Hospitality

11 Practical Steps Toward Caring for Orphans

katherine-chase-96270-unsplash.jpg

Along with crisp air and beautiful leaves, November also brings an awareness of broken families. It’s this month, more than any other, where our gaze is directed, perhaps uncomfortably, to the fatherless. That’s because November is National Adoption Month and November 11 is Orphan Sunday. Many people live their whole lives without giving any thought to the fatherless. Orphans remain comfortably out of sight and out of mind. The idea of neglected image-bearers stays beyond the boundaries of our carefully crafted bubbles.

Despite whatever unwillingness on our part to engage the global orphan crisis, our heavenly Father aggressively pursues these vulnerable people—and he clearly instructs us to do the same.

Ignorant?

God identifies himself as the “father of the fatherless” (Ps. 68:5). He teaches us that pure religion is to “visit orphans and widows in their affliction” (Jas. 1:27). He commands us to “seek justice, correct oppression, and bring justice to the fatherless” (Is. 1:17).

Despite our seeming reluctance, we are informed. We can’t say that we are unaware of the broken state of families. We’re aware that children in our zip codes and across all time zones are growing up abandoned due to death, poverty, illness, and sin.

We are not ignorant, we are merely indifferent. Brothers and sisters, this cannot be. Followers of Christ must not be known by our indifference but by our love.

Engaging orphans and vulnerable children can seem daunting, which is why many believers are reluctant to jump in. But if we want to side with the Father, we will act to bring justice to orphans.

Eleven Practical Steps Toward Caring for Orphans

So how do we begin to take steps of obedience towards caring for orphans? Consider the following steps.

Be informed. There are an estimated 140 million orphans worldwide. Only about ten percent of all orphans are “true” orphans, meaning they have lost both parents. About 125 million children considered to be orphans have at least one, if not two, living parents. In the United States, about 110,000 children are waiting to be adopted into families. Some 420,000 children are in foster care. Educate yourself on this growing number of fatherless children. Here are some resources to get you started:

  • Follow Jason Johnson’s blog about foster care and adoption.
  • Read Adopted for Life by Russell Moore.
  • Learn more about the global orphan crisis from CAFO (Christian Alliance for Orphans).
  • Read Orphanology by Tony Merida and Rick Morton.
  • Subscribe to the Think Orphan podcast hosted by Phil Darke.

Use your voice for the voiceless. The voiceless aren’t voiceless because they have nothing to say; they’re voiceless because no one listens when they speak. But you have a voice. Scripture commands God’s people to speak up for the voiceless (Prov. 31:8). Use your voice to raise awareness of the plight of orphans within your relational networks. Tell people how they can join God in his work of caring for orphans. Be a voice for the voiceless.

Pray. We are not the savior of the fatherless but we can confidently approach the One who is. Cast yourself before God’s throne to plead for the salvation and care of the vulnerable. Our Father hears the cries of his children (1 Pet. 3:12). We can fight for orphans on our knees. We know their needs, both spiritual and physical, and we can go to our good Father and petition his help.

Become a foster or adoptive parent. This may be the first idea that comes to mind when you think of how to care for orphans, and rightly so! Adoption and foster care require sacrifice and a huge investment into the lives of orphans, but the church should be leading this movement as we are a people who have benefited from adoption into our heavenly father’s family. Take advantage of some of the resources mentioned under “Be informed” above to learn more.

Partner with parachurch organizations that care for orphans. Adoption is great but with over ninety percent of the world’s orphans ineligible for adoption, it’s not enough. We must find other ways to help. Partnering with organizations like 127 Worldwide who work with local leaders around the world caring for orphans is a wise solution. Invest in organizations that are committed to meeting the physical and spiritual needs of the fatherless.

Leverage your skills and networks for orphans. When orphans “age out” of group homes and institutions, they become vulnerable to gangs, criminal activities, prostitution, and trafficking. Invest in job training both locally and globally for these young adults to give them the means to provide for themselves and their families. Connect your networks with the vulnerable as they transition into adulthood. Invite them to your church. Help them find jobs.

Serve adoptive families. Adoption is very expensive. One way you can help adoptive families is to sacrificially give towards their adoptive costs and encourage others to do the same. Get creative: host fundraisers; have yard sales; make and sell t-shirts; donate services to be auctioned off to raise money; get certified to provide respite care for foster families; or bring meals to families as they welcome the fatherless into their homes. Serve families who are on the front lines of caring for orphans.

Extend your pro-life ethic beyond the womb. Support life from the womb to the tomb. When we encourage parents to choose life for the unborn, we must walk alongside and help them care for their children. We must welcome these children into our families if the birth parents are unwilling to raise them. Being pro-life is more than being anti-abortion. It means being pro-children and pro-adoption.

Meet orphans. Take time to invest in the lives of vulnerable children in your community. Go on short-term mission projects to visit orphans around the world and share the gospel with them while encouraging their caretakers. Befriend families with foster kids. Hear their stories and tell them the story of the heavenly Father who never abandons his children. Invite them into God’s redemptive story.

Support church planting in vulnerable communities. Invest in pastor training and church planting efforts around the world. Loving the fatherless means more than providing food, water, and education. It means giving them access to the gospel. It means investing in the eternal good of their cities and villages by planting gospel-proclaiming churches. Consider partnering with great organizations like Acts 29 to advance the church around the world.

Raise up future generations to embrace caring for orphans. Parents, if you want orphan care to be normal in your family, then expose your children to the global orphan crisis. Work together as a family to love the fatherless. Teach them God’s Word and pray for their obedience. Set the example of obedience and lead them to reflect God’s heart for the orphan.

Change Your Culture

God’s Word is clear on our role in caring for orphans. Our access to Scripture is unprecedented and unlimited. We have printed Bibles, podcasts, commentaries, Bible apps, teachers, pastors, and books. What we do not have is room for excuses. We know what the Bible says, but knowing is not enough. Doers of the Word step into obedience.

In his book, Radical, David Platt writes, “We learned that orphans are easier to ignore before you know their names. They are easier to ignore before you see their faces. It is easier to pretend they’re not real before you hold them in your arms. But once you do, everything changes.”

Change starts with you. It starts in your home, your church, your neighborhood, and your workplace. Change your culture by reflecting the Father’s heart for the fatherless in your speech, attitude, and actions. Inspire others to be obedient to God’s command to care for orphans.

It starts with one step. Then one step turns into two, and two steps become three. Before you know it, you’re walking in obedience.

Take that first step and follow Christ into the world for the good of the fatherless and for the sake of his glory. You don’t have to single-handedly solve the global orphan crisis. You can’t. But you can step out in faith. Christian, get your feet moving.


Christy Britton is a wife and mom of four boys. She is an orphan advocate for 127 Worldwide and writes curriculum for Docent Research. Her family worships at Imago Dei Church in Raleigh, North Carolina. She writes for several blogs, including her own, http://www.beneedywell.com/. You can follow her on Twitter.

6 Practical Ways to Cultivate Face to Face Friendship

helena-lopes-459331-unsplash.jpg

True friendship doesn’t just happen. Friendship—real and deep friendship—takes wise and careful cultivation. Although letters, texts, and phone calls each can be used to strengthen friendship, it especially thrives when we spend time together, life on life and face to face. And this is also the best context in which to help one another grow as disciples of Jesus Christ—it is when we’re together in the mix of everyday life that we see how we really live, and see evidence of what we really believe. For the sake of deeper community and discipleship, here are six ways to cultivate face to face friendship.

1. Get Face to Face

Our digital age gives us very convenient tools for friendship. We can call one another across great distances; we can text and email; we can share pictures and videos. But nothing replaces face to face experiences. The apostle Paul wrote meaningful letters to those whom he loved, but he also said, “we pray most earnestly night and day that we may see you face to face” (1 Thess. 3:10). The apostle John wrote, “I would rather not use paper and ink. Instead, I hope to come to you and talk face to face, so that our joy may be complete” (2 John 12). Notice the connection between getting face to face and joy. Technology is a great gift, but relational joy will only come to completion when we get face to face.

Why? Because we are not disembodied spirits; we are embodied human beings. We were made for the full experience of human communication. We were made to see the sincerity in our friend’s eyes, to feel the reassuring touch, to hear the unrestrained laugh. This fullness of friendship can only be experienced when we’re together.

One of the most practical steps to cultivate friendship is to simply step into the presence of a friend. And use technology not just to connect, but also to schedule times to get together.

2. Add Food to Friendship

Food is one of the greatest tools for strengthening relationships. Food is not just for continued existence; it provides a context for community. In many cultures, sharing a meal signifies friendship. Meals provide an opportunity to slow down, relax, and open up to one another.

When Jesus came, he didn’t just meet with people, he spent time with them around a table. “The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!'” (Matt. 11:19). Jesus was not a glutton nor a drunkard, but the accusation stuck because of his reputation for spending so much time eating with people.

We each eat about twenty-one meals every week. Why not block off two of those—for example, breakfast on Tuesdays and lunch on Fridays—and invite a friend to join you? And then establish a weekly or every-other-week rhythm of grabbing coffee with someone.

3. Ask Lots of Questions

We honor friends when we ask them good questions about their lives. Comments about the weather are fine, but not if we neglect speaking about the climate of our souls.

Here are a few questions that help us drop below the surface, into the deeper waters of our souls: What are you encouraged about recently? What has been discouraging to you? How are things going at home (or at work, or at school)? What are you reading recently, and what has stood out to you from it? What are a few themes in your life, or a few things that are often on your mind these days?

4. Actually Listen

We also honor our friends when we listen to them. This is different than merely hearing their words and even different than understanding what they’re saying. This is also different than paying attention, but primarily waiting until you have an opportunity to speak again.

The listening that strengthens friendship is listening curiously. True friendship requires conversational give-and-take. Be curious, ask questions, and listen carefully.

5. Set a Tone of Encouragement

Our words often determine the health of our friendships. And not just specific words here and there, but the general tone that we set with our speech. And the cumulative force of our words affects our relationships. What tone do you set by what you say?

We strengthen friendships by saturating our speech with encouragement. Christians are called to speak “only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear” (Eph. 4:29). Whenever a thought comes to your mind to affirm something about someone, do it without hesitating. Let them know why you respect them. Let them know you’re proud of them.

This kind of direct, look-your-friend-in-the-eye affirmation may seem awkward at first, especially for men. But over time we will find this kind of encouragement life-giving. As those who have heard God’s gracious acceptance of us in Christ, and as those who will hear a “well done” on the coming Day, we are called to generously give affirmation and encouragement to one another.

6. Turn Your Unique Circumstances into Opportunities to Connect

Maybe friendship was easier in a previous season of life. But now your job involves drive-time. Or your studies are demanding. Or you are raising young children. Or sports schedules keep your evenings and weekends unpredictable or full. How can you find time for friendship in this new season?

Here’s a plan: Identify what makes your season of life challenging, and ask how you can creatively turn that very obstacle into an opportunity for friendship. If your commute is long, ask if someone else would like to carpool with you one day each week. If you have to drive to a basketball practice or soccer game, invite someone to join you. Students, consider studying with others and take a couple five-minute breaks to talk. Parents with young children, schedule play-dates for your kids—walk together, go to the park together, have lunch together.

True friendship is worth every bit of effort we put into it because we were made for friendship—life on life and face to face friendship, the kind that endures through thick and thin. This kind of friendship provides the best context for helping one another grow as disciples of Jesus Christ together.


Drew Hunter (MA, Wheaton College) is the author of Made for Friendship: The Relationship That Halves Our Sorrows and Doubles Our Joys. He is also the teaching pastor at Zionsville Fellowship in Zionsville, Indiana. He previously served as a minister for young adults at Grace Church of DuPage and taught religious studies at College of DuPage. Drew and his wife, Christina, live in Zionsville, Indiana, and have four children.

Simplicity for the Sake of the Gospel

kari-shea-109894-unsplash.jpg

Simplicity. It’s one of our obsessions. Now that magazines, consultants, and television shows all have our attention, we’re eager to learn how to pare down to what really matters.

We feel glutted—overstuffed on overabundance. We are sick of our calendars and Amazon shopping carts being jammed full with far more than we need. Maybe less is more, we think.

A decluttered entryway. Leisurely evenings. A reduced pace of life. We’re searching for the simple life.

But to what end? What is it we’re after? What will fill the void created by our new, simple lives?

‘JUST BE THERE. THEY WILL COME.’

When my husband and I sensed God calling us to plant a church in our new neighborhood, the man we consider our spiritual father had some wise words for us.

“Do not get busy,” he said. “If you want to minister to your neighbors and your community, you need to be home. Don’t make a bunch of commitments. Just be there. They will come.”

I didn’t believe him. I couldn’t imagine our new neighbors stopping by and coming in for a while. And for months, they didn’t. For months our house was pretty quiet. Except for the occasional hello at the end of the driveway, we didn’t really know anyone.

Then spring came. We all emerged from our houses into the sunshine. Chats in the cul-de-sac turned into casual meals. Long talks at the mailbox rolled into afternoons on the front lawn. We threw a block party and invited all the houses up and down the street. Most of them came and stayed late.

From those informal moments grew regular gatherings, coffee, book club, frequent backyard cookouts. Our daughters became everyone’s pet sitters and babysitters. As we welcomed others in, they welcomed us into their foyers, kitchens, and lives.

Our mentor was right: we were just there, and they came.

SIMPLICITY GIVES BIRTH TO COMMUNITY

We carried this conviction to just be there into our church plant. Along with a handful of like-minded families, we wondered if God was asking us to start something simple—a community that loves Jesus, believes in the power of the gospel, and wants to just be there for our neighbors—and for whatever the Lord might want to do among them.

Church met in our living room on Friday nights. Kids spilled out into the front yard and the cul-de-sac. Cars lined the streets. Our patio was packed with people. Neighbors asked, “What are you doing in there?”

“Church!” we said. “You wanna come?”

Some did.

We were just there, and they came.

CREATED FOR COMMUNITY

We instinctively know it is not good for us to be alone (Gen. 2:18). We were created in God’s image (Gen. 1:26) who himself lives in the intimate community of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We long for—and need—deep relationships with those who are near.

Like many neighborhoods in the United States, mine is host to an array of activities, more than we could ever do in one lifetime. We have plenty to keep us busy: PTA meetings, trips to the gym, music recitals, and tennis matches, all of which are easy to attend without actually connecting with another person.

We tend to be physically present, but relationally absent. Our overstuffed schedules keep us moving at a pace that prohibits more than a reflexive wave or nod of the head. We long for more, but the buffet of options vying for our time makes it tough to connect.

And so, when someone is just there—when someone holds still and makes time to linger—we’re moved. We’re drawn in. We want more.

LOVED BY THE GOD WHO IS THERE

We’re attracted to Immanuel—God with us. We love, and feel loved by, the God who is there. He knows this; he made us this way. Throughout time, he has reminded us he is there.

  • When Joshua took over leadership of Israel from Moses, God said to him, “Just as I was with Moses, so I will be with you … do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go” (Josh. 1:5, 9).
  • Though the prophet Isaiah God comforted Israel, "Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand” (Is. 41:10).
  • In oft-repeated Psalm 23, David said to the Lord, “I will fear no evil, for you are with me” (Ps. 23:4).
  • Jesus’ very last words to his disciples before ascending into heaven were, “I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matt. 28:20).
  • God has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Heb. 13:5).

When we are just there, we reflect our Savior, who moved from heaven to earth to be with us (Phil. 2:5-11). By simply being there, we can be like Jesus, who gave up his throne in heaven to be with us. It’s a ministry of presence and, in this frenetic world, it’s a holy calling.

SIMPLICITY FOR THE SAKE OF THE GOSPEL

We Christ-followers don’t seek and offer simplicity for the same reason as magazines, HGTV, or Marie Kondo. We’re not offering up a Zen lifestyle or more time to perfect our hobbies. We pursue simplicity for the sake of the gospel. In offering our presence, we offer God’s presence to others.

Just being there is one of the best gifts we can give our neighbors who don’t yet know the intimacy and unconditional love of Jesus Christ. We are God’s temple and God dwells in us (1 Cor. 3:16). When we sit in the rocking chairs on our front porch with our neighbors, so does Jesus. When we spend enough time talking on the driveway and earn the privilege to hear of our neighbor’s cancer diagnosis, Jesus is there.

And just being there is one of the best gifts we can give to our brothers and sisters in Christ, too. A simple pace of life is an act of ministry in our church. Just being there—avoiding the temptation to fill our evenings with commitments, disciplining ourselves to be free and available to our church family—is ministry.

We isolate ourselves when we pursue a frenetic pace of life. We kill community by glutting ourselves on all the activities culture has to offer—both with the unbeliever and the believer in Christ. When we are too busy to gather, we lose something of the dynamic nature the God who is there.

A simple life, a simple schedule creates space for relationships, intimacy, and community. To just be there is to reflect our Savior to the lost and the found. When we are there, Jesus is there.

The world is on to something in its pursuit of the simple life. We all know there’s more to this life. May we, the church, excel in paring down and seeking the simple life. May we declutter our schedules and make space for one another. May we fill the void left by simplicity with community. May our simple lives bring God glory and loves to our neighbors. And may that community be one that lifts high the name of Jesus.


Jen Oshman is a wife and mom to four daughters and has served as a missionary for 17 years on three continents. She currently resides in Colorado where she and her husband serve with Pioneers International, and she encourages her church-planting husband at Redemption Parker. Her passion is leading women to a deeper faith and fostering a biblical worldview. She writes at www.jenoshman.com.

'I Don't Know How You Do It': God's Grace for Foster Parents

ryan-franco-235101-unsplash.jpg

As I stood there watching him sleep, I was reminded of the terrible reality that there are 430,000 children just like him in foster care across our country—and not nearly enough families to take them in. I had tiptoed into the room so I wouldn't wake him. Laying on a mattress wrapped in his red 'blankey' was a napping three-year-old little boy. While typically an explosion of energy, loudly bouncing around from one toy to the next, he lay there asleep and looked so peaceful.

We had received a call from Child Protective Services (CPS) a few days before saying there was a child in need of a temporary home. We accepted, and it wasn't long before a blue-eyed boy with long reddish-brown hair entered our lives.

'I DON'T KNOW HOW YOU DO IT'

Fostering is hard. A child comes into our home, alters the norm of our everyday lives for a number of weeks or months, and then by government order leaves as quickly as he or she came. Many find it difficult that we regularly let children we've grown attached to go back home, usually never to see them again. People often say to us, "I just don't know how you do it." That bewildered statement implies that we have some special gift or ability that others don't have, but the truth is, we don’t.

Foster care is hard at every level. It's hard when you first get a child. When a worker brings by a snoozing child at 3 a.m., your family is forced to make quick adjustments. Numerous scheduling changes have to be made. It might mean pulling the spare bed out of the attic, or it might mean running to the store for diapers and wipes.

And yes, it's hard when you've grown close to a child and they return to their family. Reunification is always the goal, so we rejoice when it happens, but that doesn’t make it easy. The last child was a part of our family for nearly a year. We celebrated her first birthday. We watched her take her first steps and heard her first words. Then one day the court decided it was time for her to go home, and just like that, she was gone.

GIVING US MORE THAN WE CAN BEAR

The challenges of foster care from beginning to end are often more than we can bear. It’s a struggle to incorporate another child into our family dynamic. The behavioral issues are frustrating and overwhelming at times. Juggling home inspections, doctor appointments, therapy sessions, and visitations can quickly zap our strength. It’s heart-wrenching to hear a child crying in the middle of the night, “My mommy doesn’t love me anymore!” while trying to convince her that’s not the case. We become well acquainted with our own weaknesses when we face these burdens.

On one occasion, I was exhausted and just about at the end of my rope. Already wondering if I was in over my head, I walked into our foster child’s room (who was supposed to be sleeping) and he had destroyed the room. I’m typically not a crier, but I wanted to weep at that moment. As I cleaned up the mess, I uttered to the Lord, “God, we need your help.” At that moment, I was reminded of my own helplessness and weakness.

But in our weakness, we are reminded that Christ is strong (2 Cor. 12:10). The Alpha and Omega never sleeps or slumbers (Psalm 121:4). He sees every tear shed and frustration expressed. By his power, not only did he speak everything into existence, but he continues to hold all of creation together by the power of his word (Col. 1:16-17). He is the one who sends forth the lightning and provides for the ravens. At his command the eagle mounts up, and he measures all the waters of the earth in the hollow of his hand. The nations are like a drop in a bucket to him, he stretches out the heavens like a curtain. He calls the stars by name, and because of his strength, not a single one goes missing (Job 38-40; Isaiah 40:9-31).

I’m not strong enough to face the challenges that come with foster care, but he certainly is. The great promise for the believer is that this powerful God will never leave us nor forsake us (Deut. 31:6; Heb. 13:5). We live moment by moment, depending on him and trusting that he will give us the exact amount of grace needed for each trying time.

HIS GRACE IS SUFFICIENT

I trust that the Lord, in his sovereignty, brings these children to our home. He sees every child’s unique situation and struggles. It's easy to doubt this, though. In spite of the teaching of the popular cliché, the Lord will give more than we can handle at times. He is gracious to take us to the end of our strength so we that we learn to rely on his. Without his grace, we couldn’t do it. We couldn’t handle another heart-breaking "good-bye." We couldn’t survive another long day filled with the challenges of foster care. Thankfully though, in those moments, his grace proves to be enough.

The staggering number of children in foster care can make us feel powerless. We often want to bring massive change all at once, but the Lord doesn't always work that way. While I wish I could help all the children in foster care, I simply can't.

But as I stood in my room that day watching that little boy sleep peacefully with his red blanket, I realized that even though we can't bring mass change, perhaps the Lord can use us to make a massive change in his life. We can't help all 430,000, but we can help this one.

That’s why we foster—to overwhelm the life of one child with the love of Christ for as many days as we get to share with him.

A LIGHT IN THE DARKNESS

Scripture reminds us often of the Lord's heart for the vulnerable and oppressed, especially orphans (James 1:27). His heart breaks for the 430,000. And as God's people, ours should too. We should be the most willing to die to our comforts, our dreams, and our convenience for the sake of the vulnerable and orphaned.

I recognize not everyone can take a child in, but we can all serve foster children in some way. There are ministries that provide creative ways for anyone to contribute by ministering to foster families and CPS workers. Some help collect needed items (clothes, car seats, etc.) that foster families can use, or help provide “parent’s night out,” where they offer childcare. Others adopt CPS workers and try to minister to them through encouraging notes and gifts. There may not be a ministry like this in your community, and if so, there's an opportunity to start one through your local church.

It’s not easy, but the Lord’s grace is sufficient. His strength is perfect to overcome every frustration and obstacle in foster care.

In our short time of fostering, we've cared for babies with meth in their system; we've had children from homes where they were left to live in their own feces; we’ve received precious children that bear the image of God, from dysfunctional and broken homes.

When you engage in foster care, you get a front-row view of the depravity of man. You get a glimpse into the darkness. But it's in the darkest places that the church's light can shine the brightest.


James Williams has served as an Associate Pastor at FBC Atlanta, TX since 2013. He is married to Jenny and they have three children and are actively involved in foster care. He is in the dissertation stage of a Ph.D. in Systematic Theology. You can follow James Twitter or his blog where he writes regularly.

Is Hospitality Your Mentality?

woman-flowers-holidays-girl-6270-1.jpg

Our house was always open. People were always in and out. Chunks of concrete from our tropical storm-ravaged roof were always falling. We were young. We had children and were adopting another. It was hot. Large bugs and even larger lizards lived right alongside us. Among those insects and reptiles, we were learning how to make disciples.

It was chaos. It was sacred.

MILITARY MISSION

When I was twenty-five, my husband and I packed up our six-month-old baby girl and two 50-pound suitcases and moved to Okinawa, Japan. We went as missionaries to the American military stationed there.

Our job was to live in a large home right outside the base and welcome in-service members and their families for meals, holidays, game nights, and Bible studies.

Every Friday, a handful of military wives and I cooked dinner for a hundred and my husband preached. The Holy Spirit moved. People got saved. Marriages were mended. Men and women walked with Jesus like they never had before.

BIG, EMPTY HOMES

We moved back to the States two years ago. People in our neighborhood come home at night and pull into their garage, close the door, and disappear inside. Many of us see our homes as our refuge; our oasis; our fortress of solitude.

Rather than opening and sharing our homes, the current American Dream is that each family member has his or her own room, their own screen, and their own bathroom. The typical American home built in the 1950s was 1,700 square feet, while in 2017 it was 2,600 square feet. Our homes are larger and nicer—but there is less life within.

We know this solitary way of living isn’t good for us. Research[1] shows that my own hometown of Denver is among the loneliest places to live. People are moving here in droves—by the hundreds of thousands every year. Transplants want the outdoor lifestyle, the great weather, the young and active population, the hip places to eat, work, and play.

But they get here, move into their homes, and find not a place of belonging, but of loneliness. My trendy city is one of the loneliest places in America; Denver residents report feeling relationally empty and lacking purpose.

MADE FOR COMMUNITY, CALLED TO HOSPITALITY

This is not the way it's supposed to be. God created us for community. His grand plan since the first days of creation was that we humans would commune with him and with one another. The Lord made a home in the Garden of Eden—a place of hospitality, where his people could gather and be satisfied. When Adam was alone, God said it wasn’t good (Gen. 2:18). He made Eve and told the new couple to multiply and fill the earth (Gen. 1:28).

Throughout the Old and New Testaments, we see the Lord calling his people to welcome in the foreigner, the stranger, the neighbor, the brother and sister in Christ (Lev. 19:34; Deut. 10:19; Matt. 25:34-36; Mark 12:31; Heb. 13:2). Our God is a welcomer. Loneliness is not his will—it’s not his nature. Christ-followers have been commanded to gather in their homes to share meals and conversation. When we welcome others into our homes for a meal, we are modeling what life was like when our God welcomed us into his dwelling and we ate and were satisfied, communing together with one another.

Paul says, “Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality” (Rom. 12:13). Peter says to do so without grumbling (1 Pet. 4:9). The church models its welcoming Lord by being hospitable. Hospitality is of such importance that church elders “must be hospitable” (Titus 1:8). God lays upon church leaders the need to live open-handedly with their homes and resources.

We’re all called to do it, so why don’t we?

We think our house isn’t big enough, our kids are too crazy, we don’t know how to cook, people don’t do that anymore; it’s weird, they’ll think we’re selling something. Or maybe we think it sounds too simple. We’re looking for a professional way of doing hospitality; for the latest three-point strategy to love our neighbors and get them saved.

But all of this misses the point.

SHARING THE GOSPEL—AND OUR LIVES

Back in Okinawa, the missionary who lived in the “Hospitality House“ before us hand-painted a sign that hung in the main gathering space. The sign read, “Because we loved you so much, we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well” (1 Thess. 2:8, NIV).

Sharing the gospel results in sharing life. The gospel compels us to love our Lord so much that we can’t help but see others the way he does. And if we love others, we’ll share not only our faith with them—but our lives as well.

May it not be said of us who live in big, empty homes that we don’t love enough! May it not be said of us who dwell in solitary apartments that we don’t actually believe God when he says hospitality is important! May it not be said of any of us that we don’t resemble Jesus in the way we use our home.

Jesus—“who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men” (Phil. 2:6-7)—is the ultimate welcomer, the preeminent host who left heaven, walked with us, and invited us to sit at the table with his Father. It was Jesus the Thessalonians were emulating when they shared the gospel and their lives. It was Jesus who loved us so much that he was delighted to share with us not only the gospel of God, but also his life and death and resurrection!

As Christ followers, may we be like Jesus. May we be like the Thessalonians. May we love those around us so much that we share not only the gospel of God, but our lives—including our homes—as well. May we lay down our lives, lay down our personal space, lay down our homes, lay down our kids‘ playroom, lay down our quiet nights on the couch, and invite others inside.

HOSPITALITY WORKS

There is power in hospitality. It works. My heart fills with joy when I think of the many young men who ate dinner with us, who were drawn to Christ through us, who couldn’t resist the powerful grace of him who sent us. My inbox is filled daily with updates from women who once were lost, but now are found because of time spent around our dinner table; women whose marriages were ravaged but are now whole; women who pondered abortion but then chose life; women who had walked without Jesus for years but are now raising their kids in him!

If hospitality works on a far-off island in a crumbling concrete home, amongst lizards and young adults who don’t really know how to cook yet, I assure you God will work through hospitality right where you live.

Who lives on your street or in your building or in your dorm that would be blessed by an invitation for coffee-and-donuts at your table this Saturday morning? Who could you share lunch with at work? Is there a family your kid plays soccer with that might enjoy hot dogs on your grill after practice? How about asking that new single at church to lunch this Sunday?

Hospitality isn’t flashy. People can be loved well in the ordinary chaos of life. It simply requires laying down your life and inviting others in. It’s what Jesus did, and it’s what he’s asking—and empowering—us to do, right where we live.


[1] https://www.denverite.com/denver-metro-ranked-last-colorado-well-way-behind-boulder-31344/

Jen Oshman is a wife and mom to four daughters and has served as a missionary for 17 years on three continents. She currently resides in Colorado where she and her husband serve with Pioneers International, and she encourages her church-planting husband at Redemption Parker. Her passion is leading women to a deeper faith and fostering a biblical worldview. She writes at www.jenoshman.com.

How Foster Care and Adoption Shine the Light of the Gospel

thiago-cerqueira-191866-1.jpg

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:

  • Pray
  • 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.