Matt and Amber Harrison: The Freedom of Surrender
When Matt and Amber Harrison enrolled their children into a new school, they expected new friends and new experiences, but they couldn’t have foreseen how much some of those new friends would change their own family’s story. It just so happened that a few of those new friends and teammates lived on Palmer Home for Children’s Hernando campus. Before long, the Harrison family found themselves invited to dinner by Palmer Home houseparents they had formed a relationship with.
“We drove into a little neighborhood with beautiful homes and were welcomed by the parents and children,” said Amber. “These children truly belong to a family when they come to Palmer Home.”
The Harrisons were already praying about becoming foster or adoptive parents, but with three children and one on the way, they expected to wait until another season of life to pursue that calling.
At the time, Matt worked as a juvenile officer and owned a landscaping business. Wanting to be involved in some way, he accepted a position helping with the grounds of the Hernando campus. Not long after, he and Amber were offered an opportunity to fill in for houseparents who were taking six weeks off following the birth of a baby.
“We packed up our four biological children to serve for those six weeks,” said Amber.
Amber was working in a local school as a speech-language pathologist and special education teacher, so her schedule allowed her to be with the children before and after school. When she was at school, Matt handled responsibilities at home. It only took them a week of serving as respite caregivers to have a real conversation with each other about becoming houseparents.
Both Matt and Amber listed all the reasons why the timing wasn’t right. They had four biological children. They had jobs and a home on Amber’s family farm. But even as they listed the obstacles, they knew God was calling. They surrendered their plans, and after speaking with their oldest son about the move, began the conversation with the campus director about becoming houseparents.
“The stories God writes are so much better and sweeter than anything we could have planned for ourselves,” recalls Amber. “Within two months we were houseparents!”
Daily life at Palmer Home varies. Some days Matt and Amber have a little time to themselves after seeing all the children off to school, and other days they spend school hours running errands, making home repairs, or making doctor’s appointments for the children. Afternoons are filled with extracurricular activities, homework, and cooking dinner.
“It’s really just like any regular family… maybe a little louder sometimes,” laughs Amber.
Not long after the Harrisons answered the call to be houseparents, they were driving back from church one Sunday. As Amber and Matt chatted with the children about the sermon, they asked who in the van began their relationship with Christ after coming to Palmer Home. Every child raised their hand.
“This is why we do this. God plucked them out of a dire situation to completely break the chains and cycle of generational sin and save them,” said Amber. “It’s pretty amazing work that we get the honor to be a part of.”
The Harrisons encourage families considering becoming houseparents to say “yes” to whatever God may be calling them to do. For families who want to support the children who live at Palmer Home but aren’t ready to become houseparents, sponsorship is a great way to connect with and support a child. Sponsor families act much like extended family by getting to know a child, taking them to dinner, or inviting them to their home over the weekend.
“I like to remind our kids that God is making this part of their journey into a great story if they will just surrender their own plans and follow His will,” said Amber. “God will use their story for His glory in mighty ways someday.”