I have felt the deep pain and hurt of rejection by the church. When we first decided to adopt Israel, we met with the pastoral staff at the church we were attending. I was so excited to share what we were doing and honestly believed they would be excited as well. My husband tried without success to temper my expectations, but with my heart on my sleeve I poured out the story of children dying in orphanages. I cried about these babies and excitedly announced our decision to adopt. So, I was crushed when we were discouraged by the associate pastor because the cost was too high and they supported missionaries, not adoptions. We had wanted to be able to share what we were doing with the church family and we were told the church was utilizing their people and resources differently. I was angry and I didn’t understand. How could the church not see what I was so clearly sharing?
And I’ve finally landed on this, orphan care will never be the job of my church. When I left the church that night after meeting with the pastor, I was angry in my self-righteousness and I was wrong. You see, God had laid this burden on my heart and this opportunity to serve at my feet. I was being asked to step into it and He had opened my eyes, given me talents, and equipped me with prior experiences to be able to accomplish it. Out of fear, I went to the church and asked them to pick up and carry what God had asked me to do. The answer I received was exactly what I needed to hear because I had been looking at the church in the wrong way.
When God burdens our hearts with a problem or an issue, it is our job to be the church and step up. We are the church! We keep pointing out jobs and divvying up responsibilities; we create committees and thematic Biblical series; and the orphan is still alone. We have the community Easter egg hunt, the midweek small groups and the shoebox Christmas drive; and the orphan sits. We sit in our pew on Sunday and check the attendance box; and the foster child remains unattended to. And we say, “It’s not my job, it’s the churches job”; and still the orphan is alone. We are sitting in our seats waiting to be mobilized and it’s not working! The body of Christ is meant to serve others and this means that we don’t sit back and wait upon the church staff to direct us. Imagine if you were scrolling through picture of orphans caged like animals and you saw your son, or your daughter. The gut-wrenching horror that your child is there and not rescued, it would change every thought, every moment and every action you took. You would not put the images away and hope the church would step up. If that was my son, I would die before I would stop trying to rescue my child. And that’s when I can hear God say, “that’s my son, Stacey”.
I can share the images and the stories, but I know how it works. We isolate the event and say, wow, the church should ‘do something’. We tell ourselves that it’s happening elsewhere and we go on about our day hoping the church in that area will ‘do something’. It’s easy to justify when you are not sitting in the middle of it, seeing it, hearing it, and living it. We do the same with foster care. We have sanitized the reality. I have shared a few stories of children I have cared for, and I think the immediate reaction is that this was an isolated occurrence involving one child. But what we are missing is that the ‘one’ represents the whole. Every time we read of a drug bust or a meth house raid, we need to think about the children that were living in the back bedroom. A child pulled from their home and placed into a DCS (Department of Child Safety) car and driven to a new home. All their belongings in a trash bag that they quickly packed as they watched their parents loaded into the back of a police car. Fear, sadness, anger, neglect, abuse, all rolled into a tiny human that’s deposited at the foster home attending your church. And what we see is Sunday morning, the family arriving with a new child; scrubbed clean in nice clothing. And you see where we have sanitized foster care, because we see a snapshot.
The deeper issue is that we don’t want to see it. I know this because I receive angry emails and messages for sharing the photos and stories of these children. We don’t want to think about an orphan in another country who cannot lift their own swollen head because there’s no one to pay for a life-saving shunt operation. We don’t want to see the pictures of children lined up on potties barely able to hold themselves in this sitting position. We get upset with the child the Jones family adopted two years ago, because his behaviors are disruptive. We want sanitized. We don’t want to see the pictures, we don’t want to hear the stories, we don’t want to know… because once our eyes are open to it, we are responsible to do something with it. We become responsible to act.
What happened in that church office several years ago, was that I became responsible to act. You see, God had opened our eyes and Darren and I were responsible to act. Looking back, I was mostly angry at the church, because I was scared. We were going to do something enormously scary and possibly financially irresponsible and I wanted the church to give us assurance of the safety of this decision. If the church had stepped in and given this to me, I would not be where I am today. And here’s the thing, you cannot give 10 percent of your adoration and love to Christ and think you are serving him. You cannot portion out your day to day pursuits and set aside a portion of your life and call it living for Christ. You cannot trust in God while hanging onto the security of a church building or a human pastor. Because when we do this, the orphan will continue to sit, continue to wait, continue to die. When we do this, we have failed to see the absolute BIG GOD that we serve, we see the little God housed in a building on Sunday morning. We fail to see how our little faith can move a mountain and bring home an orphan a world away.
I used to believe in a little God. I wouldn’t have said that at the time, but I never realized how my choices and day to day life were restricted by my tiny faith. Israel’s adoption and the jump into orphan care has opened my eyes to how big my God is; how vast and deep His resources and love reach. We had a very small view of God, as we worried about finances, and how we would care for a child in a wheelchair. The past two years I have realized that the church I belong to is so much bigger than the church I go to. I think about the times I have hit the lowest and scariest points. Where I realized that I was crashing and falling. And faithfully God showed up, He showed up through His church and it was never the formal representation of the church. No, it was not the pastoral staff, or the orphan committee, or the midweek small group. It was you, the body of Christ. It was fellow believers who God placed in our path to walk beside us.
If you are at a church who doesn’t have an active orphan care ministry, maybe you are exactly where you need to be. If you are hurt by your church and don’t feel supported; maybe God has you exactly where He wants you to be. And if you feel burdened about a cause, go to your church and tell them all about the incredible ministry you are ready to take on.
God hasn’t haphazardly placed you into the church you serve. He’s carefully and deliberately placed you there. -Ryan Romero