Finding a Home with the Lord

Finding a Home with the Lord
Finding a Home with the Lord

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Finding a Home with the Lord—Calvary Chapel Pastor and His Wife Provide Respite Care for Teen Foster Children

Story by Carmel Flippen
Photos by Steve Shambeck

* Name changed to protect the individual.

Legal restrictions regarding foster care children do not allow the magazine to publish photographs of the girls described in the story.

Shannon Hughes noted how intently the teenage foster child beside her listened to her husband Mike’s sermon at Calvary Chapel Emmett, ID. She barely knew Rose*—after spending one night with the Hugheses months ago, Rose had requested to visit again for a few days. Seldom did Shannon have any idea what was going on inside the 15-year-old’s head, but watching her now, she wondered if God was up to something in Rose’s heart.

Rose went forward for Communion, but after receiving the bread seemed confused and returned to her seat. After the service, Shannon casually mentioned, “I noticed you didn’t drink during Communion.”

“Oh, I figured since I was a teenager that I shouldn’t have the wine,” replied Rose.

Shannon smiled. “It was only grape juice, but that was very thoughtful of you. Did you understand what Communion was all about?” Rose admitted she had not, so Shannon explained further. She remembered, “I recaptured what my husband had talked about in his message, describing the Gospel as simply as possible—how God covers our sin and forgives us no matter what we’ve done.”

After explaining what it meant to ask Jesus into her heart, Shannon asked Rose, “Is that why you went forward? Is that what you wanted to do?”

“Yes,” Rose replied. As Shannon prayed with her, Rose received Jesus as her Savior.

But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. John 1:12-13

“I was so happy because I knew the Lord would be with her, even if she didn’t understand everything yet,” Shannon exclaimed. “I pray for her all the time. She keeps in touch with us on Facebook, and she knows she can ask for us any time.” While Mike and Shannon have focused on younger children during their decade as foster parents, their burden for the many teenagers in the system continues to grow. Shannon had heard many stories of teenagers having to spend holidays in the Department. A couple years ago, “The Lord moved on my heart to call Social Services and see if any of them needed a placement during the holidays,” Shannon reported. “We have plenty of room, lots of food, and lots of time.” These temporary placements, known as respite care, are for typically less than one week, but as Rose revealed, the Lord can use them in big ways. “Teenagers are in such a vulnerable place, about to move into adulthood,” Shannon observed. “I just want them to know there are adults out there that care. We always send them off with a Bible and pray with them. We hope they remember that our family loved and listened to them; that we didn’t judge them for their issues but were there for them.”

Leading with Love

In addition to their longer-term foster placements, the Hugheses have one biological son, 15-year-old Isaiah, and two sibling sets adopted from foster care—Joshua and Hannah, Jaren and Xander—ranging in age from 7 to 12. Balancing the needs of her children’s varied backgrounds, personalities, and issues is complicated. “I’m constantly praying because I’m such an imperfect person,” Shannon declared. “One thing I’ve noticed in foster care is that the Lord will speak to me in the middle of the night about something our kids have been doing or I’ve been doing that He wants to correct.” That constant communication and learned reliance on the Holy Spirit is essential in caring for their respite teens, who arrive with very little background information and are slow to open up. “You never get the full truth from them because they’re trying to put their best foot forward,” Shannon explained. “They’re open to hear everything you have to share with them, but you’re totally dependent on the Lord to know what their needs are.”

Mike with Xander

Mike hugs his son Xander, who is showing him the sucker he got from his Sunday school teacher.

 

Xander, Mike, and Shannon

Pastor Mike Hughes of Calvary Chapel Emmett, ID, and his wife Shannon talk to their son Xander between services. Their family includes 15-year-old Isaiah and two sets of adopted siblings: Joshua and Hannah, 12 and 10; and Xander and Jaren, 7 and 12. They have a 27-month-old foster daughter, *Joy.

Their first respite placement, 17-year-old Annabeth*, joined them for Thanksgiving. Hannah immediately clung to her like a big sister, and Shannon was pleased to see her playing board games with the younger children, smiling and laughing. Later on, she was shocked when Annabeth asked to smoke, insisting her caseworker allowed it. To Shannon’s surprise, a call to the caseworker confirmed that an exception had been made in Annabeth’s case, due to her pre-existing addiction and other background factors. Mike and Shannon decided to allow it, but only out of the other children’s view. Shannon elaborated, “Our main concern isn’t the smoking; it’s her soul. We didn’t want that to become a battleground. We had to change our thinking from What would we do with our own kids? to What is loving in the Lord?

The Thanksgiving meal was at Mike’s sister’s house, near some of Annabeth’s friends. She asked to be dropped off to see them. This time, the Hugheses’ discernment told them that was not in Annabeth’s best interest. “We said, ‘Why don’t you bring them over here? You can have as many as you want.’ You could see his sister’s trepidation, but as a Christian, she was willing. I was just praying the whole time.” The couple of friends who arrived opted to stay outside but were always under the Hugheses’ supervision. Shannon added, “There’s give and take; you can’t be so strict that you lose their heart.” When Annabeth left a few days later, she asked if she could visit again.

Bringing In the Socially Unlovely

Statistics for foster care teens are fairly dismal. Nearly half the adoptions from foster care nationwide are for children under five years old; less than 10% are teenagers. Out of the estimated 20,000 teens aging out of foster care each year, 20% will become instantly homeless, while 70% of young women will be pregnant by age 21. They will face far higher rates of unemployment, incarceration, and trafficking.

Many teens, hardened by loss and rejection, stop wanting to be adopted. “They get in their head that, Once I’m out on my own, I’ll be fine,” Shannon disclosed. “They don’t realize they’ll always need someone to turn to when they need help. Everybody needs a home base, a mom and dad to come back to.” The Hugheses decided early on that Isaiah would always be their eldest, “and we’ve kept that rule, but we can still take teens in short-term, helping them however we can. They get to be loved on a little bit, come to church and hear the Gospel story. They get to see what life could be like with the Lord in their life. It doesn’t have to be a perfect family for them to make a home with the Lord.”

Shannon is quick to point out that her household is far from perfect. “It’s a little chaotic all the time,” she laughed. “I feel like my kids are godly sandpaper, rubbing off my rough edges. They’ve changed me and my heart so much; they’ve brought out the worst and the best in me. I wouldn’t change it for anything.” She hopes each respite visit leaves a lasting impact on her own children as well as their guests. As a parent, she has felt the pain of her children being excluded from parties or struggling to make friends because of their social differences. Welcoming these teenagers in for a respite teaches her kids to minister out of their own experiences. “I love having all the outcasts in my home,” she declared, “because it shows my kids that these are the people Jesus went to: the ones that [society sees as] unlovely and difficult. Those are the ones He wants us to reach. It allows my kids to see the struggles other kids go through and have a heart for them.

A Safe Place

After accepting Christ, Rose opened up to Mike and Shannon about childhood abuse. “She shared some heart-wrenching things,” Shannon lamented. “She shared it like she was dead in her heart, like it was someone else’s story. I reached over and said, ‘I’m so sorry. That’s really hard.’

“‘I guess,’ she shrugged.

“‘No,’ I said, ‘it’s really awful that you had to go through that.’ I leaned over and held her. She broke down and started sobbing.”

“For I will restore health to you and heal you of your wounds,” says the LORD, “Because they called you an outcast saying: ‘This is Zion; no one seeks her.’” Jeremiah 30:17

As their children grow older, the Hugheses intend to begin taking long-term teen placements. “These teens need someone to love them when no one else will,” Shannon asserted. “It’s not that we’re perfect and loving parents. We’re not super-saints. Yeah, you’re going to lose it sometimes. Yeah, you’re going to yell some days. But you apologize, show them how to restore and do the right thing, and you don’t give up on them. Being willing to stick with the ones that are hard, that’s what love is. That’s how the Lord is with us—He never gives up on us.” Meanwhile, through respite, “we make just enough connection that they just might remember, and they just might return to us,” said Shannon. “In our own strength, we can’t do everything; but if it’s in the Lord’s hands, we have to trust He’s going to use it for their good and His glory.”

To read more stories about the Hughes family and CC Emmett’s whole-church commitment to orphans and foster care, click here.

Please pray for T & T, a brother and sister the Hugheses had for respite this summer who are currently runaways.

ccemmett.org

 

All verses above are quoted from the New King James Version, unless otherwise noted.

© 2020 Calvary Chapel Magazine. All rights reserved. Articles or photographs may not be reproduced without the written permission of CCM. All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.® Used by permission.

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