Would you make room in your home to someone you don’t know? It is certainly not going to be an easy decision. Nevertheless, a Covenanter family decided not only to open their home, but also make room in their hearts to B.L.E.S.S. a stranger.
Find out what moved them to extend such love, and how the journey has grown them to know more of God’s love too.
In the midst of the Chinese New Year celebrations last year, Elaine Eo and her family found themselves preparing their home in a frenzy. The family of six, including Elaine’s mother-in-law, was about to welcome an unexpected guest – a two-year-old boy who would be living with them.
A part-time teacher in her 40s, Elaine first heard of Sam (not his real name) in January 2020 after Child Protective Service contacted her about fostering him. As Sam was considered an urgent case, they had to make arrangements quickly: preparing a space for him at home and finding a childcare centre in the neighbourhood. To Elaine’s relief, Sam was eventually placed in a nearby childcare centre under the care of attentive teachers.
Opening Eyes to the Needs
Surprisingly, Elaine’s journey to becoming a foster mom started three years before she even met Sam. As part of a homeschooling community, she had several friends who fostered children. A Covenanter for more than 25 years, she believes that it was God who led these families into their lives. “It opened my eyes to the needs of children who need a safe home. Before this, we didn’t come into contact with children with such needs,” she shared.
At that time, the timing was not right for the family to foster a child. Elaine’s youngest daughter was only four years old and it would have been overwhelming for her to cope with the demands of another toddler. Her husband also wanted more time to pray over this decision and the Lord’s calling for their family.
Before they started fostering, the couple had intentional conversations with their thirteen-year-old son and two younger daughters (aged 10 and 7). Elaine was grateful that her kids had been exposed to families with foster children through homeschooling. “When homeschooling families gather for learning and play, the older children will always look out for the younger ones. Our children will play with these foster siblings who were as young as 18 months,” she said. Her three children also served with her in Cradle (Sunbeam Children’s Ministry for toddlers) and love kids.
Preparing Hearts for the Journey
However, Elaine’s eldest son, being older and more practical, voiced his concerns. He was worried that the foster child may intrude into his personal space at home and take up time spent with family. “We prayed together with him to understand God’s heartbeat. We also shared with him that fostering will cost us something. But when we serve God, it will cost us something,” shared Elaine. Today, she is happy to see that her son has grown in maturity after Sam became part of the family. Even as a busy teenager, he will carve out time to play with his foster sibling.
Although she had the support of her husband and children, Elaine’s extended family needed more convincing. Her mother was concerned that she would not have enough rest if she had to take care of another child, especially someone else’s child. Elaine recalled, “She understood the need but didn’t understand why I had to do it. After half a year, my mom became more receptive to him than expected.”
In March 2020, Sam was starting to settle down after living with Elaine’s family for two months. But new and unexpected challenges were coming their way.
With the implementation of Circuit Breaker in April, Sam’s childcare centre closed for two and a half months. It was a frustrating time for the whole family. As a toddler, Sam was not yet verbal and tended to act out, screaming and shouting when he was upset. He would test out boundaries and do things his own way since he was not used to the house rules in his new home.
To make things worse, Elaine’s husband found it difficult to work from home with a restless toddler. Her oldest child was also in the midst of preparing for his Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE). Elaine often had to take Sam aside to talk to him and help him find words to express himself. Her daughters helped to relieve some of the burden by stepping up to play with him.
Reflecting on that challenging period, Elaine said, “It was really living by day. God helped us through each day. It was a testimony of His grace. God spoke to me, ‘If I can see you through Circuit Breaker, what else can I not see you through?’”
Not Knowing What’s Ahead
Throughout the ups and downs of her fostering journey, Elaine held on to God and His Word. Bible study helped her to persevere despite the difficulties that she faced. As she explored the Book of Genesis in her Bible Study Fellowship, she was drawn to Joseph’s story. “God gave Joseph a promise but he only saw it fulfilled many years later,” she shared. “I don’t know what’s ahead but I trust God with each step for He knows what’s ahead. Even though I can’t spend as much time with my own children, God gives me assurance that He loves them.”
Besides time together at home, Elaine also brought Sam on family outings to shopping malls, playgrounds and the zoo when the local COVID-19 situation was more controlled. With the current uncertainty, they have mostly stayed home over the weekends. However, she continues to share Bible stories with Sam and talk about God’s love in their daily conversations. “Moving from home to home, he tends to be insecure. And so, I reinforce that we’re secure in God’s love. No matter where he is, he’s one of the sheep that God cares for.”
As Elaine and her family worked on building trust with Sam, he began to respond positively to their genuine love and care. “He shows more affection these days,” said Elaine, with a smile. “Sometimes, when my youngest daughter is sad, he’ll hug her.”
Even as Sam has made significant progress, Elaine is aware that his future is full of uncertainty. “My children have a secure home but when I see Sam, I don’t know how things will pan out for him. I pray that he’ll grow up in a safe, secure and loving home. I hope that he will know God and that Jesus loves him.”
A Love that Overflows
After more than a year of fostering, Sam has returned home to his family. The experience has impressed on Elaine’s heart that Jesus is indeed our Good Shepherd. “If we’re detached from the flock, He will always look for us wherever we are. Recognising God’s love in our life has helped us to open our homes and our hearts to someone we don’t know. We need to experience God’s love in our lives first, the love that overflows, before we can extend this to someone else in need.”
For those who are considering fostering, Elaine has these words of encouragement, “Trust that if God leads you on this journey, He will lead you through.” She contemplates for a moment before adding, “Even though it will cost you something, open up your home. He has a greater purpose.”