This is a guest post from Ben Steele; I’m trading spaces with him today! Ben lives, works, and learns in Auburn, AL. His job as a machinist and welder is the patron of his true passions: teaching the Bible, and loving and leading God’s people. Ben writes for young men making their way as spiritual leaders at BigHairyDeal.net. Connect with him on Twitter @thebensteele.
Stop by and check out my post, Fathers, at Ben’s site, and welcome him as he visits our little riverbank.
When Christine first invited me to post on her blog I was pretty excited but I wondered what I might have to share with her audience that would be valuable. I sent her an email that asked, “How can a young single guy best serve a community centered on adopted family?”
She wrote back, “How CAN a single guy serve the adoption/orphan care community?”
See how she showed me I had already asked exactly the right question? It’s tough for us bachelors to get involved with much of anything that has to do with kids. Most of us don’t have the natural bent towards building relationships with children that women do. If any of us do have that tendency it seems out of place, unexpected. We’re not sure how to live it out. That’s not just me, is it?
So how did I end up wanting to work in orphan care? How did I make it happen? I’ll tell you.
Take a look at this excerpt from an article written by Katie Davis about her move to Uganda. You can read the entire article here.
Slowly but surely I began to realize the truth: I had loved and admired and worshiped Jesus without doing what He said. This recognition didn’t happen overnight; in fact I believe it was happening in my heart long before I even knew it…It was happening in so many ways, and I couldn’t deny it. I wanted to actually do what Jesus said to do.
So I quit my life.
… I quit college; I quit cute designer clothes and my little yellow convertible; I quit my boyfriend. I no longer have all the things the world says are important. I do not have a retirement fund; I do not even have electricity some days. But I have everything I know is important. I have a joy and a peace that are unimaginable and can come only from a place better than this earth. I cannot fathom being happier. Jesus wrecked my life, shattered it to pieces, and put it back together more beautifully.
I read those words on a spring evening, alone in my living room, and was thoroughly unsettled. This was a verifiably sincere 20-something year old woman calmly, deliberately telling me that my average life and pint-sized dreams were not adequate. She had come to believe that she was made for more and, as I read, I was compelled to believe that I was too.
My sense of satisfaction had been revamped. I knew I had to find a way to reach out past myself and be Jesus to my community.
Katie’s blog and other voices that began to chime in told me about the orphan. They also told me that I could matter. I could make a difference. I don’t suppose I really believed them at first but the more I gave them an audience the more their words began to spur me on.
My Secret Weapon
But then I had to figure out what to…you know…do. And that wasn’t easy. I didn’t really know where to start. My church didn’t have an established program for serving orphans and I didn’t know of any in my community.
It turns out I had a secret weapon without even realizing it: I had a friend who had an adopted daughter.
I had not thought of this, but people who have adoption in their family, they know orphan care. If you want to get involved, talk to these people. They can, and often will, tell you way more than you want to know. I think, just from observation, that once you take a child into your home it changes you. Haven’t you ever noticed that most families who foster or adopt don’t do it just once? So over time they become the experts. They can hook you up.
I didn’t think to talk to my friend but as providence would have it he opened the door for me anyway. While telling his family’s story at a local church he mentioned a foster care support ministry called Big House Foundation. A few days later I sent them an email asking how I could help.
How to Get Started
As I reflect on what the experience was like going forward I recall a lot of discomfort and anxiety. Remember, I’m a single guy and I’ve noticed that people don’t expect me to want to work with kids. I guess I felt awkward about the whole thing. If that describes you at all, I thought of a few things it might be helpful for you to do.
1. Feel the tinge of discomfort as you read about the plight of the orphan.
Don’t click away. Don’t turn the TV on or put your earphones in. Don’t do any of the things we do that numb our sense of the gut-wrenching need.
Will you read Psalm 40:1 with me? It says of God, “he turned to me and heard my cry.” The trusty King James says “he inclined unto me.” We step back, he leans in. We look away, he turns and faces.
If you want to serve, face the need with wide open eyes and let it overwhelm you with its size and its depth and its insurmountable odds. Don’t resist as it twists your insides into knots. This is the only way for you to be convinced that this matters, that this is worth the effort and worth the weariness and anguish that are surely coming your way if you reach out.
2. Find your niche.
If you’re thinking, “I’m on board, but not ready to adopt or foster,” I’m with you. I’m not there yet. The good news is if you play to your strengths you can find a way to serve. What do you already do that you could spin in the direction of the orphan care community?
I found my niche in tutoring. I consider myself to have the heart of a teacher and since foster kids don’t have the most stable lives they sometimes need help with their school work. So far this seems to be a good fit for me.
Do you have talents in food prep that could help a foster family with their meals? Could your business provide fund-raising aid or do you have some marketing/social media know-how that could help a local organization expand their reach? You have a skill or a hobby that you’re already pursuing. Why not make it count?
3. Fight the flinch.
In this post I described the flinch as my #1 obstacle to making a difference. The flinch is that tension you feel just before you take the first step toward doing something awesome, something that matters. It causes you to ask if you’ll be successful, instead of if you’ll be serving; if you’ll be a hero, instead of if you’ll be healing. It reminds you of past failures and makes you hesitate to take that risk again. Sometimes the flinch warns you of real danger. But usually it’s a liar. You have to learn to recognize the flinch for what it is. You have to fight it instead of letting it turn you back from what you know is right.
A Final Thought
So, since emailing Big House I’ve been thrilled to be able help out with tutoring, volunteer at respite care events, and even got to man their booth at this conference. There’s a long way to go before I prove I’m in this for the long haul but, by God’s grace, I’ll keep serving.
In sports they say, “Leave it all on the field.” In other words, don’t end the game with any energy, any skill, or any talent left over. Use it all up because, once the game is over, what do you need it for? I don’t want to face Jesus some day and have to explain why I have resources left over. I want to leave it on the field.