Fostering: The Transient Mission Field
As a college student, time is a precious resource. When you’re not in class, your day can quickly be consumed by homework, a job, exercise, eating, and (if you’re lucky) getting the highly-recommended-but-ever-so-elusive eight hours of sleep. Oftentimes, as college students, when you manage to carve out some free time, the first thought is, what can I do for myself?
But Charissa asked a different question.
How can I help someone else?
Charissa Jensen, a junior at Bethany Lutheran College in Mankato, MN, isn’t just a full-time student. She also works at a psychiatric home as a direct support professional. And at the time we talked in late January, she was volunteering on the weekends to help a foster family nearby. Her schedule seemed impossibly busy, yet she was one of the most cheerful people I had ever spoken with.
Charissa knows she could be doing other things on her weekends. But caring for foster children is what brings her greatest joy.
Charissa had previously volunteered with Kingdom Workers at Lighthouse Youth Center a few years ago. When she heard about our Foster Support program, she knew she wanted to help. In truth, she has dreams of fostering herself one day, but as she told me, “I’m only 20 years old so I can’t foster, but I really wanted to find a way to still be involved in it.”
Charissa’s desire to serve foster children in Christ-like love was what foster mom, Thalia Londgren, appreciated the most. Thalia told me, “My husband and I consider fostering a mission field. But to do it we need support. We love introducing kids to Jesus and showing them God’s word. It was a blessing to be connected with Charissa because I could tell she shared that same mission.”
Thalia and Charissa were connected back in October of 2020. Thalia and her husband had just heard that a group of four foster children would be joining their home. Since they already had five children of their own, Thalia went on Facebook to ask if anyone had extra mattresses and blankets to help make room for their new foster children.
Someone saw the post and asked Thalia if she and her family would be interested in being part of the Foster Support program at Kingdom Workers. “I said, yes please, we’d like some help,” Thalia told me with a laugh, “I don’t mind asking for help when it’s needed.”
Charissa arrived shortly after the foster children had made their way to the Londgrens’ home. Charissa told me about her first time volunteering with the family, “I walked in the door and immediately there were three children introducing themselves to me. They were super excited to have a visitor and were very sweet and affectionate with hugs. They had only been placed at the home for a week when I started, but they already seemed very adjusted.”
For the Londgrens, volunteer help and support gave them back precious time to share God’s love with the foster children in their care.
Thalia also remembers that first encounter between all nine children and Charissa, “She showed up and was exactly what we needed. She asked how she could help and was happy to do it.” Charissa spent her weekends taking the children to the park, playing with them in the living room, reading books and Bible stories, and more. “It was such a nice help. I could actually fold the laundry that had piled up twice as quick with four extra kids in the house,” Thalia told me.
"She showed up and was exactly what we needed."
Everything seemed perfect. Then, in the middle of writing this piece, my phone rang.
My heart sank as Kara, our Foster Support Coordinator, explained what had just happened. The foster agency had arrived at the Londgrens’ home late in the evening. With no advanced warning, they moved the foster kids to another placement. I was shocked. I didn’t understand how or why these thriving children would be uprooted and brought to a different home.
When I reached out to Charissa and Thalia, I could hear the sadness in their voices. But I also heard their determination. “That’s a hard thing about fostering,” Thalia told me, “but you have to be prepared.” Thankfully, Charissa’s friendship has helped the Londgren family process what happened, “She’s a really good friend. I’m thankful for everything she’s done to help us.”
Fostering is a transient mission field. But in that short period of time, foster parents play a significant role in showing foster children the love of Jesus.
Right now, Thalia and her family plan on spending some quality time together, but their hearts are still open to fostering. As for Charissa, she is always welcome at the Londgren home. She told me, “Spending time with them over the past couple of months has grown my desire to want to foster, and it has given me great role models for when I do eventually start fostering.”
Despite the constant ups and downs that come with fostering, like Thalia said, it’s a mission. It’s a passion and a desire to see children learn about Jesus or develop a closer connection with their Savior, however long they are under your care. And for those who want to be a part of this mission field, but don’t feel ready or able to foster, Charissa shared this encouragement, “[This program] is a great way to help and be involved. I can’t commit 100% to having my own foster children, but I can commit a few hours to help these parents who have foster children.”
See how you can volunteer to help a foster family today.
Kimberly Magsig is the Copy and Social Media Coordinator for Kingdom Workers. She enjoys getting to share God's word each day in her work. In her free time she enjoys spending time in nature, trying her hand at cooking new recipes, and having friends over for a game night.