My mind is spinning from the conference this past weekend. I don’t think I really even knew how much I needed the encouragement. I wanted to go because I’m always wanting to learn more about foster care and adoption and I love to connect with others who “speak my language.” But I realized that I have been feeling a little weary coming off of the reunification of the kiddos. I know that foster care is exactly what we are supposed to be doing but the the encouragement we received at the conference was more affirmation. God has a heart for the Fatherless and I want my heart to be like His.
The worship was lead by Aaron Ivey and the worship team from The Austin Stone. The songs continually pointed us back to the real reason 1,000 people were gathered in Austin. We can love the fatherless because Christ first loved us. He bore our sin and made us His children, no longer lost; no longer orphans.
- Churches and ministry leaders are often obsessed with numbers. I know D is asked often how many kids are in our youth group. Gibbons challenged us to consider a new metric by which we measure our churches: zero. Zero orphans in your cities. Zero widows with unmet needs. Because what does it matter how many people were there on Sunday morning when there are hundreds of children in your city who will age out of foster care this year without anyone to call family and without anywhere to spend Christmas?
- Gibbons also unpacked James 1:27. Have you ever wondered how the two parts of this verse are connected? “Visiting widows and orphans in their affliction” and “keeping oneself unstained by the world” seem like separate thoughts. He pointed out that if you are stained by the world – materialistic, a worrier, idolizing yourself and the things of this world – you will be unable to care for those in need. You won’t even be able to see their hurt. Your heart will be closed off to God’s obvious call to “pure and undefiled religion”. Convicting, I know.
It was a privilege to hear from both of these women. Dr. Susan Hills is a the senior scientist for HIV research with the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. As if that isn’t impressive enough, she is also mom to ELEVEN kids (three biological, eight adopted from Eastern Europe). She told us about research she was a part of that showed that 20% or more of the 163 MILLION orphans worldwide will contract HIV. That is about 33 MILLION new cases of HIV in next five to ten years. She also encouraged us to pray and shared the story of a pastor from the Ukraine who began preaching around the country about the plight of the orphan. Ukraine reduced the number of orphans within their own country by 90% because the Ukrainian church began adopting them.
Dr. Karyn Purvis, author of The Connected Child and resource for Empowered to Connect, also spoke a few times at the conference. She is the director of the Texas Christian University Center for Child Development. I wish we could clone her and make sure every state had one of her for their foster care system. She is a gentle spirit who has worked with children from the hard places. She has seen it all and can make the hopeful statement that she has yet to meet a child that is unable to come to dramatic levels of healing. Dr. Purvis is passionate about the church adopting and adopting well.
It is no coincidence that God placed two of His followers in these importance positions of influence.
Other highlights for me…
- A discussion on honoring first families lead by Tara & Troy Livesay
- Hearing about Project 127 and the amazing things happening in Colorado’s foster care system from Robert Gelinas
- Connecting with foster parents (or prospective ones) during a breakout lead by Saint Fults (check out his idea, Radical Foster Parenting)
- Networking using the fun cards created by T & Heather
I have more to say about the two people I was able to spend time with during the conference and what the big “take home” was for me but those will have to come later this week.
*The pictures were taken by The Austin Stone Story Team