Guest post by Candace Jones, church member
Derek and Candace have been members of MacArthur Blvd for over ten years. During that time, their family has grown significantly. While the number in their family has gotten larger, more importantly, their capacity to show God’s love has grown as well. God has given them a specific calling to love the fatherless. This is their story…
“We haven’t always felt called to the world of foster care. In fact, Jonah has nothing on us. There was a time when our family ministry was centered on the plight of the homeless. When God began placing scriptures concerning the fatherless in our hearts, we were enjoying our tidy “Table for Four” days – this is what we called our time as a family of four. Just for the record, families of four are always welcome in a restaurant and are greeted with a crisp smiling, “Hi, guys, will that be a table for 4 today? Right this way…” Not so much when you ask for a table for 9, or 10, or even 12, as we did at the height of our maximum occupancy.
God was determined to bring us out of our vapid lukewarm lifestyle, where our service to Him fit into the hours and days we had available on our calendar.
All of a sudden, we met more young adults at the shelter who had “aged out” of foster care. “Aging out” means you were never able to find a forever family, and you are released rudderless into the world until you hopefully find your place in life. The statistics are pretty dismal and speak to the importance of family. Ready for a cold dose of reality? Former foster youth now make up over 30% of our homeless population. Around 50% of the girls will end up pregnant by age 19, and 74% of our prison population has spent time in foster care. God’s infinite wisdom included a plan for family, a tether to someone who cares.
Even though we initially resisted, we wish we had started earlier. God has a way of knowing what our hearts will love; He unlocked storehouses in our hearts we didn’t even know were there. These pockets were full of grace and love for children who were not born with our DNA, a love equal to what we felt for our biological children—something I would have promised you was impossible.
We also tried to make deals with the Lord; I call these deals “’brainstorming with the Lord,” but He never seems to need my input. Thank goodness! Otherwise, we would have never fostered and we would have never adopted. Then we would have stuck with “just this one” because we weren’t going to adopt more. We say things like this after every adoption, but we serve a Lord who is not content to let us limit our own love and joy. He knows better.
The number one question we as foster parents are asked is, “How do you let them go?” It’s true; half of all children in foster care return to their biological family. It is a sad, daunting task to take care of a child and love them, then send them back. However, God showed me early on what the real task of fostering is: to point His children to a Heavenly Father who loves them.
The children in our home go to church with us. They see us sit and do Bible time together. They hear us pray. The Holy Spirit sets up camp in our home in a big, unmistakable way when we bring in vulnerable children. He will change their hearts.
One early example illustrated this perfectly. We had a girl come to us from a home where the father was in the occult. During her time with us, we attended church and she couldn’t get enough of worship and scripture. The day she left she looked around our home wistfully as we waited for CPS to arrive and take her home. She said, “Mom, this was the hardest year of my life, but it was the best.” Then her eyes landed on our laminated ABC scripture book we had used and she had successfully memorized from A to Z. She asked if she could keep them. We said of course she could! She was getting ready to leave and she showed me the flashcards once more and said, “Mom, I’m going to use these to teach my dad because he knows who Jesus is, but he doesn’t know what He came to do for us.”
Months later I ran into her caseworker and she told me at her follow-up visit she was surprised to find the family had found a church and were regularly attending services.
Sometimes we’re not there for the whole A to Z plan. Sometimes we may be A to M or even just A to C, but we can rest assured that we serve a Heavenly Father who will be there with our children.
If anyone has any questions about fostering any of the over 400,000 children in our U.S. system or adopting the over 100,000 children already waiting for a forever family, please contact the Jones family and we will answer or assist you in any way.
Thank you to our church family who came alongside us and loved the children who have traveled through our home.”
“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