"Religion that our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this; to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world." James 1:27

The Hardbarger Family

Written by: Marsha Hardbarger- Marsha's husband, Chad, is Senior Pastor of Emmanuel Baptist Church in Shreveport, Louisiana. The Hardbargers are DCFS foster parents and Emmanuel Baptist is a Connect 1:27 Church. The Hardbargers have adopted 6 children through foster care. Emmanuel Baptist has an active orphan care ministry-Fashioned for a Home.

"Only one life so soon it will pass, only what's done for Christ will last, so give to Jesus all your days, it's the only life that pays, when you recall, you have but one life." As a teenager, I can remember singing those profound words in our high school choir, and they have never left me. I sing them over and over again in my mind. They serve as a daily reminder that I must make my life count for the Lord Jesus Christ.

In June of 2003, I married my best friend. We both were in our 30s, and we wanted to start a family right away. Two years passed, however, and we still had no children of our own. As we prayed and sought God's direction for our lives, we remembered people in our home churches who had adopted children out of foster care, and we believed that the Lord was leading us to do the same.

As I sat alone in our apartment one afternoon while my husband was out on visitation, I decided to just pick up the phone and call the 800 number. As the lady on the other end was telling me all about becoming a foster parent, I got so excited that I jumped right in and signed my husband and I up for the certification classes, which just happened to be starting the very next week. In my mind, this was an awesome opportunity for us to make a difference in our community for Christ and to begin a family. When my husband came home, he readily agreed that this was God's plan for our lives.

As we went through the classes together, it became clear to us that God had called us to adopt, and we were very eager to complete the certification process. If God wanted us to have children through natural birth, great! If not, great! We still wanted to serve as foster parents, and we decided that we would adopt every child that came into our care and needed a permanent home.

During the certification process, it was suggested to us that we read some books about adoption. I never thought of adoption as being a difficult decision that required careful study, but off to the library I went to find the suggested books. To my dismay, none of the suggested books were on the shelves, and I was very disappointed. But God had a different plan that day, for He led me to a book written by Sherrie Eldridge, which was entitled, "Twenty Things Adopted Kids Wish Their Adoptive Parents Knew." I checked it out, and my husband and I immediately read it that very same evening.

So many times when people adopt it is because of infertility and the need to fill a void in their lives. To them, adoption is "Plan B," and they know that they will be doing something good for a child that does not have a home. For these people, adoption often becomes a taboo subject later on in their lives, and they rarely discuss it again after the adoption takes place. I admit, when we first began this journey to adopt, my motivation for doing so was unclear. How grateful I am to have read this book about an adopted child who struggled with her own identity and her need for her adoptive parents to be understanding of her feelings and emotions! After reading this book, I finally realized that God was calling us to adoption, not for ourselves and our needs, but for the needs of the precious children who want to have a mom and dad who loves them just as they are, warts and all. At last, I understood that adoption was not about us!

As time progressed, my husband and I finished our classes, moved into our first home, completed our home study, and waited patiently on the Lord. As a foster care parent, you never know what might happen. We have had a very interesting journey. Some of it was hard, and some of it extremely funny (like the older lady at Wal-Mart that leaned over as she passed by and asked, "Haven't you heard of birth control?"). All of it, however, was designed by God.

After 8 years, we have had 14 foster children. Some have stayed as little as 24 hours, but 6 amazing, crazy, beautiful children are now a part of our family. Their names are Monique (19), Chris (14), Bryce (11), Jordan (9), Bailey (8) and Gavyn (7). Not only are they a part of our family, they are also are a part of God's forever family, for they have received Jesus Christ as their Savior and Lord. In addition, we are fostering an infant baby boy! The past couple of years, we have been sensing the call to do more to encourage churches to become involved in the care of children in our society who do not have a home. In James 1:27, the Bible says, "Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction." Most churches do a great job of taking care of the widows, but how many of them take care of the orphans?

The word "visit" means more than dropping in and checking on a widow or an orphan, but it has to do with a personal touch and getting involved in their lives. We show the love of God the Father by how we love them. Not only that, but adoption is the greatest picture of God's love for us, and it opens the door for us to tell others of His grace. In Ephesians 1:4-5, the Bible says "In love, He predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of His will." Think of this: God planned to adopt us all along into His forever family! Adoption was His "Plan A."

To fulfill this call, we have begun a new ministry at Emmanuel Baptist Church, where my husband serves as pastor. This ministry, called "Fashioned for a Home," strives to raise awareness of the need for Christians to become more involved in the care foster children and orphans. If one family in every church in Louisiana would decide to adopt a child out of foster care, there would be no more children in Louisiana waiting for adoption. Moreover, there would be plenty of families left to adopt children waiting for adoption in other states, and in other countries.

Fashioned for a Home has begun an Adoption Support Group for those who have adopted or want to adopt. We are also put together "Dignity Bags" full of supplies for children who are entering foster care for the first time. We deliver the bags to the Department of Children and Family Services, which distributes them to foster families who are taking foster children into their homes. In the future, we hope to be able to go on mission trips to orphanages, to open a school uniform closet for foster parents, and to provide respite outings for foster and adoptive families. With God all things are possible!

Not all of us, however, are called to adopt, but we are called to become involved in the care of children without a home. Here are some ways Christians can help:

  • Pray for children in foster care and orphanages who are waiting to be adopted.
  • Give financially and collect needed items for their care.
  • Encourage those who are called to adopt.
  • Go on a mission trip to an orphanage.
  • Speak up, and get your church involved. (National Orphan Sunday is the first Sunday in November and May is National Foster Care Month)

Finally, we want to encourage those of you who are considering becoming foster parents. As Christians, we can make a big difference in the life of a child. Monique, our oldest daughter, was 10 years old when she first came into our lives. Listen to her testimony in her own words:

"When I was 7 years old I was taken from my parents. My parents were far from the ideal parents. They were put in jail for child endangerment and my brother Chris and I went to Foster Care. Our journey started with family first but the family members we went to couldn't support us. After exhausting the only two places we can go concerning family, we went to our first foster family. I don't remember much about that family but I do remember the oldest daughter. After a while they got an infant to adopt and sent us away. Foster family two. Not much kind words I can say about this one. The one thing I can say is that it has made me stronger. They too adopted a baby and decided to send us away. Then to our forever home. In this home I heard of the love of Christ, and I accepted Him as my Savior. Each of these situations made me stronger and God was with me through each one. Without my journey I wouldn't be who I am today. The Lord has a plan for me, even though at times life is hard, I know I can safely trust in Him."

To God Be the Glory!


 
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