|Jay and Shane with their mom, Starr, who is a volunteer leader for Impacting Hearts|
Impacting Hearts hosts weekly events for Orange County foster kids called "club," at which the kids play games, listen to a Bible message, and eat a family style dinner together. The ministry also hosts special events for the kids, like beach days and laser tag outings, and brings the kids to a week-long camp each summer. The Impacting Hearts leaders make every event a blast and a half.
|A couple of old guys (aka, Jay and Shane) showed up at club one night to lead a game of Bingo|
|The high school group gathering for Easter games|
I met Jessica* my first time attending club. She was younger than the other foster teens, and she stayed close to the leaders during game time. Halfway into a boisterous game of Name Roulette, I found Jessica standing next to me. As we talked, she leaned into me, and I put my hand on her shoulder. The movement made her flinch, and she shrugged my hand away.
As I pulled back my hand, I realized that Jessica, like most foster kids, is likely used to inappropriate touch from adults. I wouldn't put my hand on her shoulder again without permission.
A few seconds later, she grabbed my hand and put it back on her shoulder. "Can you rub my back?" she asked.
Jay is used to the push-pull tendencies of many foster kids. These kids balk at the rules, but they like being in structured environments. They act disinterested in the leaders' friendships, but they follow the leaders around club. They shrink back from side hugs even as they initiate them. They have been abused and abandoned in every imaginably horrific way, and they test every new rule and person to determine: am I safe with you? Are you going to love me or leave me?
Jessica had me rub her back for 1 1/2 hours that night. Once, during the Bible message, I stopped rubbing her back and put my hand in my lap. She quickly turned, grabbed my hand, and rested it on her shoulder.
"Don't stop," she said. "My mom used to rub my back. It reminds me of her."
Her mom is in jail and her dad is an absentee drug addict. She has lived in a group home for five years.
Recently, Jessica moved to a new state to live with extended family. I think of her often. My heart aches to imagine her so many hundreds of miles away, yanked yet again from anything and anyone familiar.
Jay is also used to the transience of foster kids. Some show up at club every week for a month before disappearing. They may have run away or been shuffled to a new home in a new city, or maybe their foster parents stopped taking them to club.
The weekly clubs Jay and his brother lead are sometimes the only source of stability in these kids' lives. When a kid goes to a new home or group home, their counselors, doctors, neighbors, teachers, classmates, and family unit change. When foster kids age out of the system at 18 years old, they often have nothing and nowhere to go. But each week, they can show up at club to see their friends and leaders. They can play familiar games, and have familiar family dinners, and hear familiar messages about God the Father who will never leave them or forsake them.
The leaders make a point to hang out with the kids 2-3 times a week outside of club. They aim to include them in their daily activities — grocery shopping, family meals, Bible studies, movie nights — and with time, the kids develop a social network of caring adults to catch them when they fall.
Within two years of aging out of the foster system, two-thirds of foster kids will become homeless, go to jail, or die. That's approximately 15,000 kids every year. These kids simply don't have resource-rich communities to swaddle them in security as they step into the vulnerability of adulthood.
Impacting Hearts creates these communities for kids. At club, camp, and the leaders' homes, the kids belong. And as the years slip by and they transition out of the foster system, the Impacting Hearts Kids defy the statistics for those who age out of the system. They get jobs, and even careers; they secure places to live; and they keep their own kids from going into the foster system, because they have the relational support they need to create a life.
And most importantly, the kids come to know Jesus through Impacting Hearts. In Him, they discover a Father who sticks close and will never let them down — a Father who is both Savior and Advocate. In Him, they discover they are loved more than they could ever imagine.
If you are considering how you might use your resources to help foster kids, perhaps you would like to invest in Impacting Hearts.The ministry needs support as it wraps up the fiscal year on October 1st and begins the new fiscal year. If you are moved to support this ministry, here is what you can do:
1). Set up a recurring monthly donation. Every littlest bit helps!
Click HERE to donate.
2). Donate a lump sum — every tiny little lump (like the lump you might normally spend on a latte) is wonderful!
Click HERE to donate.
3). Share this blog post on Facebook (and ask your friends to share!), along with a blurb briefly explaining Impacting Hearts' needs. Here is a sample blurb that you are welcome to copy:
Within two years of aging out of the foster system, two-thirds of foster kids become homeless, go to jail, or die. Impacting Hearts is a Young Life ministry that helps foster kids defy the odds and successfully navigate the future. Learn more about the ministry and how you can support it by checking out this link:
Or, if you'd like, share the direct link to Impacting Heart's fundraising page:
4). Pray for the kids, the leaders, and Jay and his brother Shane. Pray for protection from Satan and his minions who do everything they can to promote homelessness, imprisonment, and death among foster kids. Ask the Holy Spirit to captivate the hearts of the kids, equip the leaders, and provide financially.
To read more about Impacting Hearts, click HERE.
To follow their adventures, follow them on Instagram, HERE and Facebook HERE.
A tremendous thank you to those of you that support Impacting Hearts!
*Jessica is not her real name
Are we Instagram and Facebook friends yet?! Let's be!
© by scj