Storybook Endings

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For most teen girls, the opportunity to attend a prom is seen as a magical time when they have the opportunity to dress up, fix their hair, and be a princess for the night.  But what happens to the girls who can’t afford to purchase a nice dress and enjoy the magical evening?  One young lady asked this very question and decided to do something about it.  Rachel Smith, a senior at Canyon High, had been a part of service projects in the past and had always wanted to lead one herself, but had never had the opportunity until this past May.  That is when her parents attended an event hosted by Arrow Child and Family Ministries, and learned about the need for the Amarillo community to wrap their arms around young people in the foster care system.  Her parents came home that evening and shared everything they had learned with her.  She knew then she had to do something for these young people.

But what could she, a senior in high school, do to help these children?  That is when the idea of “Storybook Endings” came to her and she began to put in motion a plan to assist teen girls who found themselves in the foster care system during prom season.  As she began her senior year in high school, Rachel began organizing, publicizing, and advocating for other teenage girls to donate their old prom dresses so that girls in foster care would have an assortment of dresses to choose from for their prom in the spring of 2013. Rachel was blown away by the incredible responses by other girls and teachers in her school.  Over the span of a few months she was able to collect over 60 prom dresses and recently she delivered the dresses to Arrow Child and Family Ministries, a local non-profit organization that serves foster children in local foster homes, adoptive homes, and in an Emergency Children’s Shelter.

Wanting to change the world is not a new thing for Rachel, in fact, she hopes to major in Social Entrepreneurship in college and her ultimate goal is to use her skill-set and the skill-sets of those around her to better the world.  Organizing “Storybook Endings” would give her the opportunity to make an impact in the here-and-now, and serve teenagers in foster care, a group who are often forgotten by the rest of society.  Rachel stated that her idea for “Storybook Endings” came from the thought process that for every young girl, prom-time should be a time when they can wear a dress that will make them feel special.  In addition to gathering dresses, Rachel is working on collecting books for children and teenagers in foster care, creating for them a complete storybook ending.

Rachel Smith is proof that everyone can do something to serve others. Her story reminds us that we are never too young to begin changing the world around us, even if it begins with one dress or one book at a time. Everyone deserves a storybook ending, especially children who have already faced so many hardships in life.

To learn more about Arrow Child and Family Ministries and how you might be able to serve children in Foster Care, log on to Facebook at www.facebook.com/arrowamarillo or contact Keith Howard at 1-806-335-9138 or keith.howard@arrow.org

The Gospel Alive

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One thing we love about being foster parents is the fact that the Gospel regularly comes alive in front of us.  Since the first day we took children into our home we have continually expressed our love to them and reinforced how important they are to our family.  The three youngest were pretty quick to reciprocate love back, although never encouraged nor expected.  The oldest child, the boy, has been the most guarded with his words of affection.  And then, sometime around Christmas he began writing us little notes.  Each note simply said, “I love you” or “I love you so much”.

These notes are his way of sharing his heart.

Reading these notes and watching all of this unfold we are reminded of our own lives and the spiritual conflict we have had with accepting God’s love for us.  And yet, regardless of our response, God has always affirmed His love and affection to us.  Gradually, over time we came to a place where we began to affirm our love back to Him.  It wasn’t overnight, but it took time, trust, and experiencing God’s pursuit.  Similar to the process it has taken this young man to understand we love him with no strings attached.

In our opinion, the beauty of foster care is the opportunity we have to love deeply, regardless of any return of affection.  To put ourselves out there day after day to love these children and affirm their importance not only to us, but to the world as a whole.  Much like God has always done for both of us.

Simply, the Gospel has come alive within our home and for that we are humbled and thankful.

***The note above is his most recent one.  I walked in from work this afternoon and he was very excited to give me the note he had painted earlier in the day.

The Evolution of a Statement

“Someday we want to adopt.” This statement surfaced while we were dating in college, but honestly, we knew nothing about such a thing, seriously NOTHING!  It was just something cool & sexy to say.  It was our, “hey we are college kids and one day we will save the world” statement. Extremely naive.  Yet, that is where our foster care journey began. 

A few years later we found ourselves married and embracing the grown up life.  Staci was a Special Education Teacher in a lower income, predominantly Hispanic school and Keith was working as an Investigator for Child Protective Services.  As a couple, we were being immersed in the brokenness of abuse and neglect.  The reality of our college statement began to sink in.  We were starting to grasp how parental choices wreak havoc on children’s lives and it began to wake us up

Our experiences would continue both professionally and personally over the next several years as we were continually exposed to children and families in crisis, all of which, changed the cool, sexy, save the world lingo into hard, messy, real life experiences. 

These ‘real life experiences’ helped evolve the statement from “someday we want to adopt” into our current question of, why don’t we become foster parents and give children a safe home for a season in their lives?

We now find ourselves back where we began, two hearts determined to let their lives count, but this time we understand what we are saying. We have counted the cost, we have seen the children’s faces, we’ve heard their stories, we have been challenged by the Gospel and instead of idealistically talking about it, we are ready to live it out. 

Not for us, but for the children who need someone-ANYONE-to stand in the gap for them. It is no longer sexy, but real life.  And, this time it feels so right.