When most people retire, they relax, travel, golf or spend time with grandchildren. But mere days after retiring from 30 years as owner of Trotter Electric Company in Fort Smith, Rick Millican signed up for diaper duty and sleepless nights. Rick and his wife, Jennifer, are now Arkansas Baptist Children’s Homes & Family Ministries Connected foster parents.
“A few years ago we could have never imagined that we would be taking care of a newborn,” shared Jennifer. “We knew that we wanted to be involved in missions after retirement but we didn’t know exactly what God wanted us to do.”
The Millican’s were introduced to His plan for them last summer after learning about Connected at First Baptist Church of Fort Smith. The couple are longtime members of the west Arkansas congregation.
The couple completed the Connected foster training program on Aug. 4, and sold Trotter Electric in early September. They brought home a newborn foster baby Sept. 19. She is still in their care.
“Having a newborn in the house was definitely challenging at first,” said Rick. “Our own kids are grown and we had not experienced late night feedings in a long time.
“But, we would have not wanted our lives to play out any other way,” added Rick. “We know God has been with us and all our Connected foster families.”
Lynn Szczepanik, Connected foster care coordinator, praised the Millican family.
“Jennifer and Rick are a wonderful, Godly family, embracing God’s call on their lives,” said Szczepanik. “They not only have been one of our first foster parents, but consistently volunteer for our ministry with office work, remodeling the new office and doing whatever needs done to support our families and foster children.”
Szczepanik said the couple works tirelessly and are always gracious and caring. She said they understand the need in Area 2 for foster care and want to work with Connected to be change agents for the state. Jennifer serves on the Arkansas Department of Children & Families Services Foster Parent Advisory Board.
If their work with Connected didn’t keep them busy enough, the Millican’s also run a 53-acre dairy farm. They raise cattle, free range chickens, sheep and four camels. Their 2,900-square-foot log house is also home to two miniature, house-trained potbelly pigs. They have a large vegetable garden, an herb garden and a berry orchard.
“We call our farm the ‘Drama Dairy,’” jokingly said Jennifer. “You can never tell what is going to happen around here but we know God is in control.
“He has a plan and He doesn’t always tell us right away what is included in that plan. We just get on the crazy train and ride it.”
The Millican’s are actively involved in ministering to their foster child’s biological mother. Jennifer has helped the mom learn parenting and budgeting skills. Jennifer has advised the foster mom on healthy meal preparation for children, and has helped the mom in locating housing that will be near good schools for her other three children that are also in the foster care system.
“Rick and I want to be involved in this mom’s life,” shared Jennifer. “We want to do what we can to help make sure she can keep her children.”
Referring to herself and others like herself, Jennifer said, “we often take for granted the simple things that we learned from our parents and other good role models. We forget that some mother’s didn’t have the families that we had to help us with our own children.
“I had to remind our biological mom that it might not be a good idea for her to give juice from SpaghettiOs® to a baby,” she added.
The Millican’s admit that it will be difficult when the time comes to give up their foster baby, but they are trusting the Lord. “We know that God is in control and … that He loves these foster children more than we could ever, ever love them,” said Jennifer. “His plan is bigger than our plan.”
The couple agree that one day they desire to take part in the “normal” retired activities. But for now, they will try to make a difference in the lives of children in need.
The Millican’s are one of 12 Connected Placement Foster families in the DCFS Area 2. Since it’s inception on Aug. 4, 2017, Connected has placed 29 Area 2 foster children. Area 2 includes Crawford, Franklin, Johnson, Logan, Scott, Sebastian and Yell counties.
To date, Connected foster families have also provided respite foster care, and several Connected foster children have been reunited with family members.
For more information on Connected, or to learn how your gifts can help fund this ministry, go to abchomes.org.