Welcome Others: Caring For Orphans
“Do you have an extra seat at your table?” This was the question TN Kids Belong asked, and the one that ultimately led us to become foster parents. I couldn’t unsee the two empty chairs at our table every time we sat down to have a meal. Nashville is desperate for families to open up their home to kids in need of a temporary place to feel safe and nurtured. I think it’s possible to completely transform our city by opening our hearts and homes to these kids and their families.
Most Christians know the familiar call to take care of widows and orphans found in James 1:27 – “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” I believe the foster children in our society are the orphans we are called to care for. When they are removed from their family, due to no fault of their own, they are temporarily orphaned and it is our duty and priveledge to step in and care for them until they can return home safely.
The Greek word for hospitality used in the New Testament is philoxenia, which means “Love for Strangers”. This love is not based on a feeling, it is based on action. Our first foster placement was a teen girl and her baby. I remember sitting at the dinner table and feeling like a complete stranger had just moved in, which in fact was the case! We didn’t know anything about her and to be honest, we were terrified. But we figured things out, and God has a way of showing up in the uncomfortable and inconvenient. He transforms our hearts and delights in the fact that we need Him every minute of every day.
In his letter to the Romans, the Apostle Paul describes how followers of Christ are justified before God by faith in Jesus alone, and that this new status reshapes every part of our existence. Part of being a new creation in Christ is living a life that actively loves our neighbors as we love ourself. One of the most profound ways we’ve found to love our neighbor, is to care for someone’s child while they are not strong enough to do so themselves. To give them time to work toward healing and wholeness, so that they can be the best version of themselves for their kids. And everytime we step into this role, God creates in us a genuine love for the biological family of the foster child. This love crosses cultural, racial, and socio-economic boundaries and transforms our thinking.
There are currently approximately 650 foster children in Davidson County alone, and Nashville has more than 700 churches. If just one family at each church decided to step into this gap and provide a temporary, safe, nurturing place for a child in need, while the rest of the church congregation supported those foster families, foster children, and their biological family, our city would be transformed. Families would be restored. Friendships would be made. We would be more open, more understanding, more dependent on God’s love and guidance, and our tables, and our hearts, would be full.
So, I invite you to start praying about how God could use you in the realm of foster care. Every person can be a part of a foster child’s story, even if you are not in a place to become a foster parent yourself. You could be part of a WRAP team for a foster family (which supports the foster family and enables them to foster longer), you could provide respite care, you could pray for the foster child and their biological family and find ways to support them. It’s going to take all of us working together, intentionally supporting each other, and choosing the kids who have entered the system by no fault of their own. I promise you, they are worth it.