On Jan. 2, Jacob and Samantha Rickman were enjoying an afternoon at the park with their four biological children and their new foster child, when they received a notification from their security system that their power was out.
When they returned home, it was clear that the rest of the neighborhood was unaffected. After running a few tests and flipping their breakers, the Rickmans quickly realized that something was not right.
“I could just smell the burning,” Samantha said.
The fire was up in the attic. Insulation thankfully stopped it from spreading further into the home.
The Rickmans immediately called electricians, who determined that the home had experienced an electrical fire and that it was not safe to keep the electricity running until the issue was resolved.
“It was going to take them several weeks to fix it,” Samantha said. “And in the meantime, we were going to be without power.”
Immediately, Samantha contacted their case manager at Baptist Children’s Homes of North Carolina (BCH) to make her aware of the situation.
“We were told that it was unsafe for us to have our foster child in the home in this situation,” Samantha said. “And the conversation became, ‘Can we find respite care for your foster child while we figure this out?’
“I immediately felt defensive. We were his fifth placement in three months. We had built this love and trust, and he felt safe with us.”
The idea of displacing their foster child for even a few days troubled Samantha and her family.
“We weren’t going to send him to someone else like everyone else had,” Samantha said. “So Baptist Children’s Homes said, ‘We’ll figure out a way to keep you together.’”
Immediately, BCH went to work, and the Rickmans began to pray.
The Rickmans have served as foster parents with BCH for almost three years now, but their desire to foster has deep roots.
“We’ve known we wanted to help and foster children since before we were married,” Jacob said.
“I came from a really large family,” Samantha said. “My family claimed 17 children as their own, and of those only two were biological. We had a lot of adoptive siblings, children and family who came in temporarily. We really knew we wanted to carry that on.”
In their time partnering with BCH, the Rickmans have welcomed seven long-term placements and a few short-term placements into their home.
“From the beginning, Jacob and Samantha were adamant that they wanted to serve the children no one else wanted,” said Gretchen Goers, a foster care and adoption supervisor with BCH.
“Truly, they are some of the best people we have,” Goers said. “All you have to do is call and say there is a child in need, and they are ready without question …. We knew we had to have their back, whatever it was going to take.”
Goers reached out to Brenda Gray, executive vice president of development and communications at BCH, and the team went to work making phone calls and sending text messages to the surrounding Baptist community, seeking a way to keep this foster family together.
Gray called Casey Norkett, president of the board of directors for the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina and missions pastor of Hickory Grove Baptist Church in Charlotte.
“I was sitting at dinner with my family when I got the phone call,” Norkett said, “So I figured it was something urgent. Brenda told me about the family’s situation and that they needed housing quickly.”
While Hickory Grove’s two mission houses were occupied with missionaries, Norkett knew exactly whom to reach out to for help.
“Our Baptist family immediately went into action,” Gray said. “Casey called and connected me to Bob Lowman, and within minutes, we had a home for this family.”
The next day Bob Lowman, executive director of the Metrolina Baptist Association, welcomed the Rickmans into the association’s mission house, providing a tour, a helping hand and prayer.
“While I was touring the Rickmans around the house that Friday, Casey and his wife pulled up in their minivan with their children and boxes of groceries and gift cards in hand,” Lowman said. “It overwhelmed the Rickmans and was a real blessing to them.”
The sweetest moment, Lowman said, was the opportunity he had to pray with the family.
“Jacob warned me that his foster child might not respond well to me being there,” Lowman said. “But when they came in, and I was able to welcome them and pray for them, he came running to me, grabbed my leg and thanked me, and after the prayer he hugged me again. It was precious to see this child who had been through so much in his young life already really overwhelmed with joy and love.”
Goers experienced a similar moment when she pulled into the driveway, her car packed with food, toiletries and other supplies.
“We wanted to use Baptist Children’s Homes’ resources to alleviate some of their burden,” Goers said.
In reality, the work and resources did something even greater.
“As I pulled into the driveway, all four of their biological children ran out to the car,” Goers said. “There was such joy on their faces as they kept telling me, ‘We didn’t want to lose our little brother. We didn’t want to lose our brother.’”
Because of the combined help and support of the Christian community around them, they did not have to. The young boy was able to stay with a family ready and willing to love and serve him.
“We’ve had a lot of people praying for us and helping us,” Samantha said. “It had the opportunity to be absolutely terrible, but instead it has been such a blessing.”
“Not everyone is called or equipped to foster a child,” Norkett said. “But every believer, every church, is gifted in some way to be able to minister to a family. This didn’t require someone bringing a child into their family, or even providing financial support, but it was an immediate need that people rose up and met. Every member of the church has a part to play in foster care and adoption.”
by Kari Wilson, N.C. Baptist contributing writer