When faith makes a family
Oklahoma churches, including many in Tulsa, are partnering with the state to meet the needs of children in foster care.
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Most 27- and 28-year-olds in Chris and Krissi Trowbridge’s positions would be basking in their third year of marriage, savoring time with their 9-month-old daughter and enjoying their home in south Tulsa. While the Trowbridges are doing all these things, they also are in the beginning stages of becoming foster parents through the 111Project.
The couple are members of Victory Christian Center, where Chris is a technical director. In October, the church launched an orphan care ministry in conjunction with the 111Project. Krissi helped lead the volunteer effort after she had a dream where she saw the words “orphan care.”
After speaking with the Rev. Rod Baker, Victory missions pastor, about what the church was doing to help local foster children, Krissi says she learned Baker and the Rev. Sharon Daugherty also had the cause on their minds. The church already supported international orphanages, but “there was nothing specifically for the foster children who are right here,” Krissi says. “It was on our pastors’ hearts, and I had the dream, so we came together at just the right time.”
Victory Orphan Care organizes support groups for foster families and provides respite care and training through the 111Project. Many families in the church have expressed interest in hosting foster children in their homes for the holidays, becoming foster parents and adopting, Krissi says.
The needs of local foster children became personal for the Trowbridges when Krissi toured the Laura Dester Children’s Center in late July. There, she says, the children seemed no different from her nieces and nephews.
“They’re just kids who are there through no fault of their own, not because they’re bad … but because their parents have abused them, neglected them or abandoned them,” Krissi says. “I felt like the Lord said, ‘Now that you’ve seen, you’re responsible.’”
Chris admits that when Krissi told him about her visit to the shelter, it took him awhile to process the idea of fostering a child.
“I was like, what does this look like for our life? What are the changes we need to prepare to make financially — lifestyle changes?” he says.
Chris says they began to pray together about becoming foster parents and have decided to foster a child age 6 or younger. The 111Project has helped guide them through the intensive paperwork process involved in fostering. They hope to have a child placed with them by early 2013.
“This isn’t something I’ve thought about my entire life, like, ‘Oh, one day I’m going to foster kids,’” Chris says. “I just never really thought about it until it was brought to me, the statistics and what was going on. I was like, we’ve got to do something, and there’s something we can do. We feel this is a part we can play with the resources that we have.”
Krissi says the knowledge that Victory members will be there to provide support gives the couple confidence to take on the inevitable challenges that will come.
“Our human nature says, ‘I don’t want anything to rock the boat. What if it doesn’t work out, and what if we can’t provide what they need?’” she says. “But the bigger picture is, everyone needs someone to believe in them and to have love, and so I just have to go back to that.
“I just believe that God will give us the grace to get through whatever it is.”
To date, the 111Project has sought to recruit foster families from Christian churches, not to be exclusive, Nockels says, but because of a calling specific to the founding partners, who are Christians.
“We believe the mandate we have (as Christians) is that we individually and collectively need to take responsibility for these kids and begin to care for them as our own,” he explains. “We have not upheld the reputation that Christians have long had for being the ones who care for the orphans among us.
“We feel like we need to go to our own in that regard and call the Christian church to recognize not only the need that exists but the way that we have not participated at a meaningful level, and then seek to correct that. It’s kind of like, ‘Let’s take care of family business before we go and point a finger at others or at society as a whole.’”
Nockels says the 111Project welcomes non-Christians to participate in its efforts.
“At the end of the day, these kiddos need loving homes,” he says, “and that’s what we want to champion.”
As to his question, “Does God get what God wants?” Nockels says the answer is both yes and no.
“There is this place where God gets what God wants, and it’s called heaven,” he said to the conference crowd. “But there is also this place where God does not get what God wants, and that place is called hell. Last year in our state there were 103,143 boys and girls who were alleged to be victims of abuse and neglect. Hell is the only way I know to describe that.
“It’s not as God intended it to be. And our response needs to be one of, ‘It’s not OK.’”