Leaving Comfortable to Embrace Caregiving

April 8, 2016

As Terri Igleheart and her husband Mike near their four year anniversary as Palmer Home Caregivers, Terri recalls how many people have said to her, “I just couldn’t do what you do.”

“I just tell them ‘God doesn’t call the equipped, He equips the called.’ Anyone can do this. Your yes to this call makes room for these kids’ yes to their future,” she says.

However, Terri and Mike didn’t seek out the opportunity to become caregivers on their own. After 15 years of working retail, Terri left her job managing a large chain store to be more available for their young children. This change allowed her to become more involved in volunteer opportunities in their area.  They first learned about Palmer Home through their church, and one weekend the family volunteered to help with a cookout on the Palmer campus. It was here that someone first encouraged them to become caregivers. But by now, Terri and  Mike both owned businesses, had two school-aged children at home, and were comfortable and content with their life.

For years Mike joked that since they only had two hands apiece, two children were enough. His outlook quickly began to change when they learned of a young girl from Palmer Home who needed a place to live. Terri said she knew God was at work when Mike readily agreed to become a foster parent.  In the end, the young lady’s need was met in other ways, but their “yes” to fostering quickly became a “yes” to caregiving at Palmer Home.

“We prayed about it for three or four months,” recalls Terri. “It really is a calling, not just a job. Everything comes from God to do this 24/7 ministry. We knew God was calling us.”

The Iglehearts’ two biological children never missed a beat as they completed the interview process and settled into their new lives in a cottage on Palmer Home’s campus. In fact, when their daughter was asked what she thought about having a house full of new siblings, she replied she’d been praying for God to give her sisters!

As the family transitioned from having two children to having ten, Terri said she used all the skills from managing a retail store and owning a cleaning business to manage the household. Her husband has put his construction skills to good use serving as the campus handyman in addition to being a caregiver. Despite the fact that they had no background in working with children, life had given them just the set of skills they needed.

Terri and Mike do all the things other parents do: laundry, grocery shopping, budgeting, scheduling doctor’s appointments, and meeting with teachers, but today, that work is multiplied times ten children! In the midst of all the daily tasks, the Iglehearts are teaching the children in their home what a normal, functioning family looks like.

Many of the children in their care come from generations of bad choices and hard places. They talk about backgrounds and where they come from over family dinners or during one on one time together. While the stories aren’t always easy to hear, the Iglehearts rejoice in the opportunity to help the kids find their way forward.

“My vision is that these children will see they don’t have to go down that path just because others in their family have done so,” said Terri.

Caring for ten children isn’t always easy, and Terri has no explanation for the way God provides the energy, wisdom and even instincts they need to keep providing for the children’s needs. It’s a reminder for them of the fact that this is truly a calling on their lives. Finding time away to spend with God in the midst of all the busyness can be challenging, but Terri says it’s vital for her.  It is only through that time of connection and refreshing that she can continue supporting and loving the children in a manner pleasing to God.

She fondly recalls an evening when one of “her boys”, as she calls all the boys in her cottage, was washing dishes. One dish had a bit of food that wasn’t surrendering its grip, and no amount of scrubbing was changing that. The young man told her he was going to let the plate soak a while, and then perhaps it would be easier to get off. He continued, “That’s a lot like us. We have a lot of junk that’s hard to get off but God helps us to be clean again.

“You do have to lay your life down, but there’s nothing like the joy,” she said.