Loving Strangers: Providing Help to Families in Crisis

The Need is Real

A momma goes to the ER with her four children. She has no one else to watch them, but she needs medical care. The doctors agree, and she is admitted to the hospital; the children roam the halls and nap the first night, but by the second day when it is clear that momma needs more care, the children need someone to watch them as well. She pleads with the hospital staff that there is no one to watch the children. The hospital social workers are at an impasse: the county is called; the children need to be turned over to their custody.

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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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Supporting Foster Families: Act Instead of Ask

Questions, questions, and more questions.

When you step into the world of foster care, you’re stepping into the great unknown. You don’t know when the phone will ring asking you to take a placement. You don’t know how much time you’ll have to prepare for that placement. You don’t know the child, the case, the issues, or the outcome. You just don’t know.  And for those of us who have said yes to being foster parents, we’ve learned this is a part of our journey.

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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.

 

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Rachelle Regner, MSW

Bethany Christian Services

724-940-2900

 

 

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Why Embrace Life?

 

What do you think of when you hear the term pro-life?

Depending on where you live and what your personal experiences have been, you may have a variety of images or words come to mind. Hopefully some are positive, but most likely a lot are negative. Some of you might already be rolling your eyes, or moving your mouse towards the ‘x’. I pray you don’t. I pray you hear our hearts, and see how our ministry is on a mission to enact change through a positive and loving approach. Oh, how I pray that people see our love, and the love of our heavenly Father, through all we do.

You see, over the years the rhetoric around the sacredness of human life, and the term pro-life, has become so convoluted that we seem to have decided to shy away from the topic altogether. We are pro-life, but we don’t really know what that means. We give money each year in a baby bottle, but we don’t allow ourselves to really feel or think through these issues. We say we are pro-life and we may even vote pro-life, but do our actions show it? Could we defend our beliefs? Could we make necessary sacrifices that we expect others to make in difficult circumstances? We may be against abortion of children with disabilites, children conceived in rape, children conceived in incest, but do we truly make a place for these chidlren in our churches, communities, and lives? Do we help their parents feel supported and loved? Do we offer alternatives to abortion through the way of adoption?

I know pro-life issues are so difficult to address, but I believe God wants us all to think through these concepts – maybe even squirm through some of them – so that we can be motivated into genuine, love-based action. So that we can embrace the full image of our Creator and experience the joy He experiences when He looks upon one of His beloved. Yes, this is a sensitive, controversial issue that is sometimes difficult to approach with love and compassion. We know because these are things our team prayerfully considers in every single thing we do. But this is also why our team is seeking to change the conversation about the sacredness of human life. May we be known by our love – by what we are for, not against. And we are on a mission to remind the Christian community that the pro-life movement is for each one of us. And acting on your pro-life beliefs doesn’t mean you have to pray outside of an abortion clinic, or march on Capitol Hill, although we applaud and encourage those who do. But every single one of us has an important role to play in protecting the God-given blessing of each precious image bearer, and fully embracing all life.

Embrace Life Ministries of North Way Christian Community believes that abortion is primarily a spiritual issue.  It’s a symptom of the larger issue at hand, like poverty, slavery, human-trafficking, the orphan crisis, and so on.  The issue?  The devaluation of human lifeA failure to see all lives through the eyes of God.  When we, as a culture, choose to determine that another person or group of people’s lives are less valuable than our own, people suffer.  And when we, as a society, decided that a preborn child’s life was not valuable, the ripple effects were catastrophic.  Today, children with disabilities, children with illnesses, children of the “wrong” gender, children who came to be at the “wrong” time, in the “wrong” way, or amidst the “wrong” situation have somehow become less worthy of life.

Surely this mindset breaks the heart of God.  Surely Christians must work to change this.

Our ministry is on a mission to see an end to abortion, not necessarily through politicians or court rooms, but through the hearts of people – through a cultural transformation arising from the love and compassion of the body of Christ. We seek to do this by building a culture that values and defends all lives regardless of size, age, ability, dependency, race, ethnicity, and social economic status. We have 4 main goals as a ministry, complete with action steps and a champion leader for each area:

 

1. Educate about issues related to the sacredness of life – social media, writing and speaking, Sanctity of Human Life Sunday
2. Encourage alternatives to abortion and support those who choose life – support birth moms and single moms choosing to parent; support a culture of adoption; Embrace Grace and Embrace Grace Alumni Group
3. Offer healing to those who have experienced an abortion – promote post-abortive healing groups and spread the message of grace and forgiveness to the church and community
4. Embrace all lives as a unique representation of the image of God – annual prom for individuals with special needs; special needs advocacy, support, and inclusion in the church

We are also in the process of adding to our goals – working hard to encompass end-of-life care, miscarriage and infant loss, and care for those who receive an adverse prenatal diagnosis.  Through these goals and action steps we desire to contribute towards a world where each and every human being is seen through the eyes of their Creator—where every person is recognized as having intrinsic value, and they are treated as such.

This is why we love and support the Imagine Conference. Every single opportunity presented at this conference encourages us to do our part in upholding the dignity of human life. Support a single mom, sponsor a family in need, engage in foster care, love on orphaned or abandoned children, mentor a child who is without a father, serve refugees, speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, promote justice and equality, act on behalf of those living in poverty, and so much more. Each time you serve your neighbor you are reminding yourself, and those around you, what it truly is to be pro-life.

So, why Embrace Life?

Because every single life has inherent value and it is our job—no, our privilege—to act on behalf of our brothers and sisters.

Come find your place at the Imagine Conference, and let’s get to work.

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Alicia Terhune, Co-Director of Embrace Life Ministries, North Way Christian Community

 

 

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