“Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.” ~James 1:27
November is National Adoption Month. It seemed like a good time to write this post on what we can do for the fatherless among us.
This is one of my all-time favorite verses and honestly, the verse that pricked my heart and told me that I was called to adopt. However, I made the mistake of reading a bit too much into this verse and firmly believed until quite recently that all Christians were called to adopt and were not obeying the call. Judgmental, I know, but there it is.
Then we adopted.
And it was hard, and scary, and troublesome, and brought me to my knees in tears on many occasions. I started asking the Lord, “Is everybody really supposed to do this?” Don’t get me wrong. I don’t think there is anything special about me. I do not believe myself to be more capable of handling adoption than you are. But my husband and I were very clearly called to do this, individually, before we even met each other. In fact, that was one of the first conversations we had before dating. When Shane said that whoever he married would have to be called to adopt, I knew he was the one.
So after we adopted, I began to wonder what was wrong with me. Where before, I had been a HUGE advocate for adopting before we actually did, I found it much harder to encourage all of my starry-eyed friends to jump right in and go for it. I was protective of my friends and felt like I was beckoning them into a life of pain and heartache. Yes, the joy and peace and love are still there, but MAN, there are a lot stones, pitfalls and sheer drop-offs on this path that God called us to walk.
Several months ago, I shared how I was feeling with my dear friend, Heidi. Rather ashamed, I told her how judgmental I had been and how I realized how very hard this calling was. In reply, she pointed out that there are many ways to care for the fatherless and widows. Of course, I thought! How had I missed that?
Upon further contemplation and meditation, the Lord basically said, “Read that verse again.” We are to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction. So what exactly does visit mean in this context? James used the Greek word, “episkeptomai,” which means to “inspect, that is, (by implication) to select; by extension to go to see, relieve.” So yes, one of the ways we can care for the fatherless (and I use this term loosely because in today’s culture, this can take many forms), is to “select” them, or adopt them. But there are many practical ways the Church can step up and “relieve” these children, and their foster/adoptive parents, in manageable ways.
- Respite Care –Without becoming a full-fledged, full-time foster parent, you can still go to the classes and get certified to become respite care for those who are. Foster parents can’t just call a babysitter when they want to go on a date or just need a break. And even if they could, with the many attachment issues and behaviors their kiddos come with, many wouldn’t want to. Knowing there are folks who are certified to do this is a wonderful thing. If you are interested in doing this, please reach out to me! I can connect you with your local DHS trainer.
- Emergency Foster Care –Training is still necessary for this role, but these folks take the kiddos in during transition. Can you imagine the fear and loss a child feels when they have been removed from their unsafe home? It may not even feel unsafe to them and they are confused and heartbroken. Have you ever wondered where these kids go before they’re placed? Emergency foster parents play a crucial role for these kiddos. Over recent months, DHS has been all over the news for putting kids and their caseworkers up in hotel rooms because there were no homes open for placement. Oftentimes, only an emergency shelter home was needed in these cases until relatives were located. You can make a difference.
- Foster Parents’ Night Out – This is a wonderful ministry that blesses foster parents in the trenches. Per their website, local churches host FPNO so that foster parents can have a night off while trained volunteers care for their foster, adopted, and biological children. You can become one of those trained volunteers to bless these parents and the children whose lives they touch. Visit their website here to get involved.
- Welcome Boxes –When these kiddos are removed from their homes, often they don’t get to bring things with them and they feel alone. They may have to sit in a DHS office for hours waiting for a placement. A wonderful organization called, Embrace Oregon, is asking volunteers to make Welcome Boxes for these kiddos. They have all kinds of little goodies to make them feel welcome while in DHS care. Even if you don’t live in Oregon, I would encourage you to reach out to your local DHS (Dept. of Human Services) agency to see if they have a similar program. To get more information about Welcome Boxes, click here.
- Christmas Giving Trees –It’s that time of year and many stores have these…and often they are for foster children or those waiting to be adopted. Take a tag…or two! You will brighten a child’s Christmas.
- Toy/Clothing Drives – Same as above, there are many opportunities for this at this time of year especially. I would encourage you to contact your local DHS office directly. They will gladly take gifts for children and can guarantee the gift you give will stay local if you wish.
- Sponsor a Child – Especially internationally, there are many organizations through whom you can sponsor a child who desperately needs help. Compassion International and World Vision are two very well-known organizations you can try. I strongly encourage you to do your own research to find the organization that is right for your family.
- Become a CASA –CASA stands for Court Appointed Special Advocate. This role takes training and some time out of your month, an average of 10-15 hours/month, but is a crucial part of the success of a foster child in the system. They advocate specifically for the child in court, without having to be the attorney. They visit the child’s home, become a familiar constant face, and a safe contact for the child no matter how many placement disruptions they may experience. For more info on CASA, click here.
- Other Church Sponsored Events – If you have the capacity and are in leadership in your church, you can think big on some of the suggestions above. Assembling boxes together as a church family can be a wonderful blessing. On an even bigger scale, there are churches in the Marion Co. area that have adopted DHS visitation rooms and done room makeovers so that children and their biological parents can have a comfortable and welcoming place to have their visits.
The most we ever had at once…All five of “our” munchkins: three foster kiddos, two adopted kiddos…all cherished
This is by no means an exhaustive list, but I pray that this plants a seed in your heart to see what you can This is not about being an earth shaker. I’ve said before that the Lord impressed upon me that I am to just be a Nehemiah Mama…to do my part, where I am.You can, too. You don’t have to “go big or go home” here. Anything you can do to help a “fatherless” child will make a huge and lasting impression.
Be a welcoming facewhen they visit your Sunday school. Encourage your children to befriend themwhen they show up in school mid-year completely lost and friendless. Be a mentor. If you are aware and looking, you will see opportunities everywhere.
You may have even heard this on the radio or TV: “Not everyone can be a foster parent, but anyone can help a foster child.”It’s true!
Blessings and much love,