Here at Summit we have something called The Every Child Initiative. Although this ministry started about 8 years ago, it’s possible that not everyone knows exactly what it is. The Initiative was born out of a desire to be increasingly intentional about the way that the church pursues caring for the orphan. By “orphan” I mean the vulnerable, the unprotected, the needy, the abandoned, and overlooked children right here in our own community and those that are all over the world.
We aim to envision and equip the people of Summit Church to engage in caring for the vulnerable in a number of different ways including adoption, foster care, serving as Safe Families, volunteering as Guardian ad Litems, participating in the fight against human trafficking, and advocating for life for the unborn.
As believers, we understand the important role that this kind of service has in the life of the church as well as in the life of the community. Caring for people is important. Culture agrees. For us as the redeemed, though, it comes from a much deeper place.
Culture “acts”, but as Christians, we respond. We respond out of an appreciation for the love of God that has so graciously enveloped us. We respond out of gratitude.
It’s personal and pervasive.
For us, this kind of care is a natural overflow of the love and grace that we have been given. It’s what marks us. It’s how the world recognizes us as Christians- by our love. We extend ourselves in love because we have been so lavishly loved by God.
The Every Child Initiative exists to glorify God by envisioning, equipping, and empowering disciples to have gospel impact in the lives of vulnerable children.
“I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart. I will recount all of your wonderful deeds.” Psalm 9:1
“Bless the LORD, O my soul,
and forget not all his benefits,
who forgives all your iniquity,
who heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit,
who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,
who satisfies you with good
so that your youth is renewed like the eagle's.”
Will you take a minute to remember with me?
Think of your own Grace Story. Remember when the Lord brought you from death to life? Think of your condition before you came to know the saving love of Jesus Christ. Were you lost? Far off? An outsider? Misled? Striving? Confused? Hopeless? Lacking? Without a future? Anxiety- ridden? Alone? Desperate? Not good enough?
As you have come to know the unsearchable riches of His great love, what are some of the words that you would use to describe God’s gracious dealings with you?
Made an heir?
Given peace, comfort and a future?
These truths are the believer’s inherent reality. If we have put our hope and confidence in the saving work of Jesus Christ, all of this, and more, is ours and we will spend the rest of our lives discovering the unending goodness and love of our Heavenly Father.
Because we remember, we respond
It is out of the true realization of this great love that we step into action. 1 John 4:19 says that “we love because he first loved us”. Our earnestness is rooted in a robust understanding of God‘s love- sacrificial, without expectation of anything in return, giving the very best, working for our highest interest, undeserved, extravagant… Understanding that kind of effusive love evokes a response and fortifies the faith we need to live the abundant life that we have been given. In our actions, we have the opportunity to reveal our beliefs, our gratitude, and our trust. How we respond to God’s love is how we love in deed and truth (1 John 3:18)
Every November, the Church worldwide recognizes Orphan Sunday as a day to remember the Orphan and to call the Church to action. Caring for vulnerable children is just one of the many ways to live out the gospel and to live into our faith. As the body of Christ, we have the common experience of redemption, rescue, and unconditional love. Out of this shared experience, we are called to plead the cause of the vulnerable. And though it can sometimes feel intimidating, the Bible says that in knowing Christ, we have everything that we need for life and godliness (1 Peter 1:3). We are a people that are uniquely equipped to endure difficulty as we are ever learning to set our minds on things above and learning to find our joy and hope in Christ alone (Colossians 3:1-2). We are a people who are made to persist, as we are deeply and firmly rooted in the love of Christ (Ephesians 3:17). We are a people who are sustained by the comfort of our God, as He is close to the brokenhearted (Psalm 34:18). And we are a people who are hopeful as He promises to make beauty from ashes (Isaiah 61:3). We are a people made to live out the mystery of faith and the paradox of Kingdom living… compelled to love, empowered to emulate, and blessed to suffer.
As we empty ourselves, though it might be costly, we find more of Him.
The gain is worth it- to know Christ, to know the power of his resurrection, to share in his sufferings, to become like him in his death (Philippians 3:7-11). Somehow in the economy of Christ, we find that to give is to gain, and to lose is to win.
*First, will you remember your own grace story? Would you share it with at least one person today? Would you remind yourself of how the Lord has rescued and redeemed you?
*Second, will you take time to ask the Lord what He may have for you? Maybe it is time for you to engage in one of the following ministries. Or perhaps you’ve been serving in one particular area, but now the Lord has a new work for you. No matter what, you won’t want to miss out on whatever He has for you in this season.
Here are a few of the opportunities within our Every Child Initiative that you can be praying through-
*Life advocacy- Do you have a heart to care for women who are experiencing an unplanned pregnancy? Could you walk alongside them through a season when they might otherwise feel alone and unsupported? Would you advocate for their unborn child?
*Anti-trafficking- Would you want to step into the fight against modern day slavery? According to DCF, in 2017 there were 366 cases of human trafficking in the Suncoast region of Florida (this region includes SWFL). And those were just the cases that were reported. Do you have a heart to care for people who have been abused or exploited… to show them hope and to help them find healing?
*Adoption- Do you feel called to be a forever family for a child that needs a loving home? There are 140 million orphans worldwide, with 111,820 children in the United States waiting to be adopted. Here in Southwest Florida, there are 50 children in the system right now needing forever families.
*Foster Care- What about the 569 children in foster care in just Lee and Collier counties? Could it be that the Lord would have you step into caring for these kids that are right here in our own community needing care and protection?
*Global Orphan Care- Maybe the Lord has given you a heart for the vulnerable in a particular country? Are you burdened by the agony of food scarcity, lack of education, poverty, malnourishment? We can help connect you with organizations that provide for the needs of vulnerable children in different parts of the world.
*Guardian ad Litem- Could you stand in court for children in our community and speak on behalf of the child’s best interest? As of this past August, only 63% of the children in care in SWFL had Guardian ad Litems. Would you consider lending your voice and your heart for their cause?
*Wrap Around Care- Could you sign up to bring a meal to a family that has recently brought a foster or adopted child into their home? You have no idea what a significant blessing something as simple as a meal can be to a family. It lets them know that they are not alone. That they are supported and loved by their church family. What about providing respite care for foster families by offering to care for their foster children when they need to travel? Would you consider serving families by mentoring, tutoring, or babysitting their children?
* Most importantly, would you simply commit to pray? Pray for the children. Pray for the families they represent. Pray for those who have already stepped in and are caring for them. And pray about whether you the Lord would have you step in? Will you ask the Lord to let you see what He sees? To let what breaks His heart break yours as well?
*The last ask is this- Would you join us on Sunday evening, November 11, 2018 to spend an evening worshipping the Lord and praying for vulnerable children. Many of our partners will be there for you to meet and to answer your questions. The service will be from 6pm- 8pm at the University Campus.
As believers, we were made for this. We were made to lay down our lives on behalf of others. We were made to carry to gospel into dark places and offer hope. Once again, we have this opportunity put before us. Would you take time this week to remember what you have been given and then see if the Lord might be calling you to respond to these particular needs?
What if this November you are being invited to go deeper?
What if you are being called to a place where you might have the opportunity to know God more intimately?
What if, by God’s grace, you have been invited to emulate the Father in rescue, adoption, bringing in, giving comfort, and seeing restoration. Will you step in?
Our hearts are overwhelmed with gratitude as we recall your goodness to us… your grace… your personal and redeeming love. Help us to never lose sight of the tremendous gifts you have given us in our salvation through Jesus Christ, our adoption as sons and daughters, our anchored hope, and our promised future.
We seek you alone as we put before you the many opportunities to participate in the advancement of your kingdom. We ask for your direction. We ask for clarity and discernment in what you would have us pray through and possibly even step into.
Show us where fear is hindering our faith and allow us to know your perfect love in a way that moves us beyond ourselves. Remind us of your faithfulness and power. With you, all things are possible.
Lead us and sustain us as we step out further. Give us a heart that says yes and fortify our yes for even the most challenging days. Surrender our souls to your perfect will. To you alone be the Glory forever. Amen.
To learn more about The Every Child Initiative, please visit us at www.everychildswfl.com.