Today is a bittersweet day. As I write this, I have only a few hours left with the two children, a 5 year old girl, Samantha, and 7 year old boy, Dylan(pseudonyms), that have been in my home for a few months now. Admittedly, I am not ready to see them go home yet, but, I know that it is best for them.

Foster care is something that was not in my family plan. Not that I was opposed to it, I just never thought that it was for my family. My wife and I had planned on having kids and adopting, but we had never discussed foster care. Six years into marriage, we’re awaiting God’s blessing on our home with children, and we haven’t begun the adoption process yet. In April, we found ourselves in a foster care training class because we couldn’t come up with a reason not to. Then, overnight it seemed, here we are with two kids temporarily in our home.

Having them in our home has been a blast. Yes, there have been many challenging moments, but at the heart of it all has been the gospel and learning more about it with new eyes. There was the moment Samantha was being placed in time out for lying, and like most 5 year old girls, she melted down. Usually, she is upset for being caught and for having to endure discipline. This time, however, was different. My wife asked her what was wrong and she simply responded through broken sobs, “It’s just hard when you’ve been taken from your Momma.”

Our hearts were broken for her. What do you say? My wife just swept her up and held her in a long embrace. It was then that I was reminded that God has told us, “I will never leave you or forsake you.” (Heb. 13:5, Dt. 31:6) Though we may feel abandoned and lost like Samantha was, God has promised that He is there. “I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me (Psalm 23:4)

There was the night after VBS when we were driving home and Dylan asks, after a rare moment of silence in the car, “So, God made everything right?” I responded, “Yes, Dylan, he did.” Then came the question,  “So did God make Satan?”

This question was answered the way so many others were. Putting it in context we would say something like: “God is bigger than we are. He created everything there is. He loves us. But we did something bad; we sinned (the bad stuff we do) against Him. But God loves us so much that He sent Jesus, His Son to die for us. So because of Jesus, we can be with God. We need to ask God to forgive us for our sins. God is gracious to do so, we need to trust in Him.”

There is something about retelling the gospel story in language that a 5 year old can understand. When I have to think about what the gospel is and not just repeat theological jargon or church buzz- words, I am struck by the greatness of God’s love and grace. The very God that I rebelled against sent His own Son to pay the debt I could not. “See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God” (1 John 3:1).

When Samantha and Dylan go home, I hope they remember me and Ms. Brittany. I hope they remember what we’ve taught them; to be a good leader, because that’s what God made boys to do; to be tough when we have to do things we don’t like; to be flexible when things don’t go the way we want them to; to remember to say “Gooooooooooo Dawgs! Sic’ Em! Woof woof woof woof woof!” each time the Dawgs kickoff or score a touchdown; to say “Boo Cardinals!” anytime they see a Cardinal mascot, no matter the sport, as well as “Boo Gators!” and “Go Kentucky!”

Most importantly, I hope they remember to be gracious, because God is gracious to forgive our sins; to be merciful because God showed us mercy on the cross; to be loving because God is love, and He has called us to be like Him. If they only remember one thing we’ve taught them, please let it be Jesus!

Today, I remind myself to be a good leader for my family, to be tough because I don’t want to let them go. I’ll remember the gospel; God has blessed my family so that we can bless others. Today we are sad; tomorrow we will be excited to do it all over again. There are more kids who need to know the love of Jesus. I’m so humbled and overjoyed that God allows me to be the one to tell them and see the amazement on their faces as they hear about Jesus. The same amazement I should have as I tell them the gospel story.

My heart will hurt to see them go. But I will always be happy when I think about them, because I will think about two little kids who didn’t know Jesus, who God allowed me to love, care for, serve, and teach the gospel; two kids who taught me as much about the gospel as I taught them; and  two little kids who now will sing, off-key and off-rhythm, when they’re cleaning or playing:

“God made me like He made the sea, He filled it up with green and blue. He sent His Son, His only one, to fill me up and make me new!” (– Randall Goodgame, “God Made Me”)

I pray they remember and believe that.