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Clergy View: Widows and orphans

Sam Anderson

"My dad was a drug dealer and my mom was a meth addict."

"My mom was a prostitute to pay for her drugs and I never knew my father. I was 5 when my mom got arrested on the street and she didn't tell the police she had children at the apartment. I was left there with my 3-year-old sister for three days."

"My dad was an alcoholic and beat us kids regularly."

"My mom made me bartend for her when I was 8 years old and by 10 she made me drink mixed drinks with her so she didn't have to do it alone."

I'm guessing that to most of those reading this article in the Clergy View column of the Brainerd Dispatch, these statements might sound like something out of an engaging fiction novel or HBO series. Unfortunately these are a few of the very real stories of clients at the Central Minnesota Adult & Teen Challenge. Not all of them experience this kind of trauma; some grew up in awesome homes with amazing parents, but the horrors of this addicted generation are now ravaging the next. Children down the street from you are suffering in unimaginable ways and you probably aren't even aware. Ask any teacher, police officer or the brave county social workers who labor tirelessly to protect the most innocent and vulnerable among us and they will tell you story after story of the very real hell too many children are suffering just blocks away.

Addiction is the perpetrator in nearly all of these cases.

James 1:27a says, "Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress..." (NIV)

I wish to assert that included in today's "widows and orphans" are those children who, although their parents may still be alive, have become incapacitated by their addictions.

The last few months this verse has been annoying me. Annoying me because although I work daily with the adults who suffered these things as children, I'm doing very little to stop it from happening in the first place.

My wife and I agreed it was time we did our part and so we have started the process to become foster parents. God has never given us children of our own and we feel incredibly ill-prepared and are honestly devoid of all parenting skills. To be truthful, I'm a little terrified, but we do know how to love, teach healthy boundaries, provide a safe environment, encourage, model a loving relationship and give of ourselves.

Today I want to put out a call, no, a challenge, to all of us who claim Christian faith to fulfill the call of our Lord to love the "least among us" by emptying the waiting lists of children longing for a safe and caring home by opening yours.

I'm sure it won't be easy, but what greater reward do we need than the knowledge that we have cared for those whom God loves so much. I want to do more than deal with the aftermath of all the adverse childhood experiences brought on by parents' addictions. My wife and I want to do our part to try and stop the cycle, even if it is for just one. That one deserves it, at least until Mom and/or Dad are able to get the help they need to become sober and stable enough to provide a safe and loving environment for their children.

For more information on becoming a foster parent, contact your local county social services department or a private foster agency in your area.

Minnesota Adult & Teen Challenge is a nonprofit, statewide faith-based drug and alcohol treatment and recovery program ranging from outpatient to long-term residential. Their mission is to assist teens and adults in gaining freedom from chemical addictions and other life-controlling problems by addressing their physical, emotional, and spiritual needs. Here in Brainerd, they offer outpatient treatment for women and men as well as short-term licensed treatment and long-term residential recovery services for adult men.