by Justin Lucia
I had never encountered innocent children who had been so terribly abused, neglected, and forgotten.
I grew up in a home that followed Jesus, I went to Sunday School and AWANA, and as I began high school I traveled the world on different mission trips. Over the course of five years I worked with different orphanages across Russia and my heart broke.
Never before had I thought about myself as someone who was particularly good with kids, but this was different. But that excuse was no longer valid.
Children were hurting.
I soon recognized this problem was not unique to foreign countries. The very same issues were going on, seemingly unnoticed, in my own backyard.
Hundreds of thousands of kids are in foster care right here in America, and their stories are no different than those of the kids I met in Russia.
They are neglected.
They are abused.
They are locked in closets and used as ashtrays.
They are told that they are mistakes, worthless, and too hard to love. They grow up believing these lies and continue the heartbreaking cycle of abuse.
But Jesus has a different message for these forgotten children. He says they are wanted. They are loved. They are worth everything!
Jesus was very clear when he told his disciples how important it was for them to take care of these kids:
“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.”
As followers of Jesus, it is our job to pray for these kids. But we shouldn’t just stop at that. Jesus tells us to visit them in their affliction. We are supposed to be with them, to share in their suffering and pain, to love them and to show them how to hope.
I love when Paul says, “But God demonstrated His own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8) In my imagination I hear that verse like this, “While you were still scared and alone and hurting, God saw your pain and loved you so much that he came to take care of you.” God showed his love for us by coming to be with us, and I think that the best way for us to show these amazing, resilient, kids how much we love them is to go and be with them.
Ideally this looks like followers of Jesus taking these kids into their homes and becoming family with them. However, that’s not possible for everyone or for all walks of life. So there are different steps to get involved to build up to fulltime foster parenting!
One of those steps is Royal Family KIDS.
Every summer, we invite kids from the Washington County foster care system to experience the best week of their lives. Kids who have been neglected and forgotten are treated like royalty. They are given only one responsibility: to have fun. They are free to act like children – to laugh, run, and play.
Even if just for a moment, they get to be kids without cares or responsibilities.
Their week is filled with parties, games, food, field trips, and as much laughter as they can muster. In the beautiful cathedral of the outdoors, amongst the laughing and the playing, they hear the good news about a real, true Father who loves them. During this week Jesus gets to redefine what true, fatherly love is and so many of these kids go away with an entirely new view of themselves, family, and God.
They come to camp with walls so thick around their hearts that it seems impossible for hope to break through. Year after year Jesus reminds us that our job is not to break through, we just need to love them and he will take care of the rest. And year after year we watch these kids allow their guard to drop and dare to believe that they really are lovable and valuable. It is without a doubt the most beautiful transformation you will ever see!
Here are a few ways for you to help:
Many of these kids have never had a birthday party, so we throw the biggest party we can. We have a carnival and fill their day with games, piñatas, cupcakes, singing, and birthday presents. If you or your Missional Community want to put together birthday boxes, we have a list of toys to ensure that everyone gets the same presents. These birthday boxes come to about $75 per box, please email RFKC@ajesuschurch.org to sign up and get the list!
Prayer is an effective means of support. Our prayer partners will receive a bracelet to wear during the week of camp and a specific list of prayers that a staff member has requested. To become a prayer partner, email RFKC@ajesuschurch.org to sign up!
Kids Camp Leader
Each year, Royal Family KIDS Camp hosts dozens of kids in need of care and attention. This requires a lot of work. To become a Kids Camp Leader, you must complete an application, background check, and interview. To fill out an application, please go to hearthecry.org/portland/foster-care/.