Scott woke up on this wet and chilly Wednesday morning before anyone else in the house. He looked out of the bedroom window at the rain puddles in the back yard, wondering what kind of day it was going to be. He often dreamt of his mother coming into his bedroom and smiling as she gently woke him to get ready for school. He would hurry to dress so he could eat a hot breakfast with his father before he left for work.
But those were just dreams of a world he had never known. In reality, Scott was now living in his fifth foster home since age three. Abandoned by a drug-addicted mother, and a father he knew nothing about, Scott’s families were the temporary adults who opened their homes to otherwise homeless children. He already had a feeling this place would be a lot like the last two homes, filled with children like him, and foster parents who got a big paycheck from the state each month but usually spent the money on themselves rather than the children they were supposed to be caring for.
At fifteen, Scott had already experienced more hurt and pain than most teenagers could ever imagine. He got into fights at school because he was not dressed in designer clothing and was labeled as one of those “home-hopping kids”. Scott would get so angry that his fist quickly became his defense mechanism. He had been kicked out of two schools in the past five years. The last family did not tolerate his explosive anger for fear he might harm the others. So he was told he had to go, being put on the street on a winter night with a few clothes in one hand and a five-dollar bill in the other.
He was now living in the south suburbs of Chicago with four other foster children. The chosen parents this time were a couple in their late fifties. Mr. Walker drank a lot and yelled at Mrs. Walker about any and everything. Their way to maintain discipline and control of the children was regular beatings and verbal insults. More often than not, these random acts of abuse were unprovoked, causing Scott to become angry, not only with the world but also with himself for having being born.
On this particular morning, Scott got up and dressed before anyone else opened their eyes. He ate a small bowl of cold cereal and slowly walked to school instead of waiting on the bus. The Walkers did not care how he got to school, just as long as he was out of the house. His path took him past a neighborhood church. The marquee in front of the one-story brick building read, “Your Father Loves You and We Do Too”.
What a joke, Scott thought. What Father? Nobody loves me!
Later that evening, after dinner, Mr. Walker had consumed several alcoholic beverages and began cursing at his wife and the kids. Scott took refuge in the damp cool evening, aimlessly strolling up and downs the streets. When he started approaching the church and watching people go inside, he became curious and cautiously made his way to the door. Having no expectations or clue as to what was happening, he was hesitant about entering.
“Hello, young man,” said a woman walking up to the door.
“Hi,” Scott replied shyly. “Can I come in here?”
“Sure, everyone’s welcomed here at Hope United. Come on in!” she exclaimed with a warm smile. She introduced herself and led Scott inside where she introduced him to others.
Scott was a bit nervous about all the affection and attention he got, but he decided this was much better than going back home to the chaos so he took a seat in the sanctuary next to the woman. Reverend Holt had taken his Bible study message from John 3:16 and he spoke about how much God loves all of us and expects us to love others in the same way.
As shouts of “Amen” and “Hallelujah” sang out amongst the congregation, Scott sat quietly with a puzzled look on his face. As the teaching was coming to a close, he suddenly jumped up and shouted in defiance, “If God supposedly loves everybody, why does He hate me so much?”
Reverend Holt stopped, came down from the pulpit, and put his comforting arms around this tearful teenager. “Brothers and sisters, this young man appears to be troubled and needs our help right now. Please join me at the altar and let’s pray.” Everyone did just that. Afterward, Reverend Holt led Scott to his office for an encounter that changed both their lives forever.
Twenty years later. “Here’s to twenty years,” said Reverend Holt as everyone around the table lifted their glasses in a toast to Scott. This ritual was how the Holt family celebrated the anniversaries of all the young men they had adopted. Scott was the fifth and last, but not the youngest.
“I’ll never forget that cold Wednesday night when I walked into your church. It really doesn’t seem like it was that long ago. But I guess this is a testimony to that ol’ saying how time flies when you’re having so much fun and truly enjoying yourself. Thanks, Dad, Mom and all of my brothers for giving me a life I had once only dreamed about. I love you all!”
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