Vanessa was forced out of her home. The foster child had "aged out" of the foster-care system.
Alone and with no money, she had no family to turn to, so the 18-year-old stuffed all of her earthly belongings into a plastic garbage bag and stepped out into her bleak future.
Within a year, she became involved with a drug dealer -- a relationship that ended with an addiction, a pregnancy and jail time.
Stories like hers sadden but motivate one California family to fight for orphans. Jon and Mindy Hoskins want to help.
Roughly 500,000 children are currently in the United States' foster-care system, according to the U.S. Administration of Health and Human Services.
About 123,000 of those children are eligible for adoption.
Worldwide there are 143 million orphans, a number equal to almost half of the entire population of the United States. Some of these children live in orphanages, some in foster care, many live on the streets. None have a mom and dad to love, encourage, discipline and protect them.
"We believe that the one institution with the resources, reach and mandate to solve the orphan crisis is the local church," explains Jason Weber, a staff member with Hope for Orphans, an initiative of FamilyLife.
FamilyLife focuses on building godly marriages and families. Through Hope for Orphans, the Hoskins family discovered what God wanted their family to do for orphans.
The couple already had 3 children -- Alana, Macalister and Avery -- and was determining if they wanted a fourth.
Mindy was at a scrap-booking party one evening when a friend told her all about their family's experience of adopting a child.
Mindy had told her husband that she had wanted to adopt ever since she was young. When she recounted her friend's story and talked about adopting themselves, Jon was open to the idea but wanted to know more.
Two weeks later, they received an e-mail from FamilyLife inviting them to an If You Were Mine workshop about adoption. Jon and Mindy had attended 2 FamilyLife marriage conferences in the past, so they trusted the source. The timing of the e-mail felt providential, so the couple registered for the conference, eager to discover answers.
During the all-day seminar, they learned about adoption and finding an agency, and also about helping other children who don't get adopted. God used the conference to solidify 2 things for the Hoskins: that God was calling them to adopt, and that He also wanted to use their family to help the orphans and waiting children in their area.
"FamilyLife taught us not just how to adopt," says Jon, "but what God wants for our family."
Their eldest daughter, now 12, remembers what happened next: "My parents stayed up late at night," says Alana, "and filled out a stack of paperwork 7 inches tall." Social workers inspected their home, a process required of all adoptive parents.
Then the Hoskins discovered that the adoption agency wanted them to sign an agreement that they disagreed with, so they started over with a new agency.
"We had a roller coaster ride of emotions," says Jon. They talked with Paul Pennington, founder and executive director of FamilyLife's Hope for Orphans, and he helped them find another agency.
"As an adoptive parent, I know that the first steps in the adoption process can be a bit overwhelming," says Paul.
After a year of paperwork, home studies and anticipation, Jon and Mindy received an e-mail revealing that they'd been matched with a baby boy in South Korea. They felt like God confirmed that this was supposed to be their child even with his Korean name: Jeon Kyeong Min. "Jeon" has Jon's name in it, and "Min" is short for Mindy.
When all the paperwork had cleared through the U.S. and Korean governments, Jon and Mindy flew to Korea to pick up their new son. They renamed him "Jamison Paul Jeon-Min Hoskins."
Alana, Macalister and Avery's grandmother took them to the airport to greet the new member of their family. The children waved hand-made signs welcoming their parents and new brother as they entered the terminal.
However, this only marked the beginning of the family's response to orphans. Tulare County, where they live in California, has more children in foster care than any other county in the United States. Currently, 1,100 children are in the system, and 500 of them are in long-term.
So around Jamison's 3rd birthday, the Hoskins and 2 other families from their church created a ministry for orphans and waiting children. They called their outreach Mission 31:8, based on the Bible verse Proverbs 31:8: "Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute" (New International Version).
They set out to actively help waiting children and orphans in their area. "Our pastor has been very supportive and even went as far as saying that one of his highlights of 2008 was the start of Mission 31:8," says Mindy.
The group raised enough money in their church -- $4,000 -- to give 500 children their own large duffel bag, and a luggage tag to personalize it. Foster children typically get tossed around from one house to the next, or moved from their foster home out of the system. Like Vanessa, they load their few belongings into a plastic garbage bag to go from one place to another.
The Hoskins hope the small gift shows that people care about them.
Another couple helped at a camp for foster children through Mission 31:8. Since many foster children rarely celebrate their birthdays, all the children at the camp got a birthday party.
The Hoskins want to do much more, so they invite others in their church to join them in caring for these children. Through Mission 31:8, they brought Hope for Orphans' If You Were Mine DVD workshop to their church last spring. The seminar challenges believers to action.
"We want these kids to feel Jesus' love," says Mindy, but she admits that the task can feel mountain-sized. "We just need to answer God's call and leave the results up to Him."
In the face of such great need, they also believe that they don't need to change everything and everyone to make a difference. Influencing one orphan's life at a time is an important start.
Mindy calls to mind the old story about a boy on a beach where hundreds of starfish had washed ashore. The boy was throwing the creatures back in the ocean 1 by 1. Someone asked why he was doing it: there were so many starfish, he'd never get to them all. The boy stopped with one in his hand and said, "It makes a difference to this one."
Ask Jamison. Just after he turned 4, Alana taught her little brother how to ride a bike.
"I'm going to let go," she warned as she ran behind his little red BMX Magna. Then she shouted, "Pedal fast, pedal fast!" and released her grip.
The boy zipped around, keeping his balance. He fell a few times in the grass, but grasped the concept quickly without training wheels. Three weeks later, Jamison Paul Jean-Min whisks around the neighborhood like he's been riding his whole life.
Both Alana and Avery have notified their mom that when they get older, they too, want to adopt -- again. And they want other people to do that as well. Because many children wait. And hope.
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