Heroes among us

I’ve written about heroes before. They are among us. Often in disguise. They could live right down your street, and you may never know it. Heroes come in all shapes and sizes, and there’s no age-limit.

So how would you know if you’ve ever met one? Well, if you’ve ever shaken the hand of a foster or adoptive parent, you’ve met a hero.  And don’t get me wrong – all heroes have kryptonite of some kind, none of them are perfect.  And no one should go into foster or adoptive care with hero-aspirations.

But the thing about heroes is this: most of the time the hero doesn’t even realize they are one until they’re needed most.

Heroes are most needed when the going gets tough, and there’s a hero in all of us, whether we know it or not. And the thing with adoptive and foster care parents is just this: they go into it knowing that the going will get tough – it’s an inevitable part of redemption – but what they may not know is what kind of hero they will find inside.

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One of my best friends is this kind of hero. She brought her baby boy home from Africa a few years ago.  He is beautiful and lovely.  He is vibrant and curious and full of life.  He is also wounded. He carries some emotional scars from his first year of life that is not uncommon within the world of an adoptee. Most of his first year of life is in shadow – they know pieces, but they may never know the full story, except that he was in need of a mom and a dad.  And my friends stood up and volunteered for the job.  But that isn’t what made them heroes.

What makes my friend a hero is the days and hours and minutes that she holds her son’s hand when he screams in terror at some unknown enemy in his young memory.  What makes my friend a hero is when she knows she’s not enough, and prays to the One who is. What makes my friend a hero is when she wants to run away, but she stays.  What makes my friend a hero is when she is brave enough to say “I need help.”

So when a hero like that calls, it’s amazing to be able to say “Help exists – let’s rally.  Together.”

I got to tell her about Finally Home Foundation, an organization that exists to “equip communities to rally around the heroes who are foster and adoptive families.”  Starting next month, I’ll be serving as the Southern California Regional Director for this great organization.

Equipping.  Rallying.  In community.

I mean, seriously, could there be a better job description?

To learn more or get involved, please visit www.finallyhomefoundation.net or email me at brooke@finallyhomefoundation.net

Secret Identities

Tomorrow some of the world’s superheroes will hang up their capes for another year.  They will return to their secret identities as Nurses, Salespersons, and yes, even Lawyers.

But this week, this week the capes came out and the masks were donned at Royal Family Kids Camp – a special camp for abused or neglected children.

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This week, over 100 superheroes banded together to fight evil.  To “punch the devil right in the nose” as has been said.  Donning camp t-shirts and superhero masks, the true selves came out.  There’s Queen Bonnie, who valiantly launders soiled bedding and clothes.  Lifeguard Peter who can be a mean old pirate or your best buddy, depending on your pool manners.  Mail-lady Audrey, who can run circles around your local mail-man even though she can’t run a mile.  And Tea Party Leslie, who reminds you with a smile that “when in doubt, pinkies out.”

These are their true selves.  These are the selves that love tirelessly, that get smacked (sometimes literally) and offer the other cheek, that dress up for tea parties and dance like gorillas just to get a smile or a hug.  These are our truest selves.  The selves who see the person instead of the problem.  The selves who step beyond denomination in the name of love.  The selves who stand up to evil and say YOU. WILL. NOT. WIN.

This is why I call them Superheroes.  It takes a super strength – one that can only come from a Source greater than us – to stare into the face of a ten-year-old who cuts herself to feel better … or a nine-year-old that finds it easier to communicate with fists than with words … or a six-year-old with cigarette-burn scars … and show them that love will win.  That they are more valuable than anything that’s been done to them.  That there’s another way.  That there are safe people and safe hugs.

When people ask me if I had a good week at Royal Family Kids Camp, I always pause.  Yes, yes I had an amazing week.  I saw love win.  But also, also I had to see things that I wish weren’t true.  I had questions that went unanswered.  I saw things I can’t control or prevent or turn back the clock for.

But see, this is when superheroes are needed most.  When love and hope and trust are threatened.  When nightmares come true.  And so we don the capes and shed the business jackets.  Put on the tea party dresses in lieu of a stethoscope.  And dance like no one’s watching (in fact, kinda hoping that they’re not).

But the thing about superheroes is, even when they’re in their secret identities – as Doctors and Nurses and Lawyers and Salesmen and such – they are forever watching, forever praying, forever aware of the children that need their love, and willing to give it in a moment’s notice.

And this world is a better place for it.  These kids are better for it.  I am better for it.

What about you?  Have you met a superhero lately?

She Came Back

Last year, I got to share a story on the ROCKHARBOR blog based on my time at Royal Family Kids Camp that summer.  Other true stories from this same camp have become a movie:  CAMP (easy to remember).  This week, I’m making a shameless plug to GO SEE THIS MOVIE, and I’m reposting “She Came Back” to show you a little bit of why I, too, come back each year.  

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She Came Back

Sharing someone else’s story is hard.  So I won’t share her story.  I will share mine, and where it intersected with hers.  It was only for five days, and only for moments at a time.  So you see, I don’t really even know enough to share her full story.

I first saw her name when I wrote it on her bunk bed’s sign.  I first saw her face when she peeked out from her curly mop of hair as she organized that same bunk bed.  I first felt her strength when she wrapped me in what she called a bear hug but I swear was a way to show me she could crush me.

She is eight years old.  I am thirty-three.  I have been to this camp before.  So has she.  Royal Family Kids Camp.  A camp for abused and neglected children.  I was scared the first time, but it is now my favorite week of the year.  It is a camp filled with children that are easy to love.  I have never met an 8 year old that was difficult to love.  Until this one.

Let me back up to the first steps she took off the bus.  I wasn’t there for this moment, but I was told that when she first met her camp counselor – my cabin-mate for the week – her first words were of the four-letter variety, words that should be unfamiliar to an 8-year-old, making her position crystal clear:  she was NOT here to receive love.

But we were there to give it.  And all week long she flung it in our faces.  She was obstinate and rude and physically abusive to all adults in her path.  I shed many tears that week wondering “Child, what evil could have been done to you for you to know this kind of hate, this kind of raw mean-ness?”

You see, that’s the part of her story I don’t know.  I don’t know anything about what happened to her before she stepped off the bus, or after she stepped back on.  But for those days in between the bus steps, God’s family – God’s ARMY – rallied and fought and stretched at the seams to prove to her and to ourselves that our love could conquer her hate.  To rise to the challenge of loving our enemies with Christ’s love – all the while wondering how an eight year old just became our enemy.

104 kids came to Royal Family Kids Camp this summer through ROCKHARBOR’s partnership with other local churches.  104 broken stories intersected with about two hundred adult volunteer’s stories.  And most of those intersections are sweet, fun-loving, precious, swimming and splashing and having a good time.  We get to plant some happy memories in the lives of children that have had brokenness hit them all too early.

For five days, 300 stories converge at camp, and let me tell you, it is a beautiful mess.  Messy because the kids aren’t the only ones who come with brokenness.  But beautiful because it is redemption.  Because it IS love conquering hate.  Because it IS an army of believers standing up to the evil done to these children and saying EVIL, YOU WILL NOT WIN.

On the day that she climbed the bus steps to leave camp, I was right behind her.  Leaving a week of camp is sad for any child, but can be especially heart-breaking for a child returning to an unknown fate in the foster system.  So tears are abundant.  In front of me, I heard her commanding a six year old: “Stop crying.  STOP CRYING.”  Oh no, I thought, she is gonna cuss out this 6-year-old for crying.  This is gonna get ugly.

But instead, the next words shocked me as this hard-to-love camper said “I know how you feel, because I cried for a whole week after I left my first year.  But I came back.”

Right there, her story’s intersection with mine became much more than a child who was hard to love for five days.  Right then, she unwittingly let me see inside a heart that has clung to these five days.  Where she will spit.  And we will love.  Where she will cuss.  And we will love.  Where she will run.  And we will chase.  Where she will fight with us.  And we will fight for her.

She came back.  And so will I, again and again and again.