In Oklahoma, a movement is gaining momentum among churches.
As of January of 2011, there were 8,308 children in Oklahoma who because of abuse, neglect or abandonment needed adoptive homes. And with more than 6,000 churches statewide, an Oklahoma-based ministry called the 111Project works to pair at least one family from each church to commit to adopt at least one child through the Department of Human Services.
This comes after DHS and community faith leaders met in December of 2010 to figure out a way to recruit foster families. The result was a plan that affirms the belief of many in the faith community that church-based missions don’t have to happen just overseas. There is a field of children needing hope and healing in our own streets and cities. To that end, 111Project.org was launched with the premise of one church recruiting one family for one purpose: “To Leave No Oklahoma Child Without a Family.”
Within five months, “278 new foster families have been pledged by 42 committed local churches statewide. Of those families pledged, 119 have pursued the foster family certification process through the 111Project.” Robin Jones, Director of Faith-Based & Community Initiatives for FaithLinks, is thrilled. “As a person of faith,” she says, “I believe the unfolding story of the 111Project.org is divinely orchestrated and being used to change the face of foster care in Oklahoma.”
When a fostering or adoptive family accepts the call to step into the life of an orphan, the love of God becomes tangible. And when children are brought into a healthy, Christ-centered home, the impact is forever imprinted on their lives.
One such child who has been impacted by this campaign is Baby Boy. A 2-month-old Cherokee baby boy in northeastern Oklahoma was critically injured after repeated blows, delivered by his biological mother, to his tiny body left him hospitalized for two weeks. Alone, with no parent to comfort him as he fought for his life, Baby Boy desperately needed a safe home and a family to love him and help him heal.
Once the Department of Human Services was called from the hospital, the hunt began to find a place for the baby and his older brother and sister. When none of the children’s biological family stepped up to take the children from the shelter, the Suggs family received the call.
Previously, Mike and Dana Suggs, were busy raising their three children ages 5-16. But a few years ago, something changed. Dana recalls: “I told God one day I was ready to sell it all and move anywhere in the world and start an orphanage … [and] there was this little tiny voice that said simply: ‘You have that [need] right here where you are.’ I was thinking that missionaries are only in scary places of the world, and yet … we have children right here in the United States that need homes.”
After months of paperwork, background checks and training, the Suggs received a call about the three small Cherokee children. Within two hours, the Suggs family brought the children, whom they now lovingly call the “Littles,” into their home.
It has been months now since the Littles joined the Suggs family, and though the road has been bumpy at times, following God’s plan has given them peace. Each child came with their own set of challenges and medical and emotional needs. Baby Boy is a medical marvel who continually overcomes amazing odds.
A favorite Scripture that motivates the Suggs’ family is James 1:27: “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress.”
While not everyone is called to foster or adopt, every follower of Christ is called to bring justice to orphans and can do something to change the outcome for these kids.
In 2006 there were 510,000 national children in foster care, and of that number 127,000 (25%) were waiting to be adopted. So the potential lives that could be forever impacted nationwide by projects like 111 is enormous.
When the Suggs family signed up at111Project.org, they helped reduce that big number by three. Because they know that while the road toward fostering or adoption is not easy, bringing love, faith and justice is worth the challenges they have faced.
How to Help
Here are some ways you can assist local families in your church or neighborhood:
- Offer to babysit so the couple can go on a date with their spouse.
- Share clothes or toys.
- Supply meals or help with groceries.
- Help raise money for bigger items like bunk beds, bikes, etc.
- And at Christmas, consider having your family, church family or Life Group “adopt” a family like the Suggs’. Also, extend financial support.
- If you feel that God is calling you to foster or adopt, take the next step by contacting the DHS in your state for more information. And look for projects like 111 or start one yourself to raise awareness among the church communities in your area. Contact Robin Jones at [email protected] for more information.
- Spread the word and encourage others to act.