Thirteen-year-old Mary wakes up early on a Monday morning. Entering the kitchen, she begins making lunches for her ten-year-old brother and her five-year-old sister.
Peanut butter again. Stale bread. She brushes her sister’s hair, grabs book bags, and heads out the door. Mom didn’t come home again last night. It’s the third night in a row. “Keep moving forward,” she says to herself.
Mary is doing the best she can. The opioid crisis is her reality.
When Mom does come home, she sleeps a lot. Like a carousel, their home has a revolving door of strangers. Mary tries to stay in the background with her siblings hoping not to be noticed. Being noticed never turns out well.
Her teachers don’t know what is going on at home. She’s learned to divert attention from her family. She’s trained her siblings to do the same. If they speak up, Mom will get in trouble. They could be separated. As bad as life is, being separated from them would be worse. Mary and her siblings are voiceless.
This is a typical scenario for over 430,000 children who have been placed in foster care in the United States. Children in unsafe, vulnerable, voiceless situations are on the rise. Sadly, the opioid crisis is showing up in nearly every neighborhood. The statistics can be daunting. How can Southern Baptists make a difference with so many children in need?
Stop, and think about your own community. Consider this scenario. Every day, on average, the local child welfare agency has 260 children in care in your county. These children attend school with yours. They play with your children on the playground. They are neighbors in your communities. If your county is typical, only thirty-four families have stepped up to say they will care for the vulnerable and be foster or respite parents.
Christ tells us to love our neighbors. These voiceless children are your neighbors. How can you help? May is Foster Care Awareness Month. Everyone from preschoolers to senior saints can join to make a difference in the lives of children on the mission field called “my hometown.”
Collect diapers. Provide meals. Babysit. Lend a helping hand. Teach their Sunday School classes, and don’t be offended if they behave like children who have been through real trauma. Most importantly, pray! Ask the Lord to raise up believers who will be the hands and feet of Christ to care for vulnerable children. And don’t be afraid to say “Yes, Lord!” if He calls you to be a foster parent.
The bottom line is that Christ is the answer to this epidemic. He is able to save birth parents from a life of addiction, restore traumatized children, and heal families. Are you willing to love your neighbor? The problem is not going away. Rise up, Church. Be a voice for the voiceless.
As Scripture instructs us: Speak out on behalf of the voiceless, and for the rights of all who are vulnerable (Proverbs 31:8).
Learn more about how you and your church can become part of the foster care solution by visiting sendrelief.org/foster-care-adoption.
David Melber is president of NAMB’s Send Relief and is a member of First Baptist Church in Alpharetta, Georgia. This story was originally published in Baptist Press.