Six years ago, Rev. Kyle Ray, lead pastor of Kentwood Community Church (KCC) in Kentwood, Michigan, challenged the congregation through a sermon series to be part of the answer in the worldwide orphan crisis.
A year after the initial challenge, nearly 100 individuals and families had committed to prayerfully considering next steps toward becoming foster parents, adoptive parents or a host family in the Safe Families for Children program.
One of the ways Kentwood responded to the challenge has been through its annual support of Orphan Sunday, a day that the Christian Alliance for Orphans unites “organizations and churches across the globe in a shared vision.” This year’s Orphan Sunday is November 11. The Wesleyan Church also recognizes Orphan Sunday.
It’s hard to miss how God has changed the KCC culture to one in which everyone has a role to play in caring for children who are vulnerable. As a result of the sermons in 2012, God raised up many families who eventually brought children into their homes, as well as those who provide support and prayer and new leaders to deepen and expand opportunities to be involved.
One of the most visible results of this movement has been the founding and growth of Closet of Hope. This clothing and supply resource has become a community hub for serving agency workers and families who bring children into their homes through foster care, adoption, guardianship and Safe Families for Children.
On average, 10 families weekly receive clothing and other items for their new placements and growing children. Many return regularly, because they appreciate the support and encouraging environment. So far in 2018, Closet of Hope served 200 families representing over 600 children, teens and young adults. There are many opportunities for volunteers to listen to stories, provide encouragement and prayer and offer a freezer meal or two to help a family through a time of transition or struggle. Sometimes Closet of Hope provides the opportunity to invite those families without a church home to KCC.
These days you don’t need to look far at KCC for glimpses of God at work in this area of ministry. A family offers a twin bed to a foster family readying their home for a new placement of a teen and another a crib to a biological dad working to regain custody of his child. Congregants hand-write notes of appreciation to county foster care workers. A small group focuses their Christmas project on gathering new socks, underwear and pajamas for kids and teens entering foster care. Kids in children’s ministry pray for kids in foster care who are waiting for an adoptive family. Volunteers serve kids in a special needs class so their parents can enjoy uninterrupted worship.
KCC is one of many churches and organizations participating in living “… religion accepted by God as pure and faultless …” (James 1:27 NIV).
Prayerfully live seeking to look after the vulnerable, including the orphans.
As a foster parent, Julie Driver (pictured) saw the need for resources in the foster care community. Driver and her friend, Ashley Summerfield, founded the Closet of Hope as part of KCC’s ministry to orphans and children who are vulnerable.