I didn’t grow up going to church regularly, but my family found it in my teen years as we worked to heal our broken bits. The church became my safe place. And as I entered adulthood it became a source of support and strength. When I was six days shy of my 18th birthday, I found a personal relationship with Jesus. And I saw God work through me and in the world around me. There is true healing and hope that faith in God can bring. And I believe the Church is an avenue to share that healing with others.
More than 10 years ago I started working in the foster care world. And I quickly became very frustrated with the lack of commitment by churches to that work. I was overwhelmed the deeper I dove into foster care because I saw less and less church involvement. Often churches are quick to support missions overseas, but ignore the pain and suffering in their own backyards. I witnessed the church idling when it should have been leading the race. Many churches and church members have no idea how much of an impact they can have in the world of foster care.
The heart of the church.
The heart of the church starts with the gospel, which simply put, is God’s desire to bring redemption to our lives. He did this by stepping out of His glory and coming to Earth into our brokenness. We can find restoration and riches in Him. Foster care is in need of those riches and restoration, and will continue to exist in brokenness without it.
All of our stories have varying levels of cracks and darkness. But we know that even when the darkness falls, there is always light and hope. In John 8:12, Jesus says, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” It is the Church’s responsibility to share that light of life with the hurting world around them.
Walking into the darkness.
I can’t think of a darker time than when families enter the foster care system. Many things have likely happened in these parents’ lives to bring them to this moment. To add to that darkness, now their children are no longer in the home because it has become unsafe. The parents themselves have become unsafe. That is brokenness. That is darkness.
The heart of the church to those experiencing foster care should be climbing in that darkness. Showing love, grace, and hope, and helping wounded families find the light again. Foster care is not just about pulling a child out of a broken story, but also diving into it that broken story ourselves. In a dark and scary world, it should be the Church that takes the lead in bringing light.
Often we are quick to judge a person or family’s brokenness. We often turn a blind eye to the preexisting conditions that contribute to the fragility of a family. And then when that family breaks, we scoff, judge, and shake our heads. But what if, as the Body of Christ, we were slow to judge and slow to speak. What if we showed compassion, love, and forgiveness to broken families. What if we walked beside them in their brokenness and lifted families up. And not just the kids. But the broken moms and dads too.
Stepping into the brokenness.
Sometimes this looks like becoming a foster parent. Sometimes it’s providing meals or money or extra help to a foster family. Sometimes it’s welcoming broken moms and dads into your circle, and inviting them into safe space to catch their breath. Maybe it’s jumping in to help love and support a fragile family to prevent their children being removed in the first place.
Maybe it’s just being there to say, “I see you. What can I do to help?”
Bringing the light.
There are so many ways people of faith can bring the light. Often the first step is to look around and, instead of turning a blind eye, take the step into darkness to grab the hand of the person who’s slipping. Whether that is a fragile family, a child already in foster care, or the foster family of a child that could now use some extra support.
Certainly, not everyone will be called to become a foster parent. But everyone in the church is called to love and lift up those around them. So even if it’s not becoming a foster parent yourself, find a way to bring light to those who are in the foster care world. Whether it’s to a child, a broken biological family, or a family doing the hard work of foster care, find a way to be the light.
To find out how you can become in the work of foster care, visit www.crossnore.org/fostering-communities or email Angela Bollo at firstname.lastname@example.org.