Francis and Lisa Chan challenge Christians to think beyond the needs of their own families and to follow God's command to care for and serve others, especially widows and orphans.
Francis Chan: It was amazing, 'cause we had an extra, you know, room in our house and we're going, "Okay, Lord, how do You want us to use it?" And one of my friends told me about this family that they saw at the rescue mission and saying, wow, she's about to give birth. She's got these three kids and I don't know how she's gonna make it. And I just thought, you know what? I think I'm supposed to help her. And so, I call my wife and my wife goes, "Wow, that's amazing. I just got done praying with my friend about how do we use this room in the house." And I go, "Well, let's go down to the mission right now and meet her."
End of Excerpt
John Fuller: I wonder if you could do that very same thing, if you could welcome a stranger with some complicated needs into your home like that. Today we're gonna hear more about God's heart for strangers, especially children, who need our help and perhaps a temporary home. This is "Focus on the Family" with Jim Daly and I'm John Fuller.
Jim Daly: John, this is gonna be a challenging message. It seems whenever we have Francis Chan on the broadcast, man, he stretches our hearts and lays them wide open and makes us think differently about where we're at in our life, what we're doing for the Lord and are we doing the right things?
And the blessing is, we have Francis Chan here, but also his wife, Lisa, which she is terrific, John. And I want to welcome both of you back to the broadcast.
Lisa Chan: Thank you.
Francis: Good to be back.
Jim: You guys, we had you on just a few weeks ago and you did challenge us on how to live marriage in a way that honors God and I'm tellin' ya, if you missed that program, download it or get the CD, 'cause it's—
John: It's at the website, yes.
Jim: --it's really good to think about where you're at and are you making an idol out of family? (Chuckling) And you know what you said then, Francis, and it's focus on the family. We certainly don't want to do that. We want to make sure God and the Lord Jesus Christ is in the driver seat of your life and then concentric circles from there are very important. Family is the next circle out there—your wife, your kids, etc. But Jesus is most important.
Today we want to talk about the strangers though, Francis and Lisa. That clip we recorded four years ago and you shared that story. Talk about the heart for the orphan. Where does that come from?
Francis: Well, it comes from time in the Word. You know, I … you can't go very far in Scripture without seeing God's heart for those who are in need, especially the widows and orphans. How defensive He gets when anyone would dare take advantage of them and yet, how loving He is and excited He is for those of us who would embrace them and care for them.
I mean, that's true religion, you know, in the context of James where everyone's talking, talking, talking. He goes, "Wait; if you want true religion, if you actually want to please the Lord," he goes, "care for the widows and orphans in their distress and keep yourself unstained from the world."
And so, you just look at the Word of God and go, it's there. But it's also that He changed our hearts, right. I mean, He … when His Holy Spirit entered us and we found out He saved us and He took us as His own, that's amazing. He adopted me as His child and maybe it means more to me because my parents had passed away, you know, when I found the Lord. You know, my parents died when I was pretty young and so, He really was my Father and so, now that I've lived this life where I want to be like Him, then I want to be a father. I want this. I desire this. I want to be that dad for those who don't have one.
Jim: Lisa, you have six biological children.
Jim: And you have an additional child, but talk about your kids, all seven of them. What are they like and what are their ages?
Lisa: Well, our oldest is Rachel. She's 19, so she's been out of the home for two years now in college. We have our next child who came to us last year as a 16-year-old. She is our foster daughter. We have Mercy, who's 15. She's a junior in high school. And Ellie and Zeke are 10 and 9. They're our little buddies that are so close together in age. And then Claire is our 4-year-old who we just all adore right now, 'cause that's basically our favorite age. And (Laughter)—
John: Thought you were going to say favorite child!
Lisa: --the baby. (Laughing)
Jim: Just four, that's it.
Lisa: Not the favorite child, but the favorite age group. And our baby is 5 ½ months.
Jim: And are you busy or what? (Laughter) You keep lookin' at the phone, you're lookin' for messages here.
Lisa: Yeah, gotta you know, stay in touch with the group, but it's fun.
Jim: It's fun.Now Francis, when you're looking at that kind of situation, both of you really, you could easily say, we have six kids; how in the world are we gonna have a seventh child here and bring a child in?
Lisa: Yeah, it was interesting because we were pregnant with our sixth child when we received the e-mail from someone in our church saying, "There's this young girl who just got kicked out of her home. She's 16. She actually had just given her life to the Lord and was attending this Christian school where one of the girls from our home churches had met her.
And so, this e-mail came out and Francis and I were like, "Oh, man." We had just finished foster parenting classes because it had been on our heart, has been on our heart to adopt, but we were thinking, once again, the Lord gave us another biological child, so we were tired of waiting for the perfect time. We said, forget it and we prayed about it and we said, "We'll take her; we'll open our home."
Francis: Yeah, we were thinking, okay one, we're about to have a baby. (Laughter) This is bad timing. Two, we always thought we'd adopt like a 2-year-old or a 1-year-old. A 16-year-old, who had just gotten in a[n] altercation with a police officer, a drug addict, you know, it was like, really? You know, this is not good timing. This is not a perfect situation. But once again, it's like, "Gosh, but what is the Lord calling us to do?"
Jim: Given that dynamic, some people'd say, you might be a little too risky. You're puttin' it on the edge because you're bringing a, you know, a 17-year-old into the home, who could teach your other children things that they wouldn't normally learn or that wouldn't be healthy. How have you processed that, 'cause it's fear based; I get that.
Jim: But is there a line of caution that's reasonable?
Francis: Maybe, I mean, but you look in Scripture. They do some crazy things in that Book and risk their lives and everyone else's life. I mean, I will say this; she's been the biggest blessing of our life this last year and we would've missed out on it.
And yeah, we you know, our 15-year-old was scared, you know, a little bit, but you know what? She fasted and prayed before this girl moved in, that she would have an impact on her life.
Francis: That's my 15-year-old daughter. You know, those are like your greatest joys in life to go, I didn't tell her to do that. I wasn't fasting. I was eating everything I wanted to (Laughing), you know, but she was serious about the mission and now they're like best buddies.
Jim: Yeah, and you know what really strikes me with that and I'm just thinkin' my own life, my own world and Jean and I do respite care for foster and we've done foster care. But we do start typically from a fear orientation where we're saying, okay, we've gotta protect from this, but you're right. If your kids are living it, if they understand who they are in Christ, we shouldn't be fearful that the world's gonna overtake them. We should be courageous that they're gonna overtake the world, right? That they're gonna be able to influence the people that come into their lives, even as 14-, 15-year-old children, not to be gripped by the fact that the world's gonna take 'em down. That's a different attitude though.
Francis: It is. You gotta look at your children and say, are they burdens or assets? You know (Chuckling), and I go man, my kids are assets. You know, like they're a part of the mission with us. Like, I go, well, the reason why we can do this is because of these kids, rather than I don't know if, you know, we can pull it off 'cause we have all these children. I go, no, look at our children. What better home for this gal to come into? We've got some awesome kids that'll have a great impact on her life.
Jim: Let me talk about just opening your heart in general. Go back to the very first person that you actually brought into your home. What motivated you? What the discussion was like at the time. Because for many people, they have not done this. They've not said to child or a foster child or an agency, we're willing to take people in. Or it's somebody that they've met on the street to say, okay, you know, you got a place to stay tonight. Come home with us. Talk about that first time it happened. What were the circumstances? And how did you both react to each other?
Lisa: Well, thankfully, it was very early on in our marriage. We had been married a few months and there was another couple in the church that were actually feeling like the Lord was going to move them out of state, so they were trying to save money.
Lisa: And Francis came to me and said, "I really think we should let them live with us. They don't have to pay rent. They can save up money and go where the Lord wants them to go." And you know, again, by God's grace was like, "Okay, sure," even though I didn't grow up in a home like that. It didn't seem like anything I had seen a lot of families do, but Francis had said, "I lived with a couple when I was 18-years-old. I got to see what a Christian family looked like and lived like and I got to experience family with them." And so, it was on his heart from the beginning and thankfully, the Lord just let me say, "Whatever you want, Babe." (Laughter)
Jim: But even with that, we're chuckling, but did you have any resentment when you got into it and maybe things got a little tough? You know, dishes weren't done or you know, whatever the thing may have been or the several things.
Lisa: Well, I definitely am the one that struggles more with being irritated at little things when people are living with us. I try to set or lay down a few simple rules. You know, don't put my clothes in the dryer. (Laughter) I want you to do your dishes. You know, we have learned that through the years, but honestly, there's so few times that we haven't had people living in our home, it's very, very rare, that it just became part of the DNA of our family. Our kids don't know any differently. All of them have had many, many, multiple people in their lives in our home. They don't think there's any other way to live.
Jim: When it comes to the foster area, which is one of the things we wanted to concentrate on and this has been a really interesting discussion about our attitude, our heart, but again, over 50 times I think or around 50 times, the Scripture says take care of the widow and the orphan. James, of course, says that's pure religion when you do these things.
What's that process like? You have done it. Is it arduous? Is it difficult? Was it okay? How does a person hearing this say, okay, I hear what Francis and Lisa are saying. I want to become more active. I could take in a foster child. What can they expect going through the process?
Francis: Yeah, I think it's gonna be different with each child obviously and we have friends that have taken in foster kids and I will tell you across the board, it's difficult, very difficult, at times hurtful, at times—
Jim: These are wounded children.
Francis: --oh, yeah, wounded children, but then there's this other side, too, that praise God I got to experience, which was you see a person's life turn around, too, and you see an opportunity to restore someone's childhood and probably my favorite moment after we took this gal in was, we got some threats in our home because she had been involved with some pretty bad people and they were threatening to even shoot up our house.
And so, the social worker came over and you know, said, "Hey, how long is she allowed to live with you? You know, it's been a couple weeks, but you know, these threats are real. This thing is happening. This is happening. You know, how much longer?" And just without even thinking, I just started talking and I go, I looked at, you know, our daughter going, "Honey, you can stay here as long as you want." I go, "You see how I treat my girls. I would treat you the same way. You stay here till you get married. You stay here after you get married." You know, "I want you to be one of mine if you want to be one of mine. And everything that's mine is yours."
And as I'm saying it, you see her eyes light up, but as I'm saying it, I'm also going, "What am I saying? Like this is so natural to me and as I'm saying it, I'm having this experience with God where He's goin', "Francis, don't you get [it]? That's what I've been saying to you, that everything that's mine is yours. I'll just take you as one of My own" and it's a joy of, whoa, I'm acting like God. Like this is so natural for me and what a joy.
And you know, for me, I've wrestled with insecurity in my walk with the Lord, not having a great relationship with my dad when he was alive and never feeling like I owned up to who he wanted me to be and I was always disappointing him. And so, sometimes I carry that into my relationship with God.
But this is one of those moments where here I am wanting to adopt this daughter and just saying, "Look, everything, you can have it all" and God's saying, "That came from Me. You got that from Me. That was my line. That's (Laughter) what I have said to you and I want you to believe it so badly, Francis." And that's, you know, one, there's blessing of having this new daughter that I just absolutely adore now, but two, what it's done in my own relationship with God and my own security. These are things that I wasn't anticipating that are those pleasant surprises of, when you lay your life down is when you really find it.
Jim: Well, and what I hear you saying is, don't go in halfway, 'cause that's usually where you're gonna mess up. Go in all the way, meaning it's all Yours.
Jim: Something like that. I mean, for that girl who's 17 to hear those words, which she's probably never sensed that kind of security or that comfort in the right context or that joy. I mean, to feel that from somebody that you care enough about me. You don't even know me that well.
Francis: Uh-hm, yeah. (Laughing) You know, and it's so fun watching her now. I mean, you know, I just laugh when I think about her. It's like she's got her childhood back. You know, just a week ago, she was begging me to buy her a horse. (Laughter) Wait; you're seven, what are you talkin' about? Wait a minute? You want us to throw it in the backyard, you know? It's like we have this tiny yard. "Yeah, yeah, can you?" It's like, "No, honey, look, we're not buying a horse." But it's just fun to watch her really think it through, you know, but it's just like, that's what you do in your childhood.
Francis: And so many of these kids were robbed of that and to think, okay, you know what? Let's just talk about a horse. Let's [talk about it], maybe. You know, let's just enjoy the moment. So, I don't know, what a rush to be able to be a part of something like that.
Jim: Well, and it's exciting and Lisa, for you to observe that, I mean, and to be part of it, to be engaging. I'm aware of a 17-year-old who was adopted into a home from foster care and she told me, she said, "The thing that I think about the most is that now when I get married someday, I can call 'home.' I can call home and talk to mom and ask her how to cook the turkey." That kind of thing, this 17-year-old girl, how are you connecting with her?
Lisa: Yeah, we connected right away. It was interesting. It took a little bit of almost convincing at her age in the beginning to get her to come and live with a home and with a family. And we talked by phone and she would say, "You already have five kids" and she knew I was pregnant. And you know, that … "You already have so many." And I said, "But honey that just means we have extra love. You know, it doesn't mean that it's gonna be less. It means you're gonna have more comin' from everybody, you know."
And she still remembers that conversation. She goes, "Remember, remember? I was sitting on the bus when I called you that day." And man, to see the way that she has just blossomed and changed and healed and we've had our tears together. We've had some moments of frustration together. We've cried, but we've laughed and we've just seen God do such a great work.
And again, I think man, I could've blown it because I was so afraid to begin with and I was so adamant in my own mind not to take a teenager because that scared the life out of me. And here God is once again, showing me, "If I have asked you to do it and you're surrendered and you say yes, you will see Me come through and be faithful."
Jim: Yeah and I think, those are all honest feelings and so often we're living in the moment. You know, so if you had a bad day, uh-oh, maybe we shouldn't be doing this. But think of the long haul and the impact. I've heard some research suggests that foster kids who get brief exposure to a functional family that, that can make the difference for them when they get married.
Jim: I mean, the numbers were, I think it's less than six months, if they live with a family for four to six months to get a feeling for what a family should be, when they get married, they're much more functional in their family structure as a spouse and as a mom or dad. I think that's telling, that when you can feel it, sense it, be a part of it, it helps set you up for success in life in the best of ways.
Lisa and Francis, let me ask you this, the support network and the importance of that. As I've mentioned, Jean and I have done respite. Respite simply means you come around other foster families and you give them a break by taking the kids for a weekend or something like that.
There's other things that families can do and churches are so well-equipped to be doing this, to provide meals from time to time, to do the laundry for the family, to just come alongside. And again, some have found that about five families for every foster family, five families supporting that family seems to be a good equilibrium, that foster families are highly successful when they have five families helping them in different ways. Have you seen that and have you had that kind of support from your own church?
Francis: You know what, we have a great support system in our church and a lot of it is because there's a DNA in our church where it's just expected. You care for one another. You take people into your home. I mean, it's great to be a part of a church where that's the norm and it's great to see our kids growing up in that type of church, rather than, wow, there's that one freak family that's taken a foster kid.
You know, it's the culture and so, we all kinda look out for each other and I love being a part of this group and I will say, I don't want to say, like "Oh, we could never do it without 'em" because the Lord gives you grace and He's given us a wonderful family and our kids have been in the mission with us and so, we've got plenty of support that way. But it is so great for her to have other, you know, we'll call 'em aunts and uncles or brothers and sisters in Christ, who all adore her like we do.
John: Yeah, Jim, I've mentioned that for us in our adoption process and post-adoption we've had a lot of grace shown to us by our church. There are messy times with, particularly kids from the foster-care system. Our church has a pretty active outreach to many of those children and it's changed the tenure of how we do ministry in the church.
It's necessarily caused some conversations about language, about exposure to media, about exposure to bad things and these kids bring all of that with them. Have you all experienced your church just embracing that messiness of a child?
Francis: Yeah and a lot of our church came out of that messiness. (Laughter) And so, they do a better job at that than we do. It's like many of them came out of prison or off the streets and so, they can relate better than we can and I love that aspect of it.
Jim: You had some special friends that kinda influenced you in this foster space. Who are they and what did they do?
Francis: There was a couple in our church—Domingo and Irene Garcia. And they have taken in foster kids all their married life. I mean, terrible background these two. I mean, he was abusive, alcoholic, everything. She was praying that he would die, I mean, beating her up, that type of thing. God turns their life around. They start opening their home because they're like, what else do you do? That's what the Scripture says. Do we feel like it? Not always, but here's what the Scripture said. So, they took in all of these sets of foster kids, had some horrific experiences, but just kept going. Now they're in their 60s and they just recently adopted 10 more kids—adopted--
Jim: In their 60s.
Francis: --10 out of the foster system in their 60s.
Jim: Good for them!
Francis: Unbelievable and she'll tell you, "I'm goin' nuts some days," you know. She's a hairdresser. He's a mechanic. This isn't like some, you know, multimillionaire, you know, with all these servants around. I mean, they're taking some of these troubled kids in their 60s—10! We have no excuses and to see the way that they love on these children and the joy in them. I could probably count on one hand the number of couples in the U.S. that actually challenged my faith, but I would say, Irene and Domingo are definitely one of those couples. I love them dearly. They have eternal focus and they are role models for us.
Lisa: You know, sometimes the leaders of a church or you know, being in the position of being the pastor and his wife, there's few people really that you can turn to or look to. There's so many people looking up to you and following your example.
And I just praise God for Irene. She is a woman that I respect probably more than any other woman I know. And when we text back and forth and we'll be praying for each other and I just count it a privilege. There's days when I feel like I'm having a hard time and the Lord always puts Irene in my heart and I pray for her instead, 'cause I think, if I think I am having a hard day, Irene must be having it even harder. She has so many children still in her care. And there's days when I think, you know, I have an almost 20-year-old and I have a baby and I think, "Lord, why do You want me to be in this season my whole life?" And again, I think of Irene and her faithfulness and she always points everybody to Jesus and I want to be like her. And I'm so grateful for her example and I'm so excited that they're gonna be able to come on this broadcast and share with everyone one day.
You know, when you look at it and we're wrapping up here, but when you look at it, I've used this often, we have 400,000 children in foster care in the United States. About 100,000, a quarter of those children, have no parents. The parental rights have been terminated. I mean, they have parents, but they're deemed unfit by the courts and they have lost their parental rights—100,000 kids. And then we have about 300,000 churches in the U.S. Every third church taking one child would wipe out the waiting foster adoption rolls. And wouldn't that be a great New York Times headline? "Christian Church Wipes Out—
Jim: --Foster Adoption Lists?" I just think, you want to change the culture, you want to do what they did in Rome, the Early Church, this is one way to do it and Jesus has even put it in the Book, "Take care of the widow and the orphan."
Francis: That's an embarrassing thing to hear, you know, those stats.
Francis: Gosh, that's all that it would take, one person out of every 3 churches that's willing to do that? I mean, aren't we all a little ashamed of that?
Francis: And yet, I think new churches are rising up though, I see a younger generation that's thinking differently, that's sees the obviousness of that.
Francis: And we for too long have been saying, "Well, God didn't call me to care, you know, to adopt or," I'm like what? Have you read the Bible? You know, what, are you waiting for this voice from God?" He's already spoken through His Word. If anything, we should all be pursuing adoption unless we hear a voice from heaven saying, "Stop. Don't. Don't, don't, don't. That wasn't for you. That was for everyone else. Don't do it." You know, instead we're sitting; it's like, no, not till I hear an audible voice.
Francis: Gosh, just read the Bible and assume you should obey it unless you hear a voice from God telling you to stop.
Jim: Well, you've said it so well and I hope people are motivated to look into it. That's something we do here with Wait No More. Go to the website. John, you'll give those details.
Jim: Look into it. What can you do to be one more of that growing number who is stepping into the life of a foster child to help them in the name of Christ. Thanks for bein' with us.
Lisa: Thank you.
Francis: Thanks for havin' us.
John: Some convicting statements from our guests, Francis and Lisa Chan on today's "Focus on the Family." And we'll encourage you to carefully consider and pray about what they've addressed today. And maybe God is stirring your heart about foster care or adoption. Perhaps you're thinking, yes, we can. We must do this.
If that's the case, please know that we have some great information and resources to help you start that process. Our website is www.focusonthefamily.com/radio. Or call us; our number's 800, the letter A and the word FAMILY: 800-232-6459.
Now if God hasn't yet prompted you to bring a child into your home, there is something extra ordinary you can still do for these needy children. Your financial support of Focus on the Family's Wait No More campaign will help us recruit more Christian couples to be part of God's provision for children without families. Your month pledge helps us raise awareness in local communities and find willing families and then connect them to agencies and other resources they need to begin the process. After an adoption has been finalized, we're here to provide resources and counseling as needed. Join us in this exciting effort by becoming a monthly donor. Sign up for automatic donations to come to Focus on the Family out of your savings or checking account and know that that'll make a huge difference in a child's life today. Our phone number once again, 800, the letter A and the word FAMILY. You can also donate at www.focusonthefamily.com/radio.
Our program was provided by Focus on the Family and on behalf of Jim Daly and the entire team, thanks for listening. I'm John Fuller, hoping you have a great weekend and please, plan to join us again on Monday. We'll have an inspiring message about trusting God with every part of your life, next time as we once more, help you and your family thrive.
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Francis ChanView Bio
Lisa ChanView Bio
Lisa Chan is a musician, a public speaker and the co-founder (along with her husband, Francis) of Cornerstone Community Church in Simi Valley, Calif. Lisa and Francis are co-authors of the book You and Me Forever. The Chans have seven children and reside in northern California. Learn more about Lisa at www.truebeautyfilms.com.