My parents separated when I was 3 years old.
I have heard it said that children won’t remember much, if anything, from their early childhood, but I remember the night my father left like it was yesterday.
Yelling, screaming, lamps thrown, tables flipped. I spent most of that night in a closet, and then I ran into the open waiting arms of a neighbor who made me feel safe.
OCA matters to me because of that kid in the closet and those open arms. When my father left, a part of me left with him. He would breeze in and out of my life and my mother would have boyfriends that were all very nice, but nothing is like having a forever dad. My mother remarried when I was 8 and I’ll never forget the first day I met him. He bought me peanuts at a Redbirds game. I soon freely called him “Dad”. He adopted me a few years after they married.
OCA matters to me because of that kid smiling, and holding those peanuts. I’ve been blessed to have had many mentors in my life who helped shape me into the man I am today – my mother sacrificed everything so that I could go to great schools. My grandfather taught me the only thing you ever truly own is your name, and to just do the right thing. My biological father who returned to my life older, wiser, and with a helping, giving heart. My adopted father who taught me what it means to lead and to love. My first manager who introduced me to church and to Jesus. My wife who baptized me.
OCA matters to me because of that man in the baptismal pool. I had somewhat of a rough start to this life, as many of the children we care for do –worse than I. I was able to rise out of it because of the people who cared for me, not because they had to, but because they wanted to. They loved me. God led those people to me and used them to build me up and ultimately find a deep relationship with Him.
OCA matters to me because it’s the open arms to the child running from fear. It’s the warm smile and loving heart that helps a kid remember how to be a kid. It’s the financial and educational support to adoptive parents. It’s the friend and mentor that sticks with you through good times and bad because they truly care about you. OCA matters to me because it’s the hands and feet of Jesus.
When asked why I serve on the board of OCA or why donations matter to us, I am immediately reminded of Eric Ludy’s short film Depraved Indifference.
In this film, Ludy describes his experience with the Lord, who called him to adoption after studying Liberian culture. Ludy’s vision was a young boy, sitting on the side of the road. This young boy had no one to fight for his cause, no way to articulate his circumstance. He was suffering, totally alone. It was through that vision that Ludy realized; this could so easily have been his four-year-old son, Hudson. But in that pivotal moment he realized he was God’s son, God’s Hudson.
Think for a second about your son or daughter, niece or nephew, anyone you love. Picture them on the side of the road somewhere suffering. I have two boys and I can’t even fathom this. What would you do? The answer is simple. You would do anything, everything! Spend every penny you have – swim across oceans – nothing could stop you from going to them. Eric continues with God’s response, “Eric, that’s my Hudson. That is MY Hudson.”
God is looking to us, and he’s saying, “I’m calling up everyone I know, everyone on my list that says they’re a friend of God and I’m saying my son is over in Liberia, are you willing to get on the plane and get to him? I’ll give you the coordinates. I’ll do whatever it takes, but I need you to get to my son and be a father to him.”
God’s call is clear in James 1:27, “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress.” These are His children, yes, but God cares for these children through us!
God doesn’t call us all to care in the same way. Some of our donors give until it hurts. Others literally cross oceans to get to their kids. Maybe God hasn’t put it on your heart to care in these ways, but what part can you play?
- Could you meet a tangible need for a vulnerable family in your community?
- Could you skip a TV show each week to chat with a teen that is aging out of the foster care system?
- Could you give up a dinner out each week so that a child can be cared for while their parent or guardian gets back on their feet?
- Could you give one less gift to your child so that another can have a present to open on Christmas morning?
By doing these little things, and through OCA, we may not be able to change the world, but we can certainly change the world for one child.
Brandon Karem has served on the OCA Board of Directors for the last two years. He has been married to his wife Heather for ten years. They have two children and Brandon is the General Manager at Bramco.