Almost everyone can remember wearing a backpack at one point in their life, but few of us will ever understand the blessing of a backpack like one of our families at Grace.
The spring of 2014 was crazy for Jeff and Rachel* — parents of three who were earnestly seeking the opportunity to serve a child in foster care. They endured six months of classes, background checks, fingerprints, a home study, and a health and fire inspection until, at last, they were certified as foster parents.
Within the first day, they received a call looking to place a four-year-old boy that evening.
Less than two hours later, a social worker and a scared, overwhelmed, and adorable four-year-old walked through the door with his two plastic shopping bags containing a couple of sets of clothes and a handful of toys.
As the three kids showed their new family member around and sat down to a movie, the social worker and parents completed paperwork. Before going home the social worker gave them an Avengers backpack, much like the 300 bags packed by our kids at VBS this year, that included a set of clothes, pajamas, a toothbrush, toothpaste, shampoo, and a toy.
“We didn’t truly understand how beautiful this gift was until Jeff went to have him change into pajamas for bed,” Rachel explained. “The sheer panic on this small child’s face was so heartbreaking. He was finally taking in the fact that he really was plucked from everything and everyone he knew that day and did not just come to our house for a playdate. Changing into pajamas and going to bed is intimate, vulnerable, and terrifying. It was a great gift to have new Spider-Man pajamas and a toothbrush to help that transition.”
Each year, our kids at VBS alternate between supporting a local or a global missions project, and Grace Kids chose to partner with our OneLess ministry and pack bags like this for kids who are in foster care at our 2019 VBS. “We knew that this would be a great way to give our kids a vision of helping other kids,” reflected Grace Kids Director Scott Schlauderaff.
“Providing a backpack to call their own with personal items is a small gesture of God’s great love and care,” added Christine Erickson, Director of OneLess. “It shows the child that they are valuable, and it’s our hope that their fears begin to subside.”
A few years after that four-year-old was placed with them, Jeff and Rachel adopted him as their son, and even today, he can still tell you exactly what was in that backpack when he first arrived. “It is precious to him,” Rachel said. “It no longer symbolizes the trauma of his story, but the beginning of our story together as a family.”
For more info about how you can make a difference in the life of a foster child, visit grace.church/children-at-risk.
*names changed for privacy