“At your age you want to become foster parents?” My friends, Bonnie and Gene, were asked this question often but chose to walk by faith into their retirement years and foster children.
Bonnie became aware of an infant child being taken away from a mom because she needed extended time in rehab. “What if we were certified to foster?” Bonnie asked her husband. “We could have made a difference here.”
In August of 2020, this retired couple’s acute awareness of a dire need, and their willingness to meet that need, catapulted them into becoming foster parents. They filled out the application, prepared for home-study visits, attended online family classes, and more. Finally, eight months later, in April, 2021, Bonnie and Gene were officially certified as foster parents.
Then, on Mother’s Day weekend, life took an unexpected detour. Gene had contracted a UTI along with an unknown, undetected infection in his spine and blood stream, causing sepsis. The day Gene went into the hospital, Bonnie received a call. “We have your first [foster] assignment!” Brokenhearted, Bonnie had no choice but to say, “No.”
While doctors continued to treat the infection, Gene continued to experience intense pain in his back. He lost 45 pounds and was unable to walk. Bonnie told me, “I prayed to the Lord and told Him it’s okay if He has to take him. I love Gene too much to see him suffer like this.” But God, in His sovereignty, was working out His plan.
Finally, the doctor ordered immediate surgery followed by twelve weeks of IV antibiotics. The lonely hospital stay moved Gene to draw closer to His Lord. On September 1st, Gene was given the green light: “Go live your life!” the doctor said.
About a month later, the phone rang. When Bonnie answered, she heard the social worker’s voice on the other end say, “Two boys are on their way to your house in two hours.” Bonnie responded, “Ready or not, here we go!”
The more-than-excited retirees welcomed Ted and Dillan into their home. At ages eight and nine, the boys sprang from the social worker’s car, thin, thankful, and with huge smiles.
The boys enjoyed their dinner and opened up right away. “We weren’t given lunch or dinner some days as punishment,” Ted told them. “Yeah, and we were never allowed to take [our] lunch to school, even though school food is gross,” Dillan said. Eight-year-old Ted was intrigued by an Easy Reader book. As he picked it up, he asked Bonnie, “What does this say?” Bonnie was stunned that Ted couldn’t read.
The first night, Bonnie and Gene tucked the boys into their very own beds with a Bible story, prayer, and gentle back rubs. They had never experienced any of these before. Gene told Ted and Dillan they would have plenty of food while in their care, and Bonnie informed them they could take their lunches to school if they packed them the night before.
Before lights out, the boys elected to call Bonnie and Gene, Grandma and Papa. “If it’s okay with you, we can stay here forever,” Dillan said. Soon, they were sound asleep on scripture-inscribed pillowcases Bonnie’s friend made. Once outside the boy’s room, Bonnie whispered to Gene, “God is amazing!” Gene agreed.
So many new adventures occurred over the next months as their mom continued working on her reunification plan. They spent the day at the lake where Ted was ecstatic about a boat ride. The day Dillan got his glasses, he shouted, “I can finally see!” The boys, Grandma and Papa, received free tickets to a Fireflies baseball game.
They rode bikes, took karate lessons, enjoyed Family Nights with pizza and a movie. They experienced many firsts, including trips to the zoo, the library, and the local park. I was even able to share a music lesson with Ted and Dillan and had them record a song.
There were also sad moments, outbursts of anger, and hours of counseling, but their community always stepped in to help. The entire town was touched by Ted and Dillan.
So much life had been added to an otherwise quiet house. There were never-ending questions about everything, rowdy checker games with Papa, and best of all, much excitement about going to church.
One evening, Ted asked Grandma, “Does God ever sleep?”
“God never sleeps. You can talk to Him anytime,” she eagerly responded.
Ted got up and ran out the door. “I’ll be right back. I’m gonna talk to God!”
One Sunday morning during the altar call, Dillan told Papa, “I’ve got to go up there.” Both Ted and Dillan received Jesus into their lives while living with Grandma and Papa in foster care. This was worth everything they had been through. A medical detour allowed these boys to be the first foster children for Bonnie and Gene. They all needed each other, and God proved Himself faithful.
The date was finally set for when the boys would return to live with their mom. During their last evening with Grandma and Papa, Ted read a book on his own (his brand-new picture Bible), and Dillan read the bed-time story.
Eight months of bed-time stories, hugs, and saying, “I love you.” Grandma and Papa told me, “We miss them dearly, but we’re also thankful we said “Yes” to fostering.
Scan the QR Code to listen to Ted and Dillan’s song they recorded.