I’m mad. I’ve been stewing over something for the past week and I just have to say something about it. I suspect my comments will not be well received by many of you. I’m sorry about that, but this is something about which I can no longer stay silent.
I have written previously about the significant need for foster families. I have done it as delicately as possible. I haven’t tried to ruffle any feathers, but just wanted to state a need.
But I just can’t take it anymore. And that is why I have written this letter to my fellow Christians.
We have been welcoming displaced kids into our home for a little over four years. Whenever someone finds out we are foster parents, we typically hear the following responses: “You’re a better person than me.” “I could never do that.” “Wow. You’re amazing!” “The world needs more people like you.”
Let me address each of those in brutal honesty.
“You’re a better person than me.” We are not superheros. We are just as messed up as the next family. We make mistakes all the time. We say things we shouldn’t. We do things we wish we hadn’t. It doesn’t take superheros to care for other peoples’ kids. It just takes someone to say yes.
“I could never do that.” Yes, you could. You’re choosing not to, but you could if you wanted to. So let’s be truthful about what this statement really means: “I don’t want to do that. It makes me uncomfortable.” OK… but there’s very little about being a Christian that makes us comfortable, at least not on this earth. We are not called to live in comfortable houses with comfortable jobs and comfortable schedules. We’re called to love our neighbors and our community and especially the orphans around us. Loving someone typically isn’t super comfortable all of the time. In fact, it can get downright messy a lot of the time. But it is so worth it. You just need to say yes.
“Wow. You’re amazing!” No, we’re not! But we are Christians, and God commands us to care for the orphans of this world. It is *not* a choice. It is a command. You don’t need a big house or tons of money or even a spouse. You just need to say yes.
“The world needs more people like you.” Yes, it does. But usually when people say this to me, I politely bite my tongue. Today, I can’t.
A week ago, we got a call about a teenager who previously lived with us for several months. She went back home, but ultimately wasn’t able to receive the stability she needed to be successful. It is not her fault that she was homeless. It is not her fault that she can't live with either of her parents. It is not her fault she was born into a cycle of poverty and addiction.
And yet, she has to pay the price.
Because of the severe lack of foster homes in our county, this girl is destined to live out the rest of her childhood in a group home for girls. That is, unless someone steps up to be a long-term resource for her... to be her (foster) family.
It is killing me, because if we were staying here (and not going to Nicaragua) we would most certainly keep her. But instead, we have three weeks to find someone to love and care for her, and offer her the stability she needs to finish high school and break the cycle.
I cried to a friend that I have found myself wondering about the timing of her return to our home. Are we supposed to stay here and care for her? My dear friend responded, “You can’t do it all, Wendy.”
She’s right, and I know that. And that’s what makes me mad. You see, I shouldn’t have to feel like this. There are 87,000 families in our county, but only 87 actual foster families. How many of those 87,000 are Christians? God said His church is supposed to be the ones caring for our orphans.
So where is the church in Harford County?
I’m tired of hearing all the Christians fighting against gay marriage or a racy book or whatever else is today’s big deal. God hasn’t commanded us to wage political wars, but He has told us that true religion is caring for orphans and widows. (James 1:27) I mean, really, 35,000 kids die of starvation each day and we’re staging protests over whether a major broadcaster continues airing a TV show we find repulsive?
I guess it’s easier to rant about it on Facebook than it is to open our homes to other peoples’ kids.
I get it. No one ever said orphan/foster care is easy. It involves making room for someone else in your life. It means frequent trips to doctor’s offices, dentists, counselors, and so on. It often requires setting aside your own needs for those of someone else… someone who just might be the “least of these” Jesus spoke about. (Matthew 25: 39-46). It’s hard.
But it is so unbelievably worth it.
I do not regret any of the time spent caring for the 17 kids we’ve loved over the past four years. My only regret about foster care is that during that whole time we haven’t convinced any of our friends to join us in living our God’s plan for His church. When we started this adventure, there were over 100 foster families here, now there are just 87. (Some have moved out of state, others have adopted so many kids they can’t take in any more.) This breaks my heart. I cannot even truly express to you the grief I have over this situation.
And so this is why I write today. I am imploring you… if you call Jesus the Lord of your life… stop and pray about what you can do to impact change in our community. I want to hear less about the latest Christian book you’re reading, or all those Christian songs speaking to you, and more about the hungry you’re feeding, the sick you’re caring for, and the kids you’re loving… because that is what it means to be children of God.
It’s not too late to make a significant change in the future of our community. It can be done. One pastor in Georgia inspired enough Christian families to care for 160 kids in their community! They virtually wiped out the need for kids to be sent to group homes in other cities.
These kids don’t want to grow up in group homes. They want families. They want what every kid wants… what every kid needs… just to be loved.
P.S. As I said before, you don’t need a big house (just a bed!), or lots of money (you get a monthly stipend to cover food and clothing, for example, and health care is covered by the state), or even a spouse (anyone over age 18 with a stable home and income can be a foster parent). They are so desperate for good families, the state will do whatever it takes to work with you to make this happen. They just need you to say yes.
[For the record: I am a conservative Christian girl who may not support the activities or behaviors of those around me, but try to love 'em all, whether they are liberal, are gay, read certain books (or don't read at all!), hate chocolate (how could you!), gossip all the time, watch TV shows I hate, or just say stupid stuff. I mean, we all have our issues...]
This was originally posted at wendywillard.com on 5/31/12.