Call to Action: The Children Next-door

By Randi Peck

Today, 7 in 10 Americans are overweight.
How many Americans think they are overweight?  Only 36%.  (1)
This means that half of the people with a weight problem are blind to their unhealthy condition.   

Could it be that we are also overlooking some worrisome symptoms of our spiritual health?

The last three months of talking about who God is has been an incredible time.  But in the midst of all this studying, I think there is cause to stop and step on the spiritual scale…  To ensure that all this content about the I AM is not contributing to a fat state of our souls, and to discuss some of the ways that truly knowing God will motivate action in our lives.  

———

‘They have grown fat and sleek.  They know no bounds in deeds of evil;  they judge not with justice the cause of the fatherless, to make it prosper, and they do not defend the rights of the needy.  Shall I not punish them for these things?’ declares the Lord… (Jeremiah 5:26-27)

At the time of this prophecy, Israel was actually quite knowledgeable and diligent about their religious services.   But God saw their lack of justice and their apathy toward the orphan— and knew it reflected the true evil and selfishness reigning in their hearts.  

A couple years ago, we started to sense this “fatness” creeping into our own home.  Well, in reality, it had always been there but God was graciously opening our eyes to it.

We were spoiled and yet unsatisfied.  As a result of being fed enormous amounts of truth without exercising enormous amounts of love, our weekends revolved around our family— our convenience and our wants.

This realization kicked off the beautiful (and ever-ongoing) process of shifting our time, money, and decisions into a more cruciform life.  And one of these decisions was getting involved with some of the children in Oregon State care.

As anyone who has stepped foot into justice work can testify, once your eyes are opened to the world of pain taking place around you, there is no turning back.  Hopefully, the dire report on Oregon’s foster care system, released a few months ago, will open many more eyes.  This thorough, 59-page audit conducted by the Secretary of State, highlighted the glaring deficiencies that ultimately affect the children in our communities:

Caseworkers are juggling impossible caseloads, with little training or experience.
Foster homes are scarce, and burning out at an alarming rate.
And “chronic management failures” jeopardize the well-being of abused and neglected children.  

We could respond by pointing fingers at political parties or policies… By taking swings at DHS… Or by shaking our heads at the parents who have failed to protect their children…

But at the end of the day, it is the 7,600 kiddos in the system who suffer.  

It is the kids who are forgotten, amidst piles of paperwork.  Rushed into unsafe homes, because no one has the time to hear their concerns.  Holed up in hotels, because there are no foster homes to welcome them in.

And knowing all this… Knowing, undeniably, that there are some deep cracks in Child Welfare causing it to be “disorganized, inconsistent, and high risk for the children it serves”…  This should not cause us to cast blame. It should cause us to weep.

Because honestly, this is on us too, Church.

Christ came to deliver the poor and the fatherless and the forgotten.  Children traumatized by abuse and neglect. Parents grappling with addiction and mental illness.  And he charged us with completing the task…

As I become more invested in these incredible people, and as I dig deeper into God’s Word— I see that my decision to get involved should have been my default as a follower of Jesus.  

The message of grace that we carry is completed (not added to) when we get our hands dirty and our hearts broken.

NOT because we are better than DHS, or these parents, or these children..
But because we were orphans.  And Christ welcomed us in.
We were failures.  And God credited his righteousness to us.
We are daily struggling and suffering.  And called to comfort with the comfort we’ve been comforted with.

Under the New Covenant, Jesus has fulfilled the perfect standard of the law— we are no longer judged for our lack of good works.  But God is just as serious about calling us to an authentic faith.

When we actually encounter the I AM— his mercy, his holiness, his truth— we will fight injustice and help those hurting, next door.  

Along with PRAYER, here are a few practical ways we can love these kiddos in our valley:

  1. Volunteer as a CASA

CASAs— or Court Appointed Special Advocates— have the unique opportunity to be a legal voice for the children in the foster system.  While caseworkers and attorneys are often juggling dozens of cases, CASAs get to know one child or sibling group.

In what amounts to about ten hours a month, the CASA gains an irreplaceable perspective as they observe the child’s behavior and check in with the family members, foster parents, doctors, and teachers in their life.  As a legal party on the case, they write a report for the judge with their recommendations, swaying the case in the best interest of the child.

For more information on how to advocate for a child, attend an orientation– Thursdays, 12-1 pm at 409 N. Front Street in Medford; visit their website; or call their office (541-734-2272).

  1. Stand with Every Child

Every Child is a non-profit organization that has stepped up to the crisis in our state, offering a variety of ways to serve Child Welfare, foster families and children in care.  They facilitate projects to uplift overburdened caseworkers at DHS; make up welcome boxes for children waiting to be placed; and build teams to surround foster families with practical support.

To learn more about partnering with Every Child, head to their website or Facebook page.

  1. Become a Foster Parent

As their world is ripped from underneath them, children of all ages are in desperate need of a bed and a kind smile.  Jackson County currently does not have enough families to welcome these kids in during the trying hours, weeks, or months of their care.

To learn more about becoming a certified foster parent, visit the DHS website or attend Explore Fostering Coffeehouse, a chance to ask questions about the realities of foster care — at JAM coffeehouse in Phoenix, April 19th from 630-8 pm.

“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

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