By Krystal Ribble
You know the age old saying: “It takes a village to raise a child?” There’s debate whether this was derived from an ancient African proverb or a Native American tribe. In my opinion, whomever said it first was the wisest of all family experts.
Until I was a mom, I never understood the core of what this saying means. Present day, I need every single member of my tribe to keep this family of four afloat.
I’m just being honest. I want to have all the skills and Jedi mind tricks to raise these children right and love my husband well. But if my tribe doesn’t step in and give me the third, fourth, and sometimes 18th hand I need, I would fall short of Super Mom.
Like most Christians, our church is a massive part of our family. The people in our church are the people who share our core belief system, the people we do life with on a regular basis, and the people we trust our children with. Shouldn’t these people be the ones who support us best?
When we started our journey to adopt, we had mixed reviews from people who were a part of our church tribe. Most of them were positive and supportive, but some of them were reserved and distant.
I learned quickly that when a family steps out to adopt or foster in their homes, they need their church in exponential ways.
Here are four ways the church can show up for adoptive and foster families.
1. Bring them meals.
One of the truest signs to me of Jesus is when I am cooked for or when I eat a meal with those I love. This is what Jesus did; he ate meals with people.
When I had my baby, a meal train was formed and everyone brought us meals to help with the transition.
Adoptive and foster families need the same gesture. They are just as overwhelmed and just as tired as a new biological mama and papa.
Show up for them and fill their bellies so their Kingdom work is just a little bit easier to handle.
2. Celebrate their children like you would your own.
I wish I could say that my adopted son has always been celebrated in his church group. He hasn’t. Sometimes he is misunderstood and sometimes other church members say innocent things about him they think are normal comments, but they are hurtful. Most of the time these comments are made simply because he isn’t my biological son.
We can do better than this.
We can celebrate these kiddos for the milestones they make and the successes they have because they are just as hard earned as anyone else’s biological child.
Everyone needs to know they are the beloved of Christ and this can begin with the church body.
3. Create safe places for them.
Adoptive and foster families are dealing with mountains of unsafe places; from their children’s pasts to people’s opinions who do not understand the lifestyle they live with these precious children.
Safety can begin to feel like a commodity.
Be a safe place for them to land.
Ask mom out to lunch, ask dad out for golf on the weekend, ask to take one of the kiddos for a play date, or just simply ask if they are doing well and be willing to listen intently.
These spaces will create a soft place to land for weary hearts and a feeling of unwavering security.
4. Learn from them.
As an adoptive parent (who can remember when she wasn’t an adoptive parent), I remember when I did not understand, as well as I do now, what it means to be adopted into God’s family. I now have a better sense of what it means when we are adopted into God’s family which then gives us the full rights to all He is and all He owns.
My son is fully mine and I am fully his in a way that only a miracle could paint. These families have a front row seat to a side of the Kingdom we rarely get to see.
Gather close to them, learn from their lessons, and seek to understand their children. You will find Jesus in ways you have never seen Him before.
When you value their journeys, you help validate their decisions and encourage their path.
The church should be the safe haven for all of God’s children, no matter the road they walked to get there. What is God calling you to do on behalf of His orphans and widows?
Pure and undefiled religion before God the Father is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself unstained from the world (James 1:27).
KRYSTAL RIBBLE is a college minister, a freelance writer, and speaker living in Nashville, Tennessee. She is a wife, a #boymom of two, and spends her free time on both domestic and international adoption advocacy.