It was somber as we drove through Henderson thinking about how unfair it felt that Sharon’s family would most likely be split up at an impending custody trial. It had only been a few months since Sharon’s death at the hands of lung cancer. We (Kendall and my fiancée Katie) arrived to the center with heavy hearts. We would hear the court’s decision very soon. Three years spent building relationships with this family and we could find ourselves with only a few days left with most of them.
Sarah, the third youngest of seven children, arrived to the center wearing her emotions on her sleeve. She wanted to talk, but she didn’t have to. Her face said it all.
“I came to say goodbye Mr. Kendall. Today will be my last day at the Learning Center. All of us have to move to live with my aunt (Sharon’s sister) except for Jessica and Rachel (who are her two youngest sisters and daughters of Derick, Sharon’s boyfriend of 10 years).”
The court custody trial was between their aunt, who wanted the older five children for the government assistance that would follow them, and the only man they have ever known as Dad. The decision would be announced the next day, but Derick knew he probably wasn’t going to get custody. He and Sharon had never married. Though only the two youngest girls were his, he loved all seven with all his heart. All seven called him “Dad.”
If Derick lost the custody battle, the five oldest children would be taken immediately, including Sarah. This tragedy seemed like it was never going to end. Not only do these girls have to work through losing their mom, but the rest of the family would be split up. No more Mom, no more Dad, no more brothers and sisters.
Feeling like this might be the last time we see her, we sat down with her while the rest of the kids started their homework. As we opened up the Bible the scripture we turned to was Psalm 23…
“Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.”
Katie, who had been her Bible Study teacher at Club Christ for a few years, told Sarah, “God loves you and your siblings so much. He will always protect and comfort you, but he needs you to be a leader.” You could see in that moment that Sarah understood. I asked Sarah, “What are you going to do when you move in with your new family?” Sarah stoically said, “I’m going to be a leader. And I’m going to help my brother and sisters by loving and trusting God.”
I could not be more proud after investing into her at Club Christ. She had grown so much as a leader, student and follower of Jesus. I was heartbroken that this would be the last time we would get to have her in our Center, but I’m glad she planned to hold fast to her faith. Katie and I prayed with Sarah and said our goodbyes as she left.
Derick lost the custody battle. The police picked up the siblings at school and they were taken to live with their new family. They left behind a heartbroken single father and their two younger sisters. With the swing of a gavel, the family of eight was reduced to a family of three, and five siblings were sent away.
Our team of staff and volunteers at Club Christ Ministries were humbled that we had an opportunity to be part of Sharon’s story. Thankfully we get to continue to pour into the lives of her two youngest, Jessica and Rachel, who are still with us at the Henderson Center today. Please pray for Sarah and the rest of her family. Pray that The Good Shepherd will see them through.