Chosen Conference’s message to the church: ‘We must be engaged’ in fostering, adoption

Korie Robertson (center) and her daughter, Sadie Robertson Huff (right) are interviewed by Prestonwood's Tasha Calvert during the Chosen Conference on Saturday, April 13. PRESTONWOOD BAPTIST CHURCH PHOTO

PLANO—The message was clear and unapologetic: every child is precious in God’s sight.

But the heart of the Chosen Conference, held Saturday, April 13, at Prestonwood Baptist Church, aimed to not only proclaim that truth, but mobilize followers of Christ to make a difference in the lives of vulnerable and forgotten children. Figures cited throughout the conference paint an urgent picture: more than 400,000 children are in the foster care system in America and 100,000 are awaiting adoption. Each year, 20,000 children age out of the foster system without having been matched with a family.

The church, Prestonwood Senior Pastor Jack Graham said, must take action.

“This is a critical and key issue not only in the community and the country, but in the church of the Lord Jesus Christ,” Graham said. “Our goal is to elevate this work of fostering and adopting. … We believe every child is a wanted child, every child is chosen by God. They’re not here by accident or chance, but through the divine plan, providences, and purposes of God.

“This means the church—we the people of God—must be engaged in this.”

The conference was shaped around “three pillars of hope” intended to empower local churches to establish an adoption and foster care ministry within their communities; engage all believers to understand their role in supporting adoption and foster care; and equip families that have been called to adopt and foster.

‘Everyone can do something’

For Shane and Kasi Pruitt, fostering and adoption are deeply personal issues: they have six children, four of whom are adopted (two from Texas and two from Africa–including their son Titus, who passed away last summer at age 10).

Though their connection to fostering and adoption is direct, Shane—national next gen director for the North American Mission Board—noted how Galatians 4:4-5 teaches that all followers of Jesus are benefactors of adoption ministry and orphan care: “When the time came to completion, God sent His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.”

“It would have been enough for Him to set us free, but He went a step further and said … ‘my Father is going to be your Father, my family is going to be your family, and my inheritance is going to be your inheritance,’” Shane said. “God did the work [through Jesus] to make us a part of His family. Now everything we do is in response to that truth.”

Kasi spoke about what she calls the “both/and” part of fostering and adoption. In other words, there is a side of it that is a beautiful picture of the gospel, wholeness, and rescue that is counterbalanced by the fact that all fostering and adoption needs grow out of the fall and begin with trauma and loss. “Foster care and adoption is heartbreaking and joy, trauma and beautiful, grief and peace, loss and love, tragic and redemption,” she said. “We can be grateful we get to parent our kids and be heartbroken when we have to be.”

The loss of Titus, Shane shared, was one of those heartbreaking instances. Titus suffered from daily seizures, was confined to a wheelchair, could not speak, and was fed through a tube. His death brought a simultaneous wave of grief and celebration for the family as it missed Titus’ daily presence but rejoiced knowing he was in heaven in the presence of the Lord and fully restored.

“I think a lot of times we paint this picture like, if we are obeying God, everything is going to be easy,” Shane said. “We’ve got to remind ourselves that Jesus doesn’t promise us an easy life. He promises us eternal life. Sometimes obedience is not easy at all.”

Kasi shared several ways churches and believers can get more involved in foster and adoption ministry. One way is for families to foster and adopt when called by God to do so. Others can build relationships with local Child Protective Services offices and minister to caseworkers by providing meals and encouragement. Kasi noted that one CPS office shared with her church that, in cases where a child was able to be reunited with his or her original family, a church had been involved in some way 100% of the time.

“Everyone can do something—absolutely everyone,” she said.

Later, Gregg Matte—senior pastor of Houston’s First Baptist Church—shared a testimony about how God used tragedy in his family’s life to lead them to found a ministry called Legacy 685, which provides financial resources, education, and other practical help for families on the frontlines of adoption, fostering, and orphan ministries. Likewise, Scott Turner, an associate pastor at Prestonwood, announced the Plano church has started a fund to support families in the adoption and fostering process.

Hundreds of people packed the room and thousands more watched online during Prestonwood's Chosen Conference, which included a Q&A session between Prestonwood Senior Pastor Jack Graham and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott. PRESTONWOOD BAPTIST CHURCH PHOTO

Shaping the future of Texas

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott knows firsthand the impact a family can have through the adoption process. He and his wife, Cecilia, adopted their daughter, Audrey, in the 1990s. Abbott shared a series of personal family photos during a question-and-answer session with Graham chronicling Audrey’s life from infancy to college graduation to her engagement day.

“What you do really does change not only the life of a child, but changes the future of our state,” Abbott said. “ … The fact of the matter is, we would have to pass fewer laws if we had more families, better parenting, taking care of our children. It’s good parents educating good children, loving them, supporting them, that leads to those children being very productive and making our society better.”

Abbott said the need for qualified parents to adopt and foster remains high, as the most recent statistics show 4,000 children are available for adoption in Texas. Two thousand children have already been adopted this year, he said. There are other avenues the state has created to provide churches with opportunities to contribute. He noted the existence of “rainbow rooms” stocked with items such as diapers, car seats, and school supplies that can be given by CPS workers to children in crisis. Rainbow rooms are located in every region of Texas and can be stocked by churches with the means to help.

Another avenue of involvement is the Clergy in the Court for Kids program operated through the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services. The program invites faith leaders to attend court proceedings, meet families in need, and serve as a calming influence in courtroom environments that can be intimidating for most children.

“We need church involvement in our communities more today than we have maybe ever,” Abbott said. “A way to do that is for churches across our state to immerse themselves in this family unit bonding process that can be done through the adoption and foster care process. Through that process you will be involved in ensuring that you will grow and strengthen family units in the state of Texas while at the same time doing what we are told biblically that we have the responsibility to do, and that is to care for our youngest—especially the orphans among us.”

Robertsons share adoption story

Sadie Robertson Huff and her mother, Korie Robertson—who appeared on the popular reality TV show Duck Dynasty—were interviewed by Tasha Calvert, Prestonwood women’s minister. The church later aired a preview of the pro-adoption film Possum Trot, based on the true story of a small East Texas church whose members adopted 77 children from the Texas system. The film is due in theaters July 4.

“Adoption has made our family what it is. … We love a big family,” Korie said of the six children she shares with her husband, Willie. Three of the Robertson children are adopted.

“It’s not exactly what we had planned … it’s not necessarily easier, but it’s better because God calls us to this abundant life,” Korie said. She also noted that younger generations seem increasingly open to adopting children.

Sadie, the mother of two young children, added that she and her husband were considering adoption in the future.

“As the church we do have a responsibility for adoption,” Sadie added. “The church is expected to take in the children that need help … the place that takes in the orphans and cares for those” like a hospital caring for its community.

“I’ve gotten to see my family do that and I’ve been so grateful,” Sadie said, later reminding the audience that Christians have all “been adopted into God’s family through the blood of Christ and we get to share in the same family [eternally].”

Korie praised the help of her church and family in her journey as an adoptive parent. “Find that. That is what the church is meant to be,” she said. “And if it’s not there, start it.”

 

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