Fostering His Children
In recognition of National Foster Care Month, we visited with John Mark Miller, staff assistant to the DBU president, and his wife, Janelle, about how the Lord called them to pursue foster parenting.
As DBU alumni Janelle and John Mark Miller near the end of the state licensing process to be approved as foster and potential adoptive parents in May or June of this year, people usually wonder what led them to make this major life decision.
For Janelle, adopting a foster child has been a lifelong dream. Many of her childhood friends were adopted, and she was deeply impacted by the way adoptive families can serve as powerful, living pictures of the Gospel. One November, Janelle met a former foster child who was now in her twenties, and casually asked where this young lady was going for Thanksgiving.
“With tears in her eyes, she told me that she had aged out of the foster system and had never been adopted, and that she had absolutely no one to spend the holidays with. I realized that if people like me did nothing, many of these foster children would spend the rest of their lives completely alone,” shares Janelle.
It took John Mark a little longer to warm up to the idea of fostering, since there were so many unknowns and it felt like a huge risk. His perspective changed, however, when the Lord led him to spend four years teaching in an inner city middle school where he worked with many children from troubled homes.
“When a student feels safe enough in your classroom to share with you the horrors they are experiencing at home, you immediately feel responsible for protecting that child in some way,” John Mark explains. “It is so difficult to watch those students go home to abusive situations day after day and be able to do nothing but notify the school counselor and pray for their safety.”
This experience is what the Lord used to give John Mark the desire to not simply provide a safe classroom for students one hour a day, but to provide a safe home where they could find constant love and protection.
As they began working on becoming licensed foster parents, the Millers were surprised by the level of support provided by their local adoption agency and also by the overwhelming amount of paperwork required.
“During one training a case manager told us, ‘before this is over we will know practically everything about you!’” Janelle remembers.
Attending trainings after work and learning about all of the rules, regulations, parenting guidelines, required paperwork, continuing classes, reading assignments, and interviews, the Millers have been astonished at how carefully the government watches over the children in the foster system. They are also constantly reminded that the Lord loves these precious children more than anyone else ever could, and it is comforting to know that He is watching over these children – and their foster parents – with His loving gaze.
The Millers know that their children will come from traumatic situations, and that this will come with many challenges.
“I come from a close-knit family,” John Mark shares, “so the hardest part for me was realizing that I may not feel that same closeness with my own children for a very long time. Eventually, I simply had to fall on my knees before God and say, ‘This is not my family, it’s Your family, and I trust that You know what You’re doing.’”
Even before a single child has been placed into their home, the Millers already feel that this experience has strengthened their spiritual walk. They have realized that the sacrifices they are making are very small compared to Christ dying for us while we were sinful and difficult to love ourselves (Romans 5:8). They were excited to learn that one definition of the word foster is “to cherish, to encourage growth,” and their prayer is that the Lord would use them to encourage their future children and others to grow closer to the Lord.
Janelle says, “John Mark and I have prayed over the children that God will bring into our home…I find myself wondering what sort of tragedy they are experiencing, and pray that God would lessen their load and allow us to be a vessel of healing in their life.”