We Just Keep Showing Up, and So Does He!

by Laura Oberski, SFFC Austin, TX Chapter

Anyone who has talked with me for more than 30 seconds knows that I’m passionate about Safe Families. I grew up in a strong local church and admired families I knew who were active in foster care and adoption. As a youth, I thought I wanted to foster or adopt when I grew up but as I got older, I learned more about the brokenness that can come along with fostering and adoption.

After my husband, Nick and I married, we began that conversation and started praying about how we wanted to serve others as a couple. Then we heard about Safe Families with the mission to come around families who are in crisis, support them, and be a community to them. The goal is to prevent abuse and neglect so that kids don’t ultimately end up in the foster system. It was like a light bulb went off and I knew that was exactly what we wanted to do. 

We signed up to be a host family and the day we were officially approved, we got a call about hosting a little boy. Over the next year, we hosted three times, twice for mothers who were fleeing domestic violence and desperately needed a fresh start, and the third mom who needed extra support with her baby because of urgent medical issues. These experiences opened our eyes to the many parents who truly have not one to call. These experiences opened our eyes to those who truly had no one to call. We took a short break when our first child was born and then jumped back to host. We welcomed two older siblings while their mom was in the hospital giving birth to her third baby. It was so sweet to watch those kids love on our own son! We fell in love with the mission of Safe Families, and it was such an honor to be a part of these families’ stories. We also learned more about ourselves and our own biases through the process but saw how God could use us in the lives of families in crisis. Then we made a move from Wisconsin to Texas. We had hoped to continue to be a part of Safe Families. We loved the idea of being able to raise our kids in a space where serving families was a way of life. This is just what we do as a family–one of the ways we love people.

When we finally landed in Austin and got settled, we found out there was no Austin Safe Families Chapter. We were unsure what God has calling us to do. We had several calls with the state director but no one had prepared me to be a catalyst to launch a new chapter. Honestly, I was ready to be the first host family but starting a chapter is for sure not in my wheelhouse!”  We reluctantly put it on the back burner until my friend, the SFFC chapter director in Milwaukee, checked in with us. She was curious if there had been any more movement toward starting a chapter in Austin, or if I was interested in helping the chapter launch. I answered, “We’d love to be a part of a chapter here, but the catalyst role is not for me!”

After praying with my husband, we felt the Lord’s leading us to begin the launch process for Safe Families. We talked to trusted friends and our family and asked them to pray with us. We understood if this was to be successful, it would have to be the Lord who would make it happen. We began by gathering a team of committed people for the launch team. We diligently started researching the needs in Austin and had LOTS of coffee meetings with leaders of community organizations. Our team submitted a strategic plan and embarked on engaging community partners and churches.

God was so faithful and slowly started drawing people to sacrificially invest in the vision of Safe Families. We had raised almost $50,000 and set out to host an informational meeting and fundraising dinner with founder Dave Anderson to cast a vision for Safe Families in Austin. Approximately twenty-five church staff and leaders attended, and we were so encouraged by the turnout! The following day, we hosted our fundraising dinner, hoping for at least one hundred people, we had 150 attend! After the fundraiser, we were incredibly blessed to reach our financial goal to launch and made our first hire.

Safe Families Austin was officially launched last July with the hire of our Chapter Director, Cheyenne Erickson (who had also served on the launch team). We continued networking with community partners, developed Ministry Leads from all of our partner churches, and hosted our first volunteer training in August. We had over fifty people show up for our first training, and we were thrilled when we were able to take our first intake call.

Nick and I were privileged to be the first host family for this new Safe Families Austin chapter. The baby stayed with us for two months, then we were able to send him home with Dad just in time for Christmas and his first birthday. We are continuing to support the dad as family friends, and we have been delighted to see Dad growing in his parenting skills, and even attending church with our family. One of my favorite parts of hosting is watching our kids welcome strangers into our home. From the first time they met him, they counted this baby and his dad as a part of our family. They are learning to love others in a way that requires radical hospitality, disruptive generosity, and intentional compassion, the core values of Safe Families.

We get to live out the gospel to families who need a safe, healthy community, and we grow in our love for Jesus and his sacrifice in the process. In the messiness of hosting and loving strangers, and through the ups and downs of a newly launched chapter, we have been reminded that we do not have what it takes. But God does, and He continues to provide for us as a family, and as a chapter every day. I keep telling people, “I’m not the one doing this. I just keep showing up, and so does God.” We are so grateful to be part of this amazing movement, and we can’t wait to see what He will do next!