By Holly Jo Linzay, Regional Reporter
ALEXANDRIA – Hearts were stirred at the 127 Conference Nov. 8 at Calvary Baptist Church as the 120 attendees heard first-hand accounts of how fostering and adopting children impact lives.
The conference is part of the effort to help families and churches across the state answer God’s call to minister to orphans through foster care, adoption and orphan care ministries, according to Dr. Perry Hancock, the president and CEO of the Louisiana Baptist Children’s Home & Family Ministries, which sponsored the event through their Connect 1:27 ministry.
“Just listen for the voice of God,” Hancock urged the group in the opening session in regards to what the Lord may speak to them in regards to orphans or foster children. Most of the people attending the conference currently are foster or adoptive parents, but many came to the event to find out how to get started in the process or to start a church ministry for orphan care.
“We want to share the message of the need of homes for children and to connect children in need with churches that care,” said Beth Green, LBCH director of church and community ministries.
In Louisiana, there are more than 4,500 children in foster care on any given day. Roughly 300 orphans in the state need an adoptive family.
In the United States, more than 500,000 are in foster care, and about 120,000 of these children need an adoptive family, a “forever family,” Green added. Part of the ministry of Connect 1:27 is to help churches establish orphan ministries and to help families through the adoptive process.
At the one-day conference, participants were able to select from nine different breakout sessions that ranged in topics from effectively parenting the abused and neglected child to helping children understand and manage anger.
Shawn and Lyndsi Jamison of Bossier City said they came to the conference to learn more about foster care and adoption.
They first considered fostering a child after a LBCH representative came to speak at their church. The couple recently had a little boy placed in their home to foster.
“We fell in love with him from day one. He’s changing our lives,” Lyndsi said with a big smile. “We hope to adopt him.”
The couple said at the conference they were able to network with other foster parents and to gather a lot of information from the different organizations and agencies across the state associated with foster care and adoption services.
At the morning and afternoon sessions, Becky Wright, a recording artist and founder of Tahlequah Orphan and Adoption Ministries, sang original songs and shared her inspiring story of how she and her husband, Hank, came to adopt two siblings from foster care, after having seven of their own children, in addition to raising their niece following the tragic loss of her sister.
Becky shared poignant facts concerning children and teens in foster care and detailed real-life ramifications of the shortage foster homes.
“Love is always a choice. It’s a deliberate act. Most of these kids don’t come to us all loveable. Many of the children have experienced extreme rejection and great loss. God has given me a heart for orphans,” Becky said.
Anna Palmer, executive director of Crossroads NOLA and a session speaker, agreed and said churches, regardless of size, budget or time could start and maintain an orphan care ministry to help foster and adoptive parents that are struggling with their foster or adoption journeys.
“There is a mandate in the Scripture to care for orphans. When a child enters foster care, they are experiencing tremendous loss. They are in a new environment, around new people, new food, new school and new rules,” Palmer said.
She said churches need to be educated on how to support foster families, especially when the family receives a new child in their home.
“We need to teach our churches not to show up with balloons because a child has been yanked from a home. The best way for the church to support foster families is to be a foster family partner,” she said.
Churches can provide a safety net, prayer partners, a support system, stock a one-stop resource closet and establish an orphan care ministry that partners with foster families. Pastors or church leaders interested in creating an orphan care ministry or partnering with foster families, may find out more information at:www.connect127.org