Let me tell you the story of a Christmas miracle. . . right here in Lane County. It involves piles of Christmas presents, hundreds of kids in foster care, and “a God who really, reallyy loves.” But first a little context.
In a Gospel Movement, God highlights community needs that require God-sized intervention and the response of the whole Church.
In Lane County*, God opened the ears of His people to a community “cry” – the foster care crisis.
It means opening our homes, our lives, our schedules, our churches, our hearts. It’s costly, sometimes painful, but an eternal-kind-of-beautiful.
IT HAPPENED A FEW YEARS BACK
One by one, churches and leaders, organizations and people were being awakened to the silent crisis. Individually, they responded in all sorts of ways.
It wasn’t long before the growing movement was clear. God was hearing the silent cry of the vulnerable. . . and tuning His people to hear it too.
It prompted a question. Was God leading His people to step into the crisis together – in ways we could never do alone?
There are roughly 1,500 kids in foster care in our county alone. Whatever the solution, it would require a unified-people.
That’s when events transpired for Every Child to launch in Lane County (There’s much more to the story, ** but I want to get to the Christmas miracle)!
At rapid speed, churches and people stepped in: there were DHS waiting room makeovers, gifts and appreciation for DHS staff, kids welcomed into homes, and a whole host of people coming around foster families to see them succeed. That, in itself, is a miracle, but . . .
BACK TO THE CHRISTMAS MIRACLE
Not six months after Every Child’s soft launch, Christmas was coming! DHS asked Every Child to find trusted volunteers for a special event.
People from multiple churches prepared to come alongside DHS in a Christmas party for children in foster care and their biological parents. It would be the one time the separated families would celebrate Christmas together.
Churches were delighted to help throw a party celebrating the very holiday that makes restoration and reconciliation possible.
Three weeks before the festivities, plans were well underway. Then DHS received devastating news. Their Christmas present supplier would not be able to provide any toys.
In a tearful phone call to Every Child, a DHS staff member shared the news, “no presents this year.”
Little did they know, our God already had a plan in the works.
Less than one hour before the DHS phone call, a small local church reached out to Every Child.
They received a large Toys “R” Us donation. There was just one dilemma: there were far too many toys than the elderly congregation knew what to do with.
The phone call ended, only for DHS to call with the sad news. In a moment, the “bad news” phone call turned to wonder and cheer. The need was supplied before the call!
Another organization joined the effort to donate gifts too. There were more than enough presents for every child at the party! No one went away wanting:
“I kept trying to find Santa’s number to call and ask him for my Christmas present. I never found the number, but He got it for me anyway!”
– a little girl who received just the right gift
“You all are just so generous. I can’t believe how generous you all are – I have never seen anything like it.”
– a tearful DHS case worker
He did again – The God who sees and foresees – the God who provides ahead-of-time and gives good gifts – the Father to the fatherless – the God of miracles – He worked a Christmas [gift] miracle!
In a Gospel Movement, God calls his people to things one congregation could not do alone. His design is for the smallest church to the largest to play a part – tailored and valuable.
THE BLESSING THAT FOLLOWS THE TOGETHER-SAINTS
In a Gospel Movement, there is something greater than our collaboration at work; it’s the blessing God extends through our unity.
A million little miracles accompany the together-saints as we work together – moving in response to God’s moved-heart. The surprise provision of hundreds of toys and gifts last Christmas is one example of the blessing that follows the redeemed.
And this blessing is not one of mere temporary happiness. The blessing God extends through His together-people brings with it a lasting revelation to the world around us:
“A lot of people love me.”
– a boy’s comment to his foster mom after the Christmas party
In a Gospel Movement, the God who really, reallyy loves is given center stage.
Growing up in a Gospel Movement, my heart burns for a community to know the blessing, and hear the sound: “A lot of people and the God of Love really, really love you.”
P.S. If you’re stirred to learn more about Every Child or get involved, you can here!
P.S.S. I told you the story of a Christmas miracle. But I have to share one more parting thought. After seeing God move through His people toward vulnerable kids, it’s my working theory.
“Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” James 1:27
Caring for kids who’ve experienced trauma isn’t for the faint of heart and it’s not a picture-perfect romantic ideal. It takes far too much time and costs more than what’s quantifiable. It breaks and changes your heart . . . in painful, good ways.
I can’t help but wonder: Is God up to something else too?
Here’s the working-theory: As we care for vulnerable kids, there won’t be time for lesser things. As we give ourselves to the “orphans of our day,” they’re won’t be time to argue about disputable things or be caught up in little feuds about things we can’t remember. Trivial distractions will be forgotten for the eternal – pure and faultless religion.
We’re caring for kids, but God is making us real. He’s making us genuine, pure and spotless. He’s making us like Him.
What’s the greater miracle?
*Every Child is a movement that began in Portland and is launching in every county in Oregon. Lane County was the first launch after Portland. The movement of God’s people caring for kids in foster care reaches far beyond Lane County.
** Spirit-inspired prayer (through One Church – One Day), divinely appointed meetings, conversations with community leaders, and the state-wide Every Child launch are all elements of the story of Every Child coming to our county. All of these things transpired as God shared his heart for the “orphans of our day” with the people of Lane County.