If you walked into our garage you would see two car seats. Next to them are plastic bins filled with children’s clothing and supplies. On a shelf is a pack-and-play and another bin full of toys that our children have long since outgrown. These items have accumulated since we started hosting as a Host Family three years ago. They surround us and remind us each day that we stand ready to open our homes and our lives.
Safe Families has transformed the way we, as a family, view ministry and service. We used to (and sometimes still do) view service or ministry as another activity to schedule along with other things in our lives. Worship on Sundays, AWANA on Mondays, baseball on Tuesdays, Bible Study on Wednesdays, etc. Occasionally, we leave our homes for a day or a week to serve somewhere. For us, service was always an activity that was segregated from our normal lives. When we served, we consciously chose to step out of our comfortable lives.
Being a host family is different. We open our homes and allow strangers to become immersed in our lives. When we’re hosting, there is no life outside of service as the children (and sometimes their parents) become intertwined with all aspects of our lives. We’ve shared meals, prayer and devotional time, worship, and birthday parties with children we barely knew. There’s a little boy we’ve hosted on several occasions whom our daughter introduces as her little brother. Some of these children and their parents have been part of on our church’s prayer list. When we’re hosting, there really isn’t a part of our lives that’s not affected by these children.
About two years ago, my wife, Peggy, was driving down from Northern California when we got a call for a hosting. A baby had been born that day and the mother couldn’t care for him for another 40 days. Now, even though we have two children, we never cared for a newborn before as our kids were adopted. The next 40 days were a blur of diapers, feedings and more diapers! We each learned to adjust our schedules around this little baby. Most mornings, I’d wake up to find Peggy on the recliner rocking him. Our children learned to tone down their playtime, which is no easy feat especially for a 9-year old boy. During those weeks, our church family rallied around us. We’ve always enjoyed worshiping our Sundays, but those Sundays were even more special as we found reprieve in dropping Skyler off at the church nursery for a couple of hours. Members of our church donated food, diapers, and gift cards. One of the members even stayed overnight at our house so Peggy could get a full night of sleep.
It wasn’t easy, but that’s part of what made it so special. Through our trials, through that sacrifice, we formed a bond…not just with Skyler but also with his parents and with members of our own church. We still see Skyler every couple of months so mom can get a reprieve. Next month, we’ll be celebrating his second birthday.
One of the reasons Peggy and I decided to become a part of Safe Families was to have something we could do together as a family. This was a service opportunity we could do not just in front of our kids but with them. But, to be honest, at some level, I was thinking of a way to train our kids, to transform them. What I’ve realized though is just how much it’s changed me. You see, I was the one who thought of service as an activity we do rather than a lifestyle. Much like worship, serving and giving is part of our identity as children of God. And just as worship shouldn’t be limited to Sunday morning, neither should service be limited to segmented parts of our lives.
by Rick & Peggy Lin, host parents
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