Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Why We Do What We Do

I shared this at the King's Home Hear the Hope banquet last night - modified slightly for reading instead of hearing.

The role of the father at King’s Home is vital because so many young people in our world have never had a healthy father in their lives. Psalm 68:5-6 tells us that God is a “father to the fatherless” and he “sets the lonely in families” – and that’s what the King’s Home youth program does. As much as possible, we provide a home and family, a place where at-risk teenagers can rest and grow to become better versions of themselves.

I am Amanda Roper and this is my husband, Dave. We are house parents in one of the girls’ home, and we currently have 7 girls, ages 13 to 17, and two biological children, ages 6 and 8. When we were asked to speak about what King’s Home has meant to us, I meant for Dave to do the talking but God just wouldn’t stop pouring words into my mind.

King’s Home has meant a complete life change – Dave had a successful law practice and I was ten years into a career in IT when we packed up our children and moved into a house with teenage girls. Dave and I used to spend approximately 60 hours a week apart and now we are together most of the time. We’ve had to learn how to work side-by-side and communicate well, and we can appreciate each other’s gifts now that we see how we use them day in and day out. We live where we work now, so my commute went from two hours a day to 30 seconds. I used to sit at desk for nine hours a day, and now I hardly sit down for 16. One morning not long after we started this job, I walked out of my apartment at 6:30 am to relieve my boss’s boss who had covered the overnight shift. I had traveled with my boss, and with his boss, but I had never greeted either of them in my living room in the morning. This work is a strange hybrid of full-time office job and stay at home parenting wrapped up with an administrative team who supports us and tells us how to fix it when we’re wrong.

It has given us an opportunity to show our children a life of service – as James says, to “be doers of the word.” It’s about teaching – how to shop on a budget, how to be appreciative, and how to serve. It’s about how to cook, and be considerate, and how to tell the truth in a kind way. Sometimes it’s about teaching them how to receive the truth so that they can the people that God wants them to be.

We celebrate with them when they make good grades or get good news, and we hold them accountable when the NEVER have any homework and their grades show it. We take them to the doctor and we attend their school meetings. I’ve been to so many wisdom teeth extractions that the nurse in our oral surgeon’s office greets me with a hug and calls me by name.

This work is about making sure they have the things they need and some of the things they want. It’s about figuring out how to squeeze $800 worth of groceries into a Volkswagon Passat in the Sam’s Club parking lot, and about teaching them Bible. I love it when I’m teaching our devotion time and they ask me question after question. Most of the time they are hungry for the Word; sometimes they reject it, but we do our best to teach it anyway, trusting God’s promise that His Word never returns void. We take them to church and we spend countless hours praying over them.

The job is hard, the hours are long, and the exhaustion is real, but having a front row seat in their lives as God chips away at their frozen hearts, smooths out their rough edges, and fills their broken places is worth it. And, there is the bonus of reliving our own youth, too. We go skating, shopping, bowling, and tailgating. Last year we took them to church camp, the beach, and to an indoor water park in Ohio – and if you haven’t been to youth camp as an adult, you’re missing out. We joke that is our retirement job because some days it’s hard to believe we get paid to have this much fun.

We are officially called Family Teaching Parents because our job is to teach, but we do a lot of learning, too. We learn the latest slang, the latest makeup trends, and the latest music. I’ve taken a crash course in Type 1 Diabetes and I’ve learned how to cope when 10 children are calling my name and asking all the questions until I fantasize about living on a deserted island. That usually just means I need a nap. We are learning how to love them even when they try to prove to us that they are unlovable. They are not unlovable, despite what their past tells them. I am learning patience and how to respond gently, how to listen without fixing and how to remove weepy mascara stains from my clothes. Sometimes they really just need a hug and a good cry.

We love them to the best of our ability, acting as stand-in parents while they are with us, and then we let them go. Some stay three weeks, some six months, and some much longer. Some of them never wanted to be at King’s Home, and some aren’t ready to leave when they go – and we are learning to say goodbye in both circumstances.  I sometimes feel anxious at the thought of one of them leaving, worried that I haven’t done all that I’m supposed to do for her, but I’m learning to trust God with the timing. Their presence in our home is never an accident, so while we have them, we do our best to fill them with good things – medical care, education, social skills, God’s word – we pour and pour and pour into their lives. Then, we give them space to decide for themselves what do with it – much like you probably do for your own children. At the end of the day, only God can change the heart and we know that He does and that He is actively changing hearts at King’s Home – the teenagers and our own.