138 Dirksen Drive, DeBary, FL US 32713
The Orphan Care Ministry at The Bible Chapel is near to my own heart not just because I volunteer there with fostered and adopted children. It is near to my heart because I was a foster child.
When I was five and six years old, my home was broken. There were some challenging times—enough to where my sister and I were placed in foster care during that period in our lives. If you are a parent, it is probably difficult for you to imagine your children at that age away from you, not knowing when they can return to you, and not understanding why they had to leave your home. Needless to say, it was a scary and confusing time.
Today, 48 years later (I am 54 now), I can still remember nights when I cried myself to sleep, feeling alone and afraid. The foster home where I was placed for the longest period of time was not one where Jesus was at the center. The foster mom who cared for us drank a lot, and alcohol has a way of bringing out some unflattering sides of people. I just know that had I been in the home of a loving family like the ones we have at The Bible Chapel, where Jesus is loved and honored, it would have made all the difference. I am convinced that I would have been ministered to in a way that would have positively impacted me in my time of need.
As an adult, one of the Scriptures that is most meaningful to me is the classic verse most often associated with orphan care: James 1:27, which reads "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."
To me, this verse is particularly compelling because it may be one of the few—if not the only—verses in the Bible that gives specific guidelines for what "pure and faultless" God-accepted religion is.
Stop for a second and consider that point.
It’s not only in the New Testament that we see God’s care for the orphan. The Old Testament also clearly outlines God’s mandate that we identify with and minister to orphans. A few scriptures to ponder include the following (the emphasis is mine):
- "This is what the LORD Almighty said: administer true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another. Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the foreigner or the poor" (Zechariah 7:9-10).
- "Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow" (Isaiah 1:17).
- In Psalm 68:5, God describes Himself as "…a father to the fatherless, and a defender of widows."
Returning to the New Testament, I am drawn to Matthew 25. While this Scripture does not mention orphans specifically, I cannot help but believe that when Jesus is speaking about ministering to "the least of these" and being "a stranger and you invited me in," he is including the orphan, who so often is the least, and so often a stranger, in whatever setting he or she lands.
In his powerful sermon "Doing Justice and Mercy," Tim Keller observes that from these Scriptures, it is clear that God identifies with the poor, marginalized, and oppressed—the orphan is all of these—and that God desires for us to do so as well. Using God’s words in Isaiah 58:6-7, Keller goes on to challenge believers that if we are not caring for the poor or the oppressed in some way, then we may not know God as we think we do. Keller acknowledges that this thought would have been startling to the religious people of the day, and it may be startling to many of us, too. But God cares for the fatherless so passionately that to overlook doing so in our own lives is to miss this about him.
At The Bible Chapel, we have a great way for you to become close to and take up the cause of the orphan: our Orphan Care Ministry. Whether you take the step of fostering a child in need of a temporary home, or adopting a child who needs a forever home, or simply helping to support the families who are doing these things, there are many ways to for you to jump in and get close to the orphans to whom God is so close.
In fact, you can learn a little more about the Orphan Care Ministry at our Celebration Luncheon on Sunday, November 6, at 12:30 p.m. at the South Hills Campus. We will be celebrating the foster and adoptive families in our congregation, and we’ll also be available to answer any questions you have about this ministry. We hope to see you there!
May God bless you greatly!
John Porcari is a volunteer leader in the Orphan Care Ministry at The Bible Chapel.