Resource Thursday: A Dream-Mandate

In my mind, I always have one agenda; In reality, it almost always seems God has another. I've been working on some adventurous new things for the blog, yet with our house situation, things have been slower than I hoped. All is grace.

Several realizations emerged from our May focus on foster care, one being the value of partnership among ministries, churches, families, and individuals within the body of Christ. My hope is for Thursdays to become a venue to promote and provide ways for these partnerships to increase through spotlighting various ministries and efforts within the Birmingham community and beyond.

I'm so grateful I am able to share Altar 84 with you as our first resource. Jodie and Eric, leaders in this ministry, have challenged and influenced our journey in numerous ways. I'm so honored she was willing to share her heart here, as well as Atlar's vision of W.R.A.P.

In 2008, God began a good work in our hearts…the kind only His Word can be given glory for.  This “good work” was birthed out of one of the most difficult trials we {never} thought possible to endure…at least in our human strength.  As the very breath of my best friend, husband, and the father of our three small boys, was meticulously measured out by an indifferent {but miraculous} machine, the reality that our beautiful boys may not have their daddy hold them in his arms, ever.again, challenged my faith to the core of its existence.   We also came face to face with just how fragile life truly is…and how often we fail to really live, and dream – God sized dreams.  Not the ones that just fade away after the thrill of the chase, but the ones that are made of so much more than we can imagine or accomplish, on our own…the kind that LAST forever. 

Best of all, though, we had a front row seat to Perfect Power, Tender Mercy, Sufficient Grace, and Lavish Love...and five years later, Eric and I are realizing a dream that that we didn’t even know we had.  The more I think about it, it’s better than a dream.  It’s a mandate of love that has been part of the Father’s heart and perfect will forever.  So I’ll call it a dream-mandate…because saying, “Yes, I’ll follow You Jesus,” is not only a requirement of Cross Love, but it far exceeds our very best imaginings.

During the 36 days that our little boys’ daddy lay in an ICU bed fighting for his life, their Heavenly Father never left them (or us)…they were surrounded on every side with love, from our families and friends.  One of the most humbling gifts of all was the love that was lavishly poured out on all of us by our amazing church family.  The way they cared for us, sacrificially and intentionally, brought our family such strength and endurance.  Hope whispered to our hearts (yes, Eric’s too…even as he was sleeping right through it all!) during those long, heavy weeks that God had started something really great, and His plan to finish it would require our whole family, literally and figuratively.

As only God’s grace can do, He faithfully brought healing to our hearts, using the very means by which He would break them again.  The terrifying glimpse into what it would be like for our little boys to be fatherless, and the painful reality that it is for millions upon millions of children, has soul-merged and forever altered our hearts.  We’ve been changed and challenged, too, by the love and care that was so genuinely fostered to us by our {earthly and spiritual} families, during our time of great need. 

Fast forward through lots and lots of {beautiful} puzzle pieces and amazing God-ordained people, and here we are today, serving the Father and the fatherless, the family, and the church in ways that only His sovereignty could allow.  Because of the valley He allowed us to journey through, we also have a sacred understanding of the value and frailty of life and what it means to{really}be cared for by others.

Adoption, foster care, and orphan care remind us who we are as children of God.  We too were once weak, poor, outcast, and broken…and, if we’re honest, even on our best day, we still are.  Our need for the Gospel never goes away, even though our salvation has been secured once and forever.  We were never forgotten, nor will we ever be…we are engraved on the palms of His hands. (Isaiah 49:16)

God’s plan to love and care for His people has always been through His bride, the Church (you and me).  It is the Church that also must be the hero of Hope for the least of these, for the ones without a voice…because the Church represents the body of Christ. 

“Whatever you did for the least of these…you did for me.” (Matthew 25:40)

Though not everyone is called to serve the orphan or vulnerable child in the same way, we are all called to care.  And when a family is called to adoption or foster care, the Church must tenderly care for this family – because Jesus does.  It is a beautiful picture of two {Biblical} greats: The Greatest Commandment and The Great Commission.

How can the Church do this?  Through a Gospel-centered, family-focused orphan care ministry that seeks, as one of its missions, to WRAP around the orphan and the families who care for them.  WRAP is a tool created for the church by Focus on the Family. 
It is an acronym that stands for:
Wrestling in Prayer - (to contend with the enemy for Victory)
Respite Care - (an interval of rest, for the parents and/or caregiver)
Acts of Service - (to give sacrificially of your time, talent, and treasure) 
Promises of God - (unfailing declarations that God is who He says He is and that God can do what He says He can do) 

Altar84 is one of the unfathomable grace-gifts that have been entrusted to Eric and me, along with some other pretty spectacular friends and Board members.  It is a 501c.3 that focuses on Advocating, Educating, and Resourcing the Body of Christ to establish Gospel-centered, family-focused church orphan care ministries and we have had the honor and permission of Focus on the Family to “adapt” WRAP in order to make it even more effective and practical within the Church. Our primary mission is to help equip the {whole} body of Christ to emulate the Father's heart for the least of these and to follow James 1:27.  We have created 3 arms of WRAP:

WRAP Family: It is our desire to care for the families that are on the journey of adoption or foster care. As with any journey, there are mountaintops and valleys, joys and challenges. As a church identifies the unique needs of an adoptive or foster family, the Body of Christ has the opportunity to faithfully love and support them, covering their family with faithful prayer, opportunities for rest/relief, acts of service, and the unfailing promises of God . This resembles what many Sunday School classes and small groups already do for one another...and yet, the elements of WRAP will help us more effectively reach the specific needs of these families. For this to happen, we envision 4-8+ families per WRAP team...and instead of 1 family, there may be 8+ families forever altering the life of a single orphan or vulnerable child!

WRAP Community: Right where we live, there are thousands of children that have been labeled "undesirable"...but this is not what the One who made them has to say about their lives. They are precious and have enormous value to the Father. The Church must be the hands, feet, and voice of Jesus to these children and to those who care for them...covering their needs through foster or respite care training, mentoring, serving and loving birth families or a single mom whose children are "fatherless", caring for social workers, summer bible camps, and the list goes on.

WRAP World: How can you care for the fatherless "among the nations"? Many churches are already serving the orphan and widow in various places around the world and you can journey with them...through covering them in committed prayer and encouragement, serving a family or team who will be going to the country and/or going on mission with them, giving, and more.

We all have unique callings, gifts, passions, and dreams that have been entrusted to us by the Father...and He desires to use those for His glory, to accomplish His perfect plan for all Eternity. And one of those “dream-mandates” gloriously presented in Scripture is justice for the fatherless, through His Body, the Church.  He is faithful to finish the good work He sets into motion and bring forth eternal fruit from even the darkest of valleys - far exceeding our highest hopes if we will just trust and obey.

We would be honored for you to learn more about Altar84, our story, vision and mission: http://altar84.org (our website will be undergoing some big changes soon, so keep checking backJ)  Also, for more on how you and your church can develop your Orphan Care Ministry and WRAP around the orphan and the family, you can contact us via my email at jfrye@altar84.org 

Because of Grace,

Want to become more involved and learn more of Altar84's vision? Check out their kNOw More Orphans run this Saturday at Veteran's Park off Highway 280. More information is available on their website

Additionally, if you are interested in learning more about W.R.A.P. for your church or ministry wherever you are located, check out Focus on the Family's abundant resources at I Care About Orphans.

Because of the One who wraps His love around us,

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