"We are promised that life will be hard. But we are also promised the presence of our Savior."
Peter Greer and his family have opened their home to foster care for several years and have experienced the highs and lows of all foster care entails. After several hard situations, Peter admits to being reticent, even outright against, getting back into the foster care world. A greater sense of purpose and the support and encouragement of his children has ensured that, in spite of the pain, unpredictability and potential for hurt, their family will continue to say “yes” to foster care.
Why did you become foster parents?
The Greers had had little exposure to foster care, but one time at church, they heard about the number of kids waiting to have a home. These were kids close by, not far away in another country. They thought, “We have the room and the ability, why wouldn’t we do it?”
Who felt called to become foster parents first—you or your wife?
Usually Peter’s wife is first to be tuned into things such as foster care, but this was a case of both of them sensing what they needed to do at the same time. Peter’s work with Hope International was separate from home, but foster care was something that was in his own backyard.
What was the cause of your painful experience?
Peter has said that foster care is unquestionably the most heart wrenching thing he has ever experienced, even when compared to what he has seen in third-world countries. One situation was very painful—they had never experienced such hurt and pain. They had expected foster care to begin with pain, but certainly never expected it to end with pain.
They had fostered a three-year-old child whose parent was addicted to heroin. When the placement ended, the mother accused the Greers of hurting the child and they went through the process of an investigation.
Do you worry about how caring for children from hard places will affect your forever kids?
The vast majority of the foster care placements have been positive. Two have been difficult—the one mentioned above and another that involved significant trauma. After the second instance, Peter thought certainly they were done, but their three kids asked, “When are we doing it again? This is what our family does!”
The kids’ reaction underscored the fact that foster care works best if the whole family is in—they have meetings, talk about issues—it’s a belief that this is a family mission.
How do you keep your marriage strong?
Like the Beatles sang, they get by with a little help from their friends! Foster care has made them truly appreciate the gift of community—help from friends is valuable all the time, and especially during the difficult times. “Foster care is too difficult to do alone—this is where the church can really be the church,” says Peter. It’s also very valuable and necessary to make time to spend with each other—it’s not selfish.
Do you take breaks after a child leaves?
Yes, they do take breaks, but they are still learning what that looks like. Sunday evenings are set aside to spend time together as a family to pray, review and talk about what’s next. It’s not always easy or beautiful, but it’s the commitment over time that Peter believes will make a long-term impact on his children.
What have you learned about love and how to love others?
Although still learning, one thing they’ve learned is that love is costly—it’s difficult. But faith gives an example—Jesus on the cross is a perfect example of love. The question becomes, how do we receive and express that love to others? The goal is to love others as we have been loved by our Savior.
In foster care, there are times that incredible words that were beautiful and touching came out of nowhere and there are times when there is no reaction. You have to learn to love without the expectation of reciprocity. A better question is what is the experience and perspective of these kids? The great journey of love is to not put yourself in the middle of the story.
What about fear?
The majority of situations relating to foster care have been good. A few times have been difficult, so difficult that fear came pounding in like a torrential rain because there was so much unknown. But they have been reminded that we are promised grace for today, so the decision becomes “today, I will love well. I will trust. I will love imperfectly.” Fear makes it difficult to love well, but we have been promised that there will be hard times, and in these hard times we are also promised that we will have the presence of our Savior. God brings the healing.
RESOURCES FROM TODAY’S SHOW
Hopefully, this episode has helped you right where you are on your foster care journey. That’s the goal. If you enjoyed it, will you tell others?
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Meet Our Guest
Peter Greer is President and CEO of HOPE International, a global Christ-centered microenterprise development organization serving throughout Africa, Asia, Latin America, and Eastern Europe. He is a graduate of Messiah College and received a master’s in public policy from Harvard’s Kennedy School. Peter has coauthored over 10 books, including Mission Drift which was selected as a 2015 Book Award Winner from Christianity Today. His most recent book is Rooting for Rivals. More important than his occupation is his role as husband to Laurel and dad to Keith, Liliana, and Myles.
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