I spent today at the West Michigan CCDA (Christian Community Development Association) conference. After spending last weekend in Philadelphia at the Justice Conference, God has really been messing with me…in a good way.
After the best day of talks (5 in a row) I’ve ever sat through, holding back tears several times, I got talking with the guy next me about foster care and adoption. I went to seminary with Jeff Steele but had never met him until today when we ended up sitting next to each other. He was sharing with me how he and his wife have two biological children, two foster children, and two children they’ve adopted after first being their foster parents. He helps lead a group called Kids Belong in West Michigan. He introduced me to a website www.mare.org, which is a list of all of the youth available for adoption in Michigan. As we were talking, Justin Beene from Bethany Christian Services came over and joined our conversation. He explained that there are 6000 orphans in Michigan (kids available for adoption), and there are 12000 churches in Michigan. If you do the math on this, it is entirely in the Church’s power to adopt all orphans in Michigan. Why would the Church be compelled to do this? James 1:27 leaves little room for gray area here:
Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.
Include this with the 39 “fatherless” references in the Old Testament (NIV) and you have a pretty compelling and convicting case for the church to step up and make a huge splash in the foster care and adoption circles of Michigan.
When I got home I showed the mare.org website to my wife and she and I began looking through it.
I could not stop sobbing.
Part of this was because my day already had my tear ducts fighting back moisture all day long. It was a day full of talks about how the racial injustices of our American past have created systemic issues in our culture today. These issues have created many of the cycles of poverty that still keep many of the poor, poor. I’ll blog about this later. At the end of our day, our group of 40 was asked what some takeaways from the day were. An elderly black man in the crowd spoke up and said how encouraged he was to see a younger multi-ethnic crowd talking about race reconciliation. He had experienced the “dogs and hoses” in a previous chapter of his life, and he was extremely encouraged by how the church is beginning to position itself to be a leader in racial reconciliation.
Tears welling up.
So Jen and I are looking through the mare.org website and I have to leave the room. Simply sobbing over the thought that a child could be born and not be loved. That a child could be abused. That a child could be left unwanted. That when these children turn 18 and are still not adopted, they are cut off from the foster care system and are left to fend for themselves…often in homeless shelters. Or how foster care children are the most vulnerable demographic for to be trafficked as sex slaves.
What does this communicate to this child about who God is?
And as I read James 1:27, I wonder, what is the Church doing to bring Jesus’ redemptive love to these orphans? What am I doing to bring Jesus’ redemptive love to these orphans?
I don’t know for sure where this leaves Jen and I, but I ask that you pray for us as we consider how God may want to use us as foster parents or to adopt foster children. Jen, being a teacher, knows of some great foster parents as well as some awful ones, and knows how dramatically this shapes the trajectory of the child’s life. Here are some very interesting facts I learned from Jeff and Justin:
- If you adopt children that are in the foster care system, it is free
- If you adopt a child over the age of 3, you will be provided with a monthly subsidy to help raise the child
- Subsidies are given to pay for adopted children’s college tuition
Jeff recommended I read the book Three Little Words, which I plan to do. It’s a memoir of a girl who went through the foster care system. I will make sure to have a tissue box in hand.
Please take a visit to mare.org and pray for these children. Watch some of the videos and pray. Pray that Jesus will reveal himself in mighty ways in these boys’ and girls’ lives. And pray and ask how God may want to use you to bring Jesus’ love to these boys and girls. Here is one of the videos on the site:
If you have further questions about foster care or adoption, please visit Kids Belong’s website and email Jeff Steele of Kids Belong, and/or email Justin Beene of Bethany Christian Services.