My “waiting to belong” began at the age of three. I had already felt labelled an outcast and stamped “temporary” in my first foster home. The feelings of abandonment and rejection and experiences of abuse of various kinds were felt on a daily basis. I felt constantly set apart from those who had families. I knew what it was to be lonely in a room full of people and terribly afraid on a daily basis, and to become depressed with suicidal thoughts, wondering if there was anyone who really cared. There were no family photos, no hugs or kisses or loving words – just the constant message, “You do not belong.”
Yet in the midst of this, God provided times over the years when those who truly knew Him made a difference. When I was seven, a seed was planted when I was sent to Sunday school and someone taught me that Jesus loves me in a song: "Jesus loves all the children of the world." This made me pick daisies with a happy heart. It did not matter quite so much how cruel others were because there was One in search of me and one day He would come for me just like the songs and stories said. The “He loves me” petals were Jesus; the “He loves me not” petals were all those who labelled me and treated me like I was simply welfare trash.
There were others who, over the years, stood out as beacons of hope, such as a substitute teacher in elementary school when I was 11 who, like the Sunday school teacher, told me that Jesus loves me. There were a few parents in the neighbourhood who would make the calls to authorities to at least provide temporary relief. There was a man – I found out some 25 years later – whom God burdened to pray for me from the age of five. There were those who provided food when there was no money for food because most of the money on hand was used to buy alcohol. There were four other temporary foster homes I went through from age 16 to 17 who, in that short time, showed me I was worth rescuing.
Last but not least, my present pastor and church leaders are helping to provide a safe church environment where all have worth and value, where mercy triumphs over judgement, where love is patient and kind, not forceful and manipulative. All of these people could not have known how their words and kind deeds have been used to bring hope and some healing. Now I have experienced that justice can be found in believing in an "everlasting God who does not grow weary, who is a defender of the weak" (as expressed in the song Everlasting God by Brenton Brown).
The reason for sharing some of my story is to encourage those whose hearts are already stirred to take a step to help children who are waiting to belong, to see them as individuals and not simply as statistics. Each one has a face and a name. Whether you choose simply to pray or to teach a Sunday school class, to give a meal, make a donation or take the bigger step of fostering or adopting, please know that it really does make a difference!
If a child saw you as a petal on a daisy, would your petal be saying “You are loved” or “You are not loved”? Are you willing to take a step to show those who are waiting to belong that He loves all of them? Will you help a child like me by answering the call to love, one step at a time?