Editor’s note: Andrew Schneidler is the author of today’s post in honor of Orphan Sunday. He and his wife (Michele) are former foster parents who have adopted three children, and among the leading advocates for adoption in the American church. They are speaking this weekend in Wheaton, IL at the Refresh Conference Chicago. Here’s Andrew…
One day, a man walked to the end of a long pier, jutting out to the sea. Along the shore, throngs of people gathered, chanting “jump jump jump” as he neared the pier’s end. The closer the man got to the end, the louder the crowd grew. “Jump! Jump! JUMP!!!”
Looking down at the swirling waters, the man called back, “Should I jump?”
“JUMP!!” the crowd returned. By this time marching bands had joined the crowd and people wore matching tee-shirts and waved banners that read “JUMP!”
As the volume of the chants increased, so did the man’s courage. With his toes over the edge, he yelled over the noise to the crowd on the shore. “I THINK I’M GONNA DO THIS!”
By now thousands had gathered and the crowd reached a frenzied pitch. “JUMP! JUMP!! JUMP!!!!!”
Finally, emboldened by noise of the crowd, the man jumped in.
It is only when his body hit the water the man realized the water was freezing cold. He couldn’t touch the bottom, and in fact, he didn’t even know how to swim.
“HELP!” he cried from between the waves. But this time the crowd was silent. Gone were the drums, banners and chants.
“HELLLLLLLLLLLLLLP!!!” he screamed, the water filling his mouth as he fought to stay afloat.
At last one person on the shoreline broke the silence. “Um…. We don’t know how to help. We only know how to say ‘jump.’”
Many foster and adoptive parents can relate with the man at the end of the pier. In the last decade or so, the issue of “orphan care” has become rather en vogue within the Church — even to the point of having an “Orphan Sunday.” And that’s all good and well, but if we are not careful, the Church could be the crowd on the shore. But what if, instead of saying “we only know how to say jump,” the crowd had rushed to the end of the pier, with arms outstretched, yelling “Hang on! Help is on the way! Don’t lose hope! We are right here with you. You are not alone!” as they threw the man a life ring?
Throwing a life ring is exactly what the annual Refresh Conference in Redmond, Washington is about. After welcoming a child into their homes, many parents feel as if they are drowning from the extra care required to meet the special needs of the child in their home. But Refresh is here to help.
Started back in 2011, Refresh was created by parents who “jumped in” and found themselves floundering to stay afloat. Building on this base of common experience, they sought to create a unique two-day conference where nationally recognized experts in the area of attachment and trauma, grief and loss gather to equip parents. But more importantly, everything about Refresh is designed to encourage parents to realize they are not alone – many of their challenges at home are common with the other attending parents. This time of refreshing is achieved through amazing worship, plenary and breakout sessions, creative times of whimsical enjoyment and generous surprises throughout the weekend.
The comment most frequently heard from Refresh attendees is “It felt so good to know we weren’t alone.” Upon arriving at Refresh, haggard parents are sure to find more than a thousand other parents in the “waters” around them. But this time there is a multitude of people standing on the edge of the dock, arms extended, ready to lend a helping hand.
Some people say Refresh shouldn’t be called a conference because it really is more of an experience. And you know what? They might be right. So call it whatever you want, but just come and check it out. If you feel like you are barely keeping afloat, you are not alone. Reach out for a life ring and join us at the next Refresh Conference on March 3-4, 2017 in Redmond, Washington. www.therefreshconference.org.
A former foster parent of 7 years and father of 3 adopted kids, Andrew Schneidler is founding attorney behind the Children’s Law Center of Washington, a 501c3 law clinic offering free & low-cost legal services to achieve permanence for Washington’s orphaned and vulnerable kids. Andrew and his wife Michele co-founded the Refresh Conference for foster & adoptive parents and run the foster-adoption ministry at Overlake Christian Church in Redmond, Washington.
I wish that had been available back when I was foster parent to kids with special needs.