The Baptist Messenger recently interviewed Greg McNeece, president of Oklahoma Baptist Homes for Children (OBHC) and Hance Dilbeck, executive director-treasurer of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma (BGCO), about growing ministry opportunities related to foster care.
On Nov. 13 at 6:30 p.m. at Edmond, First, the BGCO and OBHC will present a special event, “The Gospel, the Church & Foster Care: An Equipping Conference.” For information, visit www.bgco.org/foster.
Baptist Messenger: We’re going to be talking today about foster care and its importance and connection to the Gospel. Bro. Greg, could you tell us about the One Such Child Program?
Greg McNeece: It really began as an idea from Gov. Mary Fallin back in the fall of 2015, when Oklahoma launched Oklahoma Fosters. This was the beginning of figuring out how Oklahoma Baptists can get involved in helping to create a culture of fostering in Oklahoma. So when we looked at it, we said, “We can do this or we can do that,” and we came to the point of saying, “We can really help churches across Oklahoma become empowered to do this ministry.”
What we’ve created through our One Such Child ministry is a place and an opportunity for the church to say, “We want to be involved, but we don’t know where to start or what kind of resources do we need. Is this people within our community, our church community or is this the community at large? How does that all fit together?” So we brought on a staff member who leads out in that. Her name is Teri Blanton. Teri really begins to work with the local church. Whether that’s to do trainings, to do individualized counseling or just to walk beside those foster families, Teri is a resource and help.
It’s amazing to see how people outside the church walls are coming into the church and saying, “We see that we’re loved here; we’re appreciated here as a foster family.” This gives us the opportunity just to minister. It’s not about OBHC. It really becomes about that local church and how that local church can minister.
Baptist Messenger: That is excellent. We are grateful that you, Anthony Jordan and others coming together to make this need even more visible, and it’s amazing to see how far we have come in just three years. In November, the BGCO and OBHC are teaming up after the BGCO Annual Meeting for a special foster care rally. Bro. Hance, could you tell us how this fits with the BGCO’s mission?
Hance Dilbeck: Our mission is to encourage one another to advance the Gospel. As a family of churches, we want to strengthen each other, where the strong ones help the weak ones, and when we get out of focus, we work together to maintain focus. Our focus is advancing the Gospel of Jesus Christ around the world, but of course here in Oklahoma.
A Jesus principle, when it comes to Gospel advance, is that we embrace brokenness as opportunity for the Gospel. When Jesus sees people with problems, He calls them “a harvest.” So when we look at our state and areas of brokenness in our state, the problems that our political leaders are having difficulty solving, we as a church realize that those are opportunities for us to be salt and light, to share the love of Christ and to show the difference that Jesus makes in the life of an individual and in communities and in our state.
There may not be another more visible, talked-about need in our state over the past few years than this issue of foster care. Everybody in every community knows it’s a problem. This event on Nov. 13 is an opportunity for followers of the Lord Jesus Christ and for Oklahoma Baptists to step up, to wade into that area of need with the hope and the love of the Lord Jesus Christ. So I’m very hopeful. There’s such a network of people involved in the life of every child that when an Oklahoma Baptist family participates, they open the door to connection in all of those different people, and those are open doors for the Gospel.
Baptist Messenger: Good word. At the event, Russell Moore will be speaking, and both of you are on the program. There’s going to be some highlights about what the crisis really is, and about how we can serve the 8,500 children in DHS custody. What are some of victories that you’ve seen, Greg, through the intentional focus of foster care?
Greg McNeece: One of those would be seeing families, who don’t know Christ, come to a training. Out of that, the family is able to experience the love that the church gave to the mom and dad, and to those children who were there for that training. To see that family walk from, “I’m just here to get my DHS-required training certification hours,” to the point to where that whole family has found Christ, made a profession of faith and are connected into that local Church. That’s evangelism at its finest hour, watching that happen.
So, that is one of those things where you can go back and see over and over where that has happened. To see even out of those trainings, where we have seen children come to faith in Christ because when mom then dad are in training—the children are also in care, if you will—we’re able to present the Gospel to them and teach them. We have seen boys and girls make a profession of faith through a foster care parent training.