'We are secure. We belong. Nothing can pluck us from his grasp.'
Barnetta’s story | Foster care, peer pressure and God’s ultimate rescue
“I was born in New York State, USA. My father was an agnostic Jew and my mother was a nominal Catholic. When I was two, my mother had a mental breakdown and my three sisters and I were all put into foster care.”
“We were taken in by an older, German widow. She was 58 and she lived on a small farm in the country with her adult daughter. She had a strong German work ethic, which meant we all worked quite hard with the chores. We found out later that she also needed the money. I remember feeling quite insecure as a child, worried that we might be sent back to our parents. We didn’t fully belong. It was often on our minds, probably as a distorted fear. Occasionally, my foster mother would say, ‘You’ll turn out just like your mother!’ She worried that we might be emotionally unstable, or unable to cope with life. As well as the sense of not belonging, it made me fearful of growing up. What if I was like my mother?
“But our foster mother was also a church goer. She prayed the Lord’s Prayer every evening and she sent us to Lutheran Sunday school. The seeds of God’s love were planted in my heart. Somehow, even as a small girl in foster care, I sensed that God was holding me and looking out for me. My love for God began.
“In 1964, the pastor at our Lutheran church arranged for my sisters and I to go to a Bible camp, in Massachusetts. That’s when I first heard the gospel explained clearly. I prayed and trusted in Jesus as my Lord and Saviour. I felt like I was in a bit of heaven for that week, surrounded by beautiful Christian people who shared their love of Jesus with me. I didn’t want to go home! At the same time, the Bible stories took on a wonderful and precious meaning. I grew in my faith and I memorised Scripture.
“But then came my high school years. There was a lot of peer pressure and I still wanted to fit in. I felt I was still the uncool foster kid. I wanted to belong. I wanted to be a cheerleader. But I was short and conscious of my weight, so I severely dieted and I almost became anorexic. I thought that maybe if I was slim enough, I would fit in and be accepted and feel secure.
“There was one night, when I was 16, I found myself with a guy, in the wrong place at the wrong time. It could have gone badly wrong. My older sister had already had a teenage pregnancy. I was making poor choices. But somehow, God spoke to me that night. He gave me the ability to make a better choice. There are more details, but I felt like God rescued me in that moment. It was a major turnaround. God was saying to me, ‘You belong to me. Trust me. I’ve got a plan for your life. I love you too much to let you mess it up.’
“That’s when everything changed for me. I connected with a gospel church and youth group through a childhood Christian friend, who had never stopped praying for me! I knew that I belonged to God. My security was in him.
“After school, I did more study and I met my husband, Ken, in local church ministry. God called us to come to Australia and we’ve been pastoring a church here for 40 years.
“I love the verse in 1 Thessalonians 5:24 – ‘The One who calls you is faithful, and he will do it.’ It’s been a powerful reminder for me. Even through those years of being in foster care, of not belonging and insecurity, I discovered that when we put our lives in his hands, we are secure. We belong. Nothing can pluck us out of his grip. Jesus is faithful and he will do it.”