Fresno, CA: A Vision for a “City Without Orphans”

In 2010, a young couple from Fresno, CA reached out to the Christian Alliance for Orphans.  Whitney and Daniel Bunker felt God calling them to help churches in their region take on the needs of kids in foster care.  Their ultimate hope was to make Fresno a “City Without Orphans”—with every foster child in a loving Christian home.

I had the privilege of meeting Whitney and Daniel over Mexican food soon after that.  Their blend of passion and thoughtfulness impressed me.  They eagerly connected with other CAFO members engaging similar work, and worked hard to form wise plans and quality materials.

But the road ahead wasn’t easy.  Often, their efforts met quiet rejection or apathy.  I joined them in praying that God would nurture the seeds they were planting; but often the soil felt dry and rocky.

The past few times we’ve connected, though, it’s been clear something special is stirring in Fresno.  In June, Christianity Today did a great write up on City Without Orphans.  And a few weeks ago when we talked, Whitney said she felt God has been moving mountains.  I asked if she’d be willing to share a bit more for the blog, and this is what she wrote.   (By the way, if you live in central California, join me the City Without Orphans big city-wide rally on January 27, Speak Up Fresno!)

___________________________

2012- The Year God Moved Mountains for His Kids

As I reflect on what God has done in my city and church this past year, I stand amazed. When I read the scriptures that say, “God is a defender of orphans…He sets the lonely in families,” I now know that He is serious about it. This is how I have come to understand God’s character in 2012:

Two years ago God gave my husband and I a vision that our city of Fresno would be known as a city without orphans. We knew that God wanted to use the 400+ local churches in our area to do this. We set out on a quest that Fall to start engaging our local churches. Of course, we thought the perfect place to start was our own. My husband is on staff and we already had a few adoptive/foster families in our church. In light of this, we assumed that we would be able to easily engage and mobilize leaders to spear head this effort. As a local adoptive mom and I started to navigate the uncharted waters of an orphan care ministry at our church, we found it slow coming. I stepped back in my role,  let her lead and told myself that I would be a prayer support in the background. I knew God had big plans for our church and that it was all in God’s timing, not mine.

My husband and I continued to speak to pastors, churches and community members about how we can get involved in caring for the most vulnerable population in our city. The first year we saw 6 churches step up to the call. We were excited to see each one uniquely living out their purpose, but again, knew God had so much more in store. This led us to more prayer and supplication on behalf of God’s kids, knowing only God could move hearts.

As we were praying all this time, God was doing a work in people that we did not know. At our church, the women’s and missions ministries were stirred up to bring awareness about the orphan. On Orphan Sunday weekend in 2011, our church an amazing awareness night where over 750 people came to worship and hear testimonies and a message about how to get involved in caring for the orphan. After this event, God’s spirit moved mightily. Several families within our church who had contemplated foster care or adoption at some point said “yes” to God and started the process. Many other churches started to wrestle with the idea of what it looks like to care for orphans in their on congregations. We started getting weekly emails from people asking how they can get their churches involved in orphan care locally!

Then, in 2012, God changed our whole church staff as we knew it. He didn’t just call people in our congregation to foster and adopt, he called us. We have seen 7 children come into our pastoral families through foster care or international adoption over the past 4 months, including our daughter. If you would have told me, in Fall of 2010, that God would change the lives of all these families in our church and city, I would have laughed. I really think I did not fully understand how serious God is about his role as defender of the orphan. If you have not experienced this first hand, test Him. He will do even greater things in the years to come, because that is what He promises.