Sometimes mentoring leads down unexpected paths! We would like to share the following story from a family who experienced long-lasting impact from what began as a mentoring relationship. This is the story of Jimi Nickel and her family.
“I started working at Youth Horizons in the fall of 2006 after my husband Phil and I moved to Wichita. We knew after I started that we both wanted to be matched with a protégé. I had heard of Christopher and knew he had been on our waiting list for over a year. Youth Horizons had hoped to find him a mentor at a specific church, but it never worked out. So, in February 2007, Christopher was matched with my husband Phil. He was 7 years old. Over the year, Phil and Christopher met most weeks and usually had fun together: bowling, visiting K-State for their open house and spring football game, going to the park. He was not, however, a big fan of reading together.
Over the months, we also got to know Christopher’s family. He had two siblings, both teenagers, and they were struggling with even getting to school each day. In December, his mom invited us to join them as a social worker met to talk with the kids about their truancy and potential placement in the foster care system. His mom also talked with us about potentially being foster parents for Christopher, should the need arise.
In January, the family was given a date that the older two would go into foster care. What the family didn’t know was that Social Services (now DCF) had decided to remove Christopher that same day. Thankfully, Phil and I had already started the necessary classes to become foster parents. Christopher was placed with us on March 5, 2008.
The plan was reintegration with his family, and that’s what we were working towards as we helped with family visits. However, due to continuing instability with Christopher’s mom, the plan was changed to adoption in the summer of 2008. We were very surprised by this! God was working in our hearts and through the support of our church community, we felt lead towards adopting. However, we took the process very slowly. Christopher was eight years old and still definitely wanted to return to his biological family.
The adoption was final on September 4, 2009, just two months before Christopher turned 10. He had settled into his new school and was making great advances in reading and math and developing new friendships. He played baseball in the summer and fall and was always the fastest kid on the team. As he got older, he started playing percussion in band, and he did that all through high school.
When he was 13, we added twins to our family, and Christopher excelled at being a big brother. He is still adored by all three of our younger children (another born in 2015).
He was active in our church youth group and part of their leadership team. He went on three mission trips to the Rosebud Reservation in South Dakota. God has grown him into a kind, smart, responsible young man.
He graduated from high school in 2018 and started attending college. He also worked nearly full-time at Chick-fil-a during his freshmen year of college. That’s where he met Lizzy. They started dating, spending lots of time together and soon couldn’t imagine life without each other. So, they married December 21, 2019, and now we have added a daughter-in-law to our family.
We are so thankful for the way God knit our family together! Never could we have imagined it or planned for it. We believe God will continue to work in Chris and Lizzy’s lives and our own. We can’t wait to see what is next.”