At Acres of Love, everything we do is centered around the idea of family. We believe that children belong in families, not institutions. So when we partner with volunteers, our desire is that they will be a long-term presence in our children’s lives. This allows extra layers of support for our children, and gives them an extended family of people who know and love them. In the beginning days of our work, we were blessed by Kathy and her family. We invite you to read her story, in her own words, about how her family became extended family to the children at Acres of Love, and a legal adoptive family to Lulu.
Our incredible journey began some 15 years ago, when we saw a small article in the local newspaper about a new home – Acres of Love, which was caring for 8 abandoned children. After just one visit, our family found ourselves drawn in, longing for more quality time with the children. We had four children, ranging in age from 13 years to 18 months old.
The love and care surrounding the Acres children was apparent from the outset and Gerda and Ryan’s vision was very clear. Their task was complicated- dealing with Government, staff issues, funding – all in the quest to get the best possible care for those children in need. Acres continued to grow out of a faith journey and every soul that entered those doors was cherished, loved and held up to God.
Heartache and total joy characterised the days, as the volunteer base began to grow, allowing us to all share together in the triumphs and setbacks and treasure every child. To say that we were changed forever by opening our hearts to these children, is an understatement. Beyond anything we could ever do for them, was the incredible gift bestowed on each of us in learning to give of ourselves and receiving hundredfold back.
Little did we know just how much the Lord planned to change our lives. Early in 2002, a beautiful, frail baby girl – Lulu – arrived, having been found abandoned. She was sickly and clearly needed medical attention. It wasn’t long before she received such care and was on the road to becoming a healthy, young toddler. As with many of the other children, we took her on outings, visits with our family etc.
It was only with a series of events involving legal action and active intervention, that it became apparent that God had a plan for this child –that we were being chosen to be her family. In the short time that we had known her, she had helped us grow as individuals and as a family, shown us what unconditional love really entailed and the true wonder of life.
Our journey continued with tremendous highs and lows, over the years, through the battle to adopt Lulu, deal with health and emotional issues, and have her become a fully integrated member of our family. Never once did we doubt – we felt privileged to have been chosen by God as her parents and siblings. Our Acres involvement through these years became a more remote relationship as we totally absorbed ourselves in our new family unit.
“O Lord, you are my God: I will exalt you and praise your name, for in perfect faithfulness you have done marvellous things, things planned long ago.” Isaiah 25:1
And so – as the circle of life turns, the Perfect plan has started to fit into place. With our younger son’s friendship and assistance with one of the Acres boys, Lulu started to express an interest in learning more about the work done by Acres of Love, and perhaps getting involved herself.
The Lord must surely be smiling as he gazes upon this 12 year old Lulu – feisty, determined, smart, beautiful and healthy as she begins to learn the joy in giving of yourself and opening your heart, learns to understand why it takes time to trust and learns to open up amongst her own peers about her life and the path it has taken. To see her cradling a 2 week-old baby, tickling a 3 year-old, playing games with a 9 year-old, including another with cerebral palsy, assisting where necessary but also encouraging independence – there simply aren’t words. She is a living miracle and an example of God’s work in the Acres family. I have no doubt that Lulu is growing in confidence and understanding, and will in time, proudly declare herself to be an Acres child – a child of God.
In the meantime, we cherish our ‘hands-on’ involvement again, as I savour my times volunteering at the crèche and the joy in watching as these beautiful children say their prayers and celebrate being alive and loved. I am overwhelmed when I watch girls who have their own broken hearts and stories, being sisters – loving supporting and proudly being part of a family, helping each other whether able bodied or not, and most of all worshipping our Lord.
What Acres have achieved is mind-blowing. This is no ordinary human feat but a collective of people who know the heart of the child and honour that in service to the Lord. We look forward to many more years of the privilege of such service and fulfilment.
Anais Nin once wrote – “I know why families were created with all their imperfections. They humanize. They are made to make you forget yourself occasionally, so that the beautiful balance of life is not destroyed.”
As Acres of Love believes – “children belong in families.”