Sing to God, sing praises to his name; lift up a song to him who rides through the deserts; his name is the LORD; exult before him! Father of the fatherless and protector of widows is God in his holy habitation. God settles the solitary in a home; he leads out the prisoners to prosperity, but the rebellious dwell in a parched land. (Psalm 68:4-6 ESV)
Two years ago this week, I had my second Define-the-Relationship talk with an amazing woman from my Sunday School class. We met for coffee after Sunday lunch with the group, and we spoke in very frank terms about what we both wanted from a relationship, moving forward. She told me about her deep and abiding passion for orphan care, which God had instilled in her from her early years through difficult personal experiences and the ministry opportunities He had given her. She made it clear that, if we were ever to have a future together, orphan and foster care would be a part of it. I told her I had no problem with that, and while I did not share her depth of passion, I did support it, and certainly would do everything I could to support her.
Fast-forward 18 months.
It started with a weekend visit. My new wife had recently left her longtime job as a houseparent for a group home that helped children who needed a place to live due to various circumstances. The kids in this program sometimes have the chance to visit relatives and friends for overnight visits. After I had completed the necessary steps, we had two of the kids she used to work with stay with us for a weekend. And it was a lot of fun. We played video games and went to the movies. It felt like having a little brother, something I never had while growing up.
Then there was another visit, and again, we had a wonderful visit with the kids, but this time, it was also a little strange for me. I found myself shifting into a more paternal role—not something I’m really used to. My wife had been doing this for years, so she didn’t think anything of it. For me, this was an adjustment. I’ve been used to hanging out with the kids on their turf, when our Sunday School class would visit as a group. Now, I had to figure out how to be a little more of an authority figure–set gentle boundaries and say “no” when necessary. I watched my wife’s example and followed her lead.
Before bed one night, about a month later, she raised the subject of having kids over for an extended visit at Christmas, and I realized that this wasn’t going to change any time soon. It’s easy to agree to the idea of orphan care and fostering, but it’s a different experience when you’re being asked to share your first Christmas as a married couple with teenagers.
I have to be honest. I struggled with this decision but finally agreed, mainly because I had given her my word. From the very beginning, I told her I was on board. I wasn’t going to back out now that we were married. My word has to mean something, to her most of all. So I agreed, even with reservations.
We had teens from the group home stay with us for 11 out of the 16 days around the Christmas and New Year’s holidays, and I’m so glad we did. We had a great time watching movies and playing board games, looking at Christmas lights and cooking family meals. It started off a little strange, but by the end it felt natural. Truth be told, the apartment was a little too quiet, those first few days after the school year started and everyone was back home.
I didn’t really expect that our first Christmas would include a couple of teenagers who slept half the day and devoured an impressive pile of snack food. But I’m married to a woman who has an enormous heart that is full of compassion for kids who don’t have family they can rely upon, so when I asked her to be my wife, I was signing up for this. And I don’t regret it one bit.
I don’t know how many kids will end up sleeping under our roof in the future, but my prayer is that all who stay with us will be able to know that God sees them and cares for them. By His grace that is at work in our lives, we will be able to open our doors to those who need a place to call home, because that’s what God did for us, in Christ.
I’m not sharing this to brag–not at all. This isn’t about my family. This is about children who need to be loved with the love of Jesus.
Let me encourage you now to talk to your church about getting involved in orphan and foster care. This is a huge opportunity for the Church to make a real, practical difference in the lives of children.
Orphan Sunday is November 15. Yes, that’s 9 months away, but that gives you plenty of time to plan to take part. Talk to your pastors and elders at church, talk to your Sunday School class or civic group, and get involved.
Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world. (James 1:27 ESV)