Today we’re sharing the story of one woman of welcome, Mary Kaech, and her family. They have opened their home to foster unaccompanied refugee children, and today she’s opening her life to us in words and photos. If you missed the earlier parts of this incredible story, catch Part One here and Part Two here.
Now a Grandma!
About a year after she moved out, we proposed adoption to Ange since her loving first parents were taken from her by armed rebels when she was a young teen. She said yes and, around that same time, she became pregnant and married Kabire according to their Congolese culture.
So we got three for one, and I’m a grandma! It’s a joy to watch them be fantastic parents and a privilege to support them through the challenges of parenting. Perhaps above all, I love standing in solidarity with these kids’ first mothers. I’ve never met them, but I feel we have a special bond because I know that if something were to happen to my husband and me, all I would want is for someone to find my kids and care for them. Include them. Look them in the eyes, listen to them, show them they are precious, respect them, and help them learn to live here in this strange country they didn’t choose.
I Could Have Missed This
Never once have I regretted becoming a foster parent, but very often do think to myself: I can’t believe I almost missed this. I can’t believe we almost said no. Yes, I was close to saying “no” to both our Congolese daughter and our Afghan son before I met them. We’re too busy … the timing is bad … the guest room isn’t ready … what if they hurt our younger daughters … what if … what if….
But what you see on paper (“17-year-old Afghan boy, Muslim, plays soccer, disrupted from previous foster home”) is a sorry excuse for a description. It’s impossible to make a decision based on such little information; you have to take a leap of faith.
Having lived with Ali for almost a year, I would add to his description: “intelligent, compassionate, responsible, a natural leader, compelled to make the world a better place, likes poetry and philosophy, trustworthy, artistic, sacrificially generous, kind, funny, great with children, an excellent cook!” We cannot let fear of the unknown keep us from some of life’s greatest blessings.
What can YOU do?
If you’re single, you can foster. If you rent your home, you can foster. If you’re a retiree, you can foster. But I would especially encourage families with young children to consider this ministry. For one, it’s good for the youth: most unaccompanied refugee youths are 14 and older and have left behind beloved younger siblings. Being in a family-like environment is familiar and healing: the commotion, the laughter, the tears, the toddler tackling you with a hug when you walk in the door after a long day at school.
Squishy babies and young children can be powerful vessels of the Lord’s love and comfort, just by being themselves. I’ve already mentioned some of the advantages our young daughters have gained by having these older siblings–they truly adore their big sister and big brother. The youth also help by sometimes playing with the little ones while I make dinner or help get their shoes on in the morning. We all help each other in different ways.
If you’re considering entering this ministry, first connect with the agency near you serving unaccompanied minors. Meet with them and with current foster parents. Ask all your questions.
Solicit your church and friends to pray with you, and keep taking the next small step. If you’re going to foster foreign-born youth, you should already have cross-cultural experience and be sensitive to people from different backgrounds. Unaccompanied refugee minors have no family here in the U.S., so the youth stay with you until they can live on their own. This allows you to form beautiful relationships that can last a lifetime.
You can support others who are fostering in your community:
Our local church has been welcoming and has considered these kids part of our (and thus, their) family. They’re invited into the youth group, prayed for, and showered with gifts at certain times. Church members have provided rides to medical appointments, supported us with meals when we needed them, and regularly asked how the kids are doing.
When we adopted Ange, one of our church leaders wrote a special liturgy to celebrate that adoption, and a small group from the church gathered in our backyard to celebrate and pray together—that was so special. Some of our extended family members also have embraced these youth as family–asking about them, sending birthday gifts, spending time with them–and that means a lot to me.