When you read the life and ministry of Jesus, it is clear that He had remarkable love for children. James captured that heart when he spoke of true and undefiled religion as caring for orphans and widows. It is obvious that forever in the heart of the heavenly Father is a love for the least and most vulnerable among us.
Our world is filled with abuse and hurt dealt to children. The same is true of our state. Hardly a week goes by without several media reports of children being taken into custody by the Department of Human Services due to violence, neglect and other abuses. What happens to the “least of these?” In a few cases, they are released to relatives. In most cases, however, they are placed into the foster care system.
In Oklahoma, more than 10,000 children are living in out-of-home care because their families are in some sort of crisis and cannot care for them. Read that number again—10,000 precious-in-the-sight-of-God children unable to live with family and thrown into a system that may become a revolving door for them. It is not unusual for children to be moved from one foster home to another before they become adults.
In terms of ministry and impact, one would need to search long and hard to find a more dynamic way to affect our community and culture than to be a foster parent. In Oklahoma County alone, 2,126 children are in foster care with only 779 families offering to care for them.
But what if Oklahoma Baptist churches were to become safe havens of ministry to foster children? What if couples and families in our churches seriously considered providing a loving home for foster children? Could we serve the least of these in the name of Jesus? Could we bring love into the troubled hearts and lives of children often shattered by the tragedies of dysfunctional families? Is this not a ministry that the church and individual Christians should consider as true and undefiled religion?
To be sure, this challenge is not laced in warm-fuzzy idealism. Being a foster parent is work—hard work. It is not for the faint of heart—it is for those who are willing to give themselves away to help right the life of a troubled child or teen. We who have the love of Christ believe that love can conquer hate and violence.
We can blame the welfare system and DHS for the problem. That is a simplistic answer. We can blame the ills of our culture. In reality, we know the author of such hate, violence and dysfunction against the most vulnerable among us. But we cannot fix the system or the cause agents. What we can do is help change the future of a child or teen. We can nurture them through hard life experiences and set them on a course to a better future.
Foster parenting will cost you. Oh, I am not speaking of money, but of time, energy and even some freedom. Counting the cost is always important. It will cost you refocusing your time. Investing in a child may become your primary ministry. But what an investment! What a ministry!
The children of Oklahoma need the church and Christians to arise and see them through the eyes of our Lord. They need us to arise and in tangible ways give them the love and care they deserve.
My prayer is that in the months ahead the need will become much smaller because Oklahoma Baptist people stepped up. You can contact your local or state DHS office to investigate opportunities to become involved.