Post by Jedd Medefind
Flood. Ice. Fire. They can alter a landscape profoundly. That kind of change happens, too, when a church community begins to mirror God’s love for orphans.
Adoption. Foster care. Mentoring. Support of orphans worldwide. Expressions of love for orphans are about justice and mercy, to be sure. But they’re also more. Loving orphans can deepen discipleship and proclaim the Gospel like little else can do.
In fact, when a church embraces orphans, no one remains the same. Here are five big things that change as we do.
1. Children Change. When a neglected child begins to experience love, even the pathways of her brain begins to change.These EEG images show that vividly. On the left is the brain of a child in an orphanage with little caregiver attention.The other – which glows with neural activity – is a child cared for in a family. (Source: Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience)
2. Families Change. A friend who helps Arkansas churches engage in foster care remarked to me, “I see those children change. I see the families change even more.” This is true for all who welcome hurting children into their “personal space” – whether via mentoring, Safe Families, adoption or otherwise.
An adoptive father with three biological sons expressed it this way: “I’ve been in church all my life, taught Sunday School and all that; tried to raise our sons to be godly men, but the act of adoption and what has followed has impacted our sons for the Lord more than anything we’ve ever done. It really has been a profound experience of the Gospel for each of them, and for us.”
3. Churches Changes. A Costa Rican pastor whose church has taken in many abandoned and abused children shared what I’ve heard from many other pastors, too. “With these children coming into our church, we have deepened our understanding of what Christianity is really about…We all have been adopted. God’s grace has come to our lives. What we are doing is to give just a little bit of what we have received.” As we do this together supporting one another amidst the joys and challenges of helping wounded children to wholeness – it grows real community like nothing else.
4. State Social Welfare Changes. In Colorado, many churches have made kids in the foster system a central focus. Over the past four years, the number of foster youth waiting to be adopted has been cut from 677 to less than 300. The woman who oversaw foster care adoptions for the state, Dr. Sharen Ford, expressed, “There is no question who is doing it. It’s the church families adopting these precious children that no one else would take in the past.” Similar changes are emerging from Oregon to Georgia to DC and beyond.
5. The World’s View of Christians Changes. Following an article criticizing Christians in the Huffington Post, a “HuffPost SuperUser” pushed back. She wrote, “I have been a reproductive rights activist and pro-choice for more than 40 years. I am very involved in the cause. I have a dear friend who is vehemently anti-abortion…I have the utmost respect for this woman because she had 6 biological children and, late in life, she and her husband adopted a boy from South America with severe facial deformities…My friend puts her beliefs into her real life and she is worthy of my respect, even though we disagree on so many issues…” Beautiful. May we see a day when all Christians can be described with such words!
Want to learn more about how your church can embrace orphans and foster youth…and also the changes that come as we do? Join us at the CAFO2014 conference at Willow Creek Community Church, May 1-2, 2014.