As I came into the office, I saw the young girl lying on the office couch on her overstuffed lion-pillow, clutching an old, ragged doll. At her feet was a large tattered trash sack that had all of her earthly belongings like her clothing, socks, and jeans. The trash sack had several holes in it and some of her clothing was hanging out of them. I introduced myself to her and as I spoke with her case manager, she wiped the sleep out of her eyes. She was going to another home…a foster home…and leaving her old home behind. Her father had abandoned her and her mother when she was born and now the mother confessed that she could not even take care of herself and so how could she take care of a child? This is just another story that happens just about every day at the foster care agency that I work for. As a bi-vocational pastor of a small church, I am forced to work to support myself and so I work with children in foster care. Some of the most heartbreaking experiences I have ever seen in my life have to do with the children that I work with. Here are a few examples of what I have seen in my encounters with these little ones that are so precious to our Lord.
A seven year old girl once asked me if I could be her daddy since her father was gone. She also asked me if she could tell me “I love you.” I told her of course you can. As a father and grandfather, I understand that Jesus loves these little ones and rebuked His disciples once for trying to prevent them from coming to Him. In Matthew 19:14 He told the disciples, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.” One thing about children is that they are so tender hearted. They are very trusting and this why that are often taken advantage of. The importance of being able to witness to these children is so important. They have not yet hardened their hearts, they have not had time to become cynical to the ways of the world, they remain open and pliable to the teachings of the Bible, and they are so trusting that it makes me ashamed of my own disbelief at times. This may be why Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it” (Mark 10:15).
These foster children have often been through more pain and suffering than adults will experience in a lifetime. One child had said his father had committed suicide. Another little boy who I took to visit his father found out that he was a no-show. One girl I took to visit her mom found out that she had been thrown in jail. Other children came from physically and sometimes sexually abusive homes, others came from alcoholic homes, and homes where drug abuse had occurred. One little child witnessed his mother being beaten time and again. Sadly, these children often blame themselves even though they are not responsible. It is a dangerous thing to abuse or hurt children in any way as Jesus warned in Luke 17:2 “It would be better for them to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around their neck than to cause one of these little ones to stumble.” The sea is a picture or image of death and to have a millstone tied around a person’s neck is to mean that they will not come back from such an offense as this, provided they have not repented from it.
We know that children are a gift of God and a blessing from the Lord as we can see from Scripture, “Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one's youth. Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them! He shall not be put to shame when he speaks with his enemies in the gate” (Psalm 127:3-5). After the disciples had been arguing about who is the greatest, “the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matt 18:1-3).
The young girl I wrote about in the beginning of this story is who Jesus is speaking about. As I picked up her trash bag full of clothing, I noticed that her clothes were soiled, were too big for her and they had holes in them as well. She clung tightly to that little doll holding her close to her chest and tenderly spoke with in reassuring tones that “We‘re going to a new home. It‘ll be okay.” My heart ached for her and I had to admit that I cried while trying not to let her see me so as to not upset her. Oh these little ones, so young, tender, and innocent. It is so hard to see them suffer. I wonder if its God’s providence that I get to work with them for I myself had a father abandon me and when I was young and my own mother didn’t want me, so I can understand the pain that these children go through. I have Bible story books that I carry with me so that they can read during our travels to their new homes. The books I carry provide examples of God’s love in different stories in the Bible. I even have 5 talking books that actually read the stories to them, page by page.
I can not solve these children’s problems. I can only offer them the hope of a brighter future. I tell them that Jesus loves children. I once sang to a little girl who effectively had no father the song, “Jesus Loves the Little Children.” Someday some of these children will behold the face of the Lord. I pray that I can plant a seed that will later emerge into a child of God. I pray that the Word of God, given by a man of God, can mix with the Spirit of God…and produce more children of God, “for such is the kingdom of heaven.”
Jack Wellman is Senior Writer at What Christians Want to Know whose mission is to equip, encourage, and energize Christians and to address questions about the believer’s daily walk with God and the Bible.