I have always been an avid reader. Historical literature is one of my favorite genres, and as a child I read every book about the Holocaust that I could find. Even then, I was continually haunted by the question of “What would I do?” My quick answer was that I would have sacrificed to help others. But as much as I want to believe that I would have done that, would I? There is no way to absolutely know. But what I can do is ask, “Am I sacrificing for anyone around me now?”
One of the justifications that many people had for their apathy during the Holocaust was that they feared for their safety, particularly the safety of their children, and felt their sacrifice would be fruitless. Any parent can understand those feelings. Yet our faith calls us to sacrifice for others, taking up our cross and following Him (Matthew 16:24). In fact, James 1:27 says, “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God and the Father is this: to care for orphans and widows in their affliction and to keep oneself unstained by the world.”
Widows I can make sense of, but what about orphans? The Annie-type orphanages of the past, housing a bunch of kids without parents, don’t exist in this exact form anymore in our country. But what we do have—twelve thousand in Georgia alone—are children in foster care. Many families have opened up their homes and hearts to these children, but many of us are haunted with questions like, “Do I have what it takes to love a child who is not my own?” or “Will this have a negative effect on my children?” or “Could I handle it when a child was taken away from me?”
These responses remind me of the response that many had during the Holocaust, and countless other times throughout history, when a group of people were disenfranchised, persecuted or killed, and others, even Christians, did nothing. Doing nothing for foster children will only continue the sad, current trends of lack of education, homelessness and incarceration for those who do not find permanent homes during their childhood. Our treatment of these children will forever impact the type of men and women they can become. Are we called to serve these children? According to James, we are.
Becoming a foster parent is one amazing way to put faith into action, yet many have legitimate circumstances that may not make this possible. There are many organizations that support these children in other ways. CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) is one such organization that allows community members to mentor these children and speak out for them in court. Camp to Belong Georgia gives volunteers the opportunity to be a counselor at a week-long camp for siblings placed in separate homes. Fostering Life is a newly founded organization that hosts birthday parties for children living in group homes and develops relationships with these youth to encourage them to set goals and meet them.
I don’t know what God is calling you to, but sometimes we don’t even ask. Who are the widows and orphans God is calling you to serve? His calling often comes with a cost, but any doubts we have about our inability to follow this call only make us more dependent on the leading of the Holy Spirit, the love of God and the self-sacrifice of Christ. Don’t live your life asking what you would have done, and ask God what He wants you to do and just do it.