Leland Brown, Foster Parent
C.S. Lewis once famously said that in his conversion he was basically dragged kicking and screaming into heaven, looking everywhere for a way out, and in hindsight he was blown away by God’s mercy and humility to accept such a convert. My journey in becoming a foster parent has been very similar, and today, I’m blown away that God would use me, with all of my unwillingness, in this ministry that is so near his heart and so clearly pictures the gospel.
I was a youth pastor, seminary student, father of a 1-year-old, and husband of a mom/nurse /basketball coach when my bride Sarah first talked to me about her desire to foster. My response was basically: “Are you crazy? Our lives are busy enough!” And they were, seemingly—juggling childcare, me watching my daughter all day Saturday, us both going to bed exhausted every night, with almost every waking moment of my life claimed by one of my responsibilities and roles. The idea of adding more craziness and responsibility to our lives seemed unthinkable.
But, the Lord was persistent and tender in His pursuit of my heart. Our home church, East Cooper Baptist, began highlighting foster care in all sorts of ways—our Global Missions Pastor even mentioned it as an application point of our 2016 Global Impact Conference. My wife began sharing with me all the things she was learning about the incredible need for foster parents in South Carolina—like the fact that today (or at least when we learned) South Carolina needed 600 foster parents to meet the current need. Even worse, I learned that the church was little more involved in relieving this great injustice than the world was; it began to sound to me like one of those issues an Old Testament Prophet would be screaming about and one of those issues that Christians 100 years from now would be shocked that we failed so egregiously in, much like we do to our Christian forefathers who supported slavery.
The education made me guilty, but two wonderful things happened to actually make me willing to obey the Lord’s growing call on our lives. We found a nanny for our daughter who was also a single adoptive and foster mom. In faith, this young woman had adopted two orphaned girls from Uganda, and without a job or husband, moved back to the United States, trusting the Lord to provide as she obeyed Him in adoption and in fostering. And, provide He did! It was as if the Lord was saying, “Don’t you see how I meet my people when they trust me?”
And then came the kicker: I was teaching through the Sermon on the Mount, and got to the famous passage in Matthew 6, “Do not lay up treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroy and when thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will also be.” I studied this passage and came to the conclusion that the Lord Jesus Christ commands (and invites!) His people to stop using their time, possessions, and energy for things on earth (like comfort, security, earthly pleasures, etc.) and start giving their time, energy and possessions to things in Heaven (what pleases God, the souls of people, etc.) It hit me very clearly: all of my reservations about fostering were out of love for my earthly treasure—my controlled and perfect life, my treasured free time, etc.—and that obedience to Jesus, laying my treasure in Heaven, meant embracing His call on my life to become a foster parent.
I shared this with my wife and we signed up for the next Lifeline training class, which was fantastic and equipped us in ways in which I have been immensely grateful. We were licensed in December, had our first placement in December, and (as I write this) have had three foster children in our home. The Lord has been wonderfully gracious to us. There have been many tears and a lot of adjustments but God has given us wonderful provisions through this process.
The first is the unexpected strength the Lord gives in obedience. Isaiah 58 speaks very clearly of God making His face shine upon His people when they take up the cause of the fatherless, oppressed, and poor. I remember being so overwhelmed in our first week of our first placement that my quiet times were more like “loud times”—times I would plead and even weep before the Lord. And those were some of the times I’ve felt closest to Him, felt Him strengthen me, and provide in unexpected ways. In those first few weeks it seemed like I had half of the usual time and energy for ministry (one of my fears about fostering) and yet twice the effectiveness. Sunday School lessons would write themselves.
The second is God’s people. Our church family has wonderfully helped us. The meals, the childcare help, and the prayers are too many to number. In March I had a minor medical emergency; in an hour we had both children cared for so that Sarah could come to the hospital with me. Foster care is genuinely the call of the church, with some called to be foster parents and many called to come alongside. We’ve been extremely grateful to be surrounded by people who take the calling to come alongside very seriously.
There are both challenges and wonderful things about being a foster parent. The constantly changing circumstances, uncertainty, lack of control, brokenness in the system, busyness, and inevitable letting go of these precious children are as hard as I expected them to be, but they are possible to endure and thrive through. However, the immense privilege of getting to be a rock in their lives—not a savior, but a steady and consistent place, maybe the first place they’ve seen love that is tender and firm—radically outweighs any of these costs. I’ve been surprised by just how much I enjoy my foster children! I love getting to plan with Sarah about how we’re going to love the child we have or welcome a new one. I love that many of them are such snugglers. I love the way my 2 year old learns their names so quickly and loves to play with them. I love how my heart and Sarah’s heart have become so tender towards these children. And I love that being a foster parent, something that once sounded so crazy and radical and impossible, in God’s providence and power, has just become regular life for us.
I’m blown away God would use us, especially as unwilling as I was, and all I can say is “What shall I render to the Lord for all his benefits toward me?”
How is the Lord calling you to obedience in serving the needs of foster care? Although not everyone is called to be a foster parent, we can all be involved in some way. If God is clearly turning your heart to foster parenting, you can sign up for training classes here.
Furthermore, as Leland said, foster care is a ministry of the church. If your church is interested in hosting an informational meeting about foster care you can contact us here. Families Count is another way for churches to get involved with the community around them, in an effort to bring reconciliation to families.