Children end up in foster care for a variety of reasons. Unfortunately, it’s sometimes a mistake that the parents made. And in some of those cases, the consequence of the mistake is that the parents lose visitation rights for a season until things improve.
This was the case for one little girl named *Sally. Taken from the only home she ever knew, which was filled with chaos, she was placed with a loving, Christian foster family. The church the foster family attended had a thriving foster care ministry. Terms like Encounter, Foundations and the Community of Care® are common within their congregation, and the pastors do all they can to support and share the Gospel with everyone who is touched by the foster care system.
Sally went with her foster family, parents and two teenaged siblings, to church regularly. It was there that she heard the story of Jesus, about God’s great big love and what it meant to be a Christian. And she decided she wanted to commit her life to Jesus. She understood the concept at a 6-year-old level and became a 6-year-old Christian. A 6-year-old Christian who wanted to get baptized.
Still a part of the foster care system, several adults had to OK this child’s choice. The biological father, who wasn’t even allowed to see his own daughter, was thrilled. He had a little bit of church experience in his past but always wished he and his child had more exposure to Jesus and His teachings. The biological grandparents, who were in the process to become an approved, permanent home for Sally, were also on board. Lastly, the state and county officials signed off on it.
The only outstanding factor was finding a time in the church calendar. Rushing to make this happen before she left the church and moved in with her biological grandparents, church leaders made accommodations for it to take place at a crowded, Wednesday evening service. Many high school students would be getting baptized that same night, so they’d simply have the young girl go first.
The only sadness hanging over this otherwise wonderful event is that the child’s biological father was not allowed to participate. Wishing so badly that he could be there, the foster family consultant (FFC) found a way to make that happen.
There was no legal way that she could allow the father to interact with his daughter. The girl was also not allowed to see her dad. However, the FFC got approval to allow the father to come to the service, sit in a separate part of the sanctuary and be at the baptism service as part of the larger crowd.
On the day of the event, logistics were tricky. The FFC was there to help coordinate all the details and ensure that no boundaries were crossed. The foster family and Sally got settled in one area of the church while the consultant escorted the dad to a different area, easily lost in a big crowd. When it was time for the 6-year-old girl to be baptized, one of the consultants was even able to get some pictures for her biological dad.
Everything went as planned. No one accidentally saw or interacted with anyone in a way that was forbidden. And upon leaving that day, the teary-eyed, biological dad was met by the foster mom and pastor to greet him personally. The FaithBridge community, church and foster family made extraordinary effort, dealt joyfully with the complications involved and used this child’s baptism as an incredible witness of God’s love and the power of the Gospel in the life of the biological father. It showed him grace, love and kindness in a way that truly reflected Jesus’ love.
“He [Jesus] said to them, ‘Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.’”
– Mark 16:15-16
*The name and details have been changed to protect the privacy of the child and family. The girl pictured here represents the child who was baptized.