Join co-hosts Lynette Ezell and Tera Melber as they discuss three keys to a stronger marriage for foster and adoptive families with special guest, Katrina Campbell, director of training at FaithBridge Foster Care.

In this episode, you’ll walk away with stories from Katrina’s experience of fostering over two dozen children and learn how—in the midst of caring for children in foster care, working full time in ministry and raising biological children—to keep your marriage healthy and strong.

To learn more about foster care and adoption, visit sendrelief.org/foster-care-adoption/.

For more information on FaithBridge Foster Care, go to faithbridgefostercare.org/.

Transcript

Announcer: Welcome to the Adopting and Fostering Home podcast. Whether your family has been on this journey for years, or you’re just getting started, we’re here to support and encourage you along the way. And now your hosts, Lynette Ezell and Tera Melber.

Lynette Ezell: We just have a great treat for you today. When Tera and I began engaging foster care in our area and our community, the lord brought a really sweet person into our life.

Tera Melber: And it’s been super fun to get to know her, so today we’re welcoming Katrina Campbell.

Katrina C.: Oh, such a pleasure to be with you two today. You know this is a sweet spot for me, going on ten years being in this ministry and then even having my personal family be foster parents as well.

Tera Melber: That’s awesome. Well tell us something about your family and how you guys got started in foster care.

Katrina C.: Certainly. Well Chuck and I’ve been married 30 years. We have two children, I have a son that’s 26 and a daughter that’s 23.

Katrina C.: And when we, we’ve been in ministry in our church, home church, and been involved with children that maybe should have been in foster care, but also with the love of Christ and the church coming around different families, we have been able to keep them out.

Katrina C.: But about ten years ago, we were introduced to a family that started Faith Bridge Foster Care, and asked us if we would be involved. And in that course of being involved, Chuck became part of the staff and I became part of the training, but one thing we knew is this was the moment that God wanted us to be foster parents.

Tera Melber: Wow.

Katrina C.: And even during that time, we had an aunt and uncle that were foster parents in Tennessee, and thought we might even adopt one of their sets of children as well, but that wasn’t God’s plan.

Tera Melber: That wasn’t God’s plan, that’s right.

Katrina C.: No. But you see the plant. You see the plant right there.

Tera Melber: There’s always a seed that starts the journey.

Katrina C.: Always a seed. We even wondered, why did you do that Lord? Why did you bring these children? And we still have contact with them today.

Tera Melber: That’s awesome.

Katrina C.: And that was over 20 years ago.

Lynette Ezell: Oh wow, that’s unheard of.

Katrina C.: Yes, yes. So we started the journey of foster care and just the process alone, you think, this is a lot to do. To care for children. It’s not just bringing them in your home, you have to make sure you’re vetted and the children can be safe.

Tera Melber: So how many foster kids have you had over the years?

Katrina C.: We’ve had a little over two dozen.

Tera Melber: Wow.

Katrina C.: The youngest has been a few weeks old and the oldest 18.

Tera Melber: Wow.

Katrina C.: The largest sibling group was six.

Tera Melber: That’s incredible.

Katrina C.: A sibling group of six.

Tera Melber: That’s amazing.

Lynette Ezell: So you started foster care through the state I assume.

Katrina C.: No, we actually started with Faith Bridge Foster care, it’s a Christ centered agency. And because Chuck started working there, I thought okay, let’s do this. Let’s go through the agency.

Katrina C.: And at first, when you, as you go through and you think you have great case managers. You think, you know, why is it necessary to even go through an agency? But over time you realize there’s so much that goes on in the system and there’s turnover because the demand, and caseloads are so high, that we always had an advocate on our side, and we always had someone who had the faith to believe in our mission, and would pray with us and believe with us on mission when we were going through it.

Tera Melber: Katrina, something I love about you, and I’ve worked alongside you and under your leadership, is you’re always so positive about it.

Tera Melber: I know you’ve seen a lot of brokenness, you’ve dealt with a lot of pain I’m sure, I’m just assuming. But you just always see the big picture that God is working. And I love that about you. And I love that about working with a faith based organization.

Katrina C.: I think probably the biggest challenge that I faced in my walk with Christ was the sovereignty of God.

Katrina C.: Because I thought I believed it, I thought I had encountered it over my life, but then when you fast and you pray on behalf of children, where you know that there is a possibility of them going back to places that may not be safe, and you go before the Lord, Chuck and I would go before the Lord, we would past, we’d pray, we would get our people praying as well. And then God did not do what we thought was in the best interest of the children.

Tera Melber: Right.

Katrina C.: And so you realize, do I really believe in the sovereignty oF God?

Tera Melber: That’s a great point.

Katrina C.: Yeah, and so that probably was a great point in this ministry to push me forward, deeper in my faith with the Lord to believe him, that there’s a greater purpose that my eyes cannot see with my human lens.

Lynette Ezell: And I would say that’s one of the biggest struggles in fostering, wouldn’t you?

Tera Melber: I agree, yes.

Lynette Ezell: Because I tend to listen and I’ll jump in with them, yes, you’re right, they need to stay with you, but that’s just from my flesh a lot of times.

Katrina C.: It is. And you know one thing that I’ve witnessed, and some I’ll never know until we see the face of Christ on the other side, but you go okay Lord, this is what’s going on? So what do I need to pray next?

Tera Melber: Right.

Katrina C.: How do I need to reach and love on the biological family? Or what seeds, have I done my mission with these children in our homes, have I done my call? Have I planted the seed of Jesus? Because honestly you two, there have been almost every child that has come into our home did not know Jesus.

Tera Melber: Wow.

Katrina C.: They did not know what marriage was. I mean we had one little guy that came in, took one look at our daughter that was a teenager at the time and went, mm, she is my girl.

Tera Melber: And Haley loved that, didn’t she?

Lynette Ezell: Holy cow.

Katrina C.: Not really. And so Chuck said, no, she’s my girl. And he said, you have a girl. And so for him it was so confusing. And so Chuck had to explain what, she’s my wife, and she’s my daughter, and they’re my girls.

Katrina C.: And it wasn’t even a month later in our home that he said, I want to be married someday. But it wasn’t anything he had ever heard. So the seeds of Christ is not just sharing Jesus but what does walking with Jesus look like?

Katrina C.: And for him, it was seeing a marriage, seeing what a marriage is, seeing what protection of a child would be, protecting his daughter, and then also bringing honor to him. And I remember saying to him, God has a woman for you. Just for you to marry someday.

Lynette Ezell: So in the midst of that, let’s just talk about marriage, I do see you and Chuck together, I don’t know how you do this. You all work together every day.

Katrina C.: Yes.

Lynette Ezell: They do, they do ministry together from daylight to dusk right, and end the day together.

Lynette Ezell: And so how do you in the midst of ringing in over two dozen foster children in your home, working full time ministry, raising biological children for kingdom work, which I know you have, how do you keep your marriage healthy and strong in the midst of this?

Lynette Ezell: Because I think it’s a struggle. And I think that we don’t realize, I didn’t, I don’t know, Tera I don’t want to speak for you, but going into it, I didn’t realize that was going to be a place Satan really started working on me.

Tera Melber: Right, absolutely. Because you feel like your focus should be on what’s going on with everybody under 18 years old.

Lynette Ezell: That’s right, that’s right. I need all adults to be adults.

Tera Melber: Exactly. And you think, hey, I’m doing the best I can here, you got to hold your own. But that’s not how it should work. We have to still place our marriages underneath the most important relationship which is the lord, but our mission and our ministry work is not going to thrive if we are not focusing on that person sitting beside us on the couch every night.

Lynette Ezell: Amen.

Katrina C.: Absolutely. And as a matter of fact, because we had been in ministry our entire married life, we’d also had homeless live with us, we’ve had people live with us for short periods of time, like a year or so. So introducing foster children in our home, you’re thinking, we’ve got this, right? We have this.

Tera Melber: This is our life.

Katrina C.: This is our life.

Tera Melber: We’ve done this kind of thing before.

Katrina C.: We can do this, we’re awesome. Exactly. It’s funny how God will use every part of your wall.

Tera Melber: It’s humbling, yes.

Katrina C.: To change and transform you inside out.

Tera Melber: Yes, yes.

Katrina C.: But it’s funny you said that because I would say three things about how you can do it and then just how the nuances change. One is, you have to keep God first. And I can talk more about that.

Katrina C.: Secondly, man before mission is just critical. And then third is really a secure, trusted community around you that becomes an extended family, not just to you which is our church family, but also to the children, because if they had extended family they wouldn’t be in care.

Tera Melber: Right.

Katrina C.: So we had this welcome, however many our first was six.

Lynette Ezell: Oh your first placement was six children.

Katrina C.: And you’re like, this is wonderful, right? We are going to be Jesus’s hand and feet. But you start to become weary real quickly.

Tera Melber: Oh yes.

Katrina C.: You start to battle with the things that they’re battling with, and I think we underestimate the warfare that is going on, because the warfare is not only against you, but the warfare is because you’re changing the scope of how little children see life.

Tera Melber: Oh wow.

Katrina C.: Through the scope of God. And I remember trying to be Ms. Hero. Like I can do this, I can do all things. And you start to see, if we don’t keep the unified front in your marriage, everything can begin to crumble.

Katrina C.: And as a woman, you start to then allow your emotions to reign vs. your spiritual eyes and your spiritual part of you. And then the men want to fix everything.

Tera Melber: Of course they do.

Katrina C.: So it’s like okay, if she is emotionally troubled, then I have to step up. But in reality, we just have to stay one together. And I even remember getting two chairs in our bedroom. We had plenty of chairs, we didn’t need that. But we also had a case where we had toddlers and teens. So the demands are so different.

Tera Melber: I cannot imagine.

Katrina C.: And you forgot what toddler hood looks like vs. teenage years. So we finally had to tell our teenagers, if we’re in our room, sitting in our two chairs, you cannot come in.

Lynette Ezell: I love it.

Katrina C.: And for a mom, sometimes we again, it’s that man before the mission.

Tera Melber: Right.

Katrina C.: Because if we’re not strong, then we can’t raise strong children, we can’t do ministry, we have to be unified with the Lord. And so when we sit in those chairs, you’re off limits. Even our son would say, you’re looking like old people, sitting in these chairs.

Lynette Ezell: But that was just a great time for you all to just reconnect, I’m sure.

Katrina C.: Yes.

Lynette Ezell: It was just eye to eye for you and Chuck.

Katrina C.: Yes, and to really see, what is our struggles. I would always say, don’t join my side, argue against me.

Lynette Ezell: Yeah, sharpen me.

Katrina C.: Right. It’s the iron sharpens iron, because you need each other to be strong in different points. And most of the time you’re strong when the other’s weak and vice versa.

Katrina C.: But every now and then when the cases get difficult or maybe your own children have struggles, you need the Lord to be your strong hold and your strength.

Lynette Ezell: We just had a marriage conference here at the North American Mission Board, and I love Dr. Danny Akin, he’s the president of South Eastern Seminary, and he was teaching on the Song of Solomon, and he just, 2:15, Song of Solomon 2:15, he just kind of brought light to this for me, that catch the fox is for us, the little foxes that spoil the vineyards.

Lynette Ezell: And I mentally thought of all the little children running in and out of my home, you know? And not that they mean to be that, but it can be circumstances, and fox are sly.

Tera Melber: And when they’re little they’re really cute, and you think oh they’re so cute, let’s just let them play. And then the next thing you know-

Lynette Ezell: Let’s let them be the focus of our life.

Tera Melber: They destroyed everything. Everything.

Katrina C.: I think one thing about that too is if you look at the needs of children, they’re great, right? And you can go into a logical perspective of, and we’ll take even foster children as an example.

Katrina C.: When they go to a respite home, or you have someone come in your home so that you can have date nights, or go to a retreat, a marriage retreat, and leave the children behind.

Katrina C.: So many times I’ve seen parents, and particularly women sometimes say, yeah but they struggle. They struggle when we leave them. And then we have to carry the mess when we return.

Lynette Ezell: I hear that from every foster family.

Tera Melber: Yes.

Katrina C.: But here’s what you cannot forget. Number one, is you want them to be secure in the Lord and also grasp those tools, vs. secure in just a person.

Tera Melber: Oh, that’s so good.

Katrina C.: Because you are going to leave.

Lynette Ezell: That’s right.

Katrina C.: They are returning home. And if they don’t find within themselves a prayer or a place where they can find peace without you, then you’re setting them up to fail once again. So it’s like if they see that you return, again, that’s a place of God is faithful.

Tera Melber: Right.

Katrina C.: And you stay strong. We are not God. And so we have to rely on that. But I can tell you there were a few times leaving little children that are insecure and feeling unsafe regardlessly anyway, and thinking, did we make the right decision?

Tera Melber: Sure.

Katrina C.: But, and when we returned they were happy but yet the behaviors, like you have to deal with the behaviors. I hear this so often as well. But honestly, that you have to give them tools to survive without you.

Katrina C.: And that’s what even the community of care, what we call it. But just people within your community care for them as well, because they start to see it’s not just you, it’s the body of Christ.

Lynette Ezell: Right.

Katrina C.: And you start say okay, a date night, then they become a part of your family and they see it’s not just you that makes the feel safe, it’s something grander than just your family.

Lynette Ezell: Wow that’s a great point.

Tera Melber: I love what you said earlier about God first, so making sure that our spiritual walk is not out of whack and that we are seeking the Lord in all things.

Tera Melber: And then second, your second point of man before the mission. Because oftentimes, if we’re not putting our marriages first, my husband gets really weary of me being focused only on the mission. And so if we’re going to put together a united front, if we’re going to show vulnerable children who may not have had any example of marriage whatsoever, what a healthy marriage looks like.

Tera Melber: If we can walk away and go on a date night and return happy and content and loving one another, they may never have seen a relationship like that, and so we’re teaching them about marriage as well as teaching them about our walk with the Lord, and then we’re keeping that united front together, so that together we can be healthy enough to be able to do all the things that the Lord’s called us to do.

Lynette Ezell: Yeah, because Mark himself, Jesus said in the Gospel, a house divided against itself-

Tera Melber: Right.

Lynette Ezell: Will fall.

Tera Melber: Yes.

Lynette Ezell: It can’t stand.

Katrina C.: Absolutely. And honestly, there is so much joy doing ministry together.

Tera Melber: Yes.

Katrina C.: And so in a marriage, I can’t imagine now doing anything without Christ, and then my husband like you said, we commute together, we pray together, a lot of people say how can you do this?

Katrina C.: But when you do it with the Lord, it doesn’t feel like a divided ness, if brings us stronger together.

Lynette Ezell: Because you all are very different to me.

Katrina C.: Very different.

Lynette Ezell: Very different. And so just bring those gifts to the table.

Katrina C.: Yes, absolutely. And they do see, I love what you said Tera about they begin to see something they’ve never seen before.

Tera Melber: Yes.

Katrina C.: Literally I heard a foster child say, it’s a different world. It’s not even just a different lifestyle, it’s a different world.

Tera Melber: Right.

Katrina C.: And I think that’s key. Also just, disagree, I call them intense fellowships.

Lynette Ezell: We call them coming to Jesus.

Katrina C.: So if we have intense fellowship, they get to witness resolution.

Lynette Ezell: Right.

Tera Melber: Healthy conflict to resolution.

Katrina C.: And we always say the belt of truth, we would teach our children the armor of God, every foster child, the armor of God. And a lot of times you would know their shoes of peace, the gospel of the good news, on the type of shoes they put on. So we would ask, what are your shoes look like today?

Lynette Ezell: Oh that’s great.

Katrina C.: And you would start to know where their minds were.

Tera Melber: Yes.

Katrina C.: But the belt of truth, we would teach them that God wants you to see everyone’s perspective like a belt loop. And when you miss a loop, sometimes things don’t stay up straight.

Tera Melber: Right.

Katrina C.: And it doesn’t mean that they’re all a lens of true, but God wants you to honor people and to open your mind to see, what is God wanting to do here? And so we would even teach that to our children as well as foster children. Now let’s argue their side, let’s see their perspective. And it just gives them that mindset to not be judgmental as they grow up.

Lynette Ezell: And so you’re a force together in front of the, a force of love together in front of these kids eyes. And some, like you said, have not seen marriage even done, even fleshed out in front of them.

Katrina C.: No not at all, as a matter of fact, the stability of one man and a woman is something that’s really strong. And I think about the faithfulness of God. My husband is so faithful, not just to the Lord, but to me. And seeing him care, be tentative to my needs, it matters.

Tera Melber: Yes.

Lynette Ezell: It is, it is such a picture to younger me and boys, of here’s how you lead a home.

Katrina C.: Absolutely. And protect a daughter.

Lynette Ezell: Yeah, and protect a daughter, that’s right.

Tera Melber: Right. I can remember having, there were some children in our neighborhood that were not in the very best of a home situation, so they weren’t even foster kids but they would come to our house and they would think, they would just watch and ask weird questions. And I’m thinking, what is it?

Tera Melber: So finally one day I asked the little guy, what are you thinking right now when you’re in our house? And he said well, you have a whole lot of rules. But two-

Lynette Ezell: I don’t think you do. I don’t think, well, no.

Tera Melber: But two, when you disagree, you don’t scream at each other. And that was a big deal. And I said you don’t have to scream at each other, when you were saying that about the belt of truth.

Tera Melber: We can see each other’s perspective and disagree and then come to a conclusion. But they just couldn’t get it wrapped around their head that we didn’t scream at each other when we disagreed. Or that somebody stomp out of the house or that kind of thing.

Tera Melber: So I think about that when we’re bringing kids into our homes, and they’re seeing this picture of marriage, like we’ve said before, it could have been the first time they’ve seen something healthy, and can change the total trajectory of their life to say, even if I go back home and things settle down a bit, they’ll remember, I want my house to be healthy like that. That’s our hope.

Katrina C.: The hope is not just a big picture of marriage, but the little.

Lynette Ezell: Yeah.

Tera Melber: Right.

Katrina C.: Also what we do, every week, what we do for the body of Christ, what we do for our neighbors. If someone’s sick, why are you making this? Having them in the kitchen, to see them on mission as well.

Katrina C.: You’re not the mission, the foster children aren’t the mission, the mission is the gospel. So it’s like you then bring them in to the mission as well, even though you started out that they were the mission.

Katrina C.: And so I think that’s one thing that the Lord has shown me too through foster care, is you think, I’m going to love on them and that’s what matters. But it’s like no, showing them they have a purpose as well in the big picture.

Tera Melber: Because nobody wants to be a mission.

Katrina C.: No.

Tera Melber: I don’t want to be a mission. I don’t want to be your project. But I do want you to bring me alongside to teach me new things and to grow me and to point me to Christ. Well, they don’t know that’s what they need.

Katrina C.: Well I mean I need it.

Tera Melber: Yeah.

Katrina C.: Every day I need it.

Tera Melber: Exactly.

Katrina C.: And so you think, mission is foster care. Mission through adoption. It’s so much grander. So the mission is not one particular thing, it’s the continuation. Our gospel has been around for thousands of years because of the continuation. I think that’s beautiful.

Lynette Ezell: Well and just to wrap this up, how have you and Chuck been able to keep, when you had the foster children in your home, raising your biological children like you said, the two chairs and teenagers, what are some things you did to just absolutely make sure you had time together?

Katrina C.: Prayer.

Lynette Ezell: Yes.

Katrina C.: I mean you, it is not a cliché. It is crucial and critical.

Lynette Ezell: It is.

Katrina C.: Our time personally with the Lord, is I think really key, and then it brings us together with the three string chord. It’s just critical.

Katrina C.: So our time with the Lord, even our so many times you feel weary and exhausted and don’t want to go to church, and that’s the obstacle, or even a little fox, Lynette, that can start to break down your marriage and also your ministry.

Katrina C.: And so I would say we kept accountable in the body of Christ, making sure that we didn’t ever say we’re too weary to be encouraged at church.

Lynette Ezell: Wow.

Katrina C.: And in small group. That was probably one of the pillars I would say that has kept our marriage strong regardless of what comes our way.

Katrina C.: And then lastly, always having that community that will give us date nights and retreats away. We all need reminding what marriage depicts. And the only way to do that is keep refresh, like you said, the retreat that happened here at NAMB.

Katrina C.: We have to be encouraged and get away and reflect back on, why are we even married? What is our call? And so getting away, making sure we had time with the Lord, and being accountable not just in our personal lives but also in the body of Christ.

Lynette Ezell: That’s just wonderful.

Tera Melber: Amazing.

Lynette Ezell: Well thanks for sharing today Katrina. And we do want to talk to you about another topic so if you’ll hang tight.

Katrina C.: Sure.

Lynette Ezell: We’d like to continue talking with you.

Announcer: You have been listening to the Adopting and Fostering Home, a resource of the North American Mission Board. For more information about today’s podcast and other relevant resources, visit sendrelief.org.

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