God holds them in His hands

Hands of Hope Blog

The need for foster parents in her home state of Indiana is enormous, but Hands of Hope’s own Rachel Bristol is the first to admit that answering the call is not something anyone can take lightly. 

It was in 2012 that Rachel and her husband first decided to take the steps to become foster parents. They were both in church ministry when they felt the Lord calling them to step into fostering. They didn’t have a lot of knowledge or experience, but time and again the Holy Spirit consistently brought it to their attention. 

So they found a local Christian organization and started the licensing process. Since, they both worked outside the home, they said they would be willing to take one school-aged girl. That was what they felt they could handle. They prepared a bedroom and all the things they would need for that eventuality. Soon after being licensed, the Bristols started receiving phone calls. Most were for sibling groups. Each time, they prayed and felt that they needed to say no, as the situation didn’t fit the parameters they had set up. Then one day Rachel got a call from her agency. Again, the ask was for a sibling group, a 6-year-old boy, 3-year-old girl, and infant girl. It was a short call, but something felt different. The Lord impressed on Rachel that they should consider it. She called her husband, and they prayed on the phone. He also felt that this was what they were supposed to do. “I wouldn’t call it peace,” Rachel says. “That’s not the right word. It was more like a frantic assurance that this was right.” 

They said yes, and the agency told them to pick up the children in the next hour. The Bristols had many people in their lives who knew they were becoming foster parents and had said, “If you ever need anything…” On the way downtown, Rachel frantically texted them all. They had nothing prepared for a boy or an infant–no toys, furniture, boy clothes, and only one bed. Without their community, they could never be ready. Even with help, it was not easy. The Bristols had no biological children of their own and no experience. “There were a lot of tears in those first weeks, and most of them were mine,” says Rachel. “You learn a lot in foster parent training, but you don’t know what to expect until you are in it.”

The Bristols were the children’s first placement, and reunification was the goal. They met with the kids’ extended biological family, including parents and grandparents and eventually cousins, building relationships to help further the process of reunification. After a year, the court decided to change the goal and asked if the Bristols would consider adoption. They agreed to consider it, and continued to keep both doors open for a while, but eventually, just as they hit two years with the children in their home, the adoption was finalized.

The Bristols have walked a really difficult road. As most families discover, their adoption was not a happy ending but rather, the beginning of another season together. Some of the steps along the way have been difficult and dark. There were times they didn’t think they would make it this far, but God’s graciousness was shown over and over again. Recently, they had some victory and have walked out the other side of some hard things as their oldest son is officially graduating high school and heading to college in the fall.

So many people hear about fostering and say, “I could never do that. I would get too attached.” But Rachel says that is exactly what is needed: for people to get attached to kids who need care, to show up and provide stability for those who have none. It can be painful, but the good that comes far outways the bad because fostering is not taking a burden on our shoulders but joining God in the work he is doing.

“As much as we think we care about these kids,” Rachel says, “there is so much that is out of our control…but God loves these children even more than we do. Even when things don’t go the way we want or the way we planned, God holds them in his hands.”

Relying on that is what sustains foster parents through the ups and downs and the letting go. Even when we don’t know where the children are after they have left, God is continuing to do the healing work for all of us. 

-Deborah Dunlevy