Peter Raap ’68 takes the famous Sunday school chorus to heart: “Jesus loves the little children/All the children of the world/Red and yellow, black and white/They are precious in His sight.”
Foster parents to more than 60 children over 40 years, for the last two decades Raap and his wife, Lois, have taken 49 medically or behaviorally challenged children into their home—some with HIV/AIDS and others with various social or psychological issues. Peter calls this “extreme foster care.”
As many as 10 children have been in the Raap home at one time, some of those years living with the Raaps’ four daughters, Lani ex’97, Rachel ’98, Sara ’00 and Jeslyn, a second grader. Peter and Lois have been guardians for eight of the children that have come to them.
Raap started as a biology teacher after his Calvin and Stanford graduations and then was inspired to move to the island of Guam to do the same. His natural entrepreneurial gifts were piqued while there, and he rapidly moved from retail to wholesale to brokering.
“The entrepreneurial thing felt so good,” he said. “I saw endless possibilities in the wholesaling venture, and gradually I came to see that my call to various ministries—both in and outside of our home—would be enhanced if I could run businesses on my own and set my own timetables.”
Raap made connections all over the world with duty-free buyers; the volume of sales continued to grow.
“The key to this work is building relationships with good people and then trusting them,” Raap said.
Settling in Los Gatos, Calif., just south of San Francisco, the Raaps continued in the import-export field, while hearing God’s call to open their home to children that no others would take. These years have been thrilling—and heart-breaking. Seven of their little ones have died. Peter and Lois worry daily for one of them who is living on the streets with mental illness addictions, homeless by choice.
“Often we ask, ‘Should we take one more difficult child?’” The overwhelming needs of each child and the reality that only God could meet those needs drove us onward, causing us to say ‘yes’ many times over,” said Raap. “On a very small scale, we often felt like Martin Luther must have felt: ‘Here we stand. We can do no other. God help us.’”
The ministry of the Raaps to desperate children has expanded virtually every year. Issues related to children’s protection compelled Lois to enroll in law school and gain a legal degree. Peter opened a variety of new businesses to support their work as a family, leading to still more advocacies related to Mexican immigration rights and the policies of nearby cities in regard to the homeless.
In 1997, Raap’s attention was turned to a new continent: Africa. Urged by his church to use his gifts in Ghana, he and his family have established a self-sustaining Christian school and a soccer academy that are reaching many with the gospel. Raap calls the academy “the most cost- and time-effective method of evangelism” he has encountered.
“I seem to have a business eye that leads to new ways to do God’s work,” said Raap. Perhaps that comes from a long family history: Raap recently discovered that an ancestor from the early 1600s—and with his same name—constructed a building in Amsterdam for widows and orphans that is still standing.
“I don’t claim to be faithful,” said Raap. “God is faithful. After 12 long generations, God still motivates, directs and touches hearts in the same way, to the same end.”