New Group of Ministries Seeks to Honor

God’s Command Regarding Orphans

By Emily Nienhuis

   

    “A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in His holy dwelling. God sets the lonely in families;” (Psalm 68:5-6)

    Can you imagine being a 12-year-old boy who was abused by your birth parents as a young child and separated from your siblings?  You have lived with several different foster families over the past six years while the courts decide what the best plan is for your life.  You are lonely, hurt, confused and you have lost all hope of ever finding a loving family to call your own.

    There is a similar story for over 1,200 kids in Missouri who are waiting for an adoptive family.  As of March 2007, Missouri had almost 10,000 children in our foster care system.  James 1:27 says, “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”   What is the Church doing to obey the Lord’s command to care for the ‘orphan?’  What are Christians in St. Louis doing to care for the orphan?  One Heart Family Ministries is doing their part to educate Christians in St. Louis about the need for more foster and adoptive families for Missouri’s kids.

    One Heart Family Ministries was founded by Dave and Robin Kruse.  The Kruse’s were foster parents for the St. Louis County Children’s Division for over 15 years.  They have four biological children and have now adopted five boys out of the foster care system.  Five years ago they felt the Lord calling them to do more for the children in Missouri’s foster care system.  They knew that the Christian community in St. Louis did not know about the great need for more foster and adoptive families especially for children age ten and over or for children in sibling groups.  So they started One Heart Family Ministries in January of 2004.

    One Heart recruits, assists in training, and supports Christian families who want to foster and adopt children in the custody of the Missouri Children’s Division.  In the past five years One Heart has recruited 70 families who have opened up there hearts and homes to many children in our foster care system.  Some children have been a part of these families for just a few days and others will be for a lifetime as the plan for their life became adoption.  One Heart believes the key to the success of their ministry is, while assisting in the state required foster care and adoption training, to teach families to see children in the foster care system through God’s eyes.  Families are given the truth about the challenges these children face due to being abused and neglected but they are also encouraged with the truth that these children need to know the love of God through a family.

    Jeremiah 32:27 says, “I am the Lord, the God of all mankind. Is anything too hard for me?”  The Lord can heal these children of their troubled past and will give each family the strength they need to preserve through the challenging days.  One Heart families are encourage through God’s Word and supported by One Heart’s staff on a regular basis.  The Kruse’s along with many One Heart families have seen the power, grace and mercy of God change many children’s lives.  God has used many of His people to care for the children in our foster care system and show them the perfect and healing love of God.

    In the Spring of 2007 God continued to reveal His plans for One Heart and the faith-based community in St. Louis.  Six faith-based child welfare agencies in St. Louis started developing a plan to recruit foster/adoptive families within the faith-based community.  They developed a program called Fostering Faithful Families.  Fostering Faithful Families combines the best practices of local and national programs, while building the largest faith-based, foster care collaboration ever attempted in St. Louis.  The participating organizations are: Good Shepherd Children & Family Services, Epworth Children and Family Services, Lutheran Family and Children’s Services, Missouri Baptist Children’s Home Children and Family Ministries, One Heart Family Ministries, and Presbyterian Children’s Services.

    These agencies believe the faith-based community is a largely untapped resource in targeted recruitment of foster and adoptive families.  Through the support of their local congregation, families within the faith-based community are better equipped and supported to handle children that are physically or emotionally challenged.

    Fostering Faithful Families will be carried out by each organization within their own denomination.  For example, Presbyterian Children’s Services will work with the Presbyterian congregations.  However, a variety of collaborative services are woven in throughout the program; these activities will be organized by the administrative agency.  One Heart Family Ministries was chosen to be the lead agency in this project.

    Each agency working with Fostering Faithful Families is looking for ambassadors within the denomination they are affiliated with to help carry out this project.  Ambassadors need to be former or current foster/adoptive parents or a professional in social work who has the desire to recruit and support foster/adoptive families from within their own church.  Fostering Faithful Families will be working closely with these ambassadors to help educate their church about the needs within our foster care system and within the foster/adoptive family’s at their church. Volunteers will be recruited within the church to help support the foster/adoptive families in a variety of ways.  A volunteer might be licensed to provide respite care so a foster family can take a much needed break.  A volunteer might offer to pay for and provide transportation to dance lessons for a little girl.  A volunteer might offer to tutor a child in math.  Maybe a volunteer just wants to make a meal for a foster family when they receive a new child into their home.  There are many ways the Church needs to step-up and care for these foster and adoptive families and the children in their care.

    Through Fostering Faithful Families many more children in our foster care system will receive the love of a family and the love of Christ through that family.  Our faith-based community will be better educated about the needs within our city and within their own congregation.

    One Heart Family Ministries and Fostering Faithful Families has recently gotten the attention of Focus on the Family in Colorado Springs, CO.  Focus on the Family recently started an Orphan Care Initiative.  Their goal is to educate the Christian community about the orphans in our world, which include children in our foster care system in need of adoption.

    In November of 2008, Focus on the Family hosted an adoption recruitment event called “Wait No More.”  The event in Colorado Springs was attended by over 1,300 people who were interested in getting more information about adopting children in the Colorado state foster care system.  At the end of the conference, more than 260 families requested more information about adopting kids.  The conference was considered an unprecedented event for Colorado and extremely successful.

    Focus on the Family is currently planning to host a similar event in St. Louis in May of 2009.  Fostering Faithful Families and their collaboration of faith-based agencies along with representatives from the Missouri Children’s Division will be joining forces to make this a successful event in St. Louis.

    There are over 8,000 churches in Missouri.  As stated previously there are some 1,200 of God’s precious children in Missouri in need of an adoptive family.  If only 1,200 of our churches had one family adopt a child, we could solve the present crisis of our waiting children in Missouri.  God gave us the command to “love the orphan.”  Do you feel God calling you to care for these children in our community?  Could you open up your home and family to a child in need of foster care?  Could you open up your heart to adopt a child and provide the forever family they have been waiting for?  Could you be an ambassador at your church and tell others about this great need?  Could you provide a meal or respite for a foster/adoptive family?  There are many different ways big and small that we as Christians we can answer God’s call to minister to the orphans in our community.  “Do not merely listen to the Word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.” (James 1:22)

    For more information about One Heart Family Ministries or Fostering Faithful Families please call (314) 835-1690 or email Emily Nienhuis at egnienhuis@yahoo.com.