This Saturday, Agape Ranch partnered with numerous community churches and organizations to put on an event called Agape Connection. This is a festival where children who want to be adopted and parents who want to adopt and have completed their adoption homestudy come and have a day filled with carnival games, bounce houses, basketball, crafts, nail painting, face painting, photobooth, bookstore (gift for the children), therapy dogs, and more. In the midst of all these activities, the children and parents get to know each other and we pray for a connection in hope of creating forever families. Each year families are formed.
This is also an event where children who are often placed separately from their siblings get to see each other. This year, we heard, "Brother, brother, I brought you cupcakes!" as a sweet girl proudly presented them to her brother. They didn't get to spend his birthday together, but she knew she would see him at Agape Connection and wanted to make it special. We hope they will soon find a forever family to adopt them and will never have to spend another birthday apart.
Teenagers playing basketball together, at first glance, just having fun. A closer look will tell a story of siblings placed in different foster homes for the past three years. Agape Connection gave them a rare opportunity to play ball together. As teenagers, they know their chances of finding forever family together are rare, but they still show up. Hoping. Will they one day find parents who they can call their own? Will stealing few hours on the court on rare occasions ever become a memory of the past?
Children taking pictures at the photobooth and making frames, treasuring them because it's the first picture they've taken in awhile together and they got to help each other make the frames. Hoping one day soon there will be a Mommy and a Daddy in that family photo.
Parents, hoping and praying for children to call their own, arms aching for a child or a teenager to hold. A man, staring at an inquiry form, his eyebrows furrowed, a pen readied at his hand. He is contemplating which names to write on the paper. Which children should he and his wife inquire about? Momentarily lost in thought about the weight of the life-changing decision he will make at the strokes of a pen. Hoping for children to call his own.
Tears. I see unclearly through my tears as I write this blog. Children hoping so much for parents to call their own. Adults hoping so much for children to call their own. I often live right under the tear line and I do so well to keep it at bay during the event. But, not tonight. Not as I write about the hearts that ache in hope.
In these moments, I have to remember gratitude. Otherwise, the weight of the ache will break me. Gratitude over 46 children who were inquired about because of this event. Many of these inquiries were sibling groups. Gratitude over people who want to grow their family through adoption so that children are orphans no more.
Gratitude over how a forever family was formed today. Last year, they attended Agape Connection and met each other. Adults found children to call their own, to fill their arms and laps. The children found a Mommy and a Daddy to call their own, they will be orphans no more. Today was a day of celebration! What a blessing to witness such a day.
Gratitude over the other six children who found forever families due to last year's Agape Connection.
Gratitude over my God who speaks into my spirit to not lose heart because He loves the orphans and I need to love them, too. Though I cannot see clearly through my tears, I know with unwavering clarity this is the race set before Agape Ranch. To love God's orphans and be a voice for them in a world that is often too loud to hear their whispers or their cries. To continue to work with excellence and fight the good fight so we can perhaps play a role in their hopes becoming reality.
We love because He first loved us.