Every child needs a loving home in order to flourish, but 100,000 children in the UK have experienced neglect or abuse at home. Thousands wait to be adopted, and there’s a shortage of foster carers.
Home for Good calls the Church to respond to God’s instruction to care for widows and orphans. We’re not an adoption agency, but we work with them and local authorities and churches across all denominations.
We’re helping to change the imagination of the Church with respect to justice, mission, and family, so that fostering or adoption is seen as a normal part of Christian discipleship. We do that through books, articles, conferences, or speaking at churches and events.
We’re seeking to change the culture in churches so that fostering and adopting families are given wrap-around support by their church — like the Anglican idea of godparents who commit themselves to journeying with families for the long haul.
After having three children, my wife and I felt called to welcome more children into our lives through fostering and adoption. We now have seven.
We’re asking people to foster and adopt children from an altruistic motive — not family completion by a couple who can’t have a baby. The children who need homes are older, with many ongoing emotional, physical, and behavioural challenges.
We’re also speaking up for vulnerable children and carers through political advocacy. This became an important part of our work when we received a huge interest from people of all faiths and none in response to the global refugee crisis.
Getting involved personally in the lives of foster children, we became aware of how close to God’s heart they are. If just one family from each church came forward to foster or adopt, and the rest of their church wrapped around them, we would meet the entire need in the UK right now. We believe this is highly achievable, and would make a profound impact on children in need, and on our nation.
Hearing the unspeakable things that children experience is hard, but for me the most difficult thing is apathy from church leaders. A wealthy church told me they couldn’t talk about fostering and adoption in their service, or show a two-minute video, because they were raising money for a building redevelopment. I was stunned.
But many clergy — even a bishop — are foster carers. We’ve met young couples who have decided to forgo trying for birth children in order to adopt. I’ve seen hundreds of young adults coming forward after services, hearing a call from God to help vulnerable children.
We have a database of thousands of people willing to take in unaccompanied child refugees. We’ve been encouraged by the growing movement of people willing to live out the radical hospitality of God by opening up their homes and hearts to children in need.
My wife and I wrote a book, Home for Good: Making a difference for vulnerable children. Hardly a week goes by when I don’t hear that someone’s read the book and become a foster carer or an adoptive parent, and often I meet their children. Knowing that those children who’ve been ignored or abused have found a safe, loving family is the most amazing privilege.
I’ve also been involved as a volunteer for Tearfund for more than a decade now. I love their commitment to working with local churches to empower people living in poverty. I’ve served until recently as the chair of their theological panel, because Christian aid needs to be rooted in our understanding of the gospel.
I wrote God is Stranger because I’ve met so many Christians who tell me that they feel distant from God, or that God is, or has become, a stranger to them. It’s in welcoming and getting to know strangers that we welcome and get to know God himself.
I was born in Brighton to immigrant parents from Malaysia and India, and so I identify with being an outsider. But I also realise that for too long I lived a pretty insulated life. My Christian formation had nothing to say about my responsibility to care for the poor. From the first evangelistic course I attended, through to my mentoring and ministry training, there was nothing about welcoming the needy into my life and the impact that has on intimacy with God. So, for many years, we lived with only a peripheral interest in issues of justice, service, or hospitality.
There is an assumption that our biggest threat comes from strangers. Even when you factor in terrorist attacks, crime statistics show we’re more likely to be hurt by someone we know. It can be prejudice rather than prudence that makes us wary of strangers. Jesus challenges xenophobia through the parable of the Good Samaritan, and he challenges apathy through the parable of the sheep and the goats.
A lot of the rhetoric around the Brexit debate has given social permission for xenophobia. I’m not saying that everyone that voted to leave is racist, but I do believe that many have seen Brexit as an excuse to express negative opinions about immigrants. The Church can demonstrate a different approach by living out the gracious radical hospitality of God in our lives and families.
It’s hard to find someone more passionate in his love for God than the apostle Paul, and yet, having explored the intricacies of a whole range of theological topics, he breaks into praise: “Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgements. . .” Recognising the truths of God and yet his mysterious and ineffable nature is biblical proof that it’s possible to love and worship our strange God.
I was taught to pray by my mother when she knelt with me by my bedside. From that simple faith in a God who loved me has developed a faith in a God who calls me to love others. The very profound experiences I’ve had of God as an adult are often intrinsically linked with caring for our fostered children.
I now live with my wife and seven children in Oxfordshire. Daily life is busy. Fostering is the most difficult thing that our family does, but also the most rewarding. We receive some expenses and allowances for fostering, but my wife and I both work. Our whole lives are an act of service for God, and caring for the children is a great privilege. We live in a small community, our children can walk to school, our own children are older and help us, and our church also helps.
Some people worry that damaged children will have a detrimental effect on their own children, but our children have gained enormously from all this. When a child moves on, we go out to lunch and reflect on the experience. They always had the right of veto about accepting another child, but they have never exercised it in the past 11 years. Our teenagers are human — a mixture of godliness and brokenness, like the rest of humanity — but, on the whole, they’ve been amazingly supportive.
There’s nothing like coming home after work and hearing young foster children giggling and whooping as they hear my key in the door.
Jesus is the greatest influence in my life, but, second to him, it’s my wife. She, more than anyone else, showed me what it means to demonstrate grace and compassion through hospitality.
I love taking the children to the park. I run for exercise, and follow sport from my sofa. I’m addicted to books: I am part of a men’s non-fiction book club, and I set up a website to spread a passion for great Christian books.
If I was locked in a church with someone, I’d love to have a conversation about apologetics and the imagination with C. S. Lewis, or hear from Martin Luther King about how to preach justice. I’ve studied the work of Lesslie Newbigin; so picking his brains on how the Church should live in today’s world would be fascinating. But, to be honest, I’d rather just see my mother again.
Krish Kandiah was talking to Terence Handley MacMath.
God is Stranger is published by Hodder & Stoughton at £13.99 (CT Bookshop £12.60). www.homeforgood.org.uk www.booksforlife.uk