Love is flexible: A Jacksonville host dad story

Family on a sofa

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By Stephen Freeman
Host Dad | Awaken Church, Jacksonville


The world beats people up. When someone doesn’t have a support system to help through hard times, it tends to beat them up even more.

Two boys walk on sidewalk away from camera, their shadows stretching out behind them
The Freeman family hosted Sean in their Jacksonville home.

A few weeks ago, we got a call from Mellissa at Better Together. She told us about a young mom who was about to give birth to her second child. She had reached out to Better Together because she didn’t have anyone to watch her 4-year-old, Sean. The father of her two children had left her after she refused to terminate her second pregnancy and she was left without a support system.

My wife, Caroline, and I have two small boys: Sam, 4, and Charlie, 3. I remember when Charlie was born, how we had multiple friends from church volunteer to watch Sam, even overnight, so we could go to the hospital. They filled our freezer with meals, they visited us in the hospital, they gave us bags and bags of hand-me-down clothes from their kids. I think close to 95% of the clothes we have for our kids are clothes our friends’ kids wore first and gave to us.

Sean would need to stay with us for a week. So that night, I assembled his bed and pulled the kids’ mattress out of the closet.

Love is flexible

As we prepared our house (and our two boys) for the next week, we decided that the word we would hold onto was “flexible.” We would need to be the ones to make room, change schedules, adapt habits, and bend around a new addition to the house.

To remind myself of that, I put a rubberband on my wrist that whole week. Anytime it felt like chaos, I had a visual reminder that our calling that week was to flexibility. When Sam or Charlie (or Caroline or I) started to get frustrated with something new or hard, we had a word to return to. Our job was to stretch to make room.

Because my work is flexible, I was able to work from home most of that week and be available to help with the kids throughout the day.

One thing I love about our community at Awaken Church is how we support each other. Over the course of the one-week stay, our church people were able to go to the hospital to visit and encourage the mom, arrange for a toddler bed for Sean to be donated, diapers, breast pumps, bottles, and meals to be secured and sent to her.

Reflecting on the time

Looking back on our time, we would do it again. Not because it was easy or simple, but because it mattered. Saying yes to Sean meant a domino effect of support for his mom through the community we’ve been a part of for the last 12 years. It’s like a ready-made community gets activated for someone who needs it most. It’s magical to see one yes get multiplied into countless other people saying yes, too.

The gospel is hospitable. Being a host dad means my home is not my castle—it’s a refuge and a sanctuary for the people who get beat up by the world. We help them rest, heal, and go back out to do everything God has called them to do.


Posted August 22, 2022

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