This fall on Sunday mornings we’ve been talking about Expanding the Church. As a community, here at City Central Church we long to see people saved, redeemed and restored. We have prayed for revival for nearly 20 years and want to see salvation emanate from this place and radiate through this region, across the US and around the world. It is not just that we want to fill heaven, we long to see broken people made whole again. Jesus has the power to save you from your sin, but his salvation is also meant to bring healing and wholeness to your heart, mind and body as well.
Recently we recognized Orphan Sunday,pausing to recognize the plight of the fatherless children in our community and to consider how God may be leading each of us to be part of the solution. Rather than breaking away from the theme of Expanding the Church, I would like us to add adoption to our conscious understanding of Expanding the Church.
My hope today is that regardless of whether or not you decide to be a foster or adoptive home, you will emerge from church today with a spirit of adoption seeing each child you meet (and the many in our city you will never meet) as part of the family of God—taking a certain level of responsibility for their care and well-being.
For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!”- Romans 8:15 (ESV)
When you look at the numbers concerning kids in Foster Care in Washington State and Pierce County, it is intimidating problem:
- 6162 children entered foster care in the state of WA in 2017.
- 9752 children are currently in foster care in the state of Washington.
- 23% – the increase in number of children in foster care since 2012
- There are currently 1655 kids are without suitable foster homes.
- On average twenty kids are staying in hotels each month, due to a lack of available foster homes. There has been a 32% increase in hotel stays in 2018
- So far over 100 children have been placed out of state due to shortage of homes in WA.
The foster care system is truly in crisis. With the number of children entering into the system increasing rapidly, there is a growing shortage of homes to place the children into.
If you expand the definition of orphans to include the “fatherless”, the problem appears even more stark. There are more than 19 million children in the United State growing up in a fatherless home (www.fatherhood.org). These kids are at a four times greater risk of living in poverty. Fatherless girls are seven times more likely to become pregnant as a teen. Children from a fatherless home are more likely to suffer from abuse, commit a crime, drop out of high school and to abuse drugs and alcohol.
We love to try to fill stadiums for evangelistic rallies. We love to pray to heal the sick on the streets of Tacoma. We may busy ourselves with reaching the lost, but if we are not paying attention to the needs of the fatherless in our community, we are grieving the heart of God.
Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world. – James 1:27 (ESV)
THE GREAT I AM
When you look at the problem here in this state and across the country it looks hopeless but in reality is it an opportunity.
If you look back in scripture, when God is calling Moses to help free Israel from slavery, Moses asked God, “Who should I say sent me?” Then God gives Himself a name. God introduced Himself as, “I am who I am.” JEHOVAH is our translation of that word. It means “The existing One”
Henceforth the phrase “I AM” became synonymous with God’s name. When I was growing up reading “I AM,” I interpreted it to mean that He exists, as if He is saying, “I am a being,” “I am alive,” or “I am a reality.” Technically, I AM is a complete sentence with a subject and a verb, it makes complete sense to read it in that simple form. But as I grew older and learned the other names for God I realized that the phrase “I AM” can also be read as the beginning of a longer sentence. Here are a few examples:
In Genesis 22, God is referred to as JEHOVAH-JIREH which means “I Am the One who provides.” Later in Exodus 15, the LORD declares Himself to be JEVHOVH-ROPHE, or “I AM the One who heals you.” Another example is from Psalm 18 David proclaims that the LORD is his rock, his fortress and his deliverer. JEHOVAH-MEPHALTI means “I AM the One who delivers.” (Psalm 18:2)
Yes, God is the Great “I AM”, but when we look into broken and difficult circumstances God’s more specific qualities shine. Without great need, will we ever truly witness Jehovah-Jireh? With out disease and sickness, will we ever get the see Jehovah-Rophe in action? Can we ever experience Jehovah-Mephalti without oppression? Could it be the very brokenness of the situation is the very thing that will allow us to experience and know God more fully?
When we look in our city and see the broken children and broken families, it is an opportunity for God to be fully Himself. God is standing there as JEHOVAH and ready to be JEHOVAH-JIREH “the God who provides” and JEHOVAH-ROPHE “the God who heals” and JEHOVAH-MEPHALTI “the God who delivers.” Along with all the other aspects of who He is.
THE I AM IN US
The opportunity isn’t just to see God move, but it is also to see God move through us. One of the greatest joys of growing in Christian maturity is partnership with God. We get to co-labor with labor with the King of Kings.
For we are God’s fellow workers. You are God’s field, God’s building. -1 Corinthians 3:9 (ESV)
As we grow in our Christian faith our hearts mirror His heart. Our hearts break over the things that break God’s heart. We feel compelled to act—not by duty but rather out of love. When we experience the love of God our hearts are moved to overflowing launching us into action.
When we look at the hurt and heartbreak in our city and our county and state, it is an opportunity for us to live out the fullness of who God is in us. When we take a risk and get involved, we get to be His hands and feet. We get to experience communion with God. We get to co-labor with God Himself.
ROAD TO MATURITY
If you are normal, healthy human being tackling the difficult problem of fatherless children in our communities is intimidating. Working with the most broken children in our cities is exasperating and exhausting. Thinking about doing such heartbreaking work makes most people recoil. But here again is another opportunity.
If we spend our lives avoiding hard things, we miss out on some of our greatest encounters with God. Romans 5 explains this further:
Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5 and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. – Romans 5:3-5 (ESV)
The road to hope and experiencing God’s love is through suffering. Without the suffering, your faith and maturity will remain anemic.
Having been a foster parent, I completely understand feeling overwhelmed at the thought of the cost to your family, on your own hearts, feeling ill-equipped and afraid. All I can say is that being a foster parent was one of the most challenging things I’ve done, and yet God met me at every critical moment with the strength and wisdom that I needed. His presence was near in the pain and practical challenges of every-day life. That season will remain one of the most powerful spiritual experiences of my life.
HOW YOU CAN HELP
The most obvious way to help in this crisis is to become a foster parent yourself. Getting licensed as a foster care family will allow you to help in a few ways. You can, of course, take a long-term placement of child. However there is a great need for families to offer respite care and emergency shelter care as well. These are opportunities to provide short-term care for children in crisis. If you are interesting in learning more about become a licensed foster parents, reach out to Olive Crest (www.olivecrest.org). They are a faith-based organization licensing and supporting foster care families around the US.
If you feel drawn to help in this area but are unable to become foster parents at this time, there are many ways you can support foster families in your community. You could offer babysitting, help with grocery shopping, an occasional meal, or mentoring the foster kids in their homes. Maybe you could help drive kids to their appointments, or pick them up at school. Some of you could go fill out the paper work necessary to be able to babysit the kids overnight, giving foster parents a chance to get away for some rest. If we embrace foster care as an entire community, we will embolden more families to become licensed foster parents. And the ones who already are, just may be able to do it longer.
If we go beyond the issue of foster care and define the problem as fatherless in our area, there are many ways people can help with this overall issue as well. You can give money to or volunteer with organizations like Youth for Christ (www.tacomayfc.org) that works with girls, as young as twelve years old, who are being trafficked right here in Tacoma. YFC organizes mentorship for kids coming out of juvenile detention as well as weekly volunteer opportunities with the kids currently within the Juvenile system.
Another way to impact the fatherless is by giving to a mentoring organization like the one my brother started. Rick’s program is called M.U.S.T. Mentoring Urban Students and Teens (www.mentoringisamust.org). Rick was working with urban kids and wanted to see lasting change. MUST finds responsible black men in their early to mid 20s who come from difficult circumstances and pays them to mentor young men who are truly in danger of dropping out of school. MUST is 6 years old and the model is working. Their guys (who started high school as the most likely kids to drop out) are graduating from high school and going on to a higher education. MUST is poised to begin expanding from Seattle to other areas and I’d love to see a cohort here in South Puget Sound.
Maybe God has put a dream on your heart as well. Maybe you can already see a plan in your mind. Is He prompting you to act on it?
PART OF GOD’S STORY
The issue of fatherless children is an opportunity to know God and experience Him working in and through us. Taking a risk, doing the hard work of getting involved is an opportunity to grow and mature in our faith. Welcoming these kids into our homes and our churches is a chance to introduce them to a Savior who loves them and who is capable of restoring them. However, the opportunity afforded by this crisis is not solely about these kids finding their place in the family of God. More than that, these kids have a critical role to play in God’s story here on earth.
God has a plan and purpose for each broken child in our city. Their brokenness qualifies them uniquely to display the glory and wonder of God. Not only is there an abundant harvest among them, they themselves will play a part of God’s revival work in our nation. They are a key part of our future.
The 19 million fatherless kids in our nation and the nearly ten thousand kids in foster care in our state alone represent a Kingdom moment. Imagine what would happen if every broken child in the foster care system and every broken child in our schools or the juvenile system experienced the love of God through mentorship, foster care or adoption. Can you imagine the long-term transformation of our cities?
We have the opportunity to be the hands and feet of Jesus. We can fill in the gap. We can adopt the orphan into the family of God with our love and sacrifice. The Lord creates hope from hopelessness. The enormity of this problem is an indicator of the potential harvest and outpouring and we have the chance to be part of the solution.
Carrie L. Jones is a writer, speaker, and a mom raising four boys. Her passion is the Word of God and she loves to find memorable treasure within it to empower and equip the Body of Christ. Carrie holds a BA in International Studies from the University of Washington and attended Capernwray Bible School in England. She and her husband, Eric, have been married for nineteen year. You can find her new book, The Compelling Heart of Christ, on her website www.compellingheart.com or on Amazon.com.