Friendship & Foundations: Life as a Staff Kid


I had lived in the same house in Joplin, Missouri all fourteen years of my life until my parents felt a stirring that God was sending them elsewhere. My parents had always thought about being houseparents, even before I was born, but they thought they should raise their own four kids first.

My parents took good care of my older siblings and I, raising us to love others as God loves us. They have always had a strong foundation of faith. That foundation has been tested and shaken over the years. Like, when my oldest brother passed away, or when my parents followed God’s call to leave their home and loved ones and move to Cookson Hills, after being comfortable in our hometown for 14 years.

When my parents asked me to move to Cookson Hills, I just agreed without putting much thought into it. I didn’t fully process that moving meant I would lose my friends in Joplin. My parents reassured me that I would be, “ok.” My friends would only be an hour and a half away, and I could still hang out with them every now and then. When we finally moved, I didn’t worry too much. I thought, “It’s just a normal school with different people.”

When we first started getting kids in our house, I started to see how life was going to be different. Optimistically, I was thinking that life at Cookson Hills was going to be just like my life growing up. It was not. The new students in our house weren’t raised the same way I had been raised. I learned a lot about them, but at the same time, the more I learned, the more I didn’t want to get close to them. As school started, everything really hit me. I was a freshman in a brand new high school. I didn’t have my friends. I did everything I could to get my parents to move back to Joplin, but they kept saying that God brought them here for a reason. In my freshman-thinking mind, I didn’t care. I just wanted to leave.

It wasn’t until the second term of my sophomore year that I started fitting in and interacting with others, not only at school, but also at home with my house siblings. That’s when I learned that I didn’t need a whole lot of friends, really I just needed a couple, true, close people to help encourage me. I still had opportunities to talk to my friends that had moved away and I still grew with them, but I really connected with people that were still here and we became more like a family. I wouldn’t trade that for anything.

God sent our family to Cookson Hills for a reason. I didn’t understand it at first, but He had a greater plan for me than I ever expected. None of the friendships I had before can compare to the friendships I have gained while at Cookson Hills. I have been incredibly blessed by the time I have spent here. I’m glad that my parents stayed even when I tried my best to convince them to leave. I’ve learned that sometimes we have to be uncomfortable for a little bit in order to find our true foundation.  

I’m currently in a new chapter in life, laying a new foundation if you will. As my junior year ended, God was pulling my parents elsewhere. I found myself at a crossroads again. After weighing my options, I chose to stay and finish my senior year at Cookson Hills. This has become my home. I can’t imagine life without the relationships and family that I have found here.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR — Josh, Class of 2019, is from Joplin, Missouri. He loves wolves, the color blue and watching movies. He’s not completely decided on plans after graduation but is considering College of the Ozarks or applying to intern with Disney!