Do you believe in miracles? I do, and it was in the moment we were most despaired that God showed us His ability to do the impossible. Let me tell you our story.
My name is Sami. My husband’s name is Brian. We have three beautiful children; Brooklyn, Katie, and Phoenix. We will never forget the moment we met our daughters for the first time. They were 3 and 5 years old – living in an emergency shelter for children removed from their homes. Katie could barely speak and seemed very sad and scared. But Brooklyn was full of life and energy. She came running across the room and jumped in my arms. With a big smile on her face, she asked, “Are you here to play with me?” We knew instantly that we wanted to foster these girls.
They came to live with us and we had such a great time with them. We were blessed to meet the girls’ biological family when we transported them to their visits. We were in the courtroom when the judge decided to let them go home to their mom. We were sad to see them go, but we stayed in their lives helping their family as much as possible.
We became house parents at Collins Children’s Home during this time. Collins Home is much different than emergency shelters because it’s like a real home. Each child has his/her own personal space – a huge contrast to many shelters where kids almost seem stacked on top of each other. The girls’ mom was still struggling so we told her she could voluntarily place the girls at Collins Home until she could get back on her feet. She brought the girls to visit and see what a wonderful place it is to liv
She even let us take them on a short summer vacation, but she could not bring herself to voluntarily place her children. Sadly, it was only a matter of time before they were taken away from her again by DSS. At this point, we lost all contact. No one would tell us where the girls had been placed and we were unable to reach their mother. We cried and prayed for them…desperately hoping to find them again.
We continued caring for foster children in another setting. Then, one night we will never forget, one of the little girls we were fostering was killed in a tragic car crash. It was as if everything was lost. We didn’t understand God’s plan in all of this. We continued working with children but it was a very hard year for us. It was a time of deep mourning. Then, some amazing things happened. First, I became pregnant! And second, we got a phone call that would change our lives once again. Friends of ours, who had known the little girl who died, were inspired to start a ministry. Their Butterfly Ministry encourages girls who live in foster care group homes by giving them an American Girl doll. After a visit to Collins Home our friend told us that when one little girl received a doll she saw a picture of us and said, “Those are my foster parents! Can you please call them for me?” Immediately we contacted Collins Home and they confirmed the “little girl” was our Brooklyn! Brian and I were finally reunited with our girls. We were then able to contact their mother and she asked us to adopt them.
Our family is now complete. Brooklyn is 13, Katie is 11 and Phoenix will turn 2 on Christmas day. Two years ago, our whole family came together because God performed a miracle – using people who are willing to follow His direction. We never would have found our girls if everyone involved had not been open to His plan for their lives. Thank you! We are forever grateful for our forever family.
Yes, I believe in miracles! And I believe God uses ministries like Collins Children’s Home to show His love and compassion. I’m so thankful for people with caring and generous hearts who support this ministry.
Merry Christmas from our home to yours and God bless you all!
Have you ever considered that it’s possible to give the gift of childhood?
My name is Amanda and I want to share my story with you because I did receive the gift of childhood at Collins Children’s Home and I will cherish it forever.
The day my siblings and I were removed from our home began like any other day. I remember my arm was hurting from the bruises I received the night befor
I dug through a pile of dirty clothes trying to find
something ‘clean enough’ for the day; all the while being extra
careful not to wake my parents. I got ready for school and then got Cindy and Bryan dressed. I found some dry cereal for them but there wasn’t enough for me; that was okay, I was fine. Finally, I got them out the door in time to meet the school bus. Thank God, because my parents would have been really angry if we missed the bus.
I performed well in school and enjoyed being there; I felt safe. The teachers were nice and no one yelled or hit me. On this day, I was hot and accidentally pushed up my sleeve. My teacher saw the large angry bruises covering my arm. The minute I realized she had seen my arm, I knew I had messed up. I tried to cover the bruises but it was too late. Mrs. Mitchell asked to speak with me privately and I began to cry...I was going to be in so much trouble. When Mrs. Mitchell asked how I got the
bruises I wanted to lie, but she was always so kind and sweet, how could I lie to her? So I explained that my parents hit me, but not to be mad at them because it was my fault...I was supposed to keep Cindy and Bryan quiet, but forgot for just a minute. “What have I done?” is all I could think as the man from Department of Social Services drove my siblings and me to a place called Collins Children’s Home. Cindy and Bryan were crying and I felt worse. Would we ever get to see our parents again? I wished I could take it all back. Those people didn’t understand...I loved my parents...they didn’t mean to hurt me. It wasn’t all bad...sometimes we did fun things together and my parents were happy. They were going to be so mad at me.
When we got to Collins Home, they showed us our rooms, where we each had our own bed. I was so happy that Cindy and I got to share a room. Bryan shared a room with a little boy names James, the same age as him. Mrs. Crystal was sweet and Mr. Jamie was funny. I couldn’t believe how nice they were...Cindy and Bryan stopped crying. The other kids seemed excited to meet us. It wasn’t so bad. Mrs. Crystal wanted to make sure we had everything we needed for school so I got to go with her to the store and buy clothes and some school supplies. Before long it was time for bed...I didn’t believe I would be able to sleep, but it had been such a long stressful day that I finally fell asleep knowing Cindy and Bryan were safe. I was surprised to wake up feeling a little better the next morning. When I went to the kitchen, Mr. Jamie had bacon, eggs and grits waiting for all of us....it was so good.
My siblings and I lived at Collins Children’s Home for over two years before being adopted by a loving family. During our time there, we felt safe and loved...we healed and lived like children should. I got to be a sister instead of a caregiver. Thanks to all the good people who had compassion for me; I received the gift of childhood.
[please note the children’s names were changed for privacy]
Many years ago I was a Collins Home kid.
I clearly remember the day my mother told my three sisters and me that we were going to live at a children’s home. With all our belongings in the car we rounded the bend of a long driveway and I caught a glimpse of the biggest house I had ever seen; the home of Joe and Anne Rackley. They were the hugging-est and smiling-est people I had ever met. I loved them immediately but I didn’t want my Mom to leave! I cried, begged, bartered and tried every weapon in my arsenal to get her to stay but she did not. I was six years old and could not understand why she left us there.
My first meal at Collins Home was my introduction to a home with rules and discipline. I was not allowed to leave the table until I ate all my peas. Joe and I sat there for a long time! I received my roots in faith, family, and perseverance there. I credit Collins Home and Joe and Anne with forming me into the man I have become.
As a family we woke up early, made our beds, brushed our teeth, and greeted everyone as we entered the kitchen for breakfast. We spent time everyday doing homework after school as a group, something my children still do today. I learned so much... from working a garden to construction to problem solving and child rearing. We had numerous volunteers that would stop by and spend time with us. I am still very close to those “special friends” and have watched their children, and in some cases grandchildren grow.
Collins Home was my home in every sense of the word. I saw many children at different stages of life. We all showed up in various states, some suffering deeply, some neglected and some unloved; yet, we quickly experienced unconditional love. Every night before we went to bed we walked around and gave each person in the house a goodnight hug, also something that my family does to this day.
I left Collins Home at age thirteen when Mom remarried a great man that provided for us. At seventeen I joined the Marine Corps determined to make something of myself. I was promoted faster than most and ended my career as a Gunnery Sergeant. I served in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Albania, Kosovo, and Iraq (twice). I followed until I lead. I lead until I retired. I spent my downtime teaching Marines the lessons that I had learned at Collins Home. Although I received awards and accolades, taught Marine Corps Martial Arts, and weapons handling I am still a kid when I spend time with Joe and Anne.
When life got tough I often thought. “How would Joe handle this?” or “What would Anne say about this?” I feel a deep desire to follow in their footsteps. Now thirty some years after entering Collins, I look back with nothing but love and respect. I truly thank God for the life He has blessed me with and the time I spent there. I know that I could not have made it without living for the one true God and His voice put into action through Collins Home.
If you are one of the many friends who supported the Home when I was there I want to personally thank you for changing my life. And if you are now asking yourself if you should give to this ministry; I can assure you that your donation will change the future of some very deserving kids. Unfortunately there are still too many children (much like the frightened six year old boy that I was) who need a safe and caring place to live. I hope you will consider your most generous gift to Collins Home this Christmas season.