Heather and I have been participants in Bethany Family Services for about 6 months now. We help with a program that is designed to help parents who just need time to get back on their feet or take care of some things, so we watch their children. Our last assignment was watching an infant while her mum worked. There were several things going on, but the expense left us a little heart broken about the situation we were returning the baby to. It’s been a good experience and has only left us hungry to do more.
We’re on our second “assignment” now and she will be with us for the next month. She started with us on a Friday evening in a whirl of activity that only trumpeted a weekend of moving all around the greater Harrisburg area. Sunday night was the first night we had the time to actually sit down and get to bed a decent time. Her home life is far from structured, and while ours is not ironclad we strive for an 8pm bedtime. As I read The Voyage of the Dawn Treader to the girls, she whimpered herself to sleep. We had talked and prayed, and there was really nothing more that could be done except just let her calm down.
You can’t blame her. She doesn’t know us, our house is unfamiliar, she’s out of her neighborhood completely. She’s been thrown into a world that is completely unlike hers. This is good and its scary, like the peak of a roller coaster.
She explained to me yesterday as I drove her home from school how the man that shares their house has tried to kill himself with a knife. She’s walked in on him twice as he cut at his arms, or made slashing movements with a knife to his throat. She’s with us until her mum can find a new place to live or he moves out. Bt she doesn’t grasp this. She fears the permanence of not being with her mom. The guy doesn’t bother her, she says. He’s as much a part of her life as the other people who also share the house, or her walk to school. She sees no threat, except us. We’re the foreign element no matter how much we express our care for her. We’re not her parents.
What to do?
Part of the goal of this ministry is that we have the opportunity to form relationships with the families of those we care for, to continue our care after our “time” is up. This is touch and go, because we can only pursue so far. It’s ultimately their decision how much we’re allowed to have a relationship with them afterwards. And we understand that. It’s just not easy.
I also don’t ever want to believe that I could care for these children more than their own families could. We are temporary, mean to relieve a stress, not to take the place of.