OCA: The Value of Presence
Foster Care and Mentoring
As a young teen, Bradley’s unstable family life crumbled, and he found himself suddenly in the foster care system. Just a few years later, as a new college student, he faced the world without any of the benefits of a solid foundation or adults who could guide him. He needed someone in his corner.
Travis is an ordinary guy. He has a wife and two kids, a fulfilling career, and a full schedule. Every day, he tries to honor God with his life. And now, he’s in Bradley’s corner.
When a representative from Orphan Care Alliance (OCA) approached Travis about becoming a life coach for a teen who had aged out of foster care, he began to think about how much he’d been given. He was raised in a stable family, with consistent adults who helped shape his basic life skills—like creating healthy study habits, managing money, navigating relationships, and cooking and cleaning for himself.
Travis imagined the physical and emotional impact he would have experienced if he didn’t grow up with those influences. He wasn’t qualified to solve everything for anyone, but he knew he could show up, be present and consistent, and reach out his hand to one person at a time.
OCA provides training, resources, and ongoing support for volunteers who agree to be mentors for young men and women. There are goals and expectations and processes in place to protect and encourage the participants as well as time requirements—one hour each week for a year. But beyond all those details, they need people who realize that presence matters, especially when there are no strings attached.
Travis realized early on that the greatest gift he could give Bradley was to be able to say, “I’m here. You can trust me. I don’t need anything from you.”
When Travis and Bradley began meeting, an immediate need became clear: Bradley had no idea how to drive. They began spending time each week in empty parking lots while Travis taught Bradley the basic requirements for driving. It was an altogether normal scene—directions, laughter, tension, good-natured ribbing over each other’s music preferences.
It was a memory most people make with their parents. Now it’s a memory Bradley will always have with Travis, who stepped in when he was needed.
Eventually Bradley learned how to drive and earned his license and they moved on to other goals. Now, even though their year-long commitment has passed, Travis and Bradley still connect and meet up with each other.
FAITH IN ACTION
Though Bradley and Travis have different histories and interests, they find common ground in faith. Bradley always believed in God on some level, but he embraced and pursued Christ when he was a teenager. In many ways, having that faith sustained him and gave him a way to process some of the difficult things that were happening around him with his family and foster care. He recognizes a bigger purpose, and that hope helps him look at his circumstances more positively.
Serving with Bradley has reminded Travis of the core Gospel message. Jesus saw us in our need when we were hurting and alone, and He jumped into our mess and walked through it with us. When we were orphans, God adopted us into His family.
Travis and Bradley are learning from each other. They are growing in their capacity to love and be loved. They’re showing up for each other, and that presence makes all the difference.
Learn more about how to get involved with orphan and foster care at southeastchristian.org/ministries/foster-and-adoption.