Foster parenting is never an undertaking for those weak of heart. The inclusion of children from varied and different backgrounds can interject a new,oftentimes destabilizing dynamic into the home for any natural children already established in that environment,…..unless of course Jesus is invited to intervene.
Shirley and Fred Richardson were a young, Christian couple, relatively new to the ministry of foster-parenting, yet already facing a severe testing of their resolve. They had taken in Ginger, a 14-year-old harboring a deep core of disrespect
and resentment for all authority. She was burdened with a severely pessimistic outlook, an atheistic mindset and scarred with more body piercings than one could count at a glance. Over the past three months, following her placement with the Richardsons, Ginger had initiated several angry confrontations with their own 10-year-old Judy and 4-year-old Andrew, to the point that the younger ones were beginning to resent her, and becoming increasingly uncomfortable with her very presence in their home.
Although the Richardsons continually tried to interest and include Ginger in the various aspects of their daily family life, they were determined to lead by example and avoid trying to direct her thinking, or force their ways upon her; yet, as much as they hated to admit it, they were growing increasingly aware that she was just not adjusting. She became less and less a participant in their household, refusing even the smallest help or co-operation with home chores or activities, becoming a virtual recluse within the Richardson home.
Shirley and Fred had been Christians for many years and always made it a practice to fill their home with Christian music, radio teachings and television programming, which Ginger found to be boring, so she would withdraw to her bedroom, talk on the telephone and read magazines. For the Richardsons, the worst part of Ginger's exclusive behavior was her adamant refusal to attend church services with the rest of the family and her open hostility toward God.
Ultimately, faced with a growing uneasiness and disharmony within their home, Shirley and Fred reached the realization that it was unlikely Ginger would ever fit into their family. They were then forced to make that tough decision, the one they had hoped they would never need consider.
On Monday of the next week, following another "blow up" between Ginger and little Judy, Shirley packed Ginger's belongings and drove her back to the foster "holding facility" some thirty miles away, for the purpose of surrendering her for other placement. All during the drive Shirley tried to explain to Ginger how much they regretted it had come to this, but they felt they had no other recourse under the circumstances. Although she projected an attitude of resolute hostility, Ginger knew in her heart that the Richardsons were right. She was well aware she had been impossible, for she had been intentionally so, in an attempt to gain dominance over the others and engineer her own way in the family. She didn't want to leave the Richardsons, but her pride kept her from telling Shirley how she really felt.
As they drove onward down the long highway, Shirley's car radio was broadcasting a message from a popular evangelist focusing on the power of prayer. One scripture reference in the message kept leaping out at Ginger and tugging at her heart,….it was a quote from Jesus out of the gospel of John:"Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete." (John 16:24 - NIV)
Soon they arrived at the residential holding facility. Shirley fought back tears as she recalled her happiness the day they picked up Ginger at this very place, a mere ten months past. She forced herself to remain strong and resolved to this situation, knowing that the decision had been made and there could be no turning back.
Upon reaching the front door of the large, rather dismal looking old house,they were met by Ms. Elma Jasper, (the house manager), a tough, older woman with hard features and a domineering way.
"Well, Mrs. Richardson…." She began, with a slight scowl on her weathered face. "….guess it didn't work out, huh? Well….no matter, that's what we're here for."
"And hello to you too, Ms. Jasper." Shirley quipped, somewhat taken aback by Elma Jasper's sarcastic greeting. "I'm sure you remember Ginger."She remarked, nodding in the girl's direction.
"Yeah sure,…." She replied, as she reached past Shirley and took the suitcase from Ginger's hand. "…..I'll take it from here Mrs. Richardson. Then she coldly ushered Ginger through the doorway into the house. "Get on downstairs girlie…." She told her as she nodded to a door at the rear of the main room. "……your room's waitin' for ya on the right at the bottom of the stairs."
Shirley watched Ginger walk into the house with her head down. "Bye Ginger" she called out, but there came no reply, only a cold awkwardness that seemed to freeze in time.
"Thank you Mrs. Richardson and goodbye." Ms. Jasper stated hurriedly, blocking the doorway with her body. "Do have a good trip back to Clovis."Then she quickly shut the door, and Shirley felt as though a part of her heart had been crushed in it's closing.
She got back in the car, sat for just a moment to compose herself, then drove off toward the highway. She shut off the car radio in order to more thoughtfully speak with God about the feelings of sorrow and inadequacy that now vexed her
soul. After about ten minutes of driving and pouring her heart out to God, she became increasingly aware of the sounds of her tires on the highway, and the more intently she listened, the more those noises mimicked spoken words: "…go back…,….go back…,…go back…,…go back…" repeating with increasing clarity. She tried to dismiss the sounds as mere imagination and focus on her driving, but as she neared an intersection, her attention was then drawn to a road-sign announcing a small town off to her right, the sign read:
COMPASSION - 2 miles >
Was God trying to tell her something, or were her emotions just so out of control that they were igniting her imagination? She slowed her car as she passed the intersection and the sounds seem to change to say, "…my will,…my will,…my will,…my will…" For a moment in her mind she again saw herself as the willful and rebellious teenager of ten years hence,…before her surrender to Jesus, then she heard God speak directly to her heart in words so clear they were very nearly audible:…..
"I wasn't done with you then, ….and I'M NOT done with Ginger now….she needs you. Show MY compassion!….Go back and do My will,… give Me the obedience and I'll provide you with the peace you seek."
Tears welled in Shirley's eyes then rolled down her cheeks, as she turned the car around and drove back to the facility. Upon her return, she charged up the porch like a warrior to battle. She was fired up with a new determination, fueled by the heart of God.
Ms. Jasper met her at the door. "Oh, it's you again….did you forget something?" She said impatiently.
"I sure did….." Shirley replied. "I forgot my mission,…..but I found it again and I'm here to take Ginger back home with me!"
"Well!….I don't think so!" Ms. Jasper replied through an angry scowl.
"Look,……" Shirley tried reasoning with her. "…..we made a mistake and now I want to take her back home where she belongs."
"You CAN'T just do that,….." Her voice raised in anger. "…..you surrendered her custody!"
"I haven't signed off to DHS yet, so custody is still legally with us!" Responded Shirley, her voice elevated in adamant determination.
"I'm not just going to let you….." Ms. Jasper began.
Shirley knew there was a reason why God wanted her to return immediately for the girl, and that God-directed urgency combined with Ms. Jasper's suspicious actions was all that was needed to light her fuse. "Lady,…I'm in NO mood!" She pushed her way past Ms. Jasper and walked through the doorway into the house.
"WELL!….." Ms. Jasper blurted out angrily. "….I'll just get the DHS office on the phone right now and we'll see about all this!"
"Good!" Shirley replied. "You just do what you gotta do, and I'll do what God EXPECTS me to do!"
Shirley went through the door at the end of the main room and started down the steps to the location of Ginger's room. Descending the stairs, she passed through a dense cloud of cigarette smoke. Loud "rap" music using obscene and vulgar lyrics was emanating from the bedrooms on the left, and she was shocked at seeing obscenities written on the walls in the stairwell. At the bottom of the stairs, she saw four teenage boys (clad only in underwear)standing around a billiard table.
With all the fortitude and intensity of a battlefield general, Shirley pushed open the bedroom door to her right, to find Ginger seated on the bed in the messy room, gently crying. Her suitcase was unopened and she gave no appearance that she had begun settling back in the quarters.
"Ginger!…" Shirley called out. "……come on girl, your going back home with me." She smiled warmly.
Ginger, red-eyed from tears, suddenly broke out in a wide smile, leaped to her feet as if catapulted from the bed, snatched up her suitcase off of the chair and very nearly ran over Shirley getting to the stairs. Upon reaching the top of the stairs, Shirley was not particularly surprised to find that Ms. Jasper was not on the telephone with the DHS office. "Oh,….by the way Ms. Jasper,…" She remarked as she exited the front door with Ginger. "….about contacting the DHS,…..I think I'll be the one placing the call….I think an investigation into this facility is far overdue, and I'm going to make it my duty to see to it that oversight gets corrected!….. Good day"
Moments later, Shirley and Ginger were driving away from the facility. Ginger began babbling to herself in joyful amazement. "He's REAL,….He's REAL,….He's actually,….truly REAL! You all tried to tell me, but now I BELIEVE!….HE'S REAL!!!" She started removing pieces of jewelry from her numerous piercings, as Shirley watched in astonishment. After she had accumulated a full handful of jewelry from her body, Ginger rolled down her window and pitched them all out onto the road.
"GINGER!…." Shirley gasped. "…..what on earth are you doing?"
"I promised Him I would be His if you would just come back for me, and….and….you DID!" She exclaimed with jubilance. Now I know He's REAL….He's TRULY….TRULY… real!!!"
"Who sweetie?" Shirley inquired with confusion. "I don't know what you're talking about….. WHO'S real?"
"JESUS,….JESUS is real!" Ginger exclaimed, beaming with joy. "I was praying after you left me, praying to JESUS,….and it's just like He promised,He sent you back,…. and made my joy complete."
At that, they both erupted into tears of joy to the point that Shirley had to pull the car over for them to properly share an embrace, give glory to God and praise Jesus.
"M…m…mom….?" Ginger sobbed through her tears. "….It's gonna be different with me from now on,…. I PROMISE!…. 'cause I'm really part of the family now,……I belong to Jesus too."
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