By Lauren Hollon Sturdy
Photos by Chelsea Quackenbush
The tiny town of Seminole, Texas, is quite a trek from the Buckner office in Midland – about 65 miles each way. There’s not a lot to see in between, apart from miles of oil derricks, swaths of terracotta-colored earth and pale blue skies filled with endless clouds.
Gary and Terry Griffin make their home in a modest neighborhood in the sleepy, 6,500-person town. They say they’ve known since they were a young couple they wanted to be foster parents some day. Three years ago, with an empty nest and plenty of stability and love to offer, they took the plunge. Even though they’re veteran parents, the Griffins said foster parenting presents all new challenges.
“We’re still finding it true they should’ve come with an owner’s manual that would tell you what to do with them, whether they’re biological kids or foster kids,” Terry said.
Gary and Terry manage to find their way even without an instruction booklet, learning each child’s communication style, personality and quirks, and watching foster children like 17-year-old Katie* settle in and blossom.
“The first girl we had, Katie, was with us for eight or nine months, and she was afraid to try anything,” Terry said. “She wanted to sit in her room. She didn’t want to go with friends, she didn’t want to talk to anybody. I think she made a lot of progress with us there. For example, when we went out to eat, we’d say ‘OK, you need to tell them what you want to eat.’ We’d make her do that kind of stuff. She actually got a job while she was here with us, and learned some job skills.”
“[Our caseworker] said other foster families never could get her to get a job before,” Gary added. “Getting a job, getting out and talking to people, meeting people, and even getting out to take a drivers’ test, that was really a big step for her.”
Gary and Terry have discovered their own strengths and personalities have made them a strong fostering team. Gary is laid-back and quiet, and he understands when the kids “just want to be left alone for a while.” Terry is good about getting the kids to talk about their feelings. She’s also better at providing discipline and structure.
They both agree one of the most exciting parts of foster parenting is bringing the kids to First Assembly of God in Seminole, where Gary serves as the head pastor.
“Probably the majority of kids we’ve had have never been to church,” Gary said. “That’s a foreign concept to them. We had two sisters, one was 13 and one was 8, who had never been to church, never been to Sunday School, Vacation Bible School or anything to do with church. We had the opportunity to take them to church and see how the Lord really does change a person.
“Once we were coming back from a visitation with their family when we got caught in one of our infamous dirt storms,” he said. “We could see it blowing in and I said, ‘Oh, girls, we’re in trouble.’ It hit and it was a really bad one. They got pretty fearful and I said, ‘Why don’t we just pray?’ And after I prayed, they really got settled down and said, ‘It’s going to be OK.’ And I said, ‘It sure is.’”
They’ve seen changes in several kids’ lives. Gary remembers 14-year-old Mary* who was “afraid about what was going to happen in the world.”
“I’d say, ‘Well, this is what the Scripture says,’ and I’d give her some scriptures. When she was going back to court and we knew she was probably going to get to go home with family, she told me, ‘I don’t have to be afraid anymore, do I?.’
“I said, ‘No, ma’am, you don’t.’
“She said, ‘Because this is what the Bible says …’
“I said, ‘Yes, ma’am.’
“She said, ‘That’s why I’m alright now.’”
*Names changed to protect privacy
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