When my son Micah was born, everyone called him “The Wide-Eyed Wonder Boy,” because his eyes seemed to drink in the world around him. By 18 months he had nicknamed himself “Amazing Micah,” and not much came at anything less than breakneck speed. His preschool teacher described his three-year-old zeal for life and general “boy-ness” as “passionate.” We knew God had big plans for Micah.
That gift of speed became God’s tool two years ago when Micah ran a 5K race to benefit foster kids who had endured child abuse and needed scholarships for camp. He made efforts to learn more about these kids whose lives were so different from his, and as he prayed about how many kids he might be able to send to camp by fundraising, he came up with the number three. While I was nervous, he held unwaveringly to what he felt God calling him to do: fully scholarship three kids to camp so they could learn about God’s love for them. Micah managed to inspire and rally support until he raised over $1,100 for just over three kids to go to camp! He knew that God had made this possible, and he told the story of how God had sent “three and a half kids who needed to know about Jesus to camp” to anyone who would listen.
This past fall we were reminded of Micah’s gift of speed when he entered sixth grade and joined the cross country team. He consistently came in second place in each race, behind an eighth grader. God has obviously given him a gift, and he wanted to come up with a way to use it to benefit the kingdom. Micah’s passion for kids in foster care was certainly alive and well, and when he heard about an organization called The Forgotten Initiative and the Journey Bag program, he knew this was what God was calling him to be involved in.
The Forgotten Initiative resources, supports, and networks advocates and churches across the nation, helping them grow sustainable foster care ministries in their communities. Their mission is to bring joy and purpose to the foster care community by mobilizing the body of Christ to serve, mentor, and support them. The Forgotten Initiative pledge reads, “Whether serving agency workers, foster parents, vulnerable adults, or children, we serve to show Jesus to the one who feels forgotten.”
One of the service projects The Forgotten Initiative promotes is the donation of Journey Bags for children in the foster care system. Often times, kids come into foster care with their belongings in a plastic garbage bag. Imagine what that communicates to a child who has been removed from the home they have known! Journey Bags are backpacks, diaper bags, or duffle bags that are packed by families or churches with comfort items, toys, books, pajamas, toiletries, and a Bible. These are then distributed to children in the foster care system through the local social services organizations.
When Micah heard about Journey Bags, he immediately started to plan how he could combine his heart for foster kids and his gift for running. Our pastor challenged us in a sermon series to pray about a Big Heavenly Audacious Goal, or a B.H.A.G. Micah began to pray—and God gave him a vision for a run to raise money to buy items for Journey Bags. Micah wanted kids to know they were not forgotten, that there are people who recognize their journey and want to love and equip them well.
As Micah began to talk to people about this run, including our local Forgotten Initiative advocate, he also began to pray about a number of bags to aim for. As he prayed, he felt that God gave him the goal of collecting 2,000 Journey Bags in the year 2016. When you consider that a bag costs about $50 to pack, this would be a $100,000 goal! A big goal needed a big plan. Micah started off in January asking for 12 Journey Bags for his twelfth birthday—and by the end of the day had 13 bags committed. Soon after, the student ministries pastors at our church caught wind of his goal and brainstormed with him to create a glow-in-the-dark color 5K called the Run to Remember to raise money for The Forgotten Initiative—this would be bigger than the backyard run he had been planning. Micah began making videos to promote packing Journey Bags. More kids would know they are not forgotten, but seen by a God who knows their needs.
Just three months into his goal, Micah has collected 40 bags for kids—kids who need to know that God has a big plan and they are a part of it. We see how they are known—and we pray they see it as well through a simple backpack filled with special items. The Forgotten Initiative gave one bag to a group home in faith that the next child to enter would be a 10- to 12-year-old girl. The next child to come was a girl who entered the home on her 11th birthday. They gave her the Journey Bag, and when she opened it she started crying. She said it was everything she needed. They were able to tell her, “This bag is from God.”
The Run to Remember will happen on April 10, 2016. It is too early to share the results at the time of writing this article. However, what we do know is that, as God is writing Micah’s story, He’s also writing the stories of kids whose names we don’t know, and whose faces we may not see, but who are certainly not forgotten.