Growing up in a Christian family, I was exposed to biblical values and teachings from young. I was taught to obey and honour God through my actions—which, to me as a child and teen, meant obeying my parents and not sinning, like lying or cheating during exams.

As I tried my best to obey and honour God as a child, little did I know that He was also laying a foundation of godly principles in me as I grew up.

When I became a young adult, my eyes were opened to social justice issues like poverty, vulnerable children, isolated seniors, homelessness, refugee crises, and so on. Bible verses that exhort believers to defend the weak and needy increasingly convicted my heart, and demanded a call of faith in action:

Defend the weak and the fatherless;
uphold the cause of the poor and the oppressed.
Rescue the weak and the needy;
deliver them from the hand of the wicked.
—Psalms 82:3–4

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“What Does God Want to Do Through Us?”

Before my husband and I married, we often talked about our future as a married couple and as parents, if the Lord willed. We tried to imagine how our new roles might look in light of our increasing conviction to love and care for vulnerable children in need. We asked ourselves: “How can we see the world with God’s lens?”, and “What might He want to do in us and through us?”

In 2020, two months after our wedding and after we attended a session on fostering by the Ministry of Social and Family Development, God placed a burden in our hearts for fostering children. Foster care involves providing alternative care arrangements for children and youths who may have been abused, neglected, or abandoned, with foster parents helping to temporarily provide a safe, stable, and nurturing home for them.

We thought: “If just one more child can experience secure love and attachment outside of the child protection system, it’s still one more child. Could it be that God wants to use us to pour forth His love to this child in need?”

Remembering what the gospel said about all of us being orphans and how God had chosen to adopt us (Galatians 4:5), we were convicted that if we truly believed this truth, then we had to follow the example of Christ.

“If just one more child can experience secure love and attachment outside of the child protection system, it’s still one more child. Could it be that God wants to use us to pour forth His love to this child in need?”

Most of our loved ones and church community were supportive of our decision to become foster parents. But some were doubtful, as we were only 28 and 30 years old then. They were unsure whether we could cope with bringing up a foster child when we had no experience of bringing up children, especially if they had any trauma-induced behaviours.

These were valid concerns which we appreciated. We assured our friends that we would take the time to seek and hear from God on His unique call and direction for us. After all, when God calls us to do His work, He will equip and sustain us, even when we are inadequate or inexperienced.

The Mission Field in Our Home

As we prayed, sought God’s Word, and listened to counsel from loved ones and church leaders, God impressed upon us that He loves all His children.

Romans 10:12 tells us that “there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him.” Likewise, there is no difference between a biological and a foster or adopted child in His eyes.

Fostering wasn’t about feeling good about ourselves, but about magnifying a great God who wants His people to make a difference in this world.

We began seeing more similarities than differences between a biological child and a foster or adopted child, which further confirmed the call that God had uniquely placed in our hearts. Our conviction to foster came from our belief that . . .

● God loves all His children.
● God supports and preserves families.
● God cares to heal the brokenness of the world.
● God is able, even when we may doubt ourselves and our capabilities.

For us, fostering wasn’t about feeling good about ourselves and the good we were doing, but about magnifying a great God who wants His people to make a difference in this world. Foster care thus became our mission field.

The Act and Attitude of Parenting

With that, we took a step of faith and courage to sign up as foster parents, and underwent rigorous assessment before finally being approved as foster parents in 2021.

Since then, we have fostered two children: a 6-year-old boy for six months, and a 9-month-old baby girl whom we’re currently fostering for up to a year. Welcoming these children into our home before having our own has taught us that the act of parenting—loving and discipling a child—isn’t necessarily confined to blood ties or biological parenting.

Parenting is an act and attitude of unconditional love: we love and care for a child and his or her well-being, and expect nothing in return. God had given us the authority to steward the life of another child, and the privilege of bringing him or her up with godly values.

Training On the Job

I take great comfort in the fact that God did not call competent, perfect parents to foster children, but welcomes incompetent, imperfect parents to be on this journey that sanctifies us and teaches us to trust and depend on Him even more.

After all, none of us are actually trained to be parents—whether our children are biological, adopted, or fostered. We all are in need of God’s grace to sustain and God’s wisdom to teach and guide us.

Fostering a child has its unique set of challenges, such as learning to be attuned to the child’s disorganised and messy emotions, understanding the fight-flight-freeze behaviours that they had developed in order to survive and cope with their traumatic experiences, and being intentional in doing “repair” work.

There were times when we felt so helpless because a certain behaviour, such as lying, kept happening despite our consistent teaching, or when we couldn’t seem to manage an overwhelming emotion that our foster child displayed, such as anger.

We were well aware that learnt maladaptive behaviours—which result when people do not adapt to a situation or environment adequately or in the right way—from the past do not change immediately. What we can do is to show these children consistent love and care, and pray that they will gradually learn to see themselves differently. As we remember God’s patience towards us, we can tap His grace to extend patience to our foster children.

Parting with our foster child has also been one of the most challenging things we’ve faced, particularly as we’ve poured so much of our time and love into them. As we experience the grief and loss of parting, however, we know that we have given our best to love and care for them during their time with us.

What the Church Can Do to Help

Having embarked on our fostering journey, we have witnessed how God is glorified through the whole church coming together to welcome these little children. Sunday school teachers treated them the same as other children in church, friends passed us clothes and toys, and our families welcomed them into their midst. It was wonderful to see the kingdom of God contributing in ways that meant so much to our foster children.

We also really appreciated how fellow parents in church constantly checked in on us to find out how we were doing, shared childcare tips, or simply encouraged us on this parenting journey. These were simple—but deeply appreciated—acts of love and support that went a long way in encouraging us as foster parents.

If you’re prayerfully considering fostering, can I encourage you not to be held back by feelings of fear? Be open to how God can use your family to make an impact on another child’s life eternally. As we partner God on this exhilarating journey of transforming the lives of foster children, we will also see the transformation of our own selves to be more Christlike.

After all, the God who calls is the same God who sustains.

Joanne Ong is currently a freelance counsellor and homeschooling mother to her 5-year-old adoptive daughter and 9-month-old foster child. Amidst the daily ordinary moments of parenthood, she also enjoys slowing down her days to run, read, and reflect.
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