Too often, children are torn from their moms and familiar living spaces simply because they have ended up in a place with no furniture and no food. Having no choice but to follow the rules, the social worker’s only option is to literally tear crying children out of the arms of their mothers and deposit them into the homes of total strangers—I say “homes,” plural, because too many times, brothers and sisters are taken to different foster homes. Can you imagine being torn away from your mom and then torn away from your brother or sister with little or no explanation? It is heartbreaking to witness this kind of pain searing the very hearts of those we’re supposed to protect.
Now, picture someone showing up before the social worker got there, with two bags of groceries…and suppose a local church had collected a couple of twin beds and delivered them to mom ahead of the social workers visit? Coordinating these simple acts could allow the social worker to leave the struggling family intact. These simple acts could have an impact that could be life changing. The amount of pain, fear, and damage that could be averted, is immeasurable.
Child Sex Trafficking
Even though past experience allows us to identify the kids who are most likely to be targeted and groomed by traffickers, it barely scratches the surface of what we can do to intervene. We know that foster kids are compliant victims because of the lengths they will go to in order to feel wanted and to fit in. We know also that kids who are homeless are typically approached by a trafficker within 48 hours of being homeless. We have seen how, by the third or fourth time the trafficker approaches them, usually with a burger and fries, the hungry kid goes with the trafficker.
What if Christians, with the same dedication and tenacity exhibited by the trafficker, were the ones to cross paths with these kids before the trafficker got there? The opportunity to tell these precious kids that they are valuable and wanted, and that there is a good purpose for their lives, could be exponentially impactful. Why aren’t Christians the ones out roaming the parks and the malls with a burger and fries ready to be given to a kid whose vulnerability starts with being alone and hungry? This simple act of getting out ahead of this known predatory evil offers a real chance of avoiding the soul-killing experience of being bought and sold.
Except for hurricanes and other unpreventable natural disasters, homelessness usually doesn’t just suddenly happen. It’s often foreseeable. Dad loses his job. He can’t pay the rent. They have no family or friends who can help. They’re embarrassed. They live on credit cards for a while as they scramble to cut back, sell something, and try to find jobs. Their cars get repossessed, and the next thing you know, they’re evicted.
When people feel as though they have no options, depression turns to despair, and despair often, tragically, turns to suicide. Some people figure out how to hang onto a car to live in, to shower at the gym, and to keep putting one foot in front of the other. Others try to “couch surf” at the houses of friends, which is not an easy thing for a family.
What if the local church offered regular workshops on starting your own business, and a quarterly job fair, and regular YOUR REAL SUCCESS© classes to teach work ethic, character building, and using your strengths to help others so that graduates of those classes were sought after employees by local businesses? The whole humiliating experience of being jobless and homeless, and the very difficult process of rebuilding, could be avoided or could even become a turning point toward the fulfillment of the good plans for the lives of everyone involved.
According to the CDC, children who witness violence are more likely to be victims of violence in some other setting. They’re also more likely to grow up to be violent abusers. We know that people who abuse spouses and children were most likely abused themselves. This lifestyle appears to be a runaway horse, insurmountable and out of control. Where to start? Imagine the impact Christians could have if they were able to acknowledge this behavior in a non-judgmental way and show abusers, through their examples and mentoring, how to break these cycles and actually heal? What if Christians showed everyone, up close and personal, how to resolve conflict, how to make better choices, and consequently, to live with peace and joy? Believing that you can alleviate even the tiniest effect of this generational conduit of pain can become the driving force that launches the beginning of the end of these destructive behaviors.
A lot of the drug and alcohol abuse isn’t simply “recreational.” People use their “go-to” drug-of-choice to get their minds off their pain. But what if the source of the pain was dealt with so that people didn’t feel the need to escape through self-medication? What if people discovered that it was possible to be truly happy and to not need a distraction or pain-killer? What would it be worth to at least attempt to be the one to introduce love, understanding, and a sense of belonging into the lives of people who desperately need it? Replacing the liquor store special or the dealer on the corner with the simple interaction of, “I understand” and “You are not alone in this, and there is hope and help” has the potential to replace the current practice of moms and dads being drunk, high or just out of it. Connecting with people in healthy relationships is a great start to alleviating the pain and stopping the cycle of substance abuse!
The good news is that in some places, Christians ARE getting there first!
In places where the community has organized ways for people to connect with one another, many tragedies, like the ones mentioned here and more, are already being averted. Volunteers report that their lives are enriched just as much as those who are helped. Everyone wins!
Mariners Church in Irvine, California, one of the pioneer participants of the Orange County, CA Faith In Motion (FIM) group, cleaned out a storage room to take in donations of furniture, kitchen items, clothing, and diapers for anyone in the community who needs them. Over the years, they’ve expanded their “closet” to the size of a small warehouse! The Rock church has a group of people who create decorated “shoe boxes” full of goodies for social workers to give to children who are entering the foster care system. Saddleback Church, well known for Rick Warren’s Purpose Driven Life, the birthplace of the Celebrate Recovery program, and more, has a group of ladies who create “hygiene bags” for social workers to give teens who are entering the foster care system. Other churches encourage social workers through their “adopt a social worker” ministry. Calvary Church in Santa Ana, California is a home of the Safe Families For Children program, where families take children for an average of 45 days to give moms and dads a chance to get on their feet without losing their children to the foster care system. Mission Viejo Christian Church is part of Royal Family Kids, which takes foster kids to camp for a week every summer, often changing the trajectory of their lives by exposing them to what it feels like to be a part of a big, healthy family.
These types of community initiatives are going strong in Arkansas, Idaho, Minnesota, and are springing up in communities throughout the US. The people involved in these various ministries share countless stories of seeing siblings separated by foster care being reunited at summer camp, families in distress being strengthened, social workers having the strength to keep going, and kids entering the unknown of foster care being encouraged and better able to handle what comes next. Hearing of the effectiveness of these community outreaches, we can undeniably acknowledge that we have the resources to make a substantive difference in the lives of the people suffering in our communities. In fact, we are the resources.
When regular people, through faith-based organizations, ministries, and businesses, are able to channel their desire to help through Faith IS Motion-type Community Initiatives, families are healed, kids are mentored and tutored, and tragedy is averted. Through the national Faith IS Motion Community Initiative, Christians ARE getting there first!