"Nehemiah said, 'Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is sacred to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.'"  (Nehemiah 8:10)

Blue Ridge Christian News

[The following article was published in the 'Carolina Christian News' newspaper]

Social Services Calls Church for Help

By Ed Rosella

In Romania, one Friday afternoon, a mother walked into an office of Social Services with her three daughters and said, "I cannot take care of them anymore. You take them!" The social workers begged her not to do this. They offered her government assistance, but she wasn't interested. She walked out and left the girls there.

The stunned social workers were preparing to leave for the weekend, but now they had three abandoned children in their office. The director considered who would take the girls in an emergency…he called a church for help! My friend, who answered the phone, did not ask if the children were healthy, age, race, etc. He simply said, "I'll be right there!" Two hours later, we welcomed the girls into the church-run orphanage.

Why did Social Services call a church for help? It was simply because this little Romanian church had helped many times before. In the past seventeen years I have seen them rescue more than 120 orphans; over eighty of those children have been adopted. The director called the church because of their history of faithfulness; he knew they would say, "Yes."

This story has made me think about the relationship between Social Services and churches in my country. Would the U.S. government call an American church for help when a foster child is in need? In most cases they would not. I don't believe this is the government's fault. As a church, we have not made ourselves available to be the answer for the American orphan.

I believe we have lost sight of the local church's calling. James wrote, "Pure religion... is to care for orphans and widows in their distress…" (James 1:27); these were not just poetic words. Children were being abandoned and misused across the Roman Empire. The early church responded by rescuing orphans, placing them into Christian homes. Orphans became known as "children of the church." Today, unfortunately, they are known as "children of the state."

There are well over half-million foster children in America; many are suffering in silence. They are out of sight and out of mind, tucked into foster homes, group homes, mental institutions, prisons, etc.

I once heard a Director of Child Welfare discuss who takes care of foster children in his state. He said, "Many foster children have no parents except for us, the State. We are their parents. The ones that prepare them for adulthood."

An American teenage foster boy explained it like this, "Family Services raised me; programs raised me; I raised myself. I could never say mom or dad; I tried to say it once or twice, but it just hurt because I knew nobody was there."

In the past, many churches have relied on parachurch organizations to care for the vulnerable and destitute. I believe God is now reawakening local churches to become relevant for the needy. Congregations are rising up to "be the church" rather than just "go to church."

The Bible says, "God sets the lonely in families" (Psalm 68:6). Orphans need families and churches have families. Right now, in America, there are over 100,000 foster children available for adoption and over 300,000 churches. Local churches have the solution for the American orphan!

It is easy to learn about foster children in your state. Go to your state's website; search on adoption or foster care to see their pictures and read their stories. If we choose to "hear" the cry of the foster child, God will show us how to rescue them. Through our faithfulness, orphan children can become known in America as "children of the church."

[Ed Rosella is the U.S. Director of Eleos International Ministries. If you would like a "Hands of Mercy" conference, to help inspire your local church towards mercy ministries, you may write to info@eleosinternational.org.]

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