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The church isn't an organization or a building. The church is a family—God’s family, filled with redeemed sinners that are now his children because of Jesus.
Just like a vine grows best with a good trellis, our church family grows best with good programs. Our programs and ministries are tailored to support the community and mission God has given us.
“No matter how much I think I love these kids, God loves them more.”
“No matter how much I think I love these kids, God loves them more.”
“You are so nice and make us feel safe.”
These were the words written on a note given to me from a 12-year-old girl who just spent a week at Royal Family Kids camp, a summer camp for foster children hosted by our church.
Each time I think about this note, one heartbreaking thought rings through my mind: What 12-year-old should have to write something like this? What experiences has she suffered through that not only taught her to know the difference between feeling safe and unsafe, but also familiarized her enough to communicate it? I wonder, when I was 12, what was I thinking about? Was I wondering what my friends and I would do that weekend? Or daydreaming about a boy I had a crush on? I definitely did not wonder if I would feel safe each day.
Another little girl I met at Royal Family Kids camp this summer made a significant impact on me. I don’t know the details of her past or why she is in the foster system, but what I did see was the deeply rooted effects her trauma had on her psyche and personality. She was an 8-year-old who frequently verbalized her desire to die, her desire for others to be dead, or her desire to inflict harm on them. When she drew pictures, they were bloody, violent images. Again, I ask: what 8-year-old should have to think of these things? What has she seen? What has she experienced? Is there any hope for her to grow into a thriving adult with a successful future?
I wish I could fully articulate all the ways I’ve seen how abuse and trauma affects children, and how much I believe they need consistent adult role models and relationships to help them heal. But the truth is, the best way to understand this is to meet and spend time with them.
A few weeks ago, Pastor Brian preached about facing - and living in - uncomfortable realities. In the past 6 years, I have wrestled deeply with facing the uncomfortable reality that there are more than 30,000 children in Los Angeles that are removed from their homes because of abuse they’ve suffered at the hands of the people who are supposed to care for them. And to make “accepting” this reality even more complicated, how could I also reconcile this with the fact that God is also perfectly Good and Loving?
Although I still wrestle with these questions even after 6 years of mentoring foster kids, I would love to offer a few thoughts on what I’ve learned and how these lessons have drawn me closer to Christ and helped me understand God’s love for the foster community.
First, I have learned that however severely these children have suffered and will suffer, Christ’s suffering on the cross was far greater.
In the moments right before Jesus took his last breath, he cried out “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46). In that moment, as Jesus Christ took the full wrath of God on our behalf for our sins, the presence of the Father’s goodness, gentleness, love, and mercy was not with him. Christ experienced only wrath. No matter how much pain is in my own suffering or the suffering of others on this earth, God’s grace is always extended to us. Only Christ has incurred the full extent of God’s wrath, anger, punishment, without grace. This is a level of pain and anguish that no other person will ever understand or experience.
This first lesson is important because it is fundamental to the second lesson I’ve learned: no matter how much I think I love these kids, God loves them more. In fact, the bible tells us He knows each of them by name (John 10:3). I have wept bitter, bitter tears many times after coming home from a difficult day of mentoring and hearing about these kids’ lives. God tells us “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world” (James 1:27). When I read that verse, I can hear God’s own heart breaking as he looks upon orphans. He implores us in this verse to understand that a true, pure love of God is to visit with afflicted children that have no one to show them love.
Lastly, one of the most difficult lessons that I’ve been learning over and over:
I can (and probably should) be a helper, but I will never be the healer.
Helping is important. The intent of this post is not to make you feel guilty that you haven’t gone out and adopted 10 orphans or even make you feel guilty that you’ve never once considered meeting a foster child. The intent is simply to first encourage you to not look away from the problem, but to pray and ask: Is God calling me to help? Given my circumstances and day-to-day capacity, what are the appropriate and realistic ways I can help?
Helping is important, but healing is not our responsibility. The Bible tells us many times that God is our great healer (Psalm 147:3, Mark 2:17). This should be a tremendous comfort to us, because if healing was our responsibility, that would be a terribly heavy burden to bear (and an impossible task). God is the only one who knows what these kids need deep in their souls and is the only one who can give this medicine. We are simply vessels of God’s love. When I truly meditate on the call that all God is asking of us is to love these kids, what joy fills my heart. What a privilege it is to give a child love who has known only pain.
I have seen God heal these little hearts in miraculous ways; and I have seen foster children encounter God, be transformed by His love, and choose to follow Him. I look forward with eager, hope-filled anticipation to the day God has promised that he will heal the pain of the world forever (Revelation 21:4).
The hope I have for the city of Los Angeles is that we would have a growing community of people who want to invest in the foster community. If you are curious at all about what types of opportunities there are to help, you can read more about them below.
Foster Family Christmas Party
On Saturday, December 8, 2018, Cornerstone will be inviting this past summer’s Royal Family Kids campers and their families to enjoy some holiday fun and receive gifts! If you are interested in volunteering, please contact Molly Winston. (Note: This is not an official RFK event.)
Royal Family Kids Camp
Royal Family Kids Camp is a 5-day summer camp for foster kids who live in Los Angeles. Join us next summer 2019! Become a camp counselor or volunteer for a day! If you are interested in learning more, contact Leslie Kosier.
Don’t have time to volunteer? That’s alright! Donating resources goes a long way. You can donate resources to many organizations in Los Angeles, including Royal Family Kids Camp. If you would like to donate to camp, add your donation to the offering plate with "RFKC" written on the memo, or contact Leslie Kosier.
Become a Mentor
There are many organizations in the city of Los Angeles that offer mentorship to foster children. A simple internet search can open the door to learning more about the many options out there! If you are interested in hearing more about what it means to mentor a foster child, you can contact Leslie Kosier.
Become a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA)
A Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) is a trained, dedicated and caring community volunteer, who is assigned to work one-on-one with a child in the foster care system. CASA volunteers are sworn in by a dependency court judge to advocate for what is in the child’s best interest. With legal standing to fully investigate a child’s circumstances, CASA volunteers make recommendations to the court regarding how the system and community can best serve and support the child. If you are interested in hearing more about what it means to be a CASA, you can contact Amy Carbo.
Foster or Adopt a Child
Learn more about foster care and get certified to care for a foster child as their legal guardian. If you are interested in understanding more about what it means to be a foster parent, you can contact Pastor Brian Colmery.
Prayer is the most powerful way we can help. Educate yourself on their needs, talk to others who are involved in the community, and pray for them.
Leslie is a member of Cornerstone and serves the church in musical worship and by leading a community group.
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