Where do I belong?
Where do you feel like you most belong?
We’ve all had those moments where we feel out of place. For many people, it is when they visit a church for the first time. Maybe it was your first day at the new job and you were still a bit unsure of where to go or what exactly you are supposed to do. I remember the first time my wife sent me out to buy “woman stuff.” I was standing in the pharmacy feeling VERY out of place.
The nice thing is that after the service, after that first day of work or after checking out, we can rush to the car and go home. We belong at home. We belong in the family. So even when we bounce out into the world of the unknown and venture to places where we might feel that we don’t belong, we are anchored by the fact that we will soon bounce back to the familiar. To where we are truly home.
Let me ask you a more personal question. Where do your kids belong? Where do they bounce back to? For a lot of our kids, that place will be home. In spite of thinking that mom and dad are trying to destroy every bit of my happiness and in spite of the veneer of strength and defiance that can sometime emerge in the teenage years, deep down, most of our kids feel safe, comfortable and loved at home. But for some kids, home is not belonging. Home is not where they feel safe.
Jackie and I have been missionaries in Paraguay since 2005. For years we worked very hard at giving children and teens a safe place to live at an orphanage, children’s village or whatever you want to call it. We poured our hearts into the ministry. We lived with our biological children on the campus and were on call 24-7. Our investment in the lives of those precious kiddos was not just financial but truly blood, sweat and tears.
But when we became foster parents, our perspective began to change. We lived in the paradigm of orphan care in orphanages. We can rescue them, and feed them, and give them clothes from the states. However, the one thing we could not effectively give 35 young people was the sense of belonging.
Innumerable times we heard the kids introduce themselves or be introduced with the phrase “del hogar” or “of the home.” I am Brian son of Scott and Helen, but they were José or Maria of the children’s home. Their identity is wrapped up in belonging to an organization and not a person.
As Christians, we hold to the truth that our identity has been remade by Jesus having made us sons and daughters of God. We belong to Jesus. We are at home in Him.
What would it look like if we began to be intentional in pursuing the reflection of this Spiritual reality in the lives of the orphaned and vulnerable kids around us? What if our goals for the orphaned of third-world countries matched those we have for our biological children?
There is a uniqueness to the responsibility of the church in the care of the orphaned and vulnerable. Though clearly governments must be involved, Scripture indicates that as Christians we must take an active role. My heart is full of hope when I see the progress the American church has made in the last 15 years in promoting foster care and adoption. I am confident that Paraguay will soon be an example throughout the developing world.
So how can we help these children find their sense of belonging? May I suggest a few things for your church? Actively promote foster care and adoption. Each November, churches in over 90 countries celebrate Orphan Sunday or Stand Sunday where we pray for the precious kiddos in need all around us, preach about God’s heart for them or in many other ways emphasize the need. For those who aren’t led to foster or adopt, they can become a SAFE family and watch the kids on weekends or babysit so the parents can go on a date and recharge their batteries. Churches can collect diapers, cribs, clothing and school supplies for those families that decide to open their home and heart. Churches can pursue becoming a safe and loving place where these kids aren’t “in the system” or “del hogar” but just kids who are loved. Kids who belong. Children belong in families.