My wife and I have been parents for thirty two years.

Our first child, our son, came into this world in 1976, the USA’s bicentennial year. He was born in the middle of July, missing out on the 4th, but we still called him our bicentennial firecracker. He had a pretty happy childhood, but by the time he entered his teens he had definitely formed his own opinions. His feelings were hurt easily, and he had a hard time dealing with the kids who were mean enough to tease him. He was very intelligent, and was capable of doing very well in school, but he had the idea that he didn’t have to do his daily assignments if he did well on the tests. I think that was the hardest lesson for him to learn. Today, he is married, a 32-year-old father of two children, with a good job in a field he loves. All we hear from his peers is what a fine, respectful young man he is, a son to be proud of.

Our second child, a daughter, came three years later. Smart as a whip and very talented, she did very well in school and learned to play the cello quite well. After graduation she left home abruptly, living with her boyfriend, and eventually married him a couple years later. She left home too soon for me; it was a tearing at my heart. But in the end, she has turned out as a special young woman, and I am proud of who she has become.

Our third, also a girl, came along three years later once again. Dark-haired like her mother, she was as sweet a little girl as I had ever seen. She wasn’t quite as sharp in school, but after realizing that she would have to work harder than the first two to get where she wanted to go, she buckled down and got her diploma, then a degree in retail management, and now she is living and working in a big city. She is still just as sweet and loving as she has ever been; she’s pursuing her dream and may soon be married as well. I am very proud of her, too.

Our fourth child is our third daughter. She came along nine years after her next older sister, but she wasn’t a mistake, or a slip-up. We decided we wanted yet one more child before we quit having children. She was supposed to keep us young, but we sometimes wonder if she isn’t making us older before our time. She quickly asserted herself in our lives as our most strong-willed child. She is very intelligent and capable, yet she has struggled in school, because of meanness by the other children and her failure to be able to handle it. We also blame the failure of the school to discipline, and also the failure of the schools to give her the proper teaching in at least one area of her academics. We tried sending her to a charter school, which she enjoyed, but unfortunately she fell behind in her studies because that school didn’t have the structure necessary to keep her moving ahead. The past year and a half she has been going to an alternative high school, where she has been able to catch up with her studies and is now on track to graduate on time with her classmates. Another special thing about her is her ability to see the hypocrisy in people. She doesn’t want to be like her peers, because they’re fake, and she wants to be herself. That has led her away from the normal teen likes in style and music. Yet we love her for who she is and who she has the potential to be.

It hasn’t always been easy to be a parent. Sometimes it’s the greatest thing in the world, and other times it wrenches your soul apart. Sometimes I think I wouldn’t ever do it again; that if I knew then what I know now I would never have had kids. But then I look at all my children, and realize how full they have made my life and how much I love them.

Mike is the adopted son of my pastor and his wife. Mike has lived all of his 19 years with fetal alcohol syndrome. Since leaving home at age 18, he has been in the county jail more than he has been out of it.

Yesterday, Mike entered a Minnesota state prison to begin serving a 90-day sentence for violating his parole. Chances are all too good that soon after he gets out of prison, he will return to prison. Minnesota doesn’t have any kind of program to help people with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, so he will probably end up living with “friends”, or out on the street somewhere.

Mike doesn’t have much of a chance…

…that is, unless the Holy Spirit reaches out and touches his life.

And He can.

Pray for Mike. And pray for his Mom and Dad. They love him a lot.

They reached out to Mike, adopting him into their growing family and raising him the best they could. It crushes them to see Mike in prison. How can any parent of “normal” children comprehend what that feels like? But that’s what can happen when Fetal Alcohol Syndrome takes over.

If you can do anything to help end the anguish of FAS, please do it.

And don’t forget to pray!