These two little ones, Aniyah and Jayla, are featured here because they really got to my heart recently. They have such sweet dispositions. I can’t stop thinking about them. They are two of the children in the four families that were hosted by Lord of Life Lutheran Church for a week.
My good friend, Tonya, invited me to come along to make dinner and to host the families at her church for the night. She is such an amazing servant with a gift for hospitality. She coordinates the family promise hosting program at her church. The church acts as host four times a year to homeless families in the Family Promise program in Bluffton, SC.
The program helps families by giving them a safe place to sleep, something to eat, and an address to use (the Family Promise Center) while the parents look for a job, or arrange to train for a job with a living wage. Each week Sunday to Sunday the families in the program live at alternating host churches. Both the host churches and support churches share in preparing meals for them. The program has its own inflatable beds that travel with the families from church to church and are set up making use of sunday school rooms, or nurseries. Each family has a private room. Church volunteers stay through the night to be available for the families in case of any need. In the morning, they are picked up by a driver to take them to the program’s center where the children go off to school and the parents go to jobs (if they are employed), or to be trained or counseled, or to job search. As one of the mom’s told me “It’s a chance to get back on my feet.”
We were expecting the driver to arrive from the center with the families about 5:30 p.m. This would be their 4th night at Lord of Life Church. They were returning “home” from jobs, or looking for jobs, from school or from daycare. Tonya and I made spaghetti with meat sauce and a salad and brownies for dessert. Everyone served themselves and sat at the preset tables in the fellowship hall. Some took turns saying a blessing. My favorite was one sung by one of the boys.
After dinner, Tonya lit the candles on a cake brought by one of the mom’s and we sang Happy Birthday to 15 year old Kalifa. The two little ones were excited about the plastic flower rings used as cake decoration. Kalifa passed one to each of them saying that since there are only two little girls, they should have them. So sweet.
The mom’s shared in the dish washing and clean up. The children played. We all shared stories. And as bedtime approached, which is early since they are up and ready to leave by 6 a.m., each family retired one by one to their room.
Seven month old, Xavier, was asleep in his port-a-crib, somehow, amidst the confusion still in his family’s bedroom. His mom still trying to settle his three siblings.
Jayla and Shawn got ready for bed using the bathroom adjoining the nursery where they sleep.
In the “so early” morning, the families make their own breakfast from what is supplied by the churches.
Michele and some of the children were first to gather in the foyer to wait for their driver.
This morning, Aniyah put her arms around me for a morning hug and asked me to sit beside her for breakfast. Yup, I was wanting to be there when she got “home” from school that day.
This was a highlight of my travels. I’m thankful for this experience to see this program in action. I’m thankful for the host and support churches that help provide a new start for these and other families.