Kristi and I would like to ask that you please pray with/for us. Last Friday morning we were officially licensed to be foster parents. By Friday afternoon we had our first placement, a beautiful baby girl who went back to be with her Mom on Tuesday. But we’ve also had to say no a couple of times, primarily to sibling groups. We are licensed to take up to two children at a time but our minivan means that we can only take one child at a time. We have room in our home for two more kids but we’d have to drive separately everywhere, which is not the end of the world by any means, just very inconvenient as a family.
So, we’ve started praying for a bigger van and we’d like to ask you to pray with and for us. Or, if you have a van that seats more than a minivan (but not necessarily as big as the 15 passenger vans) that you would like to give us, we’d gladly put it to good use. Let me be clear; we don’t ask that because we want something new or we just want a change. We don’t. This is not a want for ourselves but a desire to serve more in the very specific way of opening our home and family to children in need.
In the meantime, while you’re praying with and for us (or donating a van), I wanted to share a couple of things that we’ve learned so far in our foster-care journey:
True service requires sacrifice. As a Christian and as a pastor, this is something I think a lot about. We Christians like to talk a lot about sharing each other’s burdens, as we should (after all, it’s in Scripture!) until it actually becomes a burden. But Jesus said that His people should serve “the least of these” (Matthew 25:31-46) and that “pure and undefiled religion” means caring for widows and orphans (James 1:29).
This is more than dropping off supplies at a homeless shelter or packing boxes to ship overseas (though we still desperately need to do these things so let’s keep doing them). God actually entered our suffering to bring reconciliation and calls His people to be His hands and feet in the midst of this troubled world, to serve rather than be served just as He has shown us in Jesus (Mark 10:45), to consider others before (and more significantly) than ourselves just as He has shown us in Jesus (Philippians 2:1-11).
Let’s be honest: sometimes this sucks. It is hard. You will get emotionally involved and attached (in our case to a baby who left but in other circumstances, to someone who may leave or betray you). You will have to give up your own comforts and conveniences. Your stuff may get broken or even stolen. But what better opportunity to ask where our treasure lies (Matthew 6:19-24) and if we’re really willing to deny self to follow Jesus (Matthew 16:24).
When I think about how much Jesus sacrificed in order that we might be reconciled to God, I can’t imagine continuing to live for myself, my success or my comfort. 2 Corinthians 8:9 says: “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.”
Serving others empties us of self-reliance because, frankly, there are times when we realize we can’t (nor were we meant t0) do it on our own. Serving others reminds us of how much Jesus has lead the way by being the True and Better Servant, giving up His life; taking on death so that we might live.
Knowing what you signed up for doesn’t necessarily make things easier. Having said all of that about service and sacrifice (all of which I fully believe, by the way), doesn’t make it any easier. Our Church of the Cross family where I serve does not have official church “membership.” Instead, our Missional Communities write covenants together which they sign and hold one another accountable to. One of the items they covenant together about is how they will serve (one another and together). We try to instill this idea from the moment someone is interested in getting plugged in to a missional community. In our “basics” MC, our introduction to life together as Church of the Cross, we try to scare people away a bit. We try to discourage people from church hopping and we tell them that we are going to unapologetically ask them to serve and learn to radically reorient their lives around the Gospel.
But this doesn’t make things easier when that call to sacrifice actually comes; when CPS calls and says the baby has to go back. Sharing burdens means actually taking someone else’s burden upon yourself. It means discomfort and sacrifice. If we want to establish cultures of service, then we need to not only be honest about how hard it can be, but commit to sharing those burdens, because knowing what you signed up for doesn’t make it any easier.
Leaders should lead by doing. I sometimes find myself at “pastors” events. I try to avoid these things as much as possible, but there have been a couple lately where I’ve been struck by the same thought: leaders need to lead by doing. I won’t go in to specifics because I don’t want to diminish other churches programs which were birthed out of good hearts. But, I’ve heard leaders recently urge people to do things they themselves don’t do. Now, I understand this might happen. I have not been called to every ministry and there might be times when, to equip people in my church family, I have to learn about or encourage someone in something I’m not personally doing. That’s fine. I get it.
But I want our leaders to serve by example. I want our joys and sorrows to be in front of and with people. I don’t want there to ever be the question about me or any of our leaders: “Yeah, but what are they actually doing?” We must guard against doing things for the applause of men for then, we will have our reward (Matthew 6). And yet, at the same time, Christian leaders should be able to urge people to follow our examples as we follow the example of Christ (1 Corinthians 11:1).
Thank you for praying with us on this journey.