On a late Wednesday night in May, leadership at Redland Baptist Church received a disturbing call from the local Division of Child and Family Services (DCFS) office.
They were quickly informed that a group of five siblings—all between 10 and 2 years old—had been found neglected in a downtown hotel room. DCFS had no idea how long they had been left there or when they were fed their last meal. What they did know was that the children were in desperate need of somewhere safe to stay that night, but there were no foster homes available to take them all in.
Director of Send Relief’s Valdosta Ministry Center, Jay Watkins answered the call and immediately put Journeymen Ryann French and Cherith Laubinger to work readying bunkbeds, prepping gift baskets of stuffed animals, shoes and clothing and making dinner for the family.
At 8:30 PM, all five children walked into their bunk room smiling—a fact that astonished our journeymen after they were informed the family had only had the chance to bathe in the DCFS sinks after watching their mother get arrested.
Redland congregants showed up for this family in an unparalleled way. Many parents called throughout the day to see how they could help, and one mother made special meals for every breakfast, lunch and dinner. Another family even took the shoes off their own feet and gave them to the children!
“They were smiling and having fun throughout their two-day stay here. They loved the petting zoo animals and the space they had to play. It was so nice watching them able to be children again! They even told us they wished that they could stay here forever,” French commented.
Before the children’s uncle drove in from Texas to pick them up, French was able to spend a lot of time with the youngest girl, a two-year-old and was struck by how well she acclimated to her new environment. “After praying with her each night before bed, it was hard to let her go— even to a family member—because of how quickly we connected. I didn’t know what their food situation was in the hotel, but her favorite part of the day was mealtime. The kids told us the strawberries and salads were the best food they’d ever had because of how long it had been since they’d eaten fresh fruit or vegetables.”
While the children left with toy-filled backpacks and full bellies, the impact of their story did not end there. The DCFS worker who brought them in was extremely disheartened by their case and many similar ones she had been involved with that month.
After breaking down in tears while sharing the details of their situation, the social worker stayed to hear Watkins present the gospel and his personal testimony. She now has the power of the good news and understands the mission behind Send Relief ministry centers. Today, she is contemplating coming on staff to help even more families!
“The best way to know the need is to see the need, so visit your local DCFS office or ask a social worker what is most needed in your area. Go to fundraising events to get a firmer grasp on what is lacking in your neighborhood,” implored Laubinger.
French also stated, “A lot of people think the only way to serve in foster care is by taking kids in to their homes, but there are so many other ways—like donating meals, being willing to serve as a supplemental caregiver while foster parents go on a date, buying school supplies or children’s gifts for foster families in your church. Even giving them Styrofoam plates is one less chore for families to do! So get creative and look for ways you can support those already doing the work!”
Please pray for these children’s mother to find a reliable support system, for the kids to find a safe and loving home and for social workers who are overloaded with cases to find peace and stamina as they do this incredible work.
Published June 1, 2022