Day 2: HaTikva Project
I didn’t mean for this to be long, but once I started typing, stuff just spilled out of my fingers.
Part of my purpose in life is to be someone’s mama. Hopefully someone’s wife, but definitely someone’s mama. I can’t tell you exactly when that revelation happened -- I’ve always loved playing house, taking care of people and holding babies -- but when I knew I just...knew. As I get older, childless and perpetually falling for all the wrong people, the longing to have my own family to take care of taps my heart every day. It’s like, “Hey, Nic. Guess what you still don’t have? THAT.”
Friends and family always remind me I have time. Which, by the way, stop telling people that. You don’t know our life or what obstacles we face. And stop asking me when I’m going to get married or have kids. I can’t snap my fingers and make either happen, so you’ll find out when there’s something to find out. And I might still keep it a secret then.
Anyway, back to the story. One of the things God placed on my heart is to become a foster parent. As an only child, I asked for a baby brother or sister for Christmas just about every year. One year, after my parents finally let me know that the baby factory was shut down, I distinctly remember asking if we could just adopt one. The answer, again, was an unequivocal no. I honestly think I was too much for George and Carolyn. They couldn’t risk another me.
Throughout the years, the desire grew. As I become older, and more aware of fostering situations and needs, I understand that giving a piece of my big ole’ heart to a child -- permanently or temporary -- was what I was supposed to be doing. Sometimes I think being childless at almost 37 is some form of punishment for having an abortion at 18. But that’s a different story for a different blog.
Many people have told me they could never foster because giving the child back would be too emotional. My response is always the same: It’s not about you. Don’t let your fear of heartbreak keep you from pouring into someone else’s life.
When I signed up for this mission trip, I had no clue what we’d be doing. All I knew is we would be serving in the Holy Land and I was ready to sign my name wherever it needed to be. Shortly after committing I found out that we would be working with the HaTikva Project; serving at a summer camp for foster children. God be knowing!!
SIDE BAR: As I was typing this, I heard a little boy fall really hard on the concrete. I ran over (with a swollen ankle), picked him up and asked him where it hurt. He pointed to his knees and cried for his dad, who had just come running down the stairs. I handed him over and came back to my table. I told you, I’m supposed to be someone’s mama.
Unfortunately, when we arrived we learned that wouldn’t be working directly with the children. The reason was very simple: they didn’t want to introduce us to the kids, only to leave them and go home. Which not only made perfect sense, but was in alignment with the organization’s mission and values. Here’s a short blurb from their website:
HaTikva Project (The Hope Project) exists to see the Israeli Body of Messiah built up and to serve needy Israelis in the name of Yeshua as we fulfill His commandment to “love your neighbor as yourself.” Through HaTikva Project, people everywhere have an opportunity to meet the needs of Israeli believers in financial crisis, to provide high quality, subsidized dental care to all of Israel, and to promote and facilitate adoption and foster care.
The organization did research about the at risk orphan population -- those at risk for human trafficking, addiction, abuse, neglect, etc. -- and used those statistics and findings to equip believers to become foster parents. Working with TBRI, they developed a six-week course to impart practical tools into parents. Here’s a look at some of what we learned during our visit:
Early childhood experiences and trauma can cause children to become defiant. How? Trauma cuts off the upper part of the brain (reasoning and emotions) and forces them to operate in survival mode.
When children are born, they need nurturing and their basic needs met. If not, they become defiant because they are not able to self-regulate because there is no external-regulation (nurturing parents). Co-regulation has to exist. When parents model healthy coping mechanisms, the child learns healthy ways to cope.
The state of Israel does not promote adoption -- which takes an average of 5 years to complete, and with only about 120 successful adoptions per year -- because they want children to maintain their Jewish identity. In other words, people here cannot adopt outside of their religion. However, Messianic Jews (Jewish people who combine Christianity with elements of Judiasim and Jewish tradition) can adopt mixed children, those with disabilities, Ethiopians, etc.
Because evangelizing is not allowed in Israel, the HaTikva dental clinic “provides subsidized, high quality dental care to the needy in the name of Yeshua (Jesus).”
Whew. I told y’all this was long. There’s still a few tidbits I left out because I know you’ll eventually get tired of reading this. So what did we do instead of work with the children? We spent the day putting together gift bags for them. Later in the week we’ll return to do painting and general maintenance.