Foster Care in Europe: Yuri’s Story
Plucked from a house of drugs and neglect to be placed in the custody of strangers, Yuri was removed from his mother’s care when she was deemed unable to raise her child. Projecting her own issues, his mother described him as a child with classic autism, who wouldn’t bathe, cut his hair or nails, or attend school. Not knowing what to expect from life with his foster family, Yuri was fearful of what lay ahead of him.
Eleven-year-old Yuri found himself in the loving home of Margré and Peter, GEM workers who in the past years had fostered 23 different kids from unique crisis situations. Having led them to lovingly offer their home, time, resources, and love to children in their time of greatest need, Margré and Peter’s heart for hurting children now bled for Yuri.
Yuri was placed with them for the duration of quarantine, during which time Margré immediately started to homeschool him and teach him basic hygiene. Peeling away his layers, she quickly discovered an intelligent and curious boy whose autistic and idiosyncratic behaviors had been greatly exaggerated. Margré realized with a pang of heartbreak that the upbringing Yuri had experienced had rendered a child that didn’t even know how to play.
On the first night in his new surroundings, Yuri asked Margré, “How am I supposed to sleep? I have all these thoughts in my head.” Margre explained that when she felt that way, she talked to God about it.
After pondering this, the next night he asked, “So, when you talk to God, do you do that in your head or do you do it out loud? What do you tell God?” When Margré responded that she tells God everything, he boldly asked if she would pray with him.
A weekly Bible study at their house led by Lucas, a former foster son who is now 19, encouraged the group to start praying for each other. Yuri’s interest in prayer escalated as he wanted to pray for every single person before bed that night. The next night, he added praying for his family and the next week, he added praying for Margré‘s family as well. As a family, they began to read the Bible after dinner every night, sparking many questions in his inquisitive and eager mind.
In a decision by the government to provide him with the opportunity for friends and the ability to attend school, Yuri has now been placed in a group home. He’s proving his intelligence and love of learning and has scored high on testing. Margré and Peter pick him up every other weekend to spoil him with love, attention, and his favorite food, KFC.
Every 3 months, Yuri endures the emotions of attending a hearing to see if he’ll stay in the home or go back to his mom. He loves his mom and wants to go home with her but realizes now that it may not be the best place for him. He boldly and humbly prays for God’s will to be done and rests in that peace.
Before he moved into the group home, Margré asked Yuri what he was most afraid of as he prepared for yet another life change.
He responded, “That I will lose my faith.”
Margré reassured him, “You won’t lose your faith if you hang on to God.”
Psalm 61:2 says, “From the ends of the earth I call to you, I call as my heart grows faint; lead me to the rock that is higher than I.”
Join us in prayer for Margré and Peter and their continued ministry to foster children. Pray for Yuri’s relationship with Jesus to grow even deeper in his youth, laying a foundation for his whole life.
If you would like to give to Margré and Peter Hays to support their ministry, click here.
About the author and photographer:
Katey Leavelle is a storyteller with Greater Europe Mission serving across Europe. Check out thegroundedwanderer.net to learn more.
*photos are a recreation of the story and not of direct people involved.