Christian Alliance For Orphans Interviews (Part 1) - Bishop Aaron Blake
Aaron Blake is a pastor and worked for years as a guidance counselor at a local high school. He says nothing in his background prepared him for a conversation he would have with a young man named Melvin.
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Adopting the Football Team
Guest: Aaron Blake
From the series: Adopting the Football Team (Day 1 of 1)
Bob: Aaron Blake is a pastor and worked for years as a guidance counselor at a local high school. He says nothing in his background prepared him for a conversation he would have with a young man named Melvin.
Aaron: I didn’t understand what helping a 15-year-old in foster care was about. I had counseled folks with marriage, death and dying, jail—all kinds of situations—but never a foster kid that was in the system that had been in nine different placements since he was in high school. Now, he was sitting in front of me. I said this to him—I said: “Melvin, if I could, I’d take you home with me.”
Bob: This is a special on-location edition of FamilyLife Today for Thursday, August 13th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I’m Bob Lepine. We’ll hear a powerful story from Bishop Aaron Blake today as we learn about how God enlarged his family. Stay tuned.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. Once again, we’ve got maybe the world’s greatest studio audience joining us here at the Christian Alliance for Orphans’ Summit. [Applause] [Laughter] We’re going to talk about something that your [Dennis’] heart for this subject has been expanded in a personal way over the last several years.
Dennis: It has. Barbara and I have six children, one of whom is adopted—we don’t know which one [Laughter]—but our children have picked up the virus—the adoption virus. We now have 21 grandchildren through biological means but also adoption.
There’s a couple here—my engrafted son, Michael Escue—and his wife, who is our daughter, Ashley. Ashley and Michael have cared for 21 foster care children over the years and have emptied their county of any waiting children in the foster care system. [Applause]
We have a hero with us that I think fulfills one of the words that Christ gave in His Sermon on the Mount. Matthew, Chapter 5, says, “In the same way, let your light shine before others so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” You are about to meet a hero, who has let his light shine, along with his wife Mary of 38 years. Bishop Aaron Blake is going to join us on the stage. Come on up, Bishop.
Bob: Bishop Blake, join us. [Applause]
Dennis: Welcome to the broadcast and our small studio here; okay. He has been a pastor for more than 35 years. For a number of years, Bishop, you served as a bi-vocational pastor. You were a high school guidance counselor. That’s really where the surgery for your heart began, around the subject of foster care—share how that happened.
Aaron: Well, the school that I was presently serving had a situation where a number of kids came into the school—that were in foster care. Many times, kids that move from placement to placement had a situation where they lost credits every placement.
So, being there, as a guidance counselor/social worker, I wanted to find out how we can recover the credits of those kids so that that wouldn’t be another setback for them. My journey started when one kid came to me with that problem.
Bob: That was Melvin who came to you; right?
Aaron: Well, when he came into the office now, he came in the office with a little chip on his shoulder and a little attitude.
Aaron: He came in and sat down on the desk in front of me. He said, “I don’t know who you are, and I don’t know what you do; but you can’t make me go to class.” I said: “Well, I’m not the principal. I’m not the one that makes you do anything; but when you decide that you want to go to Brownwood High School, let me know.” He sat in front of me. He sat through first period, second period, and third period—and then the bell rang for lunch. He said, “Are you going to let me go eat?”
I said, “Man, you don’t have any lunch because you’re not enrolled.” [Laughter] I thought food would convince him that maybe he needs to get a class. He said, “Well, we’ll just sit here then.” Then, after the last bell rang, I got hungry. [Laughter]
We went to lunch, and that started the dialogue of who Melvin was. On the way to lunch, I noticed he had some biceps and triceps. So, on the way to lunch, I took him through the football gymnasium and dressing room. Something about a sock-smelling dressing room that goes into the head and nostril of a kid—and he said, “Do you think I could play football for Brownwood High School?” I said, “No way.” He said, “Why?!” “You won’t go to class!” [Laughter]
We go get a burger. We come back—
—we come back through the hall where all of the trophies and the pictures [are] on the wall. That was my high school alma mater by the way—and two of those championships, I was on—there was my picture. I said, “You see that guy there?” He said, “Don’t tell me that was you.” I said, “Yes.” I said, “We won State Championship,”—pulled him by the coach’s office. The coach began to talk to him—say, “Hey, isn’t this the guy that’s going to come play football?” I said, “No way.” He said, “Why?!” I said, “Because he won’t”—and then Melvin punched me in the side. [Laughter]
We walked off and Melvin said: “Hey, I’ll make a deal with you. If you get me on the team, I’ll go to class.” I got him on the team / he went to class, but my main assignment that day was to recover Melvin’s lost credits. Many kids, across the country in foster care, these things happen. That’s why the drop-out rate and the inability to finish high school are high amongst foster children.
Dennis: You know, you not only cared about his lost credits, you also cared about his lost soul.
Aaron: Yes. Melvin had gotten into class, gotten on the football team, and had some success that year. Then, at the end of the year, something happened with his placement. CPS [Child Protective Services] called and said, “We’re coming to get Melvin.” The school transferred the call to me. They said: “Would you prep Melvin because we’re going to have to move him. We know he’s having success, but something happened.”
Before I could get to Melvin, the CPS worker had already gotten to the school and told Melvin that he’s going to move. Melvin bolted out the door, ran to the side of the building, across the football field and was gone. The CPS worker came and said, “He probably is going to contact you because of relationship.”
That evening, I stayed at the school late. Melvin came in and sat in the same chair in front of my desk that he sat in the first day that he came to see me. He sat in that desk after running. Perspiration drenched his body / his clothes—running down his face. I couldn’t tell the tears running down his face from the perspiration. We sat what seemed like 15 minutes but probably was only 15 seconds. Finally, he squeaked out these words—and they’re the reason why I’m here today—he said, “Brother Blake, will you help me?”
Well, I didn’t understand what helping a 15-year-old in foster care was about. I had counseled folks with marriage, death and dying, jail—all kinds of situations—but never a foster kid that was in the system and had been in nine different placements since he was in high school.
Aaron: And now he was sitting in front of me. I said this to him—I said, “Melvin, if I could, I’d take you home with me.” He said, “Really?” I said, “Yes.” He said, “You would take me home with you?” I said, “In a heartbeat.” I said, “But CPS is coming, and you have to go with them.” He said, “Okay.”
I learned, six months later, that Melvin heard something that I didn’t think I said; but I understood. Melvin told the caseworker that “Brother Blake said that I could come live with him.” [Laughter] They called me and they said, “Melvin said that you said he can come live with you.” I said, “Wow!” While I had the phone to my ear, I couldn’t say, “No.” There was something happening in my spirit and in my heart that I couldn’t say, “No.” At the same time, Mary was in my mind; and I couldn’t say, “Yes.” [Laughter]
On the way home, now, I rehearsed over and over [Laughter] what I was going to say to Mary. At supper that night, she was just going off about everything. I didn’t hear anything she said—[Laughter]—I was trying to figure out what I was going to say. Finally, I said, “Guess what happened to me today” [Laughter]; and then I told about Melvin.
I didn’t know that Melvin had been in her Sunday school class. She said, “You mean little Melvin doesn’t have a home?” I said, “No.” She said, “Little Melvin that goes to school?” I said, “Yes.” She said, “I hope you told them ‘Yes.’” I literally almost fell out of my chair. I couldn’t wait until the next morning to call CPS to tell them: “Hey, yes. Melvin can come.”
I called at 8:00 straight up and got voice mail; but anyway, finally when I got through, I said: “Tell Melvin, ‘Yes,’ he can come and live with us. We’re ready.” Then they said, “Are you a licensed foster parent?”
Bob: The audience knows a little bit about that.
Aaron: Yes. Well, I didn’t know anything about it. I said, “What do you buy this at?” [Laughter] Well, we quickly found an agency and went through the process. Melvin came to live with us. That is how that story—
Bob: That was the first of six foster sons—all of them foster sons—is that right?
Aaron: Yes, all of them foster. Let me tell you this story quickly, if I can. Melvin played football. The outside tight end was a foster kid—blew his placement. At practice, Melvin went to him and said: “Don’t worry about it. [Laughter] I know where you can go.” [Laughter]
But then, the outside line backer blew his placement—
Dennis: Well, you know how many kids are on a football team.
Aaron: Well, I do. [Laughter] So Melvin and Joseph go and say to Buck: “Don’t worry about it guy. We can’t lose you! We’ve got to win the playoffs.” [Laughter] So, he came to live with us. [Laughter] CPS called and says: “He has a brother. [Laughter] We love to keep siblings together”; and he came to us. Six boys later, our house was filled up.
Dennis: You were a bi-vocational pastor at that time. Your church watched you do this. What was the impact on your congregation?
Aaron: I went to my church. I stood up one Sunday—heart was heavy because, at that particular time, there were 30, 000 kids in the system in Texas.
I also noticed there were an over representation of African-American children—a dis-proportionality—that was also in the system. God began to deal with me that Sunday on the ministry of reconciliation. Reconciliation without restoration won’t work. God has called us, because He’s reconciled us by Christ to Himself, and given us the ministry of reconciliation.
Then I say, “God, how can I really preach James 1:27, as undefiled religion without understanding restoration of families?—and restoration of children?” So, I stood up that Sunday in front of my congregation. I said, “Guys, how many of you here would help me stand up for orphans?” I didn’t mean literally stand up; but a lady in the back stood up and said, “Pastor, I will.” Then another one stood up and said, “I will.” And another one stood up and said, “I will.” A year later, 36 kids were in our church because of Stand-Up Sunday. [Applause]
Dennis: That’s cool. [Applause] Just real quickly—because there’s one more of the six that you engrafted into your family that I want you to talk about—you’re on a mission now about the entire state of Texas. Share just a quick—if you can—about how you’re embodying the ministry of reconciliation there.
Aaron: Well, the purifying part of James 1:27—that happened to Mary and I—is that we wanted to make sure that the body of Christ—across racial lines / across denominational lines—understand that the only way that we’re going to really understand, as a body of Christ, and heal our nation, and our children, and broken families is reconciliation and restoration.
The church has been absent with foster care and adoption. They’ve been absent with racial reconciliation / family reconciliation. It’s time for the church to stand up and say: “We are the voice. We have the ministry of reconciliation. And we’re for restoring families.” [Applause]
Dennis: You and I could fight for the soapbox, at this point, because I think this is a huge opportunity for the church. You are the church—we can make a difference in our individual communities.
I want you to introduce us to a young man who you engrafted in—one of the six foster care boys that you cared for. Tell us about Diego.
Aaron: Well, Diego, even when we—they would be upstairs at our house, and they would be [makes noises] doing all that kind of stuff. [Laughter]
Dennis: Whoa, whoa, what was that?
Aaron: [Makes noises again] “What’s that?” That was what they were doing when they didn’t have all the machines and all the stuff that made the sounds—they were rapping.
Aaron: Diego would try to come up with lines and lyrics and all that kind of stuff. So, he started rapping back then.
Diego was at one of our meetings—that we were having across the state—and I had never told because I didn’t want our guys to be put on front street about an incident that happened. Mark had a candle in the window—wind blew in, caught the curtain, went up the wall, and our house burned down. We were having a meeting, like this, and telling folks that: “You need to step up. You need to become foster parents, and you need to adopt.” Then, Diego stands up and says, “We burnt the house down.” [Laughter]
Dennis: Great advertisement for foster care; huh?
Aaron: Yes! [Laughter] But Diego went on to say—he said, “I knew that my mom”—and he called me Pop—“and my dad, Pop, really loved us unconditionally the next morning after the fire.”
Well, the boys, the next morning, didn’t want to go to school. I said, “What’s going on?” They said this, “We do not want to go to school and see PS [Protective Services] come and pick us up at school and embarrass us.” He told the story: “I knew that Mom and Dad loved me because [emotion in voice] we have been moved from place to place for stuff less than that. We knew they loved us.” That’s Diego.
Bob: Hey, Pop, we’ve got a little surprise for you.
Dennis: There’s something the audience knows that you don’t. [Diego walks out]
Aaron: Oh! [Applause] My goodness!
Diego: Love you, Pop.
Aaron: I’ve been dreaming about this. [Applause]
Bob: Diego, have a seat.
Dennis: Diego, have a seat right here.
Bob: We thought this young arsonist ought to come out [Laughter] and—tell these folks that morning when Pop said to you, “It is okay.”
Diego: Well, like he explained in the story—when we did burn the house down, [Laughter] we burned the house down! [Laughter] Honestly, man, we thought we were headed somewhere else. We thought we were going to another foster home or somewhere else. Man, when I tell you this—this man, after the house burned down—instead of coming to us, and fussing at us and stuff, he took us—the only place open was Walmart®—he just took us to Walmart—bought us some clothes to go to school the next day. So, we went to school. After school, we worked out. We didn’t want to get back home because we knew that—hey, we were going somewhere else!
The next thing you knew—we were going to a different—of course, your mom’s house—moving us into your mom’s house and like we were there.
He was like: “Y’all are my boys. Y’all are engrafted in. There isn’t anything you can do to separate basically my love for you.” [Applause] Just being six boys that never had the type of love that [he] and Momma showed us—that love—that was just so awesome. It transformed our life, man. It really changed our destiny and the things that we are doing in life now. [Applause]
Bob: You probably don’t know this; but Dennis has a favorite assignment that he likes to give to folks, like you, that I think you can probably improv this on the spot. Do you [Dennis] want to give him the assignment?
Dennis: Yes. You just heard him, without addressing you, break down, weeping about his love for you, and how proud he is of you, and the privilege of loving you. You’ve got him, face to face. You’ve got a chance to give him a tribute. Would you like to do it?
Diego: Yes. I’ll give him a little something-something. [Laughter] I’ll give him a little something-something. So, of course, y’all know about “engrafted” and I heard—I think you said something about your engrafted son—I was listening in the back. This man—when we first came to his house, he said, “You are not foster children.” He said, “You are engrafted into my home.” He said, “I’m your Pop and everything that belongs to me, it now belongs to you.” We took advantage of it, too, [Laughter] because we were engrafted in. He said: “The same way with the Kingdom—now, you’re engrafted into the Kingdom of God. Everything that belongs to God now belongs to you, Diego.”
Of course, I’m a gospel artist—I do gospel rap. I wrote a song called—I entitled my album Engrafted. It just reflects the love that he showed us and the love that God is showing me now. So, man, thank you Pops. I just love you!
Bob: Well, we have had the opportunity today to hear a conversation that took place at the recent Christian Alliance for Orphans’ Summit that was held in Nashville, Tennessee. For those of you who would be interested in seeing Diego Fuller do a rap song called Engrafted, we’ve got a link on our website at FamilyLifeToday.com to the music video that he has put together. You can go to FamilyLifeToday.com. Click the link in the upper left-hand corner of the screen that says, “GO DEEPER.” You will see information about the brand-new Engrafted music video from Diego Fuller.
There’s also information, online, about the Christian Alliance for Orphans. If you’d like to find out more about their plans for next year’s summit, follow the link on our website at FamilyLifeToday.com to the Christian Alliance for Orphans website. We also have resources available for those of you who are considering being foster parents or adoptive parents.
Look for the resources we have available when you go, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com and click the link that says, “GO DEEPER.”
Maybe you’re not considering adoption or foster care but you still have a heart for helping orphans in our world, we have information about different ways that individuals and churches can be involved in helping address the needs of orphans, all around the globe. Again, you‘ll find all of this when you go to FamilyLifeToday.com and click the link in the upper left-hand corner of the screen that says, “GO DEEPER.”
Now, the month of August is a significant month for us, here at FamilyLife. It’s actually the end of the year for us. We begin our fiscal year September 1st. So, we’re about to close the books on fiscal 2015 and start a new year, fiscal 2016, in September.
The reason I mention that is because, when you get near the end of the fiscal year, one of the things you’re always wondering is: “Will we have the money necessary to cover the budgeted expenses of this ministry?”
So, we’re asking you to consider making a yearend financial gift during the month of August to help us finish out our fiscal year in a healthy spot. That’s easy enough to do. You can go, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com. Click the link in the upper right-hand corner of our screen that says, “I CARE.” Or you can call 1-800-FL-TODAY—make your donation over the phone. Or you can mail a donation to us at FamilyLife Today at PO Box 7111, Little Rock, AR; and our zip code is 72223.
By the way, when you make a donation right now, we’d like to say, “Thank you,” by sending you a book from Dennis and Barbara Rainey called Two Hearts Praying as One.
If you are making your first donation in 2015, in addition to the book, we’d like to add a prayer card that will help you know how to pray for one another in your family, especially when you’re going through very difficult times, as a family. Again, all of that comes with our thanks for your support of this ministry.
Tomorrow, we’re going to talk about heading back to school. Barbara Rainey is going to be joining us tomorrow. We’ll tackle some of the issues that families face as they get ready to head back to school. Hope you can join us for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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