I still remember the night it began. My brother, who was in the navy, was visiting me. I was living in a 2 bedroom apartment and serving as pastor of an inner city church. My sermon was still in process, and Brother and I were relaxing in the apartment when the phone rang. It was a woman I had been working with for several months. She had taken her children and moved into a battered women’s shelter 6 months earlier. She was now back in the family home waiting for a divorce to go through.
She wanted me to come get her kids, as she was unable to care for them due to illness. I made some phone calls and found a family that was willing to take the son for a couple of days. I figured I could handle Daughter, who had just turned 3 and was a shy, retiring child with enormous eyes.
Brother and I got in the car and drove to a neighboring town to rescue the children. I dropped off Son and took Daughter home with me. My brother still remembers it as the visit when he “almost” got to sleep in a bed, as I finally had a 2 bedroom apartment. He had to surrender the second bedroom to Daughter and sleep on the sofa bed yet again.
It was supposed to be just for a weekend, but the weekend kept growing longer. Son had been placed in a therapeutic foster home, in the hope they could begin to address his severe behavioral issues. (He had stolen a number of items from the church family who kept him for the weekend. It was later discovered that he had been molesting Daughter.)
By the time I realized that Daughter was never going to be able to return to her birth mother, I was hooked. I couldn’t even consider allowing another family to adopt her. It took over 5 years for her to become free and the adoption to go through. As I look back on it, it’s a good thing I didn’t know what I would be facing, because if I had, I’m sure I wouldn’t have gone through with the adoption. I would have been convinced that I wouldn’t be able to handle it all. But I didn’t know, and God has provided the strength to get through each new challenge.
It’s been over 18 years since that first weekend. We’ve been through more hospitalizations than I can count (for both medical and psychiatric reasons). I’ve had more hateful words directed at me than I could have ever imagined. I thought that by now she’d be living on her own, or at the very least be capable of staying home alone. I thought that by now I’d have my freedom back. It has been nothing like I imagined. I am profoundly grateful for almost every moment of it. She has taught me about God’s love. I have become a better person and a better pastor. I’m glad I didn’t know what the future would hold that Saturday night I answered the phone and agreed to keep Daughter “for the weekend.”