Debra Moerke and her husband, Al, never imagined how their lives would change when they decided to become foster parents. And after fostering over 140 children, never did they imagine their worst nightmare coming true. Murder, Motherhood, and Miraculous Grace is a true story that tests the limits of the human heart. I recommend it as a must read for anyone who loves a gripping story of the power of redemption. A beautiful, life-affirming testament to how unconditional love, and relentless obedience, can transform even the darkest of nights into mornings of hope, and change one’s heart. It’s a grace to welcome Debra to the farm’s front porch today…
Al and I first became foster parents in 1982.
One night, we were watching TV and an advertisement came on explaining that the community was in real need of families who would take in children who had been hurt or neglected by their parents.
We looked at each other and agreed that we had a nice home, food on the table, and room in our hearts that we could share with such children.
The next day, I drove to our local DFS office and filled out an application to become foster parents. After going through interviews and a home check, we received our first child, a little boy.
In our early days of fostering, we were critical of the parents, guardians, and family members who were supposed to be responsible for these innocent children, and we interpreted our role as temporary saviors to these neglected and abused children.
We didn’t think to question why the abuse occurred.
We assumed it was because the adults were on drugs or were alcoholics or they had been abused so they abused others, or they had anger issues that were never addressed.
To us, such parents seemed evil with no conscience or boundaries.
Ours was a simplistic perspective, and though we didn’t comprehend what would cause people to make such choices, we shared a passion to step in and help children who suffered at the hand, or lack of care, of their parents.
One of the first foster babies Al and I received had been rescued from a car when he was five days old. The infant had been abandoned inside the vehicle on a hot day; the mother had grabbed her drugs and run from the car.
She was caught and arrested, but the police never knew about the baby until the mother’s boyfriend came to bail her out. The baby almost didn’t make it and was in the hospital for a month before we were able to bring him home and care for him.
Another infant had suffered skull fractures from abuse. Other children were burned with cigarettes or beaten, leaving their little bodies marked or bruised.
Our own children could see the abuse suffered by these little helpless children and were outraged.
Their reactions gave voice to our own personal thoughts and ranged from “the people who did this should be put in jail for the rest of their lives” to “they should be taken out and whipped, or burned with cigarettes, or shot or electrocuted.”
There wasn’t much grace or forgiveness for such people in their minds. Al and I, in our early years especially, often found ourselves feeling the same way.
But in 1986, four years into foster parenting, our lives changed dramatically.
Al had been drinking excessively, and I was overcome with my inability to cope with it. We saw our marriage falling apart and feared divorce.
Al decided to put himself into an alcohol treatment center and shortly thereafter, I discovered that I was pregnant.
One Sunday while he was still in treatment, I took the children to church and heard a sermon on Deuteronomy 5 addressing “the sin of the parents.”
God used that sermon to bring me to my knees and into salvation as I realized how the sins of my parents, grandparents, and previous generations were affecting my life.
Sins of bitterness, unforgiveness, lust, greed, and so much more.
I saw with fresh eyes that those sins were at work in me and that Al and I, too, would be responsible for generational sin that would be reaped and repeated if there was nothing to stop it.
Jesus Christ’s sacrifice provided a way to break those curses. If I would confess my sin, I would be cleansed of“all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).
I chose Jesus and prayed that the sins and curses I was living out would be broken and, through His blood, forgiven and cleansed.
Unbeknownst to me, Al was going through his own journey of discovering faith while in treatment.
When he and I shared our newfound faith with one another, we decided to trust God to create a new life in us and a new marriage for us.
Al has not touched alcohol since his treatment and lives a life for Christ.
Since then, God has brought us into a world of challenges that has grown our faith and called us to serve Him fully.
Once we’d learned the truths of sin, confession, forgiveness, and spiritual growth, we realized that the care for our own children and those coming into our home needed to be not only physical and emotional care, but spiritual care as well.
That changed everything.
We saw that we had the responsibility to minister to these children with the truth that could also set them and even their families free.
We could play our part in affecting lives for Christ no matter how much or how little time we had with each child.
We were to share life with a future and a hope in Christ in whatever ways we could, so we made Sunday church attendance as a family a commitment, prayer a central part of our lives, and reading Bible stories to our children part of our routine.
As Al and I experienced our personal encounters with Jesus, His forgiveness, and the Bible, we worked at believing that since God’s nature was forgiving, ours needed to become forgiving as well.
We challenged each other to seek forgiving hearts toward abusive parents.
Not that our conversion immediately altered our natural responses of anger and the desire for retribution.
We saw no excuse for such behavior, and though it was a struggle, we sought a change of heart toward such parents through the power of God.
It never got easier to see children hurt, especially by their own parents, and was upsetting every time a child was sent home after a parent fulfilled a list of hoop-jumping steps for the courts.
Eventually, however, we realized that though we couldn’t change a broken system, we were called to step into the lives of the children and parents for as long as God would allow and show them love and care and another way of living.
We learned to explain to our children that this is what goes on in the world and all we can do is play the part we’re called to play.
A child disappears… a foster mom faces an impossible choice… a baby’s future hangs in the balance. Overwhelmed with horror and grief, would Debra find her way through the pain to play her role in this saga of loss, redemption, and seemingly impossible forgiveness? Only through total surrender would Debra find herself living out this true story of God’s miraculous grace.
Murder, Motherhood, and Miraculous Grace is an unbelievable true story of faith, family, and a journey toward seemingly impossible forgiveness. A story that tests the limits of the human heart, it’s ultimately a beautiful, life-affirming testament to how unconditional love and relentless obedience can transform even the darkest of nights into mornings of hope.
[ Our humble thanks to Tyndale for their partnership in today’s devotion ]