"A life not lived for others is not a life." Mother Teresa
With May being National Foster Care Month, I wasn't surprised that the topic of our forum at Katelyn's Fund this month was Foster Care. However, I was surprised when I was asked to be on the panel for that evenings meeting.
There were 5 of us on the panel, and after introducing ourselves, we launched into our impromptu explanations on how we came to be involved in foster care, what led us to consider it, some interesting experiences we've had, and how we were currently involved in the system.
The stories differed with each situation, however the motivation was very similar- wanting to help out children who needed us. I was surprised as I listened to each of the other presenters' stories that it occured to me how much foster care is it's own mission, with the foster parents as missionaries, reaching out to the "unreached" population right here in our own home towns. Yes, the cities that these children come from are modern day jungles and we are the David Livingstons of our time- a mild exaggeration maybe?!
Each of the panel members have a strong sense that their faith was an important part of our reason for working with these "orphans", and we use our faith to reach out to these children. The kids that come through our doors to stay with us are taken to church and introduced to Jesus through our actions. This makes us very much like missionaries. First, we meet their basic needs, live among them and learn the language, then we begin to address their spiritual needs.
Upon this realization, the foster care work that we do is taking on a whole new meaning for me. It has always been grounded in the belief that the Bible tells us to take care of the orphans. However, this new outlook has me almost giddy (!) with the feeling that I'm rubbing shoulders with some of my heroes; Eric Liddell, Mary Slessor, and of course my favorite- Gladys Aylward.
I like to use props when giving a speech, so I put together a photo booklet of the kids who have been with us; we have had 18 long term placements, and over 20 respite placements. We currently only have one little boy with us, but he has begun the transition to moving to a relative placement, so we know we will be again "open" for more kids. While we have been working on the basement, and it's addition of more bedrooms, I have had a feeling of expectation that I can't quite explain. As if I'm expecting company, and I need to get my home ready for guests.
I'm always praying that we will have kids placed with us that we will be able to adopt, but our state is very forgiving of birth parents, so that doesn't happen often. I guess I need to remove my "wants" from the equation and just continue to open up our home to these kids, share our faith with them while they are with us (along with sharing toys, food, and lap time) and pray for each one as they go out into the world.
And add "Missionary" to my resume. :-)