Foster Care as Ministry
By: Jud and Susanne Gardner
Jud and Susanne Gardner, who have been involved in foster care the past few years here in Baldwin County:
Our journey through foster care, as a form of ministry, has and continues to be a tool for constant transformation of what we thought to be the ‘right’ motive, a redefinition of struggles we thought were bad and are actually good, and a growing acceptance of our need to die daily to self (Lk. 9:23-24). As I seek to do something the Bible describes as true religion (Jas. 1:27) it, by no means, qualifies me or gives me a leg-up in the service department. This deceptive stream of thought is un-Biblical, and a deception rooted in humanistic or self-seeking desires for altruism.
It seems like a contradictory position, but the deceptive paradox of altruism, as selfishness, exists and exposes our need for an all-knowing and all-powerful Redeemer (Job 19:25). For example, this deception dismisses the idea that no one seeks God, until He reaches in and opens our eyes (Ro. 3:11), no one does good (Ro. 3:12) unless they are compelled by the love of Christ (2 Cor. 2:14), and that the Spirit’s principal work is our faith (Gal 5:5, John 14:26).
These truths lead to a broken heart that helps us discover the best thing we can do is flee to a closet in prayer (Psalm 51:17, Pr. 18:10, Mt. 6:6). Engaging in ministry is a means of worship, a step for all of us to take whose lives were altered by Christ (not just staff members, those specially called, or those with unique talents) to take, as we place our lives on the altar (Ro. 12:1-2). A dangerous, but very good side of daily ministry is that we are confronted with issues in our hearts we didn’t realize we had. What a great and gentle Savior we serve who comforts us and abounds in steadfast love! (Mt. 11:28-29, 2 Cor. 1:3-4, Psalm 13:5-6).
With this posture, we encounter another means to continue our surrender for the sake of Christ. We position our minds and hearts in prayer to find delight in God’s purge, as we die to ourselves daily. This happens because we make this our prayer: to delight in the things that delight to God and that our hearts are wounded for the things that break his heart. On the topic of humility, C.S. Lewis reveals, “Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it's thinking of yourself less.” Here, we are reminded of our ultimate goal, which is God and His glory alone, regardless of our plans or expected outcome (Col 1:16, Jas 4:10). The Spirit strengthens our faith through his steadfast love and reminds us of his word (Jn 14:26). We are then, less discouraged by temporal outcomes or how we think things should have happened (Is 40:28).
Through this, we see more of how we are God’s workmanship prepared to do good works (Eph 2:10). Through the ministry of family reconciliation (II Cor 5:18), God grants us a place on the front lines to see the Lord bring death to life (Eph 2:1 & 5), change hearts, restore children to their homes, comfort those in distress, and alter the trajectory of lives for His good. The apex of this display is God revealing His glory in the lives of people whom He loves to rescue.
In Psalm 68, God gives David the original TV commercial concept of a vehicle riding in harsh conditions to promote its very best characteristics. To praise God, David wonderfully compels us to
4b …lift up a song to him who rides through the deserts;
his name is the LORD;
exult before him!
5 Father of the fatherless and protector of widows
is God in his holy habitation.
6 God settles the solitary in a home;
he leads out the prisoners to prosperity,
but the rebellious dwell in ta parched land.
Even now, I’m aware of the world’s general and specific disapproval for our irresponsibly in having too many kids or bringing difficult people in our home at the risk of corrupting our family even more. Another fear is the harm that I will expose my children to through foster care. Through God becoming a man (incarnation) (Gal 4:4), He gives immeasurable riches in countless measure for our sake (Ro. 5:8, Eph 2:7). Because of Christ’s example, I am growing to fear the consequences of not putting me and my family’s lives on the altar, because of the difference God has made and continues to make.
How can we forget how far off we once were and dismiss His infinite goodness? Even as I express this rhetorical question, I confess my own discomforts and discouragement over a disrupted schedule, the fear of being misunderstood, not being able to do more things or have more things, and the list goes on. A daily death to my own selfishness and the lies I’m tempted to tell myself is so crucial; I am convinced of how it brightens my soul to see God’s intricate display of His glory. I am convinced of God’s glory even though He has used, and may continue to use, me for dishonorable purposes (Ho 1:2, Ro. 9:21).
The benefit of His works is the display of His glory; how wonderful it is to have a front row seat on God’s continuous work of restoring families and placing children in homes. These are occurrences that we will never see on social media or in human interest articles. If you cannot imagine yourself not commenting on a certain struggle on Instagram or Facebook, then you must question your motive for ministry.
God, I know we will never know you fully, but help us to know you truly and compel us to act as children who you have rescued. Help us to delight in doing your will, even when its uncomfortable, inconvenient, or costs us our lifestyle, or even our own life. God, please give us a posture that values an eternal perspective above and beyond what we think we can gain from the horizontal limits of this world.
Feel free to check out a video that was shown last year at church. What an amazing story of reconciliation and God at work through members of our church!
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