Throughout the week, we’re sharing more about DC127 and our mission to reverse the foster care wait list. While today’s story isn’t about traditional foster care, it is about churches working together and a family opening up their home for an amazing young woman and her daughter – which is what we’re here for. This week, we’re specifically looking for 46 people to commit to being monthly supporters of DC127’s mission. Will you join us and help make more stories like this one? Read more about what we’re doing in our first and second posts of the week.
Just about two months ago, DC127 Founder Amy Graham was put in touch with Hafsatu and her one-year-old daughter Nahla. They were facing a rough time, and as a teen, Hafsatu’s options were limited. As it became clear that Hafsatu and Nahla needed a temporary home, we reached out to DC127’s church network. We were overwhelmed by how God moved and the support that poured in from churches across the city as people donated baby supplies and support. Within an hour and twelve minutes of the email being sent, Ben and Christie replied, offering their home as a safe place for Hafsatu and Nahla. It has now become a more permanent home where they both can thrive and Hafsatu can finish high school. Thank you all of you who have been a part of settling Hafsatu and Nahla through support, meals, prayer, and a lot of love!
Getting to know Ben, Christie, Hafsatu, and Nahla has been an honor, and we are incredibly grateful to call them friends. They sat down with us to share their story. Here you go:
So walk us through getting that first email. What was your thought process?
Christie: Well, Ben saw it first. I think I was in a meeting at work. He wrote me an email back.
Ben: I said, ‘This would be really cool to do, but there is no way we could actually do it, right?’ It was almost a dream or something, almost a joke.
Christie: And then I wrote back and I said, ‘No, we should definitely do that, right?’ We didn’t even call each other, we just texted a couple times and sent a couple emails and said, ‘Yeah, let’s do it.’
Backing up a little bit, where did your original interest in opening up your home or potentially fostering come from?
Ben: That’s a deep question. I spent a year abroad before I came here. I lived in Costa Rica, I spent some time in Haiti, and I was around orphanages a lot there and I remember being really heart broken by the idea of people not having families.
Christie: My parents did foster care when I was a kid, and so it was kind of always a normal thing growing up with that. I wouldn’t say that my desire for doing foster care is completely because of that, but I would say that’s probably a big part of it. I’ve also spent some time in different orphanages… and I’ve seen what it’s like for kids to not have families…It just makes me really sad to think of that.
What has been one of the best moments so far?
Ben: It was one of the first weekends you, Satu, were here, and we went to a movie together and everything was crazy, but in that evening, it felt normal, ‘Yeah, we’re going to a movie on a Saturday night and taking the bus.’ There wasn’t anything weird about it, and there was something about that that was really fun for me.
Hafsatu (Satu): I think the best moment for me so far is going to Pittsburgh to visit Christie’s family. I just enjoyed their whole family and getting to meet them. They were really sweet. I felt like I was loved and I felt like I was wanted there.
I felt like I was loved and I felt like I was wanted there.
Christie: I think my favorite moment so far was this past weekend when we went to Georgetown. We went to Georgetown Cupcakes, and then we went and walked around down by the water, and Ben’s host mom from Costa Rica was here…We all have such different backgrounds and stories, but to have everyone hanging out there together…It felt really normal.
Ben: I had this moment this weekend… I’m looking around and, to state the obvious, Christie and I are white, Satu and Nahla are African, and my host mom is from Costa Rica, but somehow this is all really normal. It’s a beautiful thing.
What have been some of the challenges as you integrate as a new family?
Christie: It’s been a really complex situation with paperwork. I remember one time, Satu, you told me that you felt like you were in the middle of a spider web, and really caught up in the midst of that.
I would say on a more personal level, though, a challenge is redefining what normal is, probably for all of us. It wasn’t normal for Satu two months ago to be hanging out with us on a Tuesday night and sitting around our dinner table. It wasn’t normal for her and it wasn’t normal for us. Just trying to figure out what it looks like to be a family and what it looks like to spend time together.
Ben: Just to add that, it’s also been a really awesome thing. I would add to that the schedules and the focus of your priorities [have been a challenge]…Before, Christie and I just had to just focus on ourselves, focus on our work, and focus on each other, and now we have a lot more things to think about.
Hafsatu: I think the most frustrating part was when I was trying to get the paperwork. I just thought it wasn’t possible and would be really hard. I mean, we still don’t have everything, but before I thought that it just wasn’t going to happen, but now I have hope and we’re making progress and we’re moving along.
You’re not in traditional foster care, but your situation is similar. Can you talk about what support you’ve received and how that has impacted your journey?
Christie: I think the support had been incredible. I have felt support over the past two months from our church community, DC127, and people that we have never even met, like several steps removed from people we even do know. It’s been a really a phenomenal thing. When we got back from Pittsburgh, for instance, our house was full, so full. There were so many things. It took over an hour to open and go through everything…Whether someone sends an encouraging email, or sends a check, or sends a gift card or something, it’s been a really powerful thing to see the body of Christ unite for this. And it really does make it clear that God is in this and God is all over this, and I think the support we’ve received from that body of people is really proven that to me.
It’s been a really powerful thing to see the body of Christ unite for this
Ben: The support from our church community has been fantastic – our friends, our small group, and like Christie said, even friends, of friends, of friends that have contributed. And on the other hand, DC127, I know it’s cheesy, but really, what you and Amy have done for us has been phenomenal… For all of us, it’s so brand new and none of us know what to expect or what’s going on and the fact that you and Amy have been there and you’ve been able to walk with us, each of us, and hold our hand through the process every step of the way has been amazing.
Hafsatu: I was just amazed at how supportive everyone was. Coming into this, I did not think it was going to be so great. I did not think I was going to have so many people write messages, and so many people trying to make us comfortable and try to make us feel at home… Even after starting school, Kristen got me a folder to put my papers in and just made it clear that she was thinking of me. John and Hannah got me two movie tickets and wrote me a sweet note saying they were thinking of me through my first week of school and they were praying for me. Everyone has just been really great.
Do you have anything to say to people who might be hesitant to bring teens in to their homes?
Ben: I’ll just be honest. I would say it’s been the most rewarding thing and the most challenging thing… For example, Nahla has only been on earth for a year so she doesn’t have a whole lot of prior things that she is bringing into it. Satu is a full adult, and we’re all full adults. We all have our backgrounds that we’re bringing into it and we’re trying to figure out how to match that up… It’s an amazing thing. It makes it more rewarding and it makes it more challenging.
Christie: It changes everything in a very beautiful way. I think that in order to be successful in having a teen in your home, from the little tiny bit that I’ve seen so far, it requires a lot of flexibility and a lot of open-mindedness. Everyone has to be able to respect and hear out everyone’s opinions. I love the idea of having a teen in the house because you do get a whole other set of perspectives and it’s really pretty great.
How has this impacted your faith?
Hafsatu: There’s a quote, I don’t know exactly how it goes, but it goes like ‘the hard times don’t last forever, good things are coming.’ These past two years have been really hard and while I was going through everything I had no faith that things were going to get any better and I thought I was just going to live that way forever. Then all of a sudden I got connected with Amy, and you, and Jennifer, and everything just started to fall into place and everything just started to get better. And now… I have faith that it does get better and better things are coming, you just have to wait on it.
Christie: I’ve never felt God to be as real as I’ve felt him to be in these past two months. I’ve just felt the presence of God in a way I haven’t before.
Ben: I would second that. Our pastor, Tommy, gave a sermon on this before all of this happened and I feel like it’s really come true. The more you test faith, the more faith God gives you… The more we lean on Him, the more he pushes back. I’ve really experienced that in a way I can’t describe.
I’ll just say one other thing. It’s kind of cheesy, but we really love you, Satu, and we’ve told you that, and that love came to us before Satu even arrived. We had a moment when we were getting our house ready and you guys were coming over and Christie and I looked at each and said, ‘It doesn’t even matter who walks through that door, we’re going to love her.’ I don’t know how else to explain that other than God. I don’t know how you completely fall in love with someone before you’ve even met them. That’s just a miracle. That’s a small glimpse of the kind of love God has for everyone and I feel like it’s a new avenue or a new world of love that I’ve never experienced before. It doesn’t really make any sense, but it’s there.
The more we lean on Him, the more he pushes back.
One last question, what’s been one of the funniest moments?
Christie: The first one that comes to me is when Satu was teaching me about her hair. [They all laugh] She was telling me about her hair and it was when I found out that she wore a wig, and I had no idea. She told me she found it in a bush outside near the train tracks. And that’s where her wig was from. And I thought it was amazing.
Hafsatu: Make sure to add that it was brand new, and it was in a package, and I washed it. I think Ben and Christie are just funny human beings. They have really corny moments, and they say some outrageous things. What was it?
Christie: Was it when I said drinking water from the fire hose?
Hafsatu: She said something about drinking water from a fire hose and I was just like, [gives a look and shakes her head]. They have these really funny things that they say that are really weird.
Ben: Can you just have a whole paragraph set aside about how funny we are?
Thank you to Hafsatu, Christie, and Ben for sharing your story and allowing us to walk with you.
One of our favorite things about this story is that it wasn’t just one church or one group of people supporting this family. Support came from several churches, and when we worked together as the people of God, beautiful things happened. Whether it’s through foster care or host homes, integrating families is tough, and it can be very challenging, but it’s exactly where we should be.
Would you consider becoming a monthly donor and investing in DC127? Your support enables us to mobilize churches and recruit families, finding and supporting more homes for teens and children who need them.
And maybe you read Ben and Christie’s story and think God might be calling you to do something similar. We would love to talk to you about different ways to open your home and life through foster care, host homes, or mentoring. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or join us on April 23rd for our next Foster Care Information Night.