By Steven Norris
I was teaching a class when the first call came. Unable to answer in the middle of my lecture, I listened to the voicemail afterwards: “Mr. Norris, we are calling from the Department of Family and Child Services. We have a foster care placement for your family. Please call us back at your earliest convenience.”
By the time I could call back, the agency had found another suitable family. This happened twice more. Each time we rode the roller coaster of anticipation that we were finally fulfilling our calling as a family only to experience the subsequent crash when it didn’t work out. We were on vacation in Pigeon Forge, TN when we finally were able to answer on the first ring, and we chose to leave a day early to get things ready to receive our two new family members.
Overnight, we doubled the number of children in our household and, for the next 18 months, we relished the chance to love and care for two sweet children that were not biologically our own. Those two siblings would not be the last kids that we had the chance to care for in our time as a foster family.
Our decision to foster stemmed directly from the commands that we read in scripture. In the book of James, we find: “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to care for orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world” (1:27). This sentiment merely echoes what the Hebrew prophets had proclaimed for centuries. Space does not permit me to list all the various references, but Isaiah is representative: “Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your doings from before my eyes; cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan, plead for the widow” (Isaiah 1:16-17).
In short, the scriptures insist that our faith can be measured by the ways in which we care for those who are less fortunate than we are. In fact, I believe that our very humanity can be measured in the way that we treat the most vulnerable members of our society. As difficult as fostering was at times, we continually reminded ourselves that the children in our care did not choose to live in the situations into which they were born. We could choose, however, to help make their lives different.
I will be first one to tell you that fostering isn’t for everyone. However, anyone can get involved in supporting foster children through local ministries. In Griffin, Fortify collects clothes and household items, and Grace 127, a ministry of First Baptist Church, provides handmade bags with essential items a child can receive on the day that they are brought into care. Numerous other ministries exist for those willing to do a little research.
The needs in our county far outweigh the available resources. I encourage you stop for a moment. Be quiet. Listen. How are you going to answer the call of God ringing out to serve the most vulnerable in your community?