Finding foster families to dedicate their time, energy, and spirit to open their hearts and homes is nothing short of a challenge. LIRS’s local partner, Lutheran Family Services Rocky Mountains (LFSRM) helps children and families during their most challenging times. LFSRM’s Unaccompanied Refugee Minor program finds foster families for refugee children who come to the United States alone. They currently serve over 40 refugee children. LFSRM is proud of their foster families who dedicate their time, including Shad and Lynette Rempel who have fostered six children, three from Burma and three from Nepal. If you are interested in becoming a foster parent, or know of someone who might be, you can view step-by-step instructions on how to become one here.
Shad Rempel shares his story with us:
I guess you could say that refugees are in my blood. 140 years ago it was my family that was fleeing Czarist Russia due to religious persecution. I grew up as an only child, but my parents had a unique fix for that: foreign exchange students. In my teen years, we received our first exchange student from Russia. While he was living with us, the Chechen war began. We all worked hard to get him into university here so that he could avoid conscription into that war. Once that was established, we brought his brother over as well. Next was a Brazilian, followed by a German. When I wasn’t spending time with my “brothers,” I was spending time with many other exchange students. I guess I just felt more at home with people from other countries.
I met my wife when I was 5. (She was an attractive 2 year old in the backseat of the carpool vehicle.) Lynette and I married in 2000. In 2005 we moved to Colorado. After a few years of getting established, we took in our first exchange student from Ukraine. A year later we took in our second exchange student from Azerbaijan. Life was pretty much headed down that track until we were asked to be on the board of directors for a local fair-trade organization called Yobel International. One day, in the middle of an apple orchard, the president of the board suggested that maybe we ought to speak with her friend. “She’s a caseworker for Lutheran Family Services, and she works with refugees here in Colorado Springs…it kind of seems like it’d be up your alley.”
Long story short: On July 20th, 2011, Lynette and I welcomed our first group of three siblings… [of the] Karen [ethnicity] from Burma. On March 19th, 2012 we welcomed our second group of siblings…Bhutanese from Nepal. Over three years have passed since that day in the apple orchard.
I’d say that we didn’t necessarily choose to foster as much as we were chosen to foster. Looking back on life at the time, it’s clear to me now that it was a grand orchestration that led us to this. Our saying “yes” was the easiest part about it.
My colleague that led us to Lutheran Family Services of the Rocky Mountains asked us during dinner just a month ago, “Why do you continue to do this?” In an odd moment of complete clarity, my answer was simple: “Because they’re my children.” I feel as though in our lives… we’ve won the lottery. We never felt led to have biological children, but these kids are 100% family to us. I can’t imagine loving any children more than I love these children. I know that we’ll be mom and dad for the rest of our and their lives.
Taking these children into our home hasn’t changed us… it has transformed us. We are new, better people. We miss nothing from our lives before children. Not every day is a walk in paradise, but not a day has passed that I haven’t stopped and smiled at the thought of how wonderful our lives have become.
If you want to do more to help find foster homes for immigrant youth or you think you may want to foster immigrant youth, please contact us at www.lirs.org/fostercare.