Imagine being taken from your family with no notice. Having to leave your family and friends, often at a point of crisis with those around you in emotional upheaval, unprepared for separation with things left unsaid to those close to you, your essential belongings, and people left behind. This situation is what happens to children in foster care. It is a tremendous and traumatic alteration to children’s lives similar to death in the scale of its impact. At that critical moment, children are wholly reliant on the quality of helping people around them, their judgments, and their actions, trusting they have the child’s interests at heart and will do the best thing in difficult circumstances. Who else is better to meet these needs and provide the comfort and compassion needed than the church, those who have indeed encountered and experienced the complete love and mercy of Jesus.
When reading the Bible, one will often come across the phrase, “He who has ears, let him hear.” Jesus spoke this phrase numerous times throughout the gospels and in the letters to the churches in Revelation. On a surface level, this could seem strange because all people have ears, and we all know ears are for hearing. However, a deeper dive into these words reveal two fundamental truths. First, that Jesus is speaking to all people. “He who has ears….” is every person regardless of age, occupation, education, ethnicity, language, etc. The words, the knowledge, and truth, spoken by Jesus are for all. Second, “….let him hear.” means much more than an audible sound. This part is to say that there must be a seeking to understand and conscious effort to live it out daily in all aspects of life.
When we are willing to be people with ears who hear, honestly and wholeheartedly listen, and seek understanding, lives are transformed. The transformation occurs because we are not just hearing but rather listening with purpose and an expectation to learn. We allow the words to take root in both our heart and mind while asking, “What are we going to do with what we’ve heard?” This is where they say, “The rubber meets the road.” At this point, we will have to be willing to, “be doers of the word, and not hearers only….” This will require us to go against community, family, and even local church traditions and mindsets. We must no longer be content to go to church but must be the church, to return to its non-conforming, radical roots. Christian individuals and Christian families must show specific and purposeful work behind what we read, hear, and speak from the Bible. One area in dire need of immediate and extreme action is showing the world the inherent dignity of life that all people possess. Christians must not only speak of every human being created in the image of God and therefore has a value from the moment of conception, but we must “show” the world the truth of this through our actions. This is vital if we are to rightly and justly address the needs of our society and precisely when it comes to the needs of families in the foster care system.
Helping children in need has been a desire God placed on my heart from the moment I became a Christian at seven years old. God gifted and honored me with the abilities and strengths that led me to become a public school teacher. In addition, I always felt I wanted and was being called to do more. I often found myself asking God to reveal how else He wanted me to serve Him through helping children. I knew as a wife that God would have to speak to both my husband and me on the matter, so I prayed, and when I felt led, I would casually mention fostering to my husband. This process went on for years, 25 years to be exact. By this time, my husband and I were 47 years old, and the youngest of our three children was 16 years old and starting her sophomore year of high school. We were beginning to enjoy the freedom that comes from not having young children in our home. So, I was no longer so keen to have children in our house again, to start over, so to say. The fact is, my husband and I had begun to accept and even welcome the “retirement” mindset. That mindset that says, “You have lived a good life, raised good children, so now it’s time to sit back and do what you want, what you have earned.” However, there was still something in my soul that just knew this mindset was wrong and dangerous to my Christian life and witness. I kept hearing God say, “Look at what I have blessed you with: home, family, and faith. You have to share this with children who need these too. You have to be my hands and feet.” So, I continued to pray and seek God’s will on this matter because I was desperate not to become complacent in life and my service to God.
Almost two years ago, I felt led to look into when and where the next fostering classes would be. To my surprise, classes would be starting in just a couple of weeks and would be just a 30-minute drive from where we lived. I felt God say this is it. This is what I want you to do. However, I also knew that my husband had to be on board and that I couldn’t coerce him into it, so I prayed. I asked God that if this were His will for our lives, He would have to tell my husband, not me. Within a couple of hours, my husband called me and said, “Why don’t you look into what we would need to do for fostering.” I immediately told him I had just looked into it, and we could start classes in a couple of weeks, which is precisely what we did. We have now had the blessing of two boys in our home. One has moved on to a permanent placement, and the other has been with our family for eight months.
We, the church, can no longer leave families and children in the care of the government. Caring for and meeting the needs of families has always been the church’s responsibility. When we are the church, God will transform our lives and the lives of our family, our friends, our community, and those He will be putting in our path. So I conclude this conversation in the way I believe Jesus would have finished this conversation, “He who has ears, let him hear.”