In the midst of doing life together—going to the movies, shopping, grabbing coffee, gearing up for a sports game, sharing a meal or helping with homework—transparency takes place and transforms relationships.
Orphan Care Alliance Life Coach Lisa Carlisle has done life with Katie*, a 19-year-old in foster care, for almost two years.
“When you’re face-to-face, kids open up more when they see you’re not there to get anything from them, but you just want to do life with them, spend time with them and encourage them,” Carlisle said. “Katie said, ‘You’re like a mom to me.’ I asked her once, ‘What do you like most about this?’ She said, ‘I just like hanging out.’ It didn’t have to be anything profound. It was just hanging out.”
While visiting Southeast in 2016, Carlisle was introduced to OCA, an organization that equips, connects and mobilizes Christians to serve vulnerable children and families.
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OCA provides opportunities to engage in orphan care, whether its adopting or advocating.
During the service, Southeast showed a video highlighting OCA, a Southeast Local Missions partner, and Carlisle felt tugged to be an OCA life coach and to share the love of the Lord with a young person.
“I felt I was being drawn to this organization—that it was something that I needed to do,” said Carlisle, a member of Highview Baptist Church. “My son was going through all of the college decisions, and I thought, ‘What would this look like without anybody who wanted to be there with you and was not paid to be there?’ A lot of times they’re in the system through no fault of their own.”
OCA life coaches meet once a week with young people, typically ages 12-21, with foster care experience. Carlisle said meeting one-on-one allows young people to share things they might not be comfortable sharing in a group setting.
“I think some of the transparency is so that they can see if you’ll accept them despite all that’s going on in their lives—that you’ll still stay in their lives,” Carlisle said. “After I heard everything Katie had been through, I felt more of a burden to walk alongside her.”
First Thessalonians 2:8 says, “Because we loved you so much, we were delighted to share with you not only the Gospel of God but our lives as well.”
“You may be the only healthy relationship they have with an adult who’s not paid to be there, which is mind-blowing,” Carlisle added. “Knowing where I came from and the positive adult influences I had and then where my kids are and the positive adult influences they have … a lot of times they don’t have that, and it’s heartbreaking. It makes you want to share your life with them. What if the only thing you had was, ‘OK, I’ve got an hour appointment with this person because that’s what her schedule is.’”
The Carlisles have opened up their home, shared their faith and taken Katie to church. Carlisle said Katie loves spending time with her family, talking with her daughter Ashley, who’s in college, and attending her youngest son Nathan’s basketball and baseball games.
The Carlisles celebrated Christmas with Katie, took her out to eat and to the movies for her 19th birthday and hosted her high school graduation party.
“Some things our family thinks are totally normal and takes for granted, but there are so many experiences that she hasn’t had,” Carlisle said. “So seeing things through her eyes has been fun because there are a lot of opportunities she hasn’t had. My kids wouldn’t think anything about going to Olive Garden or to the movies.”
Carlisle and Katie also have set goals together, such as learning how to cook, budget and interact with others.
“I think she would hang out with me every day,” she added. “I’m thankful that I’ve been given the opportunity, and OCA is available to match you with somebody. It’s a great ministry to be in somebody’s life who isn’t like you. It really opened my eyes that people really come from hard places … I knew that, but just to hear how it affects somebody has been eye-opening.”
OCA life coaches must successfully complete a five-hour orientation training session, an application, a background check and an interview. For more information, visit www.orphancarealliance.org or contact (502) 498-4765 or email@example.com.
*Name has been changed to protect identity.