In January of 2005, a friend of mine named Tim Miller went on a weekend event for one of his college classes. He came back from that trip completely changed. He would talk to me (pretty vaguely, since the weekend was supposed to be a secret) about WHY he was different. That his entire perspective on life and ministry had changed. I was so intrigued, I chose to sign up for the same class for the fall of 2006.
Enter Dr. Jeff Cook.
Dr. Cook (or Papa Cook as we called him) taught my Urban Ministry and Contemporary World Missions classes. Honestly, I could probably write several blog posts just on Papa Cook and the nearly uncontested impact that a single human being has had on my life. This man LIVED Christ. His desire was for us to be transformed to the heart beats of God... and he was really good at it. It was the first time that the realities of injustice, poverty, and my blindness to them even remotely entered my mind. He changed my world view and filter.
You see, before taking his classes, pretty much every vision I had involved the suburbs, a wife, 2.5 kids, and a dog (clearly, that would now be 3 cats). Poverty? Injustice? Clearly that was something for "special" people with a "special" calling. But then we started to dissect scripture, it was amazing just how overwhelming the entire Bible bled the proclamation that God's heart broke for the poor, the needy, the orphaned... anyone suffering injustice. As the prophet Jeremiah puts it:
"He pled the cause of the afflicted and needy; Then it was well. Is not that what it means to know Me?" Declares the Lord. (Jer 22.16, NASB)
That is a pretty humbling claim. That God would say that caring for the afflicted is WHAT IT MEANS to know Him. Of course, there's always a New Testament classic:
Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world. (James 1.27 NASB)
Holiness and caring for needy. It's seen hand in hand both here and throughout Scripture as benchmarks of what it means to be a child of God. I'd argue that if James were writing in modern day, you'd see foster children placed in verse 27. You see, this is not a "special" calling for a select few of the Church. No. These things are aligned with Holiness. To say "Well, I'm glad you're called to care for those in need, but that's not for me" is as out of line with Scripture and knowing God as saying "Well, I'm glad you're called to sexual purity, but that's not for me."
If you read my wife's first post a week or so ago, you might remember that if ONE family in each church or other religious institute (that's right, ONE family per church) took in ONE child... there would be a waiting list in Palm Beach County to care for foster children. The afflicted and needy. Waiting to take part in what it means to KNOW HIM! My heart breaks at this reality. The funny thing is that then not everyone would have to foster. They could care for the afflicted and needy in other ways. Petitioning courts for change. Setting up classes or educational programs for the parents to get them on their feet.
Why Fostering? It boiled down to this: I could make a laundry list of reasons I don't want to do it, how inconvenient it might be right now in this stage of our lives.... blah blah blah. To be honest, it seems like a LOT to take on right now. But then I remember that the cross was inconvenient for Christ. He looked down on children afflicted by sin and in desperate need of a Savior. And He adopted us. He took us in. He gave us a home. No wonder He says it's what it means to know Him. It's His character. It's who He is. It's the story of Salvation.