Building an Orphan Care Ministry at Your Church

Often the question is phrased, “How do I start an orphan care ministry at my church?”

Right from the beginning, though, I believe you must be considering how to BUILD an orphan care ministry.  At its genesis, you must be thinking about the foundation upon which a future ministry will be built. No matter how limited or grand the scope of your ministry is at first, you can be sure it will morph and grow over the years – if it has a solid foundation.

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Back to School: Advocating for Your Child with Special Needs

Summer is winding down, and kids across America are gearing up for the return to school.  This can bring some challenges and anxiety for both the kids and the parents, and these feelings can be magnified if your child has needs that are not typical.  Parents of children with sensory, learning, and attention exceptionalities often have to navigate a new school year with new teachers, different physical spaces, and most likely a new mix of classmates within a classroom.  Many children who come from places of trauma and loss need their parents (biological, adoptive, and/or foster parents) to help them with this transition and continue to advocate for them as the school year progresses. Here are some proactive and reactive steps parents can take to support your child.

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#MyOne

 

Dear friends, do you think you’ll get anywhere in this if you learn all the right words but never do anything? Does merely talking about faith indicate that a person really has it? For instance, you come upon an old friend dressed in rags and half-starved and say, “Good morning, friend! Be clothed in Christ! Be filled with the Holy Spirit!” and walk off without providing so much as a coat or a cup of soup—where does that get you? Isn’t it obvious that God-talk without God-acts is outrageous nonsense?

James 2:14-17, The Message

 

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Building Bridges in Foster Care

I walked into Family Court with my two week old foster baby.

I’m immediately struck by the crushing sadness and anger that is around me. People in Family Court are immersed in brokenness. There are parents there who are angry that their children have been taken away. There are spouses there who are fearful that they might have to face an abusive partner. There are foster parents there who are feeling overwhelmed in their role for the day. There is just so much hurt and sadness. Continue reading “Building Bridges in Foster Care”

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Ordinary People Living Out an Extraordinary Calling to Love

Imagine 2017

Over 600 completely average people joined us for Imagine last weekend. We joined together because we believe that the gospel of Jesus Christ is that He came to seek and to save sinners just like us. We also believe that the whole of the Gospel is much more radical: it invites us to live as a disciple of the One who fed the hungry, clothed the naked, welcomed children, and spent time with those society deemed unworthy and outcasts.

 

This past weekend, over 600 ordinary followers of Jesus joined together to learn how to better seek justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God (Micah 6:8). We recognized the fears that often paralyze us, and we leaned into the truths from Scripture: that the same way our Savior walked right into the “Samarias” of His world, we are called to the “Samarias” of ours…the places others would rather avoid: the streets, the group home, the orphanage, the prison, the abortion clinic, the rehab center, and the strip club. He walked in, bent down, and looked people right in the eye because relationships transform. He not only calls us to follow Him, but equips us as we do.

 

“Imagine made me realize that my fear of stepping out is normal, and reminded me that God can use anyone.”

“Some moments my heart was breaking and at the same time my fears are lessening. Opening my mind to what it means to truly love others as God loves us!”

“It gave me further conviction to open up to more possibilities that previously scared me.”

 

Throughout the weekend together we considered the idea of “What’s my one?” Our God is an intentional God seeking out the one lost sheep, the one lost coin, and the prodigal son (Luke 15). He has designed and equipped each of us with a different, yet complementary role to play in living out the Gospel (Romans 12:3-6). As each attendee prayerfully considers, “What’s my one?”, together we are able to make an impact in our world.

Here are just a few of the “ones” God led attendees to:

  • Haiti
  • Foster Dad
  • Short-term missions
  • Mentoring
  • Cambodia
  • Refugees learning English
  • Sex Trafficking
  • Strengthening a culture of life in our churches
  • China special needs adoption
  • Foster mom advocate
  • Homelessness
  • Encouraging adoptive families

 

Our prayer is that each person to whom the Lord spoke one thing would respond with prompt obedience to this call. Imagine what would happen if followers of Jesus took a stand for the hungry, the hurting and the fatherless. Let us bring that to life each and every day of the coming year!

Our deepest appreciation to each speaker, exhibitor and to the team of volunteers who planned and executed this event. Our time together was encouraging, refreshing, and equipping. We look forward to seeing you at Imagine 2018.

 

We’d love to hear your story of how God is using you, a completely ordinary person to live out His extraordinary calling to love.

Email us at connect@imagineconferencepgh.com

For encouragement and practical help living out this calling year round, be sure to subscribe to our blog.

 

 

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The Calling of Foster Parents

“Pure and undefiled religion before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction and to keep oneself unstained from the world.”
James 1:27

Family

A family is a wonderful gift to a child. A family provides so much more than protection and safety to the child. A child develops their confidence, social skills, emotional skills and more from their family. A family prepares the child for adulthood and helps to guide them in the big transition. Many people have fond memories of their family growing up. Memories include vacations, sports, games, family time, funny moments, and emotional moments. A lot of people can identify important lessons and skills they learned from their parents and family like hard work, financial responsibility, and self-discipline.

Sadly, there are thousands of children that are growing up without a family to love and guide them. The AFCARS report found that in 2015, there were 427, 910 children in the United States that were in foster care. Pennsylvania has the 7th highest amount of foster children with approximately 15,000 children in foster care.

What is Foster Care?

You may be asking, what is foster care? Foster care is the system set up by the state in which certified caregivers provide a home for children in need of care. Children enter foster care due to neglect, abuse (physical, sexual, psychological), or being orphaned. The foster parents provide the child with a loving family until they can either return to their parents, live with a relative, be adopted, or another permanent plan is identified. There is a shortage of families for these children and approximately 10 percent (23,000) of children entering the foster care system age out with no or very little support.

Our Role

These facts not only break my heart, but they break God’s heart. God was very clear about his love for the fatherless (Deuteronomy 10:18) and orphaned (James 1:27). These children entering the foster care system are hurting and broken. They need to personally experience the love of Christ so that they can heal from their pain and be prepared for whatever their future may bring. Who better to show them this love then the church? Is this a difficult and challenging responsibility? Yes. Is it emotional and heartbreaking at times? Yes. But, does Jesus not promise to strengthen us to accomplish all things (Luke 1:37; Philippians 4:13, Psalm 29:11, Isaiah 40:29, Isaiah 41:10)?

Leah

Leah is a 12 year old girl who at the age of 3 was removed from her parents due to alcohol abuse and physical and verbal abuse. She spent 3 years in foster care before she was adopted. Leah fondly remembers her foster parents and foster siblings and developed a strong relationship with them. She still stays in touch with them and visits at times. Leah feels that the most helpful thing her foster parents did for her was involve her in educational services and help her learn the importance of education. Leah explained that her foster parents were good for her because they cared for her, met her needs, and loved her.

Leah’s challenge to you is:

“There are a lot of kids who need you.”

Being a foster parent is an important responsibility and is a risk for our loving hearts, but the rewards for the child are great! You can help a confused and hurting child to find healing and develop the skills they need to succeed in life, no matter what their future holds.

 

Register for the Imagine Conference

 


Rachelle Regner, MSW

Bethany Christian Services

724-940-2900

 

 

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The Other 95%

How the Whole Church Can Live Out Christ’s Love in Foster Care and Adoption

I once heard a friend ask, “Where is the Church in foster care and adoption?” She wondered how it was possible that her family felt so alone in it’s obedience to God’s call for them to foster hurting children. The children she, and many others are serving have faced unspeakable trauma, have lost the only moms and dads they’ve ever known, and often struggle to figure out which end is up. No one living out Christ’s calling to love his neighbor in this way should be left standing alone asking, where are all the Christians?

But you say you don’t feel called to foster or adopt. But what if my friend (and Scripture) isn’t necessarily asking you to foster or adopt? Look with me at James 1:27,

“Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” (emphasis added)

Did you see it? God’s word tells us that we should live out our worship through the tangible acts of visiting orphans.

Statistics tell us that only about 5% of the United States’ population will foster or adopt. That number isn’t much higher within the Church. And while we need many more Christian foster and adoptive homes, not every Christian should be a foster or adoptive parent. But every adoptive and foster family already engaged needs the body of Christ standing around them in this journey.

Families who are engaging on the front lines of caring for children from hard places bear a heavy weight. It’s a load they carry with humility and joy knowing that this is cross-bearing love—partnering with the Great Redeemer who wants to see healing and restoration for these children. But it’s still a front-line, spiritual, emotional, and sometimes physical battle. And like any soldier, they shouldn’t be going into battle alone.

When foster and adoptive families step into the brokenness with a child, they need to feel the arms of the other 95% of Christians wrapping around them. So practically speaking, what does this mean to you?

If you don’t know a foster or adoptive family personally:
-Connect with a ministry that is offering adoptive and foster families free childcare. Childcare and respite is one of the most requested areas of help from foster and adoptive families. This could be as simple as serving with our OrphanCare Ministry that offers free respite nights for foster and adoptive parents 6 times a year. Get your clearances, and join us as we play kickball, do crafts, or rock babies. These moms and dads desperately need a breather to reconnect and invest in their marriage.
-Sign up to be a Family Friend through the Safe Families for Children Program. This will allow you to be paired with a specific adoptive family so that you can offer ongoing respite. Just invite a child to join your family for a few hours a couple of times a month. It can make a world of difference to a mom or dad. Parenting is hard, and parenting kids who have walked through trauma is quite different than parenting kids who have always known consistency, safety, love, and food. Your commitment to come alongside a family in a consistent way could bring unspeakable hope to them in the day-to-day.
-Donate – Adoption is expensive, and foster parents are often met with unexpected and sometimes immediate needs. Organizations such as Foster Love Project or adoption funds through OrphanCare or Gregory’s Gift are meeting the tangible needs of Pittsburgh-area families.

If you do know someone who is fostering or adopting:
-Bring meals (and some for their freezer too!) Foster parents often accept children with very little notice. They have court hearings that don’t run on schedule, countless therapy appointments to help kids heal, and often are transporting the children in their home to visit with their biological families. Having someone they can call to bring a meal (even if it’s from a restaurant or frozen from a grocery store!) is a real blessing.
-Mow the grass, do a load of laundry, etc. Adding a child to your family changes everything. Sometimes the list of every-day tasks that need to be completed is daunting while you’re in the middle of a period of adjustment. Pitch in everywhere you can.
-Babysit. Foster and adoptive parents are required to attend extensive and ongoing training classes to prepare them for the realities of caring for children from hard places. They may have court hearings they need to attend, therapy appointments, and be transporting kids to visits with their mom and dad. If the family has other children in the home, they need you to show up in a big way so they can juggle it all. And quite frankly, they probably need a date night, too. Ask what clearances and training you may need, get them (it’s not hard), and then watch their kids.
-Send an encouraging note and include a gift card to a local restaurant. Some days are just hard. Blessing a foster or adoptive family with a chance to eat out, or order in, and know they are being prayed for can be a bright spot in their week.
-Celebrate them and their children (no matter how old the child is!) Imagine all the ways you’d be excited to welcome a baby into a friend’s family when she announces she is pregnant. Now do the same things for your foster and adoptive friends.

I had another conversation with a friend recently who just started her fostering journey. She received her first placement, an infant, with little notice. The first night a friend dropped off a Pack ‘n Play, a bassinette, and other baby gear. Another friend asked if she needed infant clothes. Another offered childcare for the children in their home while they were attending the court hearings for their foster baby, while another mom listened as she poured out her heart about the emotional rollercoaster of the first few days. Her response: it’s been amazing to see God meet our needs and feel the love of friends in this journey.

Church, this is living out Christ’s call to love. Let’s make my last friend’s story a reality for every foster and adoptive family in our circle. May no one ever stand on the front line, answering Christ’s call, and say, “Where’s the Church?” Let’s live out our worship in these tangible ways.

Register for the Imagine Conference


Erin Brothers, Co-Director, OrphanCare Ministry of North Way Christian Community

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A Father’s Love

Just this evening, I experienced something with my six-year-old adopted son that doesn’t happen very frequently.

On his own, he came over to the couch, hopped up onto my lap, kissed me on the cheek, and said, “I love you, Daddy,” before skipping up the stairs to his room where my wife was waiting to put him to bed.  He was so gentle and sweet.  He was so calm and affectionate. He was so…peaceful. It was a special moment and one that I will remember for a very long time.

This moment of affectionate tenderness from my son sticks out like a rose bush in the middle of the desert because our typical interactions consist of defiance and challenges.  As a result of not being held or fed for the first 9 months of his life, his brain failed to make many connections that we take for granted with our biological kids. Consequently, he struggles in a number of ways that usher in challenges and obstacles that I didn’t know existed before walking with him these last six years.

God says in James 1:27,

“Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”

My son was in distress and God chose my wife and me to look after him.  In doing so, I have been challenged, inconvenienced, judged, and criticized all too often.  But through all of the obstacles, God has been right with us every step of the way. God has used my relationship with my son to break me, mold me, and transform me closer to the person He desires me to be.

You see, just as God uses me to care for my son, He also uses my son to care for me. Raising a child from a hard place forces me to confront and resist the upwardly-mobile-American-dream-lie that Satan tempts all of us with every day.  God continues to show me a new perspective, deeper understanding, better empathy, and more sincere compassion through my irreplaceable relationship with my son. I continue to learn how to celebrate my son’s breakthroughs as he faces challenges that used to be a foreign concept to me.  Through my amazing son, God has broadened my awareness of the things that He cares about as He helps me navigate this polluted world in which we live.  

God radically changed my son’s life when He called my wife and I to step out in faith and answer the call of adoption. God also radically changed my life through the same process.  He has blessed me more than I could ever explain and has brought me to a place where moments like I experienced tonight – where my son so tenderly said, “I love you,” with a sweet hug – now brings me overwhelming joy. These moments, inspired by God, give me encouragement to persist through the challenges, knowing that God has me doing exactly what He wants me to be doing – loving my son with unending love and compassion, just like God does for me every day.

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Chad Himmler, OrphanCare Ministry, North Way Christian Community

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