Posts Tagged ‘National Foster Care Prayer Vigil’

We’re about halfway through the National Foster Care Prayer Vigil week.  Two days ago, I asked people to share their experiences as they went before the Lord this week on behalf of those in their local foster care systems.  Yesterday afternoon, I received this e-mail from Heather Bench, a passionate orphan advocate from Salem Church of God in Clayton, Ohio:

I was most touched during our prayer vigil when a recently adopted teen from foster care rose and prayed for the foster care workers.  My heart overflowed to hear her speak words of gratitude and ask for all foster children to have good influences in their lives.  Shortly thereafter our ministry participated in our first forever family dedication of this precious family.  What a privilege to thank God for bringing this family together and commit to loving, supporting and encouraging them as the perfect family He designed.  This week I have purposefully prayed by name for the teenagers in our state waiting for families.  God has brought them to my heart through a teen’s heartfelt prayer.

Heather’s story is but one of hundreds that God is writing this week through the National Foster Care Prayer Vigil.  As we commit to going before Him in prayer for these children, and those who influence their lives, God promises to meet us where we are, and He will bless us as He blessed Heather and the others at her church.

Thanks, Heather, for sharing your story, and thanks for your faithfulness in praying for His children in Ohio.

We would love to hear from others about their prayer vigils as well.  If you have a story of how God used your time with Him this week, please e-mail me at jmoore@HopeforOrphans.org.

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Sunday’s gathering was a small one, about twelve of us, but as always, God met us where we were.  We gathered in a circle and introduced ourselves.  We discussed the purpose of the prayer vigil, we read some Scriptures, and we prayed through the prayer guide.  As I listened to the others pray, I heard things that excited me…I heard passion…and I heard tears.

One of the women who prayed Sunday has been volunteering for the past 20 months or so at a foster group home in our area.  Every week, she, her husband, and two others from our church visit the boys in the group home, sharing their lives, their pains, their fears, and trying to instill hope where despair has reigned for far too long. As she prayed, she passionately petitioned God on behalf of each and every one of the boys in the home . . . by name.

As we continued to pray, I heard weeping…so much so that at times it was hard to understand what was being said.  But God knew.  God heard.  And where the words were not necessarily clear, the sentiment was…the hearts of those who prayed were broken for the children in our county’s foster care system…but not just for the children…the tears were for their families as well.  One young woman prayed, and rightly so, that God would bring healing to families in such a way that would eventually eliminate the need for foster care at all.  Wouldn’t that be an amazing thing…if churches could come alongside families before they lose their children, and help them get on their feet and experience the restoration and healing that God has for them?

Our small gathering was a wonderful reminder of God’s passion and broken heart for these children, and His desire for us to be passionate and brokenhearted for them as well.  I pray that the hundreds of other gatherings across the country this week will experience the same.

As you hold your prayer vigils this week, if you feel so led, please send me an e-mail at jmoore@HopeForOrphans.org.  Let me know how God met you and used your time seeking Him on the children’s behalf.  I would love to share your stories in this blog throughout the week to encourage those who haven’t yet had their prayer vigils, as well as those who have yet to plan one.

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The 2010 National Foster Care Prayer Vigil starts this weekend. For eight days, followers of Christ will gather in homes, churches, parks, and more to pray for the children in their states’ foster care systems.

The National Foster Care Prayer Vigil has grown from humble beginnings (one prayer vigil in Little Rock, AR) to become a nationwide movement (220 vigils in 47 states last year) in a very short time.

As this is published, there are about 170 prayer vigils scheduled for next week in 44 states, plus Washington, DC.  Unfortunately, there are no vigils currently registered in six states:

  • Delaware
  • North Dakota
  • Rhode Island
  • South Dakota
  • Utah
  • West Virginia

We know that there are believers in those six states who, if they knew, would love to pray for the children in their states. We just haven’t found those believers…yet. This is where you come in. We are asking you to please reach out to your Christian friends in these states and ask them to go to www.FosterCarePrayerVigil.org, to download the prayer guide, to plan a vigil, and to register that vigil.

For the person who refers the first person registered in each of those states, we will send a free copy of Christie Erwin’s “The Middle Mom”, a wonderful book written by a foster mom about her experiences of God’s grace as she has fostered numerous children over the years.

Keep in mind that we will give the book to the person who refers the first person to register in each of those states.  If you recruit someone in one of those states, but they are not the first to register, we thank you and appreciate you anyway!  If you do recruit someone just let me know at jmoore@hopefororphans.org.  As soon as they register their vigil I will send your copy of the Middle Mom out to you!

Thanks so much…oh, and if you haven’t planned your own foster care prayer vigil for next week…you know what to do!

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Over the past couple of weeks, I have discussed the need for prayer for the children, families (birth families and foster/adopt families), and workers in our nation’s foster care system.

There is another group of people for whom prayer is needed as they relate to the children in foster care.  Historically, the church has cared for the marginalized in society out of obedience to God’s commands and as an outpouring of the grace we have received from Him in our lives.  God still desires for His people to be His hands and feet to those who are hurting and forgotten, including those children in the foster care system.

By and large, the role of caring for these children has fallen on the shoulders of government agencies for the past several decades.  The church has taken a back seat to social services in meeting their needs.  The constant cry of some to keep church and state separate has kept some in the church from becoming more involved.

Thankfully, that is changing.  More and more, we are seeing that church and state can not only find common ground on which to stand for the benefit of kids, but they can actually work together to see that the kids’ needs are being met and that, as a result, they have a better chance at becoming all they were intended to be.

Having been involved in foster care for ten years, I have seen quite a change in the way churches and government relate to each other in this area.  Where once there was much suspicion and mistrust on both sides, now we are seeing both sides opening up to one another and engaging in open dialogue and partnership.  It was quite a telling statement when I heard a local child welfare official say in a recent meeting that the government doesn’t do a good job taking care of kids, and that they wanted to give that job back to the church, where it belongs.

All over the country, God is moving churches to start foster care ministries.  Amazing ministries have sprung up in Florida, Arkansas, Colorado, South Carolina, Texas, California, and more, helping literally thousands of children.  We should pray that God would continue to raise up churches to care for the needs of the children in their communities.  We should also pray that many believers would open their hearts, homes, and families to these children by fostering and/or adopting them.

If you would like to speak up for the kids, families and workers in your local foster system, as well as for the church’s response and involvement, please visit www.FosterCarePrayerVigil.org.  Download or order the prayer guide.  Please start praying today for all involved in the system.  Then make sure you plan and register a vigil for your church, family, and/or friends during the week of May 16-23.

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In part one of this series, I talked about the need for prayer for the children in our nation’s foster care system.  In part two, I talked about the need for prayer for the families of the children – both the birth families, as well as the families that have stepped forward to care for them through foster care and adoption.

There is a third group of people involved in the children’s lives that we must remember when we pray.  The many workers who are involved in the foster system are on the front lines for these kids – making decisions that often affect their lives in profound ways.

Most who enter social work do so with the noblest of intentions – they have a genuine desire to help people and bring healing to broken lives.  The social workers who enter the foster system often do so because they have a real heart for children and they want to help the children become all that they were created to be.

Unfortunately, the realities of the job can overwhelm even the most committed workers.  So often, caseloads are too heavy, time is too short, and competing interests become draining.  Many times, social workers become fatigued….with the fatigue leading in many cases to burnout.

As Christians who are concerned about the well-being of, and justice for, children in the foster care system, we must remember to pray for the social workers who oversee their cases.  We must pray for the attorneys or the guardians at litem, who argue for their best interests in court.  We must pray for the judges, who often make very difficult decisions regarding short-term and long-term custody for the children.

The children in our nation’s foster care system will benefit most from dedicated workers who are driven to seek their best interests.  We must therefore pray for all of the adults who work in the child welfare system, that:
•    God would raise up laborers to fill every void:  judges, attorneys, guardians at litem, social workers, court appointed special advocates (CASA), support staff, therapists, and others.
•    God would encourage our state’s social workers and that they would not grow weary in doing good.
•    the workers will seek justice for everyone involved.

If you would like to speak up for the kids, families and workers in your local foster system, please visit http://www.FosterCarePrayerVigil.org.  Download or order the prayer guide.  Start praying today.  Then make sure you plan and register a vigil for your church, family, and/or friends during the week of May 16-23.

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In my last post, I talked about the need for prayer for our nation’s more than half a million foster children.  These children have been beaten down in their young lives – abused, neglected, abandoned…very often by their own parents — and they need people willing to advocate for them – through prayer and through many other ways as well.

As we learn more and more about the children in foster care, and as God begins to give us a heart and a growing burden for them, it would be easy and natural for us to develop a real anger toward those who have hurt them so deeply.  It would be natural to judge them harshly for their acts and to want them to pay dearly for their crimes against the children we have grown to love.  We must be careful, though.

The Bible teaches us that all people are made in the image of God.  As Christians, this means that we must treat all people with the respect and honor and dignity that comes with being made in His image.  No one is exempt.

The Bible also teaches us that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.  This means that in spite of the pain these parents have caused to these children we love so dearly, when we’re honest about our own condition, we find ourselves in the same boat as they are in…we are all sinners who have no chance before a Holy God apart from the finished work of Christ on the cross.

Yes, the children deserve justice and those who hurt them should pay a price, but we must not allow our righteous anger to become a self-righteous anger, and we must not allow our anger to obscure the truth that the blood of Christ can cover the sin of the child abuser just as it covers ours.  We can rightly want justice for the children, but we can and should also pray for the salvation of those who harm them.

One of the cruel realities of the foster system is that many of the children who age out of the system at 18 without a family end up having children in the system themselves one day.  The abused or neglected child therefore grows up to become the abusive or neglectful parent.  Why?  Because it’s all they know, and until someone shows them another way, the cycle will not be broken.  Yes, they are responsible for their own choices, and we must never excuse poor parenting by blaming it on the past, but just as we all learn habits and behaviors from our parents, we must recognize that these children are no different.

As Christians engaged in the foster care system, we must resist the urge to vilify the children’s birth families and we must embrace God’s call for us to love them and treat them with dignity.  It doesn’t mean that we should support sending children back to an unsafe home, and it doesn’t mean we support contact between children and birth parents if that contact further traumatizes the child, but it does mean that we can pray for the families and seek justice for them and truly hope for God’s best for their lives.  One of the greatest blessings in our journey adopting children from foster care has been the friendship that we’ve developed with our children’s birth families.  We recognize that friendship is not possible in all situations, and we have had to make some hard decisions regarding contact with our children’s birth families, depending on what we believe is best for our children at any given time.

In addition to praying for the birth families of the children, we also need to pray for families that have stepped forward to care for the children in foster care.  From time to time we hear horror stories of foster families who abuse the children in their care, but we must remember the many families that quietly care for and love them day by day, far out of the limelight.  God uses these families to bring healing, and in many times, permanency through adoption, to these hurting children.  We need to pray for God’s grace on them as they parent the children while navigating what is often a very difficult and thankless system.

If you would like to be an advocate for the kids and families in your local foster system, please visit http://www.FosterCarePrayerVigil.org and download the prayer guide.  Begin praying today for the children and their families, and then make sure you plan and register a vigil for your church, family, and/or friends during the week of May 16-23.

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In recent weeks, the world has watched as the stories of Haitian orphans have been broadcast to billions.  The faces are etched on all of our minds as we see them on TV, in print, on the internet…it seems like everywhere we turn, we are faced with the plight of Haiti’s neediest children.  Through it all, God is awakening more and more of His people to the needs of orphans, not just in Haiti, but around the world…including those in our own backyard.

There are currently more than half a million children in the United States Foster Care System.  Of those, more than 120,000 are currently waiting for adoptive families.  Each year, about 20,000 will age out of foster care and onto the streets…18 years old…with few if any life skills, and no family to call their own.  Their lives after foster care will all too often be marked by homelessness, addiction, crime, imprisonment, teen pregnancies, and worse…

Many in the church have taken on the cause of foster care, and God is using His people to bring real transformation to many children’s lives as a result.  Still, far more must be done if we will see the number of waiting children and emancipating youth reduced to 0.

Where do we start?  We start where we should always start – on our knees before our God, pleading on behalf of our nation’s most vulnerable and at-risk children.  We never know what will happen when we pray, but we do know that prayer helps align us with God’s will for us and for the world. For that reason, we pray expectantly, knowing that God can and will use the prayers of His people to do things we can never imagine.

A few years ago, a handful of people gathered in Little Rock, Arkansas.  The purpose was simple – to pray for the needs of the children and others involved in the Pulaski County foster care system and to be available for what God wanted to do through them.  That small gathering has exploded into a ministry that now involves 150 churches in more than 15 counties in Arkansas (with a chapter in Alabama as well).  The C.A.L.L. (Children of Arkansas Loved for a Lifetime) is now hard at work helping children find their forever families, children who might still be waiting had it not been for that handful of faithful believers who gathered to simply pray.

That small prayer vigil has exploded in other ways, too, on a national level.  In 2008, the first National Foster Care Prayer Vigil was organized as a joint effort by Hope for Orphans, Focus on the Family and Shaohannah’s Hope (now known as Show Hope).  That first year, there were 100 vigils in 32 states.  Last year, the numbers grew to 220 vigils in 47 states, and this year we hope to see 500 vigils in all fifty states.

If you would like to be an advocate for the kids in your local foster system, please visit www.FosterCarePrayerVigil.org and learn how you can host a prayer vigil in your church, home, workplace, etc…  Once you have planned your vigil, please take a moment to register it on the website, so we have an idea of how many gatherings are happening, when, and where.

The needs of the children in the foster care system are tremendous.  God’s love for them, however, is greater than their needs, and His plan for them is you…and me.  We must make ourselves available for how God wants to use us in their lives, and the way to start…is on our knees before Him.

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