By Dr. Jerry Haag, President of Florida Baptist Children’s Home, The Porch Light and Orphan’s Heart
We all long for adventure! Each of us has a different appetite for it. I have a friend whose sense of adventure can be summed up by substituting baked potatoes for hash brown casserole. Not me!
Christi and I share a spirit of adventure that has summoned us to whitewater rafting, skydiving, spearfishing and crazy long races, such as the 50-miler I ran in Utah last year. But the most incredible adventure I have ever experienced involves caring for children.
As Christians, we are called to an adventure filled with countless unknowns, and the most significant things we control are our faith and obedience. We do not know how everything is going to turn out, but we do know WHO is guiding our steps and that there is purpose in them.
The journeys of foster parents put them face-to-face with brokenness, where answers are not always immediately recognizable. They must trust that God will provide them wisdom.
I have personally gathered food to feed a hungry child in Lakeland. Our Harold Clark Simmons Compassion Center was instrumental in providing more than 3 million meals domestically and internationally in 2016. The adventure has taken me to homes where children have been rescued from deplorable conditions, where filth and feces had to be shoveled out in order to collect their belongings. I have seen these children then thrive once they are given life-changing love by house parents, foster parents or adoptive parents. I have treasured the relationship we have with kids across the globe, like Jeremiah, who was plagued with medical problems, but is now healthy, thriving and singing songs about Jesus because of our work through Orphan’s Heart in Uganda. This adventure has taken us inside the chambers of the Florida State Capitol to fight for children’s futures, it has led us to emaciated communities around the world where God has shown us first-hand what His heart is burdened by, and it continues to lead me and our entire organization to meet the needs of One More Child and introduce them to the incomparable love of Jesus Christ.
In Philippians Paul writes, “Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”
As we stare down hardships in the lives of children and turn to God to process the tragedies we see, we press on. We press on for children in our safe home that provides healing and restoration for girls victimized by sex trafficking, realizing that so many more are bonded as sex slaves across the state and around the world. We press on in a culture where so many children live in unstable families.
Through this adventure I have rejoiced, with tears, as a mom and dad hold their adopted son or daughter for the first time; I have witnessed first-hand the transformation that is possible for a Brave Mom when they have fled from violence or a dysfunctional family and finally have a safe space to raise their child or children; I have been elated to see a child experiencing his or her very first “real” Christmas with presents, a tree, and a celebration of Jesus’ birth.
At Florida Baptist Children’s Homes, The Porch Light and Orphan’s Heart, we want to show you the opportunities to match your greatest passion with our unchanging mission of providing Christ-centered care to children and families. We invite you to an adventure where we don’t know all the places you will go, the weathered faces you will encounter or the heartbreaks that will drive you to your knees. We do know that lives will be changed and the impact will be eternal as together we embark on a lifelong journey to share God’s love with One More Child.