Burma and Michigan are more than 8,000 miles (12,800 km) apart, but three families of Lakeside Community Christian Reformed Church in Alto, Mich., are bridging the distance by taking five teenage Burmese refugees into their homes.
The teens escaped persecution in their home country, also known as Myanmar, and arrived in the United States in the past year.
“There’s no hope for a future [in Burma],” said Miriam Hinkle, one of the foster parents. “They can’t go to school, and they would go to church on Sunday, but they didn’t dare sing very loud because they’d get thrown in jail.”
For the Brinks, Cooper, and Hinkle families, the connection began with a presentation about Burmese refugees by Bethany Christian Services.
“I already had three teenage boys at home,” said Ronda Brinks. “But I got the nudge from God, and he kept nudging me that it would bless my family, and we went in from there.”
Hinkle echoed those sentiments. “I thought, ‘If I can’t even do it for a kid who wants a good Christian home, who can I do it for?’” she said. “It tugged at my heart.”
The Brinks ended up taking in two boys; the Hinkles took in two sisters; and the Coopers took in one boy.
Despite linguistic and cultural differences, the teens have been involved with the church community at Lakeside and in sports at their schools.
Although getting licensed as foster care providers was daunting, the families say the experience has been rewarding.
“It’s been a lot of fun,” Hinkle said.