Safe in Christ
By Constance FinkShare
It looked like Bobbie Heller would always have “abandoned” written across the case file of her life. Yet she went from being raised by a foster mother to being the mother of three children…from being raised in a non-Christian home to being a full-time ministry wife…and from being raised with no father-figure to partnering with her husband to give marriage counseling. So how did God connect the dots of her life and transform her into a woman characterized by safety, security, and significance?
JBU: What can you tell us about your birth parents?
BOBBIE: My dad was Jewish atheist and my mother, Catholic. Some of the facts of their situation are still not clear to this day. But I do know my mother suffered a nervous breakdown and was institutionalized when I was three years old. Neither my father nor any other relative wanted to care for my three sisters and me.
JBU: How many homes were you raised in?
BOBBIE: We were in and out of foster homes for the first few months. My younger sister was separated from us for a few years. But, eventually, the state ruled to have us raised together, and we were placed in a permanent foster home through high school. Our foster mother was a single mother, a widow. She took us in to help on the farm.
JBU: What was the best thing about your foster home?
BOBBIE: One of the best parts was that my sisters and I stayed together. We attended a church where we heard the gospel. The pastor even sponsored us to go to a Christian camp. One Sunday when I was 17 years old, I clearly recognized my need for a Savior and I trusted Christ. God began to “raise me” as His daughter and gave me an unshakeable security in His love. I had no doubt I belonged to Him and He loved me unconditionally, though trusting people was another issue.
JBU: What were the difficult parts of being a foster child?
BOBBIE: I felt different, like an outcast. From the eyes of a 3-year old, life seemed normal. But when I reached the age to notice people and families, I could see the difference. I never felt like I belonged to anyone and did not know how to have close friends.
If we didn’t behave, our foster mother threatened to send us away. She degraded us and spoke against our birth parents, instilling in us that we would probably end up like them, not amounting to anything. I grew up feeling unsafe and insecure.
Our foster mother has since died and, thankfully, became a Christian when I was in college. I harbor no ill feelings toward her and look forward to our renewed relationship in heaven.
JBU: How did your upbringing affect your marriage and parenting?
BOBBIE: John and I met at Bob Jones University. While dating, I felt insecure in his love. I was fearful he would abandon me like everyone else in my life had. Couple his abusive upbringing with my unique struggles, and neither of us knew what a healthy marriage looked like. I never dreamed a Christian marriage could have such serious problems.
We both brought quite a bit of anger and bitterness to our relationship. When one of us felt hurt or degraded, the reaction was over the top. Through counsel, books, and Scripture, we learned the source of our anger and insecurities. I expected John to meet all of my unmet needs. Only God could fill the gaps left by my family. John and I are free to love each other realistically.
JBU: How did you help your three children to feel safe?
BOBBIE: We asked the Lord for grace to break the cycle of sin from our families. Our priority was to make each child feel special to us and the Lord. Today, all three of our children have good marriages, solid relationships with God, and are raising their children to know and love Him. We are thankful the cycle is broken—God deserves all the glory!
JBU: How do you see the church’s role in the foster care system?
- Mentor parents who take on the foster parent role
- Encourage healthy families to become part of the foster program
- Show children that God’s love is safe and secure
JBU: What characteristics should a couple have if they are considering foster parenting?
BOBBIE: They should have a heart for kids and a desire to draw them to Christ. They should not be in the program for monetary or personal gain. Foster parenting can be a profound ministry to an abandoned child.
JBU: What are your ministry involvements?
BOBBIE: My husband and I have served the Lord together full-time for almost 25 years. Currently, John ministers in a church in Little Rock, Arkansas. In addition, we do camp ministry, conference speaking, discipleship seminars, and marriage counseling.
- Favorite Scripture passage: Revelation 4:11
- Favorite Song: “Face to Face with Christ My Savior”
- One fun thing she likes to do with her husband: Watching old movies in bed while eating popcorn
To contact Bobbie for speaking or counsel:
- Email: email@example.com