Our communities are filled with children in foster care who are in need of loving families to stand in the gap and become the bridge that either reunites them with their biological homes, or transitions them to a new forever home. Thankfully, many have opened their homes and their hearts to help. More are needed.
It isn’t an easy job. It goes beyond the natural heart to love these kids through the things they have and will continue to experience in their lives, but it is part of serving a super-natural
God who commands His people to help those in need. Not everyone is called to foster, but as a church, many can provide the spiritual, emotional and physical support these children and families desperately need to be successful.
This summer, Bethany, First and Shawnee, Immanuel did just that. These churches partnered with Oklahoma Baptist Homes for Children (OBHC) and the Oklahoma Department of Human Services (OKDHS) to provide required continuing education to foster families while their children enjoyed the fun of Vacation Bible School (VBS).
Teri Blanton and Karen McNeece of OBHC worked with OKDHS to put together local speakers who provided a variety of important trainings and resources. In November 2015, Governor Mary Fallin launched the Oklahoma Foster Initiative and asked faith-based organizations to unite with local government, businesses and non-profit organizations to help with the foster care crisis in our state.
“We want OKDHS to know that we are answering that call by reaching out to these families with evangelical events where they can experience the love, encouragement and support of our churches,” Blanton said.
Charlie Womack, pastor of Bethany, First said the partnership is, “a glove that fits well for our church. We encourage our members to be community based and to invest in the lives of others. I have a team of great people who work to help Oklahoma Baptist Homes for Children accomplish their goal. I just get out of the way and let the Holy Spirit lead.”
Michelle Schmidt, Pottawatomie County DHS child welfare supervisor, explained what the relationship of the church means to them, “We are so blessed by the partnership between DHS and the faith community in our area. Immanuel Baptist Church, in particular, has been a vital partner by facilitating high quality foster parent trainings and providing child care for a foster parents’ night out, and helping connect or provide many other resources to these families in our community.”
God will use a church that obediently follows the Spirit’s calling, to accomplish His purpose regardless of the size, location or demographics of the congregation. This is about being the
hands and feet of Christ by meeting needs and making connections for families.
Though few families attended the VBS training offered at Immanuel, God brought together two grandmothers who have selflessly taken on the responsibility of raising young grandchildren. These two women forged a bond through the honest and relevant week-long training that will continue long after they left the doors of the church. A bond that will be strengthened because one of them asked the other to begin attending church with her. A bond that the Holy Spirit knew in advance needed to be formed and that an obedient church helped to facilitate.
“Helping foster families is important for Immanuel as we seek to be a missional church, trying to engage our community in ways that make an impact for the kingdom of God,” Immanuel Pastor Todd Fisher said. “Scripture repeatedly calls us to look beyond ourselves and care for those who are in need. Foster children and parents are people in need of training, resources and encouragement. Making a difference in the lives of foster children and families is a worthwhile and rewarding ministry for any church.”