Reaching Out To Other Parent’s Children
Yet you say, and ‘Why should the son not bear the punishment for the father’s iniquity?’ When the son has practiced justice and righteousness and has observed all My statutes and done them, search he shall surely live. The son will not bear the punishment for the father’s iniquity, nor will the father bear the punishment for the son’s iniquity; the righteousness of the righteous will be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked will be upon himself. (Ezekiel 18:19-20)
A number of years ago I attended a reunion at an orphanage home I worked at during my college years. As I walked into the cafeteria room, a place where I shared several meals with both young boys and girls who had been either abandoned by their parents, or ended up in our facility because they were wards of the court. No one else would take them, so we were it. I wasn’t sure anyone would recognize me, accept the old staff that I had worked with. Surely these kids who were now in their early thirties would not remember me, even though we had many teachable moments together.
Working with these orphans was perhaps the best experience I had in my college years. I gained the job through one of the most incredible interview processes I have ever had. I saw the job posted at my college, which was not far from the facility in Hollywood. When I arrived to talk with the two administrators, they were very interested in me as an applicant because of my previous work with children at church and in the Boys Club. I had just come off of a great semester at school, one that was really filled with God’s blessings. I had started a Campus Crusade Ministry on our campus and it had really gone well. I was sky high with God; there was a growing part of me that was beginning to believe that there was nothing I could not do if I just applied faith to the situation. My life was really becoming quite transparent about my beliefs and walk with the Lord.
The interview went very well, but the last question was the key to the job as I later found out. Mel, the assistant administrator asked me about my faith. He noted that in my application that I was from a Christian college, and that I had done some youth work with a church the year before. Before I answered he pointed out that the orphan’s home was a Christian home per se. He then wanted to know if I would be tempted to share my faith with the kids at the home should I be hired. I decided to answer exactly as to how I felt. God had been so faithful during the whole year, why should I do otherwise. “Of course I will share my faith with these children, it is there best hope.” There was a moment of silence in the room, both the administrators looked at each other, and said almost simultaneously, “Your hired, when can you come to work” As I learned later, most of the staff had vital relationships with Christ, and because of it several children met their only hope, Christ. In fact after talking with others on staff it was deduced that about 80% of these orphans and wards of the court found Christ before they left.
As I looked around the room on that reunion day some faces looked familiar, but I could not recognize them until they identified themselves. Two young women approached me one was with her husband and the other married with children. They were so complementary which warmed my heart, but what really spoke to me were the lives they were now living. Both had married good Christian men and were raising their children they way they had always hoped for when they were children. Then all of a sudden this big 6″5″ giant of a man grabbed me from behind and raised me up in the air. He was so excited to see me, almost as if I were his long lost father. “Its Billy, Mr. McClain, its Billy.” Oh my heavens, not the little 11 year old boy in cottage five”, I exclaimed. And then he said something that really caught me; “Thanks Mr. McClain for writing me that letter right after you left the home. I was really struggling, but when your letter arrived, I knew God cared. And although there were many tough years, I have served him as best I could, thank you for the letter. I could hardly remember writing the letter, but obviously God used it in a way I could have never anticipated.
The reunion was really a joy to attend, so many of these orphans had made good on their lives, but it was not because they had good parents, they did not. But what they did have was an ever-present, loving God, ordained replacement parents, and willing hearts that said, “Yes, Lord come into my life.” It is a wonderful thing to see kids grow up in Christian homes, and because of it they likewise trust God in their parenting. But it is really quit something else, to see kids grow up in the worst of circumstances, but trust Him anyway and raise families who trust God. Spiritual heroes I would say.
The child who got away from us
This was a child whom I did not know personally, she came to the orphanage before my time. But it is inconceivable to me that this young girl, Norma Jean Baker missed an opportunity ask Christ into her heart while she was at the orphanage (John 1:9-12). In case her name does not ring a bell, Norma Jean is better known as Marilyn Monroe. I do not know all the details of her life while she was at our home, only what I heard and her file I read one night. I accidentally came by it as I was getting some background information on another orphan. I did not read all of it, but according to my memory (35 years later), her upbringing was very rough, which is one of the reasons she was put in our orphanage. Eventually she left, and was very successful in Hollywood, as we all knew. But never with a personal relationship with Christ, which was always available to her (John 1: 9-12). Her suicide caught all of Hollywood by surprise, but then why should it, without Christ there is not hope not even for the famous. I have often wondered what Marilyn Monroe would have been like if she had Godly parents or even received Christ at our orphanage. Most like a beautiful Christian girl who would have never even pursued a life in Hollywood. A girl like those I saw at the reunion in my opening. But her life ended without Christ, without hope even though she for a time was grafted into a family of Christians at the orphanage.
The third child in this story is a little fifth grader I had as a student for a year when I was teaching at a Christian school. Amidst the many things God called me to in my life, one was that of an elementary school teacher. I had a little boy in my 5th grade class who came from a divorced home. His mother worked all day and night to make ends meet, and had little time for her kids. The father was long gone from the scene; so little Tony and his brother were on his own most of the time. Tony’s mother put them in our school, hoping we could fill the gaps, both academically and spiritually. I taught school for 7 years, and taught several children like Tony. I had great sympathy for them because I grew up in identical circumstances. Now this little guy was always in trouble and it was not really until a school trip to Washington D. C. that I finally connected with him. As we talked on the plane for 7 hours, I asked him every question I could think of. When he told me that his mother only fixed 2 meals a year for him and his brother, I could hardly believe it. I asked him how he ate each night, and who helped him with his homework. His mother left a few dollars for him and his brother to buy dinner with. She was rarely at home in the evenings. Now he was only 11 years old. He and his brother would go down to the taco bell every night and eat dinner. And the homework? Well, at least I know now why he never turned it in. And so we spent the whole trip together. To be honest, I wish I had known more about him before, I would have responded much sooner. As the trip was coming to an end, we were all trying to buy souvenirs to take home. Now my daughter was on this trip, I actually had her as a student for reading. But she did not mind that I spent time with this boy, after all she had me at home. So I bought this hat at a stand, and the lady who sold it to me was distracted and instead of giving me a few dollars in change, she accidentally handed me hundreds of dollars without realizing it. The boy’s eyes opened wide when he saw it, but what happened next he was not expecting. I grabbed the woman’s arm and told her she gave me way too much. She was so embarrassed, but thanked me for rectifying the mistake. She then gave me the right change. The boy was befuddled, and said in almost an outburst, why did you give that money back, it was her mistake. And I said, as I would to my own children, God would not want me to steal from this woman. It was her money not mine.
The story did not end there for this boy; he had never had any lessons in his home on a Christian perspective of what was right and wrong. As we awaited our plane at Reagan International airport to fly back to L.A., we were in the middle of an airport scene where hundreds were coming and going, some sitting down for a moments rest at the open bars spread throughout the terminal. Not far from us was one business looking man downing one drink after the next. I don’t know what his situation was, but he seemed to be getting looped. My little 5th grader was not far from this businessman. My initial response was to bring the boy closer to our group, but I really saw no harm in the making and beside I was within a stones throw, and he never left my sight. As the man turned around, he saw the boy and began talking to him. He seemed really drawn to the boy, but not in an unhealthy sense, more out of loneliness. I surmised he might have been a divorced father despondent over the loss of his children. As he spoke to the boy he offered to buy him a soft drink. I moved in rather close now, but did not intervene. I was curious about what this little boy would do in this situation. To my surprise the boy declined the soft drink. The man then took out a wad of bills and handed the boy several bills. At that point the boy found me in his sight, and then turned to the man and said, “No thanks.” And then he said to the man, you are drunk and do not know what you are doing. I will not take what is not mine. I then intervened and guided the boy back to our group. I said to the boy, “I am proud of you, you did the right thing.”
Each of these three children was spiritually neglected in one-way or another. In response God removed them from their parents, if not physically, spiritually. What was wrong with these parents? With Tony, many would say divorce was the culprit, but I have worked with many divorced parents who have discipled and taught their children the way God intended.
The disease that each of these parents suffered, as well as others like them was the love of self, versus love the love of God, and subsequent faith led love of their own children.
As Jesus tells us, all of Scripture really can be summed up in just two relationships, your love of God and your love for others. Self love is not on the list, in fact it is sinful and runs counter to everything God is doing to develop these two loves (Matthew 22:35-40). God love and love for others are easy to identify in a parent, especially when it is compared to self-love. Time is the identifying factor. Where and what do with most of you time, usually states where you are with God and what you are to your family. Where do you spend most of your time? What do you do with your time? That is whom you love the most. And contrarily, where and what you spend the least amount of your time with is who you love the least. The parents in these cut down situations love themselves the most, and God the least. As a result they cannot love their children the way God intended, so they must be removed as their children’s spiritual guardians.
And sad to say there are a mass of parents today who need to be replaced, which brings you to the forefront of God’s plan with these children. Aside from the primary responsibilities God has given you, additional children may be thrust into your lap. And you must be willing to accept the call to extend your family, or start one with others children. You may be good Christian parent who have done your job with the children God has given you, or you may be step parents, grandparents, uncles, aunts, neighbors, Sunday school teachers, church youth workers, children’s pastors, teachers, or a family friend. But the call is now yours; it is apart of God’s plan, just as Jesus said it would be to His disciples when He taught them a parable about the talents (Matthew 25:14-18). And the short of this parable is that those who did nothing with the ministry opportunity God gave them would have to give it over to the one’s who did a great deal with theirs
Why? Because God cares for the neglected and He will give them to those who have proven themselves.
This teachable moment can be attempted between parent and older elementary school child (depending on the age). It is also a teachable moment that several Christian families can try together, and is not limited to neighborhood kids, but those kids who are attending church where their parents are noticeable absent in the spiritual development of their kid’s lives. Make an invitation that will invite several of the neighborhood kids to an overnight sleepover. You will really want to focus on those kids who do not have a relationship with Christ or their parents are noticeably absent in their kid’s lives. The purpose is to solidify your call to reach other children for the kingdom. And if need be to be God’s parental representative in their lives for years to come. Including your children in this teachable moment sets a foundation for them that looks beyond their own family when it to expressing His love. During your time with the neighborhood kids treat them as your own, and don’t change anything you do. Hopefully you have a routine in place that honors God. If not then establish one before you attempt this outreach. In our family we prayed with each meal, and before the kids went to sleep we would come into their room and gather their requests, read some Scripture and pray for them. Treat the neighborhood kids as if they were your own. Some of them may laugh underneath their breath, and others surprised. But if they are truly in need, they will eventually make their way to your home for help. Remember God is at work in you and them. After the party is over, take your own children out to a garden area where there are dead or dying trees. Draw a parallel for your children between the dead and dying trees in the garden and the parents of the neighborhood kids you just ministered to. Pretend that there are a few live branches on the dying trees. The live branches can be saved if we cut them off and graft them to a live tree. But if we don’t then the whole tree will die, branches and all. Finally draw the final conclusion, that you are the live tree, the tree willing to accept other branches. And then ask your children to join you in being God’s tree, full of healthy natural branches (your children) and full of grafted branches (neighborhood kids)
John 5:42 but I know you, that you do not have the love of God in yourselves.
Matthew 7: 17-20 17 “So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 “A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit. 19 “Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 “So then, you will know them by their fruits.
James 3:11-12 Does a fountain send out from the same opening both fresh and bitter water? Can a fig tree, my brethren, produce olives, or a vine produce figs? Nor can salt water produce fresh.
Numbers 14: 18 ‘The Lord is slow to anger and abundant in loving kindness, forgiving iniquity and transgression; but He will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generations.’
Ezekiel 18:19-20 18 Yet you say, ‘Why should the son not bear the punishment for the father’s iniquity?’ When the son has practiced justice and righteousness and has observed all My statutes and done them, he shall surely live. 20 “The person who sins will die. The son will not bear the punishment for the father’s iniquity, nor will the father bear the punishment for the son’s iniquity; the righteousness of the righteous will be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked will be upon himself
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John 1: 9-12 9 There was the true Light which, coming into the world, enlightens every man. 10 He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. 11 He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him. 12 But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name.
Matthew 22:35-40 35 One of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, 36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 37 And He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with your entire mind.’ 38 “This is the great and foremost commandment. 39 “The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 “On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.
Matthew 25: 14-18 14 “For it is just like a man about to go on a journey, who called his own slaves and entrusted his possessions to them. 15 “To one he gave five talents, to another, two, and to another, one, each according to his own ability; and he went on his journey. 16 “Immediately the one who had received the five talents went and traded with them, and gained five more talents. 17 “In the same manner the one who had received the two talents gained two more. 18 “But he who received the one talent went away, and dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money.