28 Mar Restoration in Abundant Brokenness
New York City has the highest population density of any major city in the United States, with over 27,000 people per square mile. Where there are more people, there will inevitably be more brokenness.
This March, our team lead a group of college students from Austin to New York City on a short term mission trip with the College ministry at the Austin Stone. The purpose of the trip was for the students to learn how to live out the gospel in a city with overwhelming brokenness. Our group specifically focused on understanding brokenness in families and child welfare, exposing them to that realm through visits with individuals and non profit organizations, to then apply what they learned when they returned Austin. We led a team of 10 young women and met with a family who is fostering, a family who has adopted, and two other non profits involved with the child welfare system.
The Gahagans and McCuistons were kind enough to allow us into their apartment and shared their experiences with foster care and adoption. These families have faced uncertainty, setbacks, and heartache in the midst of fostering and the adoption process. The Gahagans are fostering their daughter, still hopeful after three years that she will be reunified with her biological mother. Yet in the midst of this hope they are also preparing to grieve the loss of their foster daughter with their 3 biological kids.
The McCuistons went through months of paperwork and uncertainty as they began the adoption process and encountered endless setbacks. Yet, if it weren’t for these setbacks they would not have adopted their sweet daughter who they could not imagine life without. How sweet it was to be reminded that amidst brokenness in families, God is moving in the hearts of individuals in New York City to draw them to the least of these. We saw in these families’ lives how they had to sacrifice comfort, control, and stability in order to be faithful to what the Lord was calling them to.
After meeting with these families, we had the opportunity to visit Graham Windham— an organization that provides abundant resources and services to kids and families involved in foster care. These services include a residential program, adoption services, clinical services, therapeutic services and more. The individuals we met with care immensely for the kids that they encounter and cater their services specifically to a realistic vision of what being in foster care looks like in NYC. Like the Gahagans, the workers at Graham Windham desire for kids to be re-unified with their biological parents if possible, and if not, they work to provide the support and care they need to meet their circumstances.
The care and support we saw at Graham Windham was certainly present at Mott Haven Academy as well. This charter school exists in an under-resourced neighborhood in the Bronx. 30% of the students that attend Mott Haven are in foster care, 30% have social services involved in their lives in some way, and another 30% live in the neighborhood. Of the total student body, 20% of the students live in homeless shelters with their families. With their demographic of students, Mott Haven seeks to carefully nurture a learning environment that caters to the specific needs of their kids. Knowing most of their children have experienced trauma and disruptions to their early development, in their classes they teach social and emotional skills that many of their students have not had the opportunity to learn in their home. Mott Haven cares for every one of their students and believes that they have value beyond labels or expectations.
In a city that is busy with people moving, walking, talking, yelling, honking, working, texting, and emailing, it’s easy to feel alone in your thoughts, feelings, and beliefs. In the midst of the city’s dense chaos and apparent brokenness, we were reminded by our time with these families and agencies that every busy individual that we passed on the streets in an image-bearer, created and loved by our God. The Gahagan family, McCuiston family, Graham Windham employees, and Mott Haven employees are all taking part in the redemptive work that honors every broken child and family for their immense value defined by our King. We had the opportunity to see small glimpses of hope and restoration that God is bringing to families in this city and will continue to bring until Jesus comes back.
“He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” – Revelation 21:4