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I've written bits and pieces about our journey with foster care & Safe Families for Children. To get a taste you can read about the little one who first called me "mom." Our first thirteen children. A feisty 3-year-old. Our precious "Z" and now little (big) "D."
Earlier this week, Bryce and I were interviewed by a local TV station to share about being foster parents. It got us thinking: WHY? Why do we do it?
Some become foster parents simply for the act of doing good or because they love children (which is wonderful). Some do it for the paycheck (which is sad). Some want to help because of the great need (there is a desperate need). We do love children and we see the need, but I'm not a supermom and our house isn't that big and we have two little kids already and the money doesn't mean much to us (plus Safe Families is entirely voluntary). We do it because: (1) Jesus said to and (2) we are compelled by His love. Pure and simple, those are the main reasons.
"The Christian who is pure and without fault,
from God the Father’s point of view,
is the one who takes care of orphans and widows,
and who remains true to the Lord" (James 1:27 TLB).
"For Christ's love compels us . . ." (2 Corinthians 5:14).
Step #1 for us: obedience to the Word
There are at least 37 verses in the Bible (maybe more? I feel an independent study coming on!) about caring for orphans/fatherless/widows. Among them: "Defend the cause of the weak and fatherless" (Psalm 82:3). In the character of God we see, "He executes justice for the orphan and the widow" (Deut. 10:18). Again: "He supports the fatherless and the widow; but He thwarts the way of the wicked" (Psalm 146:9).
Thoughts from Bryce
We need to assume our response to Scripture is “yes!” I think it's important sometimes for us to just act and God will reveal Himself after we act. I think of Abraham where God tells him to go but doesn't tell him where except that He will show him. In our weaknesses He is strong, so let's get a move on it and let God take care of the rest.
Step #2 for us: compelled by Love
Again from Bryce
We are compelled by Christ's love, by the gospel. If I believe the gospel—that God sent Jesus to rescue me and now calls me His son—how can I not participate in the same? That is (to me) the reason I do it. Otherwise I'd be happy to just live with my own kids and you [Jana] and not go through the hassle of watching kids come and go, watching you [Jana] cry about hard things and give so tirelessly. It's not worth it except for Jesus' sake, and it's not possible to do it well without the Holy Spirit's power.
Certainly, not all are "called" to be a foster home or to host children for the weekend. But Bryce and I knew that we needed to do something, and right now this is our something. Religion acceptable to God takes care of orphans, widows, the needy, and the least of these. This is the heart of God the Father. This is where we will find Jesus. There are a myriad of ways to do this—so we obeyed the call, jumped in, got messy, did the hard thing, inconvenienced ourselves, and found great joy in the process. "If you insist on saving your life, you will lose it. Only those who throw away their lives for My sake and for the sake of the Good News will ever know what it means to really live" (Mark 8:35 TLB, emphasis added).
In the U.S. [in 2012] 397,122 children were living without permanent families in the foster care system. [Over a quarter] of these children (101,666) were eligible for adoption [i.e. orphans!], but nearly 32% of these children will wait over three years in foster care before being adopted (stats found here).
Orphan, from the Greek orphanos, means "orphaned, without parents, fatherless," literally "deprived." Foster children are without parents present and supportive in their lives. Very often they are completely fatherless. The conclusion we draw: the 21st century foster child in the U.S. is our modern day version of a Biblical orphan.
Our vernacular here in the U.S. is not doing the Church any favors! Just because a child is in the foster system does not always mean they are well-cared for (certainly not their souls!). Our country is doing the best it can to care for our children, but the Church should be overwhelming the system. In 2007 there were 320,000 churches in the U.S. (stats here) and, as noted above, there are approximately 100,000 foster children available for adoption right now. Do the math. The Church needs to take over with Christ-like compassion and love, adopt children who need a forever home, and even work to prevent children from entering the system in the first place (this is at the heart of Safe Families for Children).
More from Bryce
The Church in the U.S. could eliminate those up for adoption in one day. (If one family from one third of the churches in the U.S. adopted a child, the system would be emptied of adoptable children!) What would it look like if Christian families flooded foster care and lived the gospel out in front of children who desperately need to see and understand what love is . . . many who know nothing but rejection. Where is the Church? Jesus is pretty blunt: "Whatever you did for one of the least of these . . . you did for me" (Matthew 25:40). If you love Jesus, in some way or another you need to have a part in His mission.
Recently, we sang a worship song at church that says: "The hopeless have found their hope/The orphans now have a home/All that was lost has found its place in You." Beautiful words but I started crying as we sang them; my heart felt broken. Do the orphans actually have a home? How does God provide a home for them? So many children longing for a safe place, their forever family. Oh Jesus, cause our hearts to love the least, the lost and to serve You sacrificially.
This is our why. It all began with simple obedience and Love's compulsion. Willing duty morphed into joy. We certainly don’t have it all figured out and have much to learn in this journey of following Jesus, but we do want to encourage other believers to seek Jesus for their something.
"Learn to do good; seek justice, reprove the ruthless,
defend the orphan, plead for the widow" (Isaiah 1:17 NASB).