Orphan care can be difficult work. When caring individuals and families enter an orphan’s world, they might be met with the pain and effects of abandonment, hunger, neglect, fear, or abuse.
In spite of this, the people at Kentwood Community Church (Wesleyan) have not shied away from this important biblical mandate. James 1:27 says, “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world” (NIV).
This past fall, Rev. Kyle Ray, lead pastor at KCC, in Kentwood, Mich., presented a sermon series on the global orphan crisis. The congregation of nearly 3,000 celebrated Orphan Sunday during the first weekend in November by showing a movie, Faultless, that was produced by the Christian Alliance for Orphans.
But the Kentwood initiative to bring awareness to orphans goes far beyond a sermon series or a movie.
Rev. Ray challenged his church members to courageous and life-changing action. During the 2012-13 school year, Kentwood is praying for 100 families to take a step to adopt, foster, or be a “Safe Family” for children. It was wonderfully gratifying when the initial response resulted in more than 50 families responding to this call.
Jodi Lewis, who attends Kentwood, has helped Rev. Ray lead the adoption initiative at the church. In January 2004, Lewis founded Families of Promise Orphan and Adoption Ministry at the church. Lewis and her husband adopted their sons from a Russian orphanage in 1999. Advocating for adoption has become easy for them.
“After experiencing the great needs of orphans firsthand, we knew in our hearts that adopting our two boys was just the beginning, but we didn’t know what else God had for us,” said Lewis. Dima and Alek are the sons Jodi and her husband, Jamie, adopted from Russia. The couple later adopted a daughter, Alia, from China.
Rev. Ray and his wife, Petra, are both passionate about adoption, also. They adopted their sons Matthew and Malik through foster care.
Jodi Lewis is encouraged at how the KCC family has been willing to pray and respond so powerfully this year. They have an active program of mentoring and supporting new adoptive and foster families, and a number of Kentwood families have stepped forward to help with that.
The church’s initiative to minister to “the least of these” doesn’t begin and end with orphan children. Intentional community outreach to the surrounding neighborhoods and schools takes on many dimensions and is continually being expanded and renewed.
“We are excited to see how God continues to use these efforts to wrap our arms and hearts around hurting children and families to help nurture and heal what otherwise might be lost,” said Lewis. “We still pray about and dream of the day when care of orphans will be a vibrant part of the culture, as it was in the early church.”