For three days last week, I visited a foreign land. Or at least one that felt pretty foreign to me. I had spent a few years studying the language and the people of this foreign land. But upon entering, I realized that my studies had really only touched the surface of what motivates and drives its inhabitants and the depth of the resources available.
Did I take a 15-hour flight to reach this strange land? Nope. I drove just three hours south into Kentucky. As strange as the state to our south can seem to many, it wasn’t specifically Kentucky that I had entered into. It was the Christian Alliance for Orphans 2019 Summit. At the summit, I was overwhelmed by the 2,000 attendees, the dozens and dozens of workshops, the meetups, and the coaching tables that covered every aspect of caring for orphaned and vulnerable children.
Thankfully, I had a couple of guides into this foreign land. Tonya Small, our missionary to orphaned and vulnerable children, was my primary guide. My wife, Jessica, joined me. Our group from Kossuth was also joined by a board member from Bethesda Outreach Ministries, his wife, and a staff member from Bethesda.
Our group went on this trip in part to connect to each other and in part to refresh our enthusiasm for orphan care. But a large part of our reason for going was to ask God to show us how Kossuth’s role in caring for orphans might increase. While there is already a surprising amount going on, I was also greatly encouraged. We found some models for us as a church that could be used locally in Lafayette. We also saw some opportunities that we might uniquely be gifted to address regionally and beyond.
There were beautiful things and there were broken things. We heard stories from adults who had been adopted as children. We heard a story from a birth mom. We heard stories from foster moms and dads as well as pastors, musicians, and businessmen who all have some role in the care of a vulnerable child. There were tears of joy and tears of sorrow. We should expect nothing less than brokenness and beauty in this arena. The beautiful is a reminder of our Creator God and his work. The broken is a reminder of sin, our sin, and its effects on all of God’s creation.
Since returning, our group has done a little reflection on the conference and some daydreaming of what even the next few months of vulnerable children care ministry development might be. We are encouraged by the culture that already exists at Kossuth. We talked to many folks from churches where this culture doesn’t exist: for example, churches of thousands of people with only two adoptive families. I expect that the work God has for Kossuth is less about stirring up an awakening to his command to love the most vulnerable and more about organizing, equipping, and accelerating the stirring that many of you already have. For that, we are very thankful—and also, quite honestly, a bit overwhelmed. But we don’t depend on our own efforts. We have the help of his Spirit and the help of each other.
Our first action item out of the conference is to do a bit of a survey of the current efforts in our body related to adoption and foster care. If you are or have been involved in foster care or adoption, would you send an email to Tonya Small at firstname.lastname@example.org? (Even if Tonya already knows about your efforts, please still send her that email.) As a church we want to learn what we can keep doing or do better to support those of you who are already serving in these ways.
If you are doing something other than foster care or adoption, hold on—we’re coming for you later!
Map of vulnerable children ministries represented at CAFO 2019