I am sitting here on the floor of our new bedroom, surrounded by boxes and other items that have yet to be placed in their “spot”.
But, not the bedroom of the 2300 sq ft home with five bedrooms that I wrote about last time. We did move into that house, and we lived there for 3 months before God moved us to Mesa, Arizona.
The end of August brought with it the loss of Chris’ job. But it opened the door for us to look into full-time ministry, which is where our hearts have been for a long time. We weren’t quite sure how or where we wanted to serve, but we knew we wanted to be involved in people’s lives. After one week of praying and searching and trusting God to close any doors He didn’t want us walking through, we were offered a job as house parents at Sunshine Acres Children’s Home here in Mesa.
Sunshine Acres was started by a godly older couple in 1954, after seventeen years of seeing the need and asking God to use them to meet this need. They wanted to make a home where any child that God brought their way would be loved and protected. They found this property in shambles on 129 acres of land and their dream became reality. This beautiful home has been raising children in a loving environment for almost 60 years-and God continues to bless and grow this place!
And now, here I am. Still in a bit of shock that I am actually living in Arizona, missing my family and friends back home, missing the beautiful fall colors that Wisconsin is enjoying right now, and ABSOLUTELY loving where God has us. While adjusting to new schedules, expectations and larger family doesn’t always come easily, I just don’t want to settle for “comfortable”. I never want to be in a place where I am not desperately dependent on His grace, His mercy, His wisdom and His strength.
Our days start at 5:30am, when we wake up our fourteen boys and get them ready for devotions and breakfast. After eating in the dining hall, we come back to the house and do some chores to clean up the house a bit and get ready for school. Chris and I finish up laundry and cleaning after we see the kids off, and our days have been filled with meetings, doctor appointments for the boys, settling into our apartment, and running errands.
Our boys start arriving home at 3:00ish and, as you can imagine, trying to wrangle fourteen boys and their homework can be slightly confusing and overwhelming. We are still learning the ins and outs of the school systems our boys are in.
I am so thankful for the dining hall. We have our meals during the week (and Sunday dinner) prepared for us by some awesome cooks! I am truly so grateful for their service to us. It makes my job as a houseparent so much easier! And getting to cook on the weekend for the boys allows me the opportunity to do one of the things that I love to do!
After dinner, each house takes turns throughout the week doing “KP”. We end up usually doing it once a week, and the children all receive a small allowance for helping out. We are responsible for washing and putting away all the dishes and cleaning up the kitchen and dining hall. It reminds me so much of growing up at Tambo!
The evenings are busy with different sports and activities, showers and snack time, and of course, free time. The boys all love riding bikes, or playing on their skateboards or scooters. We have a playground right in front of our house and a nice lighted basketball court in our back yard for the kids to use. There is truly a lot that God has blessed us with.
Every evening, we all gather in the living room for family devotions. We are here to love these children, but the reason we love these children is to help them understand God’s love. If we love without centering on Jesus, it is all in vain. And so we take every opportunity to talk to them about God, and their relationship with Him. We have LOVED these times at night. We have watched a couple of neat videos, we have shared Scripture and Chris is also reading through a story Bible that we have used with our children for years. When I think of these boys and eternity, my heart aches for them to be with us!!
A quote that I have thought of frequently during these first few weeks when things have been difficult or I’ve been exhausted, are some well known words from Jim Elliot.
“He is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep, to gain what he cannot lose.”
I pray fervently for my vision to always stretch to eternity, and not be short-sighted or self-centered. There are precious lives at stake!
Our day ends with putting boys to bed, praying with them and over them. And continue praying for them as we fall asleep. We asked God to put His love for these boys into our hearts, even before we knew their names or their faces. And He has. And it is a beautiful, sometimes painful, thing.
Our days are busy, our hearts are full, our minds are often weary, but we are so thankful that God has placed us here.
Dear friends and family, we hope that our days will eventually settle into a routine and we will have the time we desire to make phone calls, write emails and all that wonderful stuff! In the meantime, know that we carry you still in our hearts. I think that has been the hardest thing for both of us to deal with-missing you all deeply. We are so blessed with the most amazing people in our lives, and we love you dearly.