Foster Family Played Critical Role in Tennessee Youth Minister’s Journey to Christ

Shaq Hardy preaches during a youth gathering at Brainerd Baptist Church in Chattanooga, Tenn. Abandoned by his mother not long after birth, Hardy often leans on his experience in foster care to minister to hurting kids. Photo courtesy of Shaq Hardy

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (BP) — Much of Shaq Hardy’s childhood is a blur. For the first 10 years of his life, he moved from foster home to foster home, never able to put down roots.

Hardy longed for a sense of home, a place where he belonged.

But what Hardy does remember during that frantic decade in foster care is where he learned John 3:16 and how much Jesus loved him. Although he wouldn’t come to faith in Christ until five years after he left his last foster home, this last family introduced him to Jesus. For the last several years he was in foster care, the family took him to church just about every week and even involved him in Awana. That’s where he learned John 3:16.

“It was them having me in church that made me realize that the only thing that would last is Jesus,” Hardy said. “I didn’t know what that meant, but I knew I needed to find Jesus.”

Before Hardy was born, his father urged his mother to get an abortion. The state revoked his mother’s parental rights, and she never attempted to get them back.

Today, Hardy serves as the student pastor at Brainerd Baptist Church in Chattanooga, Tenn., and is a student at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. Looking back over his childhood, he says foster care played a foundational role in helping him eventually come to faith in Christ.

Hardy’s most traumatic experience in foster care was his last. His father, who was in the Navy, had been stationed nearby and now had room in his house for Hardy. Hardy still remembers how excited he was when his foster family, the one who had taught him about Jesus, told him that he could now move in with his father. For a young boy who had long searched for a home of his own, it was a dream come true, until it turned into a nightmare as he tried to adjust to leaving the family that had raised him for several years.

“I cried the whole night because the normal I thought I wanted isn’t like what I thought it would be,” Hardy said. “In my mind, I had just moved out. My experience with other foster homes is that I would never see this family again. I remember waking up the next morning and feeling emotionally hard. I remember feeling like I was in a cage that no one could get into.”

Years later a counselor would diagnose Hardy with Reactive Attachment Disorder, which means he struggles to develop healthy attachments to other people in his life. He points back to that first night out of the foster-care system and in the home of his biological father when it began.

Moving back into his father’s home began a relentless search for a place to belong. The normally affable Hardy began acting out at school in an effort to fit in with his classmates. After moving to a heavily gang-populated area of Virginia the summer after he turned 13, the search for belonging led him down a path of drugs, alcohol and promiscuity.

“I remember after that summer thinking, ‘That’s not it.’ It was empty. I remember thinking, ‘I don’t want any of that,’ so I never went back to it,” Hardy said.

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Source: Baptist Press