“Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction …” —James 1:27
Most of my life, I never truly considered the difficulties orphans face.
In fact, I was unaware that there are babies, children and young adults in my city who live without the security of a home and family.
God’s been slowly opening my eyes to see that orphans are not exclusive to third world countries (or to 19th-century England), they are in my very own community and their struggles draw His attention and concern.
Two years ago, I volunteered for my church’s “Love Loud” outreach event. It was a typical southern fall day, hot and muggy, so I was not enthusiastic about doing yard work at a local children’s home. I was painfully aware of how quickly my blue t-shirt was soaking up the sweat pouring off my face. In addition to insects, I swatted away the uncomfortable idea that the children who lived at the home had likely been taken from their families — possibly in a traumatic way. I remember wondering, Is this comparable to going away to camp? They go home eventually, right? At the time, I didn’t connect that God might want me to do more than feel sorry for the children who stayed there.
Pure religion God accepts
We serve a God who is drawn to brokenness and pain. Just last week I spoke to a group of girls, some of whom happened to be in foster care, and stressed that point. I didn’t want them to be discouraged if they found it difficult building a relationship with God because of painful experiences. I told them that, in fact, God was going to put some special effort into reaching them though that brokenness. He seems to have an affinity for distressed people. That’s just who He is, and why I believe He tells us that looking after orphans (and widows) is pure and undefiled religion. He sees they have a deep need, and it pleases Him when we offer comfort to those who desperately need it.
There are many examples in the New Testament of Jesus speaking comfort to those who were suffering. I used to read those as just stories without understanding the heart of the Savior. He didn’t heal to show off his power. He healed to display the glory of God through repairing a broken life. While brokenness takes innumerable forms, can you imagine the depth of pain that a child or teenager taken from his or her family must experience? If the situation was particularly bad, it’s possible that child never experienced the care and love those of us from intact families take for granted.
Looking after orphans
A few nights ago, I proofread my roommate’s final assignment for her Master’s degree. The topic of her research was ways to help children in foster care learn about proper food nutrition. As she looked over my edits, I asked questions about the paper. One question gnawed at my mind.
“What can the church do to minister to these children?” I asked.
“Foster. We need Christian families to foster,” she replied.
Our conversation soon turned to what that process looks like, how placement works and even if a single person could foster a child. I was beginning to see a monumental need right here in my community. And who better to step up and fill this need than Christ followers? Here are some things we, especially single adults, can do:
Look toward the future. Right now, I’m not at a place to be able to foster a child, but the idea has been firmly rooted in my mind for the future. Maybe some of you are in the same boat — you are just starting off and trying to establish yourself. If that’s you, don’t throw away the idea of being a foster parent. In fact, let that desire be a motivating force. Learn about what will be required of you in your state to be eligible to foster children, pray about the possibility and figure out what you can do in the meantime.
Consider being a mentor or leading a Bible study. After a little research, I found out that my local children’s home has a need for mentors and even faith leaders. This option is one I’m considering as it gives me the opportunity to invest some time and love in a child’s life.
Support families that foster. Find out is there are families who foster children attending your church. There are a myriad of ways that we can assist families who have taken on caring for these children. Something as simple as providing dinner can be a great blessing.
Pray. This is something we all can do. Foster children are vulnerable, and the enemy would love nothing more than to blind them to the reality of God’s love. Pray that they would know they are precious to Him. Pray that God would fill their need for a loving home and sustain them until they get there. Finally, pray that God would prod the hearts of His people to open their homes and hearts to these children.
As we do these things, we embrace the pure religion and relationship God has for us as we join Him in pursuing broken hearts that need healing and hope.