Iowa’s first hosting!

May 10, 2022 in Crisis Hosting, Relationships, Wrap Around Care

By Ashley Baker, TFG Iowa Director

Last week, Together for Good in Iowa was overjoyed to have our first hosting!

This hosting has challenged and stretched us from the very first phone call, due to the fact that this participant mom does not speak any English. Due to this communication barrier, we needed extra help and extra grace and God has provided both in abundance.

Nelsey is a mom of three beautiful kiddos, Franklin (4), Ashley (2) and baby Nelson, who is a newborn and was just released from the NICU. Nelsey has endured suffering, some of it very recently. She is a strong mom who pushes through to care for her children all while overcoming many barriers, including communication and transportation.

Nelsey needed someone to watch her kiddos while she spent time caring for her newborn in the NICU, walking through surgery and his release from the hospital.

Our host mom Liz stepped in to care for Franklin and Ashley with so much kindness and compassion, despite the fact that these kiddos speak only Spanish and Liz and her children do not.

They had a wonderful day, playing and laughing together. Liz patiently cared for them, overcoming the language barrier between them. This gave Nelsey the room she needed to care for Nelson and bring him home safely, knowing her older children were in good hands.

When it was time to bring the kids home, some hilarious moments ensued when it took 15 whole minutes of using all of the Spanish Liz and I could muster to coax Franklin to get off the potty. We tried our best to communicate that it was “time to go see mama,” but Franklin was more interested in sitting on the potty and playing with a toy fishing rod, exclaiming “Pescado! Pescado!” It was a great bonding opportunity for us. 🙂 We learned that a 4-year-old’s stubbornness is universal, no interpretation needed!

Liz said of the experience, “My heart grew yesterday to include these two sweet kids. I had my own sick kiddo and we didn’t know the same language but God is bigger than that.”

As for our TFG team in Iowa, we have been stretched to rely on God more than ever.

We’re praising God for His grace and blown away by our volunteers.

We’ve fallen in love with this participant family and these sweet kiddos. Our compassion and empathy have grown as we’ve witnessed the difficulties non-English-speaking parents face as they care for their children in this country.

Through this experience, God has provided Together for Good with three tremendous volunteers who have helped us with translating over the past couple of weeks, as well as an incredible host family and a support volunteer who has given Nelsey and her kids rides to resource appointments to help them get the support they need to thrive.

Several church partners have also come together to donate clothes and diapers for this family as they get back on their feet.

Each believer and church has a role they can play as we move out in faith to come alongside vulnerable children and families.

Loving families that may not look exactly like ours means reaching out a hand of help, even when it doesn’t come naturally. It means being creative, flexible and willing to problem-solve.

We’re so thankful for our volunteers who were willing to step into this situation with us.

We will continue to walk alongside this family with our team of volunteers, and we can’t wait to see what else God has in store!


Mother’s Day reflection

May 8, 2022 in Other, Relationships, Wrap Around Care

By Jennifer Thelen, TFG Volunteer Advocate Coordinator

As a single mother for the past nine years of two children (now adults ages 20 and 22!), I often find myself reflecting on Mother’s Day at all of the ways that God has been there for me in my parenting.

Jennifer Thelen and daughters, circa 2022

(Jennifer and her daughters, circa 2022.)

I will never forget the day I was walking in to church and both of my kids had been fighting. I was not handling it well. I sat in the back so no one would notice us. As the music began to play, I cried out to God and told Him I can’t do this. I felt like I was failing on all sides.

At the end of the service, an older man tapped me on the shoulder and whispered in my ear, “You are a good mother.”

He walked away and I never saw him again. I wasn’t able to thank him.

In this moment, it was like God reached down from heaven and told me, “in my singleness, I am enough,” even when life and the world would tell single parents something different.

This helped me see that God can reclaim our brokenness, fill us with joy and help us to see the beauty in life each day.

This is why I’m a part of the TFG team. I believe it is organizations like Together for Good that give hope to single mothers, help them see Jesus and point them back to His healing authority in their life.


We LOVE Jennifer’s story and the way God poured into her in her moment of need. This is why TFG exists and why you are a part of the Together for Good family.

We think you’re an amazing mom, Jennifer! Thank you for all you do for TFG families.

Wishing you and yours a wonderful Mother’s Day,

Your TFG team

In honor of Mother’s Day, support a TFG family! (

Navigating unmet expectations

October 26, 2021 in Caregiving Tips, Crisis Hosting, Empower, Learn, Listen, Other, Raw and Real with Maridel, Relationships, Wrap Around Care

By Maridel Sandberg, TFG President/CEO

Are you feeling like I often do these days?

Do you measure up like you think you should?
Did you drop those pounds?
Did you make it to the gym three times this week?
Did you follow the rules in that parenting book?
Did you miss your mom’s birthday?
What other “failures” have you faced today?
How many times have you just felt like, “I will never measure up?”

I know you know this feeling. It’s something we’re all familiar with in one way or another.

Do you feel it to the depths of your soul like I do?

Our human nature has a way of just beating ourselves up due to the unmet expectations we place on ourselves or that others place on us. Some days, the expectations feel so heavy that I feel HOPELESS.

When we minister to struggling moms and host their children, it is easy to fall into the trap of expectations.

I’ve said this myself and heard it from others, “I will host that mom’s child, as long as someone holds her accountable.” Or, “Who is going to check in on the mom while I watch her child?”

What if the mom you serve doesn’t meet your expectations?

When I’m training in new volunteer host families, I often ask them this question:
“How many of you have lost 40 pounds in two weeks?”

Unsurprisingly, no one raises their hands. It’s a good illustration of the heavy expectation we sometimes knowingly or unknowingly put on these sweet mamas who are reaching out for help.

I can’t imagine how it would feel if someone told me, “I will only volunteer to help if I can see a change in you. I want to be able to prove to others that my staying up all night with your crying child was ‘worthwhile.’”

It’s UNREALISTIC and UNLOVING. And it’s not where I want my heart to be.

The truth is none of us will measure up.

I won’t. You won’t. She won’t.

At Together for Good we believe that when a precious mom reaches out and bravely asks for help, it is a divine opportunity for her to taste and experience the love of God in and through us. This love that is defined in Scripture as, “While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8).

Not once we cleaned up. Not once we followed all the rules. Rather, while we were still sinners…

We love because he first loved us, before we ever deserved it. He fills us with His love and we pour it out on those around us. Unconditionally, because that’s what He did for us. Next time you are ministering to someone, ask yourself, “Am I being loving? Am I coming alongside this family with patience and kindness?”

So let’s change the measuring stick, and let’s keep it simple. Let’s love first, with the love that Christ showed us, and let Him do the hidden work in each heart as we simply say yes and follow Him on this wild life adventure.

May Jesus teach us how to love better every day we are on this earth…and I praise God for His unrelenting grace as we learn and grow together.

In Him,


Host dads, thank you for saying yes

June 25, 2021 in Learn, Other, Relationships, Wrap Around Care

By Katie Brown, TFG Advocate

I remember when I told my husband, a father of four at the time, that I wanted to host children in my home. He wasn’t thrilled about the idea. We already had our plates full (of mac & cheese and fruit snacks) and adding one more child, no matter how temporary, seemed crazy.

But the great thing about my husband is that he saw my heart. He saw that the Lord was leading me, and he knew that he would be remiss to dismiss what I was feeling. So, instead of saying no, he took one step and said yes to going to an info meeting with me. And another step saying yes to going to training. Step after step, one yes at a time, we made it through the approval process and pretty soon we had our first hosting, a three-year-old girl with these big brown eyes. She would stay with us for two weeks.

Everything was going fine…for about 5 minutes. Then, this child saw our dog.

Side note about the dog: She is not an intimidating dog. She’s a hundred-year-old fat black lab who mostly just sits in the corner and sighs with dismay at the children playing around her. She’s endured having her toenails painted, wearing bonnets, being dressed up like a lion…you get the point. Wouldn’t hurt anyone.

Katie Brown’s dog

Still, this little one was terrified.

I was crushed. I so badly wanted this sweet girl to feel safe and special, but all she could see was my scary dog. I didn’t know her full story, so I didn’t know why she was so afraid, but nothing I could do was going to help so I was ready to call the staff to find a new host family for her. I waited outside with everyone until my husband came home. And he said something along the lines of “let me try.”

We all followed him inside and when our dog greeted him, my husband said in a dramatically authoritative voice, “Go lay down.” Of course, our good ol’ puppy was confused but still was happy to get off her feet, so she went to her corner. And then he and this sweet little one spent the next hour cautiously approaching, learning about, and eventually petting the dog. For the next two weeks, my husband and this little girl were best buds. When he would get home from work, she would stop whatever she was doing and run up to him and they’d stick together until it was bedtime.

Guess what? My husband stopped thinking I was crazy. After one hosting, he knew that as a father, he had a unique place in this work of keeping families together.

Some of the families we serve have dads or other males who are playing an active role in raising their kids. And we also serve many families with single moms. These are strong, persevering, smart women who are protecting, providing, and caring for their families every single day. We want to take every opportunity, including this one, to honor them and call out their strengths.

Simultaneously, the reality is that the children haven’t really been able to see an involved dad in action. In those situations where there is not a dad available, being a host dad becomes a very interesting and delicate job. Dads have to be very observant and self-aware. Sometimes children are intimidated to see a male in the home. Sometimes children aren’t.  Sometimes children run right up the dads and jump in his arms. Sometimes they sit across the room and just observe how he interacts with the other children in the home, trying to figure out if he can be trusted. Eventually, most of the kids figure out that dad is the fun one who will take them on the FAST wagon rides, the generous one who gives a second popsicle, the providing one who microwaves the best chicken nuggets, and the protective one who tames that monster of a dog and keeps her lying docile in her corner. And once a child figures out what healthy fathering looks like, when they see it modeled in the home they’re staying in, they won’t forget it.

Host dads, you are amazing. We see you doing the work and impacting kids lives. We know that many of you stepped into this work with some question marks around how it would impact your home, but now you’ve started to understand that God has a very unique and important role for you. We know that there is a fatherless crisis in this country. And we thank you for humbling yourself and by God’s grace, bravely confronting that crisis head-on and fathering more. You are just ordinary men who are saying “yes” to an extraordinary God.

Thank you.



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