We gathered on a bright Saturday afternoon in the backyard around a table with a festive cake and bowls of nachos. It was a party for a young boy, and it stirred my thoughts to more than a year before, when Angie had shared with me her excitement. She and her husband, Kinny, were beginning the journey to become foster parents. With two children of their own—a daughter, Adrienne (fourth grade), and a son, Josh (first grade)—and after praying for many years, they were taking a course to make the dream a reality. Only a few weeks later, the phone would ring at their house, and the Call to Care would ring out to our church family as the story of sin’s suffering was exposed.

Four Fragile Little Ones

It was a Monday morning when Angie listened to the message from the foster care agency. A group of siblings needed urgent care. The story of sin’s awful impact on the four small children, ages one to five, would unfold before Kinny and Angie Parrott’s eyes, as those children found shelter with the Parrott family.

After tucking in the two oldest boys the first night, the couple went to meet the remaining brother and sister who were in the hospital. As the Parrotts’ steps drew them into the room, they felt sure they had stepped into an accident scene, but it was, instead, God’s destination for them. From bruised eyes, a small girl and a baby met their gaze. Scarcely dressed, to allow for tubes and bandaged burns, the little ones held on to the new grown-ups, who embraced them with much love. Sitting there in the room together, the four shared an M&M tea party and began to build bridges of trust. The depth of the children’s suffering left scars on their small bodies, while the deeper scars were unseen. The Parrotts knew that the Commission to Care for those four little ones would require great provision in many ways. With heavy hearts they went home to rest, eager to return the next day to take the hurting ones home to heal.

The four fragile children were reunited in the Parrotts’ home the next day. Their home of four became a home of eight, and the realities of caring for four broken lives set in. Kinny and Angie called the director of the Adult Bible Fellowship at their church and made a list of helpful items: bunk beds, clothing, food, diapers. It wasn’t long before a truck arrived with beds, and the couch and floor were soon covered with clothes and shoes for the children—who had come with nothing but needs. Friends from the group busied themselves with laundry and cleaning, scooping up children and reading books to them. The Call had been heard, and God’s people began to answer quickly and generously.

The First Call to Care

Such a call has echoed throughout time. The earliest Call to Care was heard immediately after the first horrible consequences of sin were revealed. Just after God explained the pain that mankind would experience, using words like “cursed” and “sorrow” (Genesis 3:16–19), we’re told that Adam called his wife “Eve, because she was the mother of all living” (v. 20). A mother is the one who provides nurturing, someone who provides comfort when the awful consequences of sin bring a depth of suffering beyond our understanding. Adam’s words were the first indication that care would be needed to respond to life’s coming pain. God’s very next act shows us what else is needed when pain is revealed: God “clothed them” (v. 21). He not only met their physical need, but he covered their condition. What mercy, as our tender Creator God covers us in our need. The Commission to Care accompanied the uncovering of the consequences of sin.

Willing Hands, Open Hearts

As the days progressed, the Parrotts found their bank account dwindling under an avalanche of needs. God appointed His people, and before the week was over, members of the church family had arrived with supplies that were delivered at no cost. Working together, they added rooms onto the little house, spending days serving to provide for the children and to help the Parrotts. Other members of the church arrived with meals to feed the hungry helpers.

Along with the weekend came the realization that Weston, the oldest child, was celebrating a birthday. How long had it been since he had enjoyed a celebration? Out of the church family’s generosity poured a birthday party, complete with a bicycle for the little boy who had arrived with nothing—gifts of comfort in answer to the Call.

Just as Satan had stirred up the birth of suffering so long ago, he began to stir Kinny, whispering doubts about the greatness of the needs of his now-doubled family, the unfinished rooms, the tired volunteers, and the costs involved. “How can we care enough when the consequences are so great?” Taking a seat in church one morning, he felt a hand on his shoulder. It was a brother in the church, asking if the Parrotts could use some paint, and providing a gift card to cover the cost. The timing was perfect, as another brother arranged for workers to finish the rooms and get them ready to be painted only three days later. That was enough time to set up a schedule in the Adult Bible Fellowship for more than forty people to paint the additions in just five days. So many had heard the Call.

As word spread about the young family’s needs, more people came forward to give of their time, their resources, and their love. Building supplies, new appliances, and furniture filled the space inside the house. And love filled the empty places in the hearts of the four fragile children. So great a suffering had called for so great a love. It was in the Parrotts’ home and in their church that the little ones who had paid so high a price began to hear of the One Who wants to cover them and Who cares for them so much that He used His people to be His hands and feet. He had been the One to send out the Call to Care. With willing hands and open hearts, the Parrotts and their church family answered the Call.

Answering the Call

Since the birth of suffering so long ago in the Garden and that first unfolding of pain to come, God’s people have been answering the Call to Care. As believers were added to the church (Acts 2:41–47), their belief brought them together, having “all things in common,” and using their resources “as anyone had need.” They are described as being driven by their belief, for the purpose of relieving need. As they answered the Call to Care, the outcomes are clear: fellowship, gladness, simplicity of heart, and praising God. Caring characterized this early “Bible Fellowship,” who had been called on to respond to the suffering created by sin. Our culture faces isolation, despondency, complicated relationships, and discontent. As the Call goes out to God’s people today, perhaps our answer to that Call can provide the comfort that will help to heal the hurting and care for those caught in sin’s consequences.

Bittersweet Farewells

As the children played and cake was passed on that sunny Saturday afternoon a year later, we were again celebrating in honor of Weston, the oldest of the four foster children. He and his younger brothers and sister were healthy and carefree in the arms of love and safety, in the haven where God had placed them. But the gathering was bittersweet, for this time we gathered to prepare for Weston’s departure.

It was beyond the understanding of those who had painted, given, cooked, hammered, and read books to the children. The pain for Kinny and Angie was deeper than they could have expected, and the future was unclear for the little children they had come to love as their own. From that very first Monday, the length of the children’s stay had been uncertain, but the Parrotts and their church family had joined together to answer the needs and to redeem every moment of time. The Parrotts had prayed for many years to pour into whatever little lives the Lord would send their way, so they had counted each day precious and given with abandon. Kinny and Angie wanted to be sure that each child would know the touch of love and recognize the face of care, prepared to understand the Heavenly Father Who had sent out the Call to His people to help them.

The Call of Hope

Only one of the four children remained with the Parrott family initially. Miss A. J. Parrott was adopted into her new earthly home, a step her family hoped would prepare the way, when she understands, for adoption into His family, an eternal haven for the hurting.  With sad hearts, the Parrotts watched as each of the three little boys whom they had loved and cared for were placed in other homes. Weston was returned to his biological father and stepmother. As the surrogate family released these little ones, they knew that precious seeds had been planted in each boy’s life like hidden treasures. The Parrotts and their church family entrusted them to God and continued to pray for these seeds to grow and sustain these children. They prayed for eternal adoption into the family of the One Who had sent the Call. What they did not know is that before too long, they would receive another important Call of Hope. The children’s biological father called to tell them that Weston was not flourishing or happy because he longed to be back with the Parrott family. The formal proceedings have begun to allow Weston to return to the Parrott family-for good. Through God’s provision, this little boy who has been through so much will soon be truly “coming home” and be adopted legally as the Parrotts’ son, joining his sister A. J.

The Call Continues

As the tremendous cost of sin continues to unfold in homes today, as it did in the Garden so long ago, there is an almost audible need for care. In a world so full of suffering, the Call to Care goes out so that the love of Christ can bring fellowship, gladness, and simplicity of heart to those who look out of bruised eyes and have nothing of their own but hungry hearts. Oppor­tunities may come to families and to the body of believers in something as common as a single phone call, asking us to answer the Call to Care.

Julie S. and her husband, Jeff, have been missionaries in the Philippines and  currently serve at a church in Knoxville, Tennessee, where Jeff is pastor of maturity. Julie serves in a number of capacities, including leading the church’s Women’s Ministry Team.