Pure and undefiled religion before God the Father is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself unstained from the world” (James 1:27).

Growing up in northern Oklahoma, my father served as a deacon in our church. He often took me along to make hospital visits, welcome new members to our church and serve the widows in his care.

I have great memories of serving alongside my dad to care for our widows. While my dad did handyman work around their houses, I made myself at home, often raiding candy dishes, with permission of course.

In middle school, I came across James 1:27. I thought to myself, “We do a really good job caring for widows in our community, but how do we care for orphans?”

During this time, the Lord began to open my eyes to see the brokenness around me. After hearing of the need for foster families in my county, I discussed with my parents about the possibility of us becoming a foster family. With much prayer, my parents began the certification process.

Several months later, on April Fool’s Day, my dad picked me up from school. I thought it was unusual to see him in the carpool line, but he said there was a surprise waiting for us at home. I assumed he had planned a prank.

I cautiously walked into the living room and slowly sat down my backpack. My mom turned around in her rocking chair. She was holding a two-month-old baby in her arms. I was speechless.

Our first foster baby had arrived. In the weeks and months to come, my entire view of God’s love became more real.

In Ps. 68, David rejoices for “God in His holy dwelling is a father of the fatherless and a champion of widows.” In Isa. 1:17, God speaks through the prophet saying, “Learn to do what is good. Pursue justice. Correct the oppressor. Defend the rights of the fatherless. Plead the widow’s cause.” The Lord is clear in Scripture about His heart for the widows and orphans.

Vulnerable children reside in every county of our state. In fact, according to the 111 Project website, Oklahoma County has 1,433 children in foster care with 698 total foster homes (including traditional and kinship foster homes).

Similarly, Tulsa County has 1,487 children in foster care with 584 total foster homes. Outside the metro areas, statistics continue to be alarming. In Comanche County, there are 323 children in foster care with only 109 foster homes (Check your county’s foster care statistics on 111project.pythonanywhere.com).

The need is great across our state! God has given us a responsibility to look after the children in our communities. In doing so, the Lord has provided His church with resources to meet these needs.

On Nov. 13, following the Annual Meeting of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma, a foster care rally, “The Gospel, The Church, and Foster Care,” will take place at Edmond, First. Guest speaker Russell Moore, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, will share God’s heart for the orphan and how the church can lead in providing loving homes and support.

Local pastors across our state will share on a panel about creating a church culture that ministers to foster families. The panelists include Alex Himaya, pastor of Broken Arrow, The Church At; Charlie Blount, pastor of El Reno, First; and Cody Brumley, executive pastor of Jenks, First, along with Cody’s wife, Breanna.

No matter the season of life, we can all do something to eliminate the foster care crisis in our state. Join us on Nov. 13 to hear how your church can better serve our most vulnerable.

Also, the baby my mother was holding when I came home on that April Fool’s Day? He is now my 16-year-old brother.