children ran around the backyard, we sat and chatted as women do about life, family, and of course, foster care.  Even though we were interrupted countless times by our kid’s various needs, we eventually realized that God had given us some of the same passions in life.  This was made abundantly clear when she shared that her biggest dream was for churches to work together to reach out and serve their communities. Immediately upon hearing this, I was reminded of my morning’s crazy idea.  Apprehensively, I responded by sharing this idea with her and secretly waited for her to smash the idea, so I could be free of its implications.  Instead, however, she shook her head and told me I was thinking “too small.”  She told me I needed to ask for 100 items, and that her church would host the event.  This idea was much larger than I was comfortable with, so I responded that I would need to fervently pray about this opportunity for the next week or so.

                In the weeks following these events, I began praying with my kids for 10 churches.  Slowly, the details fell into place, and we were finally ready to take the leap of faith to start inviting churches.  After confirming with our pastor that we would trust the Lord to provide 10 Ramsey County churches, we got to work praying, sending out emails, and visiting churches.  The first church we visited was very encouraging and supportive of our event.  The pastor handed out snacks and drinks to my kids and told us his church would love to participate.  We piled into our van on that hot, humid day, pumped and excited to continue our circuit of churches, and hopeful that maybe getting to 10 wasn’t impossible after all! 

                We kept visited churches, 3-5 at a time, a couple of times a week- as much as my kids could handle.  The kids would ask me “did they say ‘yes,’” after every encounter, and often I was encouraged by our conversations, so I could answer positively.  However, we were not getting many churches who readily agreed to join us for the special event.  Many churches said they liked the idea, but were busy with other ministries already or would love to participate at a different time.  I totally understood and these answers- it is not like foster families are the only worthwhile ministry (far from it!).  However, I began to get discouraged when we only had two churches confirming their attendance a month.  We had been praying several times daily for 10 churches, but as I looked at the circumstances, I eventually stopped praying out loud that we could do this.  A couple of days passed, and my oldest son confronted me on my lack of prayers.  “Mom, you have been forgetting to pray for the 10x10!”  Ashamed, but still discouraged, I asked him to pray for me that night.  For the next few nights, he reminded me again until I began to regularly pray for 10 churches again. 

 I treated the kids to a new restaurant we found while visiting churches.

I treated the kids to a new restaurant we found while visiting churches.

 

                This time, the Lord brought our confidence back as more churches started stepping up to the challenge.   Two churches, in particular, really boosted our spirits because it was so evident that God’s hand was leading them to join us.  The first church, I met as I attended a funeral for a birth mom whose kids I had had in foster care a few years before.  This pastor shared the message of the gospel so clearly at the funeral that I couldn’t help but speak with him afterwards about how thankful I was for him agreeing to do the ceremony.  As we talked, he shared about his daughter-in-law’s recent adoption through foster care and how they would be so excited to hear that we have a foster care ministry in Minnesota.  His church ended up saying “yes” to FLM 10x10 and invited me to speak at their evening service! 

The second church came as we prayed specifically for pajamas one night.  I knew that the responsibility of getting such specific sizes and genders of pajamas was such a daunting task that I really worried whether we would ever get a church to take that role.  Anyway, this particular night, I told the kids we were going to do something difficult.  I took a deep breath and asked that God would give us a church to take buy the pajamas.  Then, I ended my plea with a desperate “PLEASE!”   The next day, I received a Facebook pm from an individual affiliated with a church I had not even asked about joining our event.  The person asked if we still needed churches (um, yes), and if so, could she lead for her church (of course), AND were pajamas still needed as one of the items (WHAT????).  The hairs on my arms stood out like a cactus and I immediately asked my kids if they remembered us praying for a church to take pajamas the night before.  When they agreed that we had, I knew this was a holy moment!  We stopped everything (our homeschool) and spent time to rejoice, pray to thank God, and sing praise to the LORD. 

                As event drew nearer, we had just 2 churches left.  I had thought about “cheating” and asking other churches from outside of Ramsey County to contribute, but I felt the Lord telling us to wait and trust.  I remember receiving a phone call from our pastor’s wife asking where we were at in terms of how many churches were left and if we would want help from our church to cover the missing items.  It

was tempting, but I said “No, I want to wait and trust that we will get all of the churches we need.”  That same day, we received our 9th and 10th churches!  Every time I found out that a church said “yes,” I would shout, “READY…NUMBER…8!” or whatever number we were at.  When we finally reached 10, I think my kids were almost as glad that they didn’t have to hear/see me do my little (or loud) announcement as they were that we had finally reached our goal.  However, going through the whole process of trusting and waiting and biting my nails and wondering what ifs, I wouldn’t change that crazy idea on that morning walk a couple of months ago.  We have all learned so much, and through it, many more people have gotten to hear about how they can be a part of supporting and serving their foster community. 

Katie O'Neil