By Rachael Varblow
Years ago, when we decided to home school, Matt and I reasoned that there would be more opportunities to involve our children in service. In the ultimate goal of raising children to be like Jesus, a servant’s heart was essential.
I envisioned weekly trips to a nursing home where my kids would read aloud to the elderly, bring them homemade crafts, and hold a sing-along. We would set up regular babysitting days for the younger cousins, making sugar cookies and popcorn balls with them.
Days would be spent volunteering at soup kitchens, food pantries, and homeless shelters. Each of our children would choose one of our sponsor children to correspond with regularly. I imagined we could just do our schoolwork in the car on the way to all these growth opportunities.
Eight years later, we had been to the nursing home precisely three times, and those at the invitation of my sister. We didn’t babysit all that often, and when we did there were no sugar cookies or popcorn balls. We hadn’t set foot in a soup kitchen or food pantry and had taken exactly two homeless men out to dinner. The boys had never written a single letter to any of our sponsor children. In fact, it took me a few months to realize that one of our sponsor kids had aged out and we had been given another. Twice.
In the ultimate goal of raising children to be like Jesus, a servant’s heart was essential.
I felt like we were failing in one of our most serious parenting roles.
One day, in a fit of motherly irritability at what I saw as their ingratitude, I sat my boys down and showed them some videos of people in Africa without clean water.
“There!” I said, “Look at how these poor people live every day! You should be very grateful for your easy pampered lives!”
While I thought that I was simply illustrating a lecture with YouTube, they saw those videos and decided that they were going to fix the problem, for one village at least. At their urging we all spent the next several months making and selling soap. They raised the necessary money and funded a well in Kenya through World Vision in March of 2012. I felt like something was finally clicking.
Meanwhile we were getting licensed as foster parents. I thought, very naively I might add, that we could just add a kid or two to the family and continue life as usual. It wouldn’t be so different from adding a child the usual way (something we were quite familiar with, having done so five times), and would provide daily opportunities for service.
In December of 2010, we bought a 12 passenger van, which we christened “Moby.” We now had enough room to move a real crew. We went to foster parent orientation that January. Our license came through in mid-November, right in the middle of the soap project.
We started getting calls almost immediately. It was heartbreaking to say ‘no,’ but God gave us peace each time we did that this was not the child He intended for us. Then in March of 2012 He brought us baby Meggie, weighing in at barely five pounds with beautiful dark brown hair and eyes; it was love at first sight.
Two weeks later we got the call for baby Jenn, who lay abandoned in a neonatal intensive care unit, suffering from severe heroine withdrawal. God let us know that this one was ours too. Jenn was just twenty-three hours younger than Meggie. She had enormous blue eyes, a round face and light brown hair. Most people assumed they were twins.
And suddenly my kids became servants. They changed diapers, rocked fussy babies, made bottles, cleaned the house, made dinner, babysat, and did laundry. They were pooped on, spit up on, got their hair pulled and their faces grabbed, and they kept on serving.
And suddenly my kids became servants.
God had changed their hearts, as I had prayed He would, but at such a cost. For from the service, love grew. From that love came great suffering. Yet, in the midst of my children’s suffering they showed compassion to me and turned to ministry.
The night Meggie left, they made me a CD of themselves singing my favorite worship songs. Them ministering to me, leading me to God in my time of need. Even now, when they catch a certain look in my eye, they come to me with hugs and love, comforting and ministering.
Yet, in the midst of my children’s suffering they showed compassion to me and turned to ministry.
And so, our journey to produce servants is turning out differently than I imagined. The service has led to love, suffering, compassion, and ministry–all things that we see in Christ’s journey on earth, all traits I want my children to develop in their journeys to become more like Him. Even as we grieve, I look forward to where He will lead us next in His service.