It was 2:30 a.m. when we received the call. After months of training, house inspections, CPR certifications, and background checks, we were finally approved to be foster parents. Half asleep, my wife answered the phone. A five-year-old girl had been rescued from the hospital and was in need of a home, so we agreed to take her. About an hour later, a little girl with pink pajamas and a teddy bear was fast asleep in our living room. My wife and I gazed with a nervous excitement at this child who was now in our care. Had we made the right choice? Were we really qualified? All we knew was this little soul had been through a lot. She was exhausted. She missed her mom. She needed to be loved. She needed Jesus.
Oftentimes, the most meaningful things in life are also the most difficult, and caring for children in need is no exception. There are long and challenging days. Sometimes I’m tempted to quit and just go back to “normal.” Not having this child might make the day somewhat easier, but what a great opportunity to show the love of Christ to a family in need.
FOSTERING AND ADOPTION REFLECT THE GOSPEL
Is it hard to get attached to a child only to have them removed a few months later? Absolutely, but the same Christ who gave his life for others also empowers us to do the same. On my own, I lack the strength to be a foster parent, and often it’s more than I can bear. “Perfect” foster parents simply do not exist.
However, the Lord’s grace is sufficient for each day, and he won’t ask us to do something he doesn’t equip us to do. He takes unqualified, imperfect people and uses them for his glory.
Caring for orphans through foster care and adoption is such a beautiful picture of the gospel that Scripture often uses it as an illustration. “For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’” (Romans 8:15). In Ephesians 1:5, we are told that God “predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will.”
Basically, you and I were born in sin, an enemy of God, thus an object of his wrath. God was under no obligation to do anything for us and could have let us slide into eternity without him. Yet, even though he didn’t have to, he called a people to himself. John 1:12 states, “But to all who did received him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God…” When God adopts us, it is at that point we can call ourselves children of God. He, by his grace, has brought us into his family. Now, we can call him Father.
FOSTERING AND ADOPTION ARE FRUITS OF THE GOSPEL
Not only is foster care and adoption a picture of the gospel, it is also a fruit of the gospel. When the gospel changes a person’s heart, that person now looks not to their own needs, but to the needs of others. We begin to see the needs of those around us and we are burdened by them. James 1:27 says it like this: “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction…” Fostering and adopting are one of the many avenues we have to care for orphans.
A CHANCE TO SHINE THE LIGHT OF CHRIST
There are many children in need of a home. Some need permanent homes while others need temporary homes. This is an area where the church can make a difference in their community and shine the light of Jesus Christ. David Platt, president of International Mission Board and a former pastor in Alabama, tells this story:
"One day I called up the Department of Human Resources in Shelby County, Alabama, where our church is located, and asked, 'How many families would you need in order to take care of all the foster and adoption needs that we have in our county?'
The woman I was talking to laughed.
I said, 'No, really, if a miracle were to take place, how many families would be sufficient to cover all the different needs you have?'
She replied, 'It would be a miracle if we had 150 more families.'
When I shared this conversation with our church, over 160 families signed up to help with foster care and adoption. We don’t want even one child in our county to be without a loving home. It’s not the way of the American Dream. It doesn’t add to our comfort, prosperity, or ease. But we are discovering the indescribable joy of sacrificial love for others, and along the way we are learning more about the inexpressible wonder of God’s sacrificial love for us."
What a testimony of God’s people! What a picture of the power of the gospel! This is the church being the church. Can you imagine the impact to the surrounding community? Not only were they ministering to those children, they were ministering to all in that county who had heard that there were no more children in the system.
TEN WAYS YOU CAN GET INVOLVED
Are you willing to pray about your role in helping the children in your areas? Not everyone will be able to invite a child into their home, but we all can contribute. Here are some ways you can be involved:
- Become a foster parent
- Adopt a child through the Foster Care System
- Encourage those who are fostering/adopting
- Provide Respite Care (those who are trained and certified to babysit)
- Financially support and/or raise funds
- Help raise awareness of those in need
- Become a CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate) volunteer
- Volunteer on a local Foster Care Review Board
- Talk with the local schools about needs of enrolled foster children
Would you consider where you might be willing to help? Would you commit to do something, no matter how small it may seem? Yes, it may require sacrifice. Yes, it could be difficult. And yes, you will likely get attached. But, that’s what it means to minister to others.
We die to ourselves so that others might live, just like our Savior.
James Williams has served as an Associate Pastor at FBC Atlanta, TX for four years. He is married to Jenny and they currently have four children in their home (three biological, one in foster care). He is in the dissertation stage of a PhD in Systematic Theology. You can follow James on Twitter or his church's blog where he writes regularly.