The Blessing of Being a Volunteer
God has blessed Jacqui Jackson's immediate and extended family with the legacy of fostering and adoption. She shares through her life experiences why serving as a volunteer in this ministry truly has her heart:
"I was in an orphanage for one week in Bogota, Colombia, in foster care for five weeks and then went straight home to live with my momma and daddy. I was adopted from Colombia in 1976, and my sister Jessica was adopted in 1979," said Jacqui. She further explains that she is not biologically related to anyone in her family and that she does not use labels when describing those close to her. "I don't know if my sister and I are biologically related. God has made us family and she is my sister with no tags attached."
As an adult, Jacqui thought the opportunity for children was not God's plan for her. Due to a medical condition, she was unable to have children. So the hope of adoption was always a thought, but Jacqui confesses it took an act of courage and a leap of faith. "I adopted Bella from birth five years ago. She was born on National Adoption Day which I believe was not by accident. God brought about the exact family He wanted for her. I look at Bella now and can relate - I had a birth father, a foster dad and I have my everyday daddy that God chose for me."
While seeking opportunities to travel on a mission trip, Jacqui's foster mom in Colombia, who she is still very close to, shared with her a program where children who had been in the FANA orphanage can come back and serve. Jacqui felt this was tailored exactly for someone like her. In the fall of 2009, she traveled to Colombia to the orphanage where her life began. This was an emotional journey that had now come full circle.
"I went on a mission trip there for 10 days and had the opportunity to spend time with the foster family that served with the orphanage that cared for me. This was the first time I had been back to Bogota, Colombia since the day I had been adopted. I stayed with my foster mom, Marta, and enjoyed time with my (foster) sisters, one of whom has since adopted a little girl, and my (foster) brother who now works at the American Embassy in Bogota - the same one my parents had visited in order to receive my visa so I could travel back to the United States.
In 2010, Jacqui was invited to attend a birthday celebration for the family she was a nanny for. While meeting other family friends at the party, a little baby girl grabbed at the hearts of Jacqui and her husband, Jeff. At the time they did not know the family or this child's story. "The mother and father were fostering through FaithBridge, which I had never heard of before. The newborn baby was only a few months old. Jeff, Bella and I took her tiny little hands while she sat in her car seat and we prayed over her that God would get her exactly where she needed to be." Jacqui shares how it was a "God thing" to meet this FaithBridge foster family. "The family took in this child, loving her completely while waiting to hear God's final determination. Now this family who has raised her for the last two years is on the road to adopting her."
Jacqui admits that James 1:27 is their family's favorite Bible verse. Obeying the command to look after orphans, Jeff and Jacqui considered whether to foster or adopt and soon began the adoption process again. "We actually started this adoption process prior to the premiere and launch of Fostering Together at North Point Community Church, where we attend." With their adoption process underway, the Jacksons knew at that time they were not being called to foster, but were called to support those that did. "I immediately volunteered as a Resource Coordinator with Fostering Together. It seemed appropriate to be involved in this ministry as God had ministered to me as a child providing me a family."
The Jacksons celebrated the arrival of their son, Isaac Albert Jackson, in December. Jacqui shares, "My dad's heartfelt prayer was that our new baby would be home in our arms before Christmas. Through an incredible set of circumstances, an amazing church family in Oklahoma and a foster family whom we love and whom we now count as part of our extended family, our son is home being loved on by his big sister, his parents and his entire forever family. Praise the Lord!"
Volunteering as a Resource Coordinator, Jacqui shares how she has been able to serve families and children. "The biggest part is just welcoming the child into their new family and rallying around that family as a support system. It is interesting because people who are called to foster do not have easy lives. They are just as busy as everybody else. My being present in the lives of these of children and families to pray with them, comfort them and love them is important. I am truly blessed to serve in this community-based ministry."
Jacqui relates to her own fostering and adoption experience and voices what she finds most rewarding working in this ministry, "To me, the most rewarding thing is when the best determination for a child is made and that child can finally be settled. In the end it is all about family because God is way bigger than blood. God is way bigger than geography. And, God is way bigger than race."
Jacqui offers the following advice to those considering volunteering or supporting the ministry in any way, "Just jump in and do it. I felt I had a fairly full plate at the time, but God made room in my life to minister to these families. The needs are being met by a small few but if a big many were there to volunteer so many more children and families could be served. If God has ever whispered the idea of ministering through volunteering, fostering or adopting in a believer's ear, it is not a matter of if, but when. He is doing it because He has a child with your name written on their heart at some level, capacity or fashion. The best thing to do is pray for the courage to take that first step and God will be there to take care of the rest."