As Christ followers, one of the most practical and biblical ways that we can express our commitment to life is to open our homes and care for children and young people who have been abandoned, abused and neglected. Over the last 11 years, my wife, Alicia, and I have been privileged to welcome more than 40 children into our home. Seven of those young people have stayed with us and are now a part of our ‘forever family.’ We like to call ourselves the #JohnsonDozen. I assure you, there is rarely a dull moment in our home! Sometimes, it cracks me up to see and hear the reactions when people hear what we do or how big our family is.
In many different settings and in several different states, we have had the tremendous opportunity to share the story of how God is at work in our lives. So often we hear comments like these: “We could never do what you do. You are such angels.” One of my favorites is, “Are you crazy?” To which I simply answer, “Yep!”
Frankly, we do not see ourselves as anything special. We are just a normal family that — until recently — had no idea of the need for quality foster parents and adoptive homes. Once we were confronted with this tremendous need and once we sensed the calling of God to help meet this need, there was no way we could stay on the sidelines.
This journey called foster care has certainly led us down an uneasy path of pain, heartache and struggle; however, we would not trade this journey for anything. The many things we have learned could never fully be expressed — answering this need has transformed into incredible opportunities for the kingdom of God.
We began fostering to help meet the need, but we continued fostering because of the opportunity. God has given us the incredible opportunity to make a gospel impact in the lives of the children who have passed through our home, as well as in the families to which they have returned.
We also have had the opportunity to add to our family seven amazing young people who are going to accomplish incredible things with their lives to the glory of our Heavenly Father. Had we continued to turn a blind eye or bury our heads in the sand, we would have missed out on so much.
Being a foster and adoptive family has provided for us, and will give you, at least three great opportunities:
1. Fostering and adopting provides a way to live out your faith before God.
James 1:27 tells us, “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” This is the primary verse that God used to call us to this opportunity. The modern day orphan in our community is the foster child. The call to visit orphans in their affliction is a call to step into their brokenness and pain, to join them in their struggle, just as Christ did for us when we were lost and hopeless in our sin.
There is no greater way to live out our faith in God than to provide care for those who are the most vulnerable. We are most like our Heavenly Father when we are helping those who have nothing to give in return.
2. Fostering and adopting provides a way to help others.
The children in foster care, along with their biological families, need support, encouragement, training and so much more. Ultimately, they need to see the gospel, the love of Christ, lived out in front of them and shared with them. They are desperate for grace and mercy.
What a joy it is to see them completely broken when they come to you — but then be in a better place when they leave your home. What an honor it is to help a mom or dad find value and worth in their life and gain the knowledge and understanding they need to appropriately parent their child. Unfortunately, you cannot help every one of them as much as you would like, and sometimes family restoration is not possible; however, you have the opportunity to allow God to use you in an amazing way.
3. Fostering and adopting provides a way for you to be changed.
I must admit that we started fostering with the intent of changing and helping others, but it did not take us long to see how being a foster family changed us.
The truth is that we all are broken in some way. We all are in need of healing. As you strive to help others, you become acutely aware of your own needs. God uses this awareness and uses the children in your care to soften, heal and change you. You develop greater depths of compassion beyond what you thought to be possible.
When I have the opportunity to speak before others, I regularly say that we are just an ordinary family serving an extraordinary God! We are blessed beyond measure with opportunities to see God work in and through us to make a difference in our community and an impact on the next generation. As all of us just make ourselves available, God will do more in and through us than we could ever imagine.
Will you prayerfully consider whether or not God is calling you to be a foster or adoptive parent?
What can you do to help, support or encourage a foster or adoptive family in your church or community?