Friday, April 17, 2015

WHERE are the Kendricks?

For many years I've sporadically shared my heart about parenting a large family of foster, adopted and biological children in this blog.  Our life as a family is entering a new and exciting chapter and this blog will reflect this change as well.  We've served in the Dallas area with the Embrace ministry since its founding in 2007, becoming full-time missionaries with Embrace in 2009.  This ministry, was founded to give hope and support to local families caring for abused, neglected and orphaned children, has grown into a thriving effort impacting the nation on behalf of "the Fatherless".

When our children were very small... and there were just 4 of them... my husband Bruce and I have jumped at any opportunity to train churches on ways they can step up and surround foster and adoptive families.  We've traveled the state of Texas and to endless conferences across the nation, often meeting and consulting with individual churches them to meet this urgent need.  Besides racking up 40k miles per year on our family van, the wear and tear of being on the road every other weekend became harder for our family as our children have grown and become more involved in sports and activities.  While our ability to host training on a regular basis became more challenging, the demand continued to grow.  Requests rolled in from around the country for our one-day Parent Support Group Workshop.  We felt torn between the needs of our growing family and the needs of the ministry.  Looking back it's clear that this season of unrest and frustration would be the catalyst for an exciting new approach to multiplying the ministry God had called us to.

While we earnestly believe the work Embrace is doing here on the ground in DFW is incredibly needed, valuable and must continue, we feel an urgency and responsibility to replicate these efforts in other states.  On June 15 of this year we will set out on the Hometown Tour.  This year-long ministry planting effort will bring Embrace's unique Parent Support Group Workshop to 20 cities across the US.  Our family will spend the next 12 months on the road furthering the mission of Embrace and bringing hope to countless communities and children.  Along the way we will also be meeting with individual churches about launching orphan care ministries and promoting our first publication (a guide to help churches host respite events for foster and adoptive families).

We're aware of how extreme this plan is.  But these problems: children lingering in foster care without adoptive families, foster and adoptive parents in crisis due to a lack of support, the lethargy of the church in response to the orphan crisis... these are extreme issues.  There are times we've felt so afraid we became frozen in our steps.  We've felt inadequate and unprepared for what's ahead.  But God has applied a gentle pressure in our hearts.  A yearning to do His will no matter where that takes us.  This may not be my most eloquent post, as these words are hard to type.  And hard to live out.  In Matthew 11:28-30 Jesus says “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light."    I'm weary and anxious just thinking about the year ahead, but I have a peace in my heart knowing we're right where He has asked us to be.  I'm able to give Him my emotional burdens when I'm saddened at the reality of leaving our grandkids, adult children, church family, community and friends behind.  As we continue to check tasks off our now dwindling "to do" list before we depart I've kept my heart focused on the doors God has already flung open ahead of us and joy he will bring our family along the way.  It's a little wink from my heavenly father that he gave me a restless, hippie/gypsy heart then asked me to live in a van with my kids and road trip across the country.

I know that sounds like a nightmare for some people.

In the interest of keeping this post as brief as possible I've compiled some of the most common questions we've been asked and then answered them below:

What about your kids?:  Our youngest 8 children will be on the road with us.  Embrace has always been a ministry that involved our family and almost every aspect of our lives.  Our children are excited, nervous and curious about the year ahead.  They've spent most of their little lives on the frontier of Orphan Care alongside Bruce and I as this journey has taken us to many unexpected places in life.  The kids will attend the prestigious Kendrick Unschool for Mischievous Children while we are traveling and our oldest daughter will be taking college classes online.  I'll share more detail on the kids' education in a future post.

Where will you stay?: Our family recently purchased a bunkhouse-style travel trailer that we will be pulling with our van around the country.  We're taking downsizing to the extreme, going from 3,000 sq feet to just under 300 sq feet!   In some locations, where it's more practical, we will stay in short term rentals or missions housing.  To stay on schedule we'll be moving from one location to the next about every week, parking in a combination of state parks, KOAs and RV parks.  Our home in Melissa is on the market for lease, as well plan to return there (Lord willing) at the end of this year on the road.

What will happen to Embrace's local efforts while you're on the road?:  All the wonderful Embrace programs you've grown to love and count on will continue here in Texas.  Our local calendar is already full of respite events, family picnic, events for foster youth, donation drives, volunteer opportunities, fundraisers, support groups and recruitment efforts.  A combination of our local staff members and dedicated volunteers will help oversee these programs.  While Hometown Tour training sessions require a lot of planning and effort, the majority of our workload will still be dedicated to maintaining and expanding the ministry as a whole and planning for the future.

How can we help?:  We have some specific prayer points we would be grateful for you to join us in lifting up.  Would you pray for the health and safety of our family while on the road?  Would you join us in praying for the hearts of our children who have faced trauma as we make this transition?  Would you pray that God provides reliable renters for our home in Melissa?  Would you pray for endurance for Bruce and I as we enter a season that will demand an incredible amount of energy, patience, perseverance and faith?

I will post updates as we finalize our preparations to depart, then weekly in most cases when we are on the road.  I hope you will follow these updates and keep us covered in prayer.