Justin and Tara Twiggs see foster care as their mission field.
The Twiggs, who live in Dacula, Georgia, have no biological children of their own — but after being trained in foster care — they now have four boys ranging in age from 3 months to 11 years old.
“It is one of the most challenging yet instantly rewarding experiences that we have had,” Justin Twiggs said.
“We knew there would be difficulties,” he noted, “but everyone told us it will be worth it when you look back. We haven’t even needed to look back because we’ve already watched God do a marvelous work in the lives of these boys right in front of our eyes.”
Twiggs added, “Our first goal is to reach the boys with the gospel; and our second goal is to reach their parents with the gospel; and the third goal is to see that the boys and their parents grow in their faith to allow for reunification under Christ instead of under the sin that ruled their home for so long.”
But if that never materializes, he said, “our goal would be to make our home a permanent, safe, loving, Christ-centered place for these kids to live.”
“The beauty of fostering through Families 4 Families is that we are encouraged to share our faith with our foster kids and their parents alike. We love the freedom of being able to do that,” he added.
The Georgia Baptist Mission Board’s Mission Georgia initiative has made recruiting more couples into foster care one of its top initiatives.
Potential foster families can learn more about the initiative, by contacting Tera Melber at Fostercare@missiongeorgia.org, Paula Walker at FostercareNW@missiongeorgia.org, or Jill Richards at FostercareWC@missiongeorgia.org.
Churches across the state are beginning to launch foster care ministries.
First Baptist Church Atlanta has initiated a foster care program for their church.
On Easter Sunday, April 17, Pastor Anthony George issued a call for those willing to become foster parents to affirm their willingness to open their hearts and homes to children in need, and 28 couples responded in the affirmative. There were also 150 individuals who indicated they would be a part of a support group to assist foster families.
To facilitate the foster care program at First Baptist Atlanta, Rhonda Barlow, a member of the church since 1990, was called to a full-time staff position as the foster care director. She and her husband, Mark, have no children of their own, but God touched Rhonda’s heart about the need for such a ministry. She explained, “I knew in my spirit that God was going to make this happen, because this has been my prayer and heart’s desire.”
In December 2021, the Barlows became the foster parents of two sisters, ages 3 and 11, for nine months.
Barlow noted, “The only time many abandoned children will ever hear the name of Jesus is when they have a foster family. When those two sisters left our home, it was the saddest day of my life. We have planted the seed of Jesus in their hearts and pray that it will take root and carry them through life.”
Today, Barlow said, the reality that the blessings received from the two sisters being their foster children outweighs the heartache of watching them leave.
‘Numerous and profound’ reasons
The process for being certified as foster parents can be relatively simple, Barlow said, but requires up to eight weeks of impact training, which may be accomplished through Zoom classes, a home study assessment and a clean background check. This process can take 4 to 6 months before receiving the license to foster.
Once a young person reaches their 18th birthday, they are legally no longer under any care or supervision and their placement with a foster family can no longer be classified as a foster placement. Many of these young, vulnerable adults face life alone and can become easy prey to sex traffickers and drug dealers. This is another reason it is so important that Christian families open their home and introduce foster children to Christ.
Pastor Anthony George and First Baptist Atlanta hosted a luncheon for pastors with an interest in leading their churches to become involved in a foster care ministry.
Compassion and stability
Wayne Naugle, the founder and executive director of Families 4 Families, a Bible-based, Christ-honoring foster care ministry, was the speaker for the event.
Out of 104 agencies in the state that promote foster care, Families 4 Families is the youngest and has become the fourth largest with six offices across the state and 70 full time and contractual employees.
The values espoused by the agency include ethical conduct and role modeling.
Naugle noted, “We believe the term ‘marriage’ has only one meaning and that marriage is sanctioned by God which joins one man and woman in a single, exclusive union.” He hopes to not only inspire families to welcome children into their lives and into their homes but to build a “Banner Team” around each family that helps care for those children in need of compassion and stability.
A Banner Team would include the following:
— Fellow church members who would serve as prayer warriors.
— Handy men, who could do yard work and help with occasional needs around the house.
— Families that provide regular meals for the foster family.
— Respite families, who could keep the children for a few days so that the foster family could have some time away for resting and recalibrating.
Naugle reminded his audience that caring for the young is based on Biblical admonitions.
He quoted Exodus 22:22-23: “You shall not oppress any widow or orphan. If you oppress him at all, and he does cry out to Me, I will assuredly hear his cry.” He also cited James 1:27: “Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.”
“There are 26,000 protestant churches in Georgia,” Naugle said. “If every church in Georgia recruited and supported one foster family, there would not be enough children for every church to be involved.” His mantra is “You can’t change the whole world, but you can change the whole world for one child.”
Impact on the family
One of the fears that keeps people from fostering is the concern about how it will impact their biological children.
Craig Ormsby, missions pastor at First Baptist Church Woodstock, stated, “We have discovered that when families have foster children in the home, it teaches their biological children the grace of selflessness.”
Others have indicated that it teaches their own children compassion and makes them stronger through the challenges and difficulties that sometimes occur.
Ormsby added, “Our church has embraced the ministry of foster care. When the biological children of our parents are saved, the family and friends of that child stand in gratitude for that one who has been redeemed, but when a foster child is saved and baptized, the whole church stands to praise God for that one who has been redeemed by His grace.”
For more information, contact Mission Georgia’s Tera Melber at firstname.lastname@example.org or First Baptist Atlanta’s Rhonda Barlow at email@example.com.
EDITOR’S NOTE — This article was written by J. Gerald Harris and was originally published by The Christian Index, news service of the Georgia Baptist Mission Board.