We all know what heroism looks like. It’s a soldier risking his life to save his buddy’s. It’s the police officer and fireman running toward the danger, not away from it. And I’d add to that: It’s loving families who are willing to open their homes and their hearts to children who need both.
A few weeks ago, Jean and I, and about 60 others, were in Israel with Ray Vander Laan, the host and teacher of Focus on the Family’s That the World May Know series. What an experience! It truly brought the biblical stories alive – although Jesus and His disciples didn’t have the luxury we did of air-conditioned buses after a long hike in 110 degree weather!
The intense heat still drove home a powerful lesson from Ray’s teaching: God’s passion for our lives isn’t to lead us more deeply into comfort, but into the chaos of the world. For the more than 100,000 children in our country’s foster care system, life can certainly feel chaotic.
Our adoption initiative called Wait No More has helped almost 3,400 families around the country start the process of adoption from foster care. I’m proud of the work we’ve done, but the job is big, and we have a long way to go. I’ve found that most Christian families don’t know there are three key opportunities available to them to serve in this area.
The first requires the highest commitment – adopting a child whose parents have either passed away or who have permanently lost custody of their children. Opening your heart and your home to such children and raising them as your own is a beautiful expression of Christ’s love.
The second opportunity is foster care, which is temporary. Of course, “temporary” is a relative term. Foster care can last for a few weeks, a few months, or even a few years. It all depends on how quickly a child’s parents can make the positive changes the state requires of them.
And then there’s respite care, which is often overlooked because it’s short term. It could be for an afternoon, a long weekend, or maybe a week or two. It provides foster and adoptive parents a break from what can be a rigorous and demanding schedule.
On our program yesterday, we talked to Andrew and Michele Schneidler. They are former foster parents who have now adopted three children. They’ll share ways that you can bring the peace of Christ into the chaos orphan children may be suffering.
At one time, Andrew wasn’t open to being involved at any level of the foster care system. But he prayed, “Lord, I’m open to becoming open to it.” That’s our question for you: Can you “be open to becoming open” to God using you in the area of adoption or foster care?
I hope you’ll listen to “Finding Respite for Families in Adoption and Foster Care” online or on our free phone app. The Christian community needs to reach out to orphaned children and to rally around foster and adoptive parents.
Andrew is the founder of the Children’s Law Center of Washington State. He and Michele lead an orphan-care ministry at Overlake Christian Church in Redmond. Also joining our conversation will be my wife, Jean. She has some valuable insights to share from our experience over the past few months as foster parents to two little ones.