We were recently at a court hearing where our child's parent's lawyer was explaining timelines and formalities. Then he smiled and said, "After that, your part in this case will be finished, and you can move on."
You don't know us very well.
In the last two months I've been asked a number of times if I think the Church's emphasis on orphan care has been prioritized over the Great Commission, "Then Jesus came to them and said, 'All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.'” - Matthew 28:16 -20.
Each time I've responded the same way. The Gospel is orphan care. The Great Commission is orphan care - and widow care, and care for the destitute, the poor, the broken hearted. It is care for the ones who are searching for purpose, who need to be reminded that this is not the end of their story. It is care for the ones in need of redemption and hope.
Mercy ministry and the gospel cannot be separated. As we are the hands and feet of Jesus to a watching world, they encounter the incarnation of Christ through us. As our Bible teacher Fran Sciacca always reminds us, "The incarnation of Christ is still happening. It is us."
When Jamie and I embraced this truth, our call to foster care was transformed. Hence, my above titled equation.
We have cared for five children long term and many more short term. The majority of the foster families would move on to the next child or the next event when a "placement" is reunified and never look back.
That is not the gospel. We are commanded to make disciples, to get down and messy, and do life-on-life ministry.
This weekend I spent Saturday morning with Sweet Baby M's family. God has been so faithful to provide M with a healthy home in Florida, but she still has a considerable amount of family here. As I sat on their front porch and heard of recent heartaches and sorrows, I looked in to Grandmomma's eyes, "The moment that sweet baby was placed in my arms, I began a journey of prayer and walking by faith with you all. You are our extended family whether you want to be or not. Where it is healthy, we are here. You are not alone, and this is not the end of the story." And, together we wept.
By caring for five long term children, we have added 25 to our extended family. I'm aware we're the exception. I'm aware the majority of foster parents are unable to keep in touch with their families, whether because it's unhealthy or they simply lose touch. But God in His mercy has been so gracious to us. We need them, because while we may be the hands and feet of Jesus to them, we are being changed through them. We are the honored ones.
This weekend Jamie and I began to realize the extent of what this entails as God allows us to continue in this ministry. Our families alone represent 12 children who need help with school supplies, food and encouragement. The moment I asked Jamie if we should begin backing off, 50 packs of crayons, 20 packs of pencils and a box load of school supplies were left on my car. We had told no one. The next day, three bags of clothes were left on our front porch, the exact sizes of one of our family's children. Then, a phone call from someone who has the exact size bed, one of our mommas had asked if we had a resource for.
Is our life messy? Yes.
But look how many are willing to be messy with us. Before prayers are even uttered, God has met the needs of our families, which are our own needs.
That is the gospel. That is the Great Commission to be able to look in a mother's eyes who expressed a need, and let her in to see how God had met her need before we even knew it. That's lifting the veil to see the Glory that is pursuing her.
That is the adventure.