"She's a thirteen year old permanent state ward.", they said, factually. "She's had quite a few failed placements.", they said. "She can be a sweet kid, but she is pretty tough to manage.", they said. "If you don't want her, she will probably stay in lockdown because that's all we have." they said. "We'd love to have her!", I said!
"She's a 17 year old girl, who is currently staying at a shelter.", they said. "Her mom doesn't want her and will likely relinquish her rights to her next week.", they said. "We don't have anywhere to place her.", they said. "Our only option is lockdown.", they said. "We'd love to have her!" I said.
"She's 16 and she's being kicked out of her foster home today." they said. "Her adoptive mother died last year and she's really struggling with some pretty serious anger." they said. "Her behaviors are pretty intense at times." they said. "We really have exhausted all of our options and we have no place for her." they said. "We'd love to have her!" I said.
"She is 14, almost 15, with no place to go and no family to speak of." they said. "She's a permanent ward of the state." they said. "She is very depressed and won't participate in school." they said. "There is no real plan for her, and she doesn't have any hope of finding a family." they said. "We'd love to have her!" I said.
These are just a few of the introductions that are attached to the girls we GET TO do life with, here at HOP. Move-in day at HOP always seems bleak and terrifying in the eyes of our girls at every. single. intake. We hold our secret hope (of what we know is possible for them) close to our chest so as not to FREAK them out when they first meet us. Every "first day" is filled with uncontrollable trembling and tears. We try to do a LOT more listening than "telling". Not one new girl comes in unscathed by the terrifying realization that she is at our mercy. Who are these new people? Will they abuse me, too? Will they feed me enough? Will they be mean? Young girls, alone on the planet and desperate for a safe place to live. Desperate, because safety is something that has long eluded them. As we welcome them, we can hardly contain our hope for their future! We hold it like a soda pop that has been shaken beyond the limit of its containers ability to hold it in. We are probably much more obvious than we'd like to think!
All of the girls who live here and who have come to trust us, always greet the newcomers with cheer and expectation for what they now know "can be". Hope is what we must infuse their shriveling souls with. It is the only antidote to this internal wasting away that is powerfully visible to the naked eye. Hope is, however, not a luxury that these girls have been able to afford. They are too busy surviving and that takes just about every ounce of their will that they can muster.
We'd love to have her! That's the easy part. Intake does not even scratch the surface of the beginnings of what we do here at HOP. We have to be purposeful in maintaining the attitude that we really do love having her. Every day. Good days. Bad days. Hard days. Messy days. Exhausting days. These are the days where we must continue to convey that we LOVE having her! The daily minutia is so important. It is how the Lord designed our lives to be played out; what our legacy will be. After all, our lives are the sum total of our moments. Our true purpose is not found in what we say is important to us, but what we prove is a priority for us. Michigan's suffering foster youth IS OUR PRIORITY!