When you think of the word “orphan,” what picture comes to your mind? On which continent, or in which country, does this child live? Have you given much thought to the orphan living in your neighbourhood? Have you considered that there are orphans attending the same schools as many of the children who attend Westside’s Sunday school?
I had spent time in orphanages in Madagascar and India, but had not given much thought to the orphans in my city until one evening when I was serving dinner to a group of youth at Covenant House on the corner of Seymour and Drake, not far from where I both lived and worked. The woman who was supervising my husband and I informed us that more than half of these youth, aged 16-24, aged out of foster care or had no permanent family. I realized, had I been exposed to the same circumstances as many of these young people, I would be on the other side of the table, saying “thank you,” as someone put food on my plate.
The call and the opportunity
God has made it abundantly clear in the Bible that caring for orphans, whether children who have lost both parents, lost one parent, or are vulnerable to becoming orphans, are to be of concern to those who claim to follow him. According to Isaiah 1:17, if we profess to know and love God we are to “learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless….” James 1:27 tells us we are visit orphans in their affliction. The Greek word for “visit” is episkeptomai, and it implies a relational type of care. It is checking in one someone with the intention of helping them.
We are called to enter into the lives of vulnerable children. We may feel hopeless in eradicating some of the circumstances that lend to children becoming vulnerable in the first place, but that must not stop us from caring for them. Children do not choose their circumstances, they are born into them.
So how to begin?
1. Pray that God will soften your heart to this population that he loves.
Ask him to direct you in how you are to give of your time, talent, and treasure. You likely won’t have to go as far as you may have thought.
2. Partner with organizations that work with vulnerable children and youth.
- Youth Unlimited: relationally engages in wholistic work with vulnerable youth in partnership with the Church and the community.
- Inner Hope Youth Ministries: walks alongside youth and families in East Vancouver nurturing hope, belonging and transformation through support, discipleship, life skills, and housing.
3. Foster a child or support someone who does.
The number of children in foster care is growing. In BC there are over 9,000 children in care, and another 1,000 children waiting to go to a family, hoping a spot will open up. There are also 900 children in foster care who are waiting to be adopted into a permanent family.
Maybe what is feasible for you is committing to babysitting twice a month for a family with a foster child, or getting connected through the Ministry with a single parent who is in need of occasional respite care for his or her child. You don’t have to have a lot of space, or even give a lot of time, to be able to make the occasional big difference.
My husband and I have spent the past year going through the foster-parent approval process. We had initially thought we would take in a young child similar in age to our own children, but early on we were asked to consider fostering babies. We were surprised to learn that the age groups in greatest need of foster parents were older teens and children under the age of two. We will be welcoming a baby into our home in a few months. For some great information on foster care visit fosteringconnections.ca.
If you are already involved professionally or as a volunteer in this area, we’d love to hear from you and learn more of how the body of Westside can help equip and encourage one another to care for vulnerable children.
Sunday Nov. 6th
On Sunday Nov. 6, my husband Aaron and I will have a table set up in the lobby by the Connect Centre after the 9 and 11 am gatherings. Please stop by and fill out a card if you are interested in getting involved. You can also email Aaron at email@example.com.
Youth Unlimited: http://www.youthunlimited.com
Inner Hope: http://www.innerhope.ca
Information related to foster care: https://fosteringconnections.ca
Information related to adoption: https://www.bcadoption.com/bcs-waiting-children
Report card of child poverty in BC: http://still1in5.ca
Kveta Rose serves as a Community Group and Women’s Bible Study leader at Westside. She is the author of Kirabo: A Journey of Faith, Love and Adoption. Kveta is married to Aaron who has been on staff with Westside for the past 10 years. They live in Vancouver with their three spirited young children.