01 Jul Steadfast Support
The Lord began to stir Al Lopez’s heart on September 16, 2007.
Matt Carter had preached a sermon titled “Impure Worship” out of Amos 5. The heart of the message was that the American church had shifted its focus from living Christianity to just studying it. In Amos 5:21-24, the Lord says “I hate, I despise your feasts, and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies. Even though you offer me your burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them; and the peace offerings of your fattened animals, I will not look upon them. Take away from me the noise of your songs; to the melody of your harps I will not listen. But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.”
Earlier in Amos 4, God refers to the Israelites as those who oppress the poor and crush the needy. God, in His anger, does not accept their worship because it is impure. They sing songs in the name of the Lord but are simultaneously not caring for the poor. In James 1:27, James writes that “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.”
We see in multiple places in God’s Word that His heart breaks for the marginalized, and he calls His people to fight for them as part of honoring Him.
“That Sunday, my wife, Judy, and I both independently decided that the Lord wanted us at the Austin Stone, and that we were going to move to the St. John neighborhood. By November of 2008 we were living on Providence Avenue.” In addition to Al’s own convictions, the Stone started to place a heavy emphasis on orphans and foster care, including offering an equipping class to become a certified foster parent. Al decided to take the class to gain more information about the population and foster care system.
“It was a real eye-opener for me; the conviction continued, especially as I considered how blessed we have been with our own kids.” Al’s three children, Brittany, Justin, and Mark, and their spouses all know and follow Jesus. As his heart became burdened over this issue, For the City also grew in involvement with the population. For the City partnered with CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) and began to actively recruit volunteers to become CASAs. Al attended an orientation, submitted his application, and then proceeded through the screening, pre-training interview, and the actual 39 hours of required training.
Towards the end of training, a volunteer is asked with which type of case he or she would feel comfortable. Since there are less volunteers interested in working with older youth, and since Al has grown kids of his own, he signed up for the “transitioning youth” program, meaning he would be working with kids who have been in the system for a longer amount of time and are at risk of aging out of care.
Al is now on his second case.
“It’s been challenging,” he says, “I struggle with my kids’ stories and behavioral issues. I need to resist the temptation to give in to my control idol.” His tendency is to lean towards discipline and structure, but Al knows these children need the balance of both structure and nurture. They need somebody to show them they love and care for them.
“We adults struggle with sin; it’s no surprise to see these younger people dealing with the issues they deal with, making the decisions they do,” says Al, but he knows that as he serves, God is doing a work in him as well. “My role is to grow to know the child, the family, the situation, and then advocate for what is in the best interest of the child—not necessarily what the child wants, what the parents want, or even what Child Protective Services wants. It’s an important role and one that the kids need to have filled. I am thankful for what God taught me over the years, through His Word and in raising my own family, that is relevant to my role as a CASA volunteer.”
Al tells his current CASA kid that though his behavior may disappoint Al, he will never stop caring about him.
In Ephesians 2:4-5, Paul says “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved.” In God’s love, he saved us while we were still dead in our trespasses not because of anything we did, but because of His grace. The love that Al can extend to his CASA kid will never be perfect or completely fulfilling, but Al continues to love on Him to image the endless, unconditional love that we receive from the Father.
To learn more about becoming a CASA, click here.