The turning point for me occurred at a funeral. I was holding a four-year-old child I did not know. His mother had passed away after overdosing on a dangerous mix of fentanyl and cocaine. The family contacted our church and asked for a pastor to officiate the funeral. I’ll never forget the young boy’s words.
“Are you going to help bring my mommy back?”
I didn’t have words for him. Only tears.
He was placed in a foster home. Thankfully, it was one full of love and support. At about the same time as the funeral, a local newspaper headline caught my attention: “Bradenton is opioid overdose capital of Florida. And still no one knows why.”
Every year, hundreds of children are removed from their homes in our county. Over half of them are directly attributed to the substance abuse of parents and guardians. Most of the children removed are under the age of five. I did not have the right words for the four-year-old, but his question prompted me to act. I could not bring his mom back, but my wife and I could be foster parents for children in situations like his. So we got our license and began our foster journey.
Foster children are one of our nation’s most overlooked and underserved groups. Most communities struggle to find placements for these children. Local churches in the United States have more than enough homes to solve the problem, but few Christian families are pursuing fostering.
What happens when people in your congregation start fostering children?
Your church is woven into the fabric of the community. In my role at Church Answers, I’m often asked, “How can my church better serve and reach the community?” There are many ways to answer the question, but one answer is obvious. Start a fostering movement in your congregation. Caring for foster children forces you to be an active part of your community. You interact with social workers, struggling parents, judges, and police officers. Fostering weaves you tightly into the community and allows your church to be a thread pulling everyone together.
Your church is recognized as a solution to community problems. The issues producing foster children are often the core sins plaguing a community. When people in your church foster, the neighborhood tends to view you as helpful. Foster children are the result of the worst problems in the community. Inviting them into your church homes makes you one of the best solutions for the community.
Your church is pushed outward with God’s mission. The church is not designed to be a shield protecting the Christian bubble of safety. Rather, the church is a vehicle engineered by God to send people into the darkest corners of the neighborhood. Fill your church with foster children, and your people will be filled with a desire to do gospel work.
Your church is compelled into a posture of selflessness. I hear the excuse all the time, “I couldn’t foster because it would be hard to give the child back.” I understand the sentiment. Indeed, my wife and I live in this paradox. The purpose of fostering is more than raising a child. It’s about reuniting a family. You care for children and encourage moms and dads. Fostering is a weighty burden that will bend you hard in the direction of selflessness. Is it painful? Yes, sometimes. Is it worth the stretch? Always.
When Pharaoh’s daughter opened the basket floating on the Nile, she saw a baby and said, “This must be one of the Hebrew children” (Exodus 2:6, NLT). This must be one. One child saved. Imagine the desperation of Moses’ mom, placing him in the papyrus basket and letting him drift away from the safety of her arms.
Imagine the courage of Moses’ sister, Miriam. At significant risk, she keeps watching over the basket. She is an advocate. She stays close to the crisis to help. She risks everything when she reaches out to Pharaoh’s daughter.
Imagine the audacity of Pharaoh’s daughter. She is part of the family committing genocide, but she becomes a person of power who uses her position to do what is right. The child in the basket moves her. A child in need should move us all to action.
There was a tremendous risk to all the women in this story, but it did not stop them from doing the right thing.
What if the church looked at the foster system as a floating papyrus basket? What if the people of the church opened the basket and had the same response as Pharaoh’s daughter?
This must be one.
Don’t let these children continue to drift.
Your home is the promised land for them.
If you want to get involved with helping struggling children and families, I encourage you to reach out to One More Child.
Posted on March 8, 2023
As President of Church Answers, Sam Rainer wears many hats. From podcast co-host to full-time Pastor at West Bradenton Baptist Church, Sam’s heart for ministry and revitalization are evident in all he does.
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I’m in Australia and a family in my church have recently undergone the process of becoming foster parents. It’s clear from their and other’s experiences there’s a real antipathy towards Christians in this field, in this country, despite the critical need. It’s such a pity because I could only recommend it to people committed to undergoing a gruelling process.
Yes, it’s hard, no doubt about it. But the rewards are incredible too. Unfortunately, your experience is similar to what happens here in the States.