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. (James 1:27)
DALLAS It all began in Dallas Life, the largest homeless shelter in North Texas and place where homeless men, women and children can receive help and hope as a family during their time of need.
It’s where Derrick and Candace Jones and their two children centered their family ministry—processing incoming families, leading arts and crafts classes for kids and more. And it’s where God began opening their eyes and hearts to the fatherless, placing Scripture upon their hearts and tugging them in a new direction.
“We were enjoying our tidy ‘Table for Four’ days,” Candace said, referencing how they referred to their time as a family of four. “Just for the record, families of four are always welcome in a restaurant and are greeted with a crisp smiling, ‘Hi, guys! Will that be a table for four today? Right this way.” Not so much when you ask for a table for nine or 10 or even 12.”
Candace says the family began meeting young adults at the shelter who had aged out of the foster care system, meaning they were never able to find their forever family.
“You are released rudderless into the world until you hopefully find your place in life.”
After some initial resistance, the family sat down together and created a mission statement for who God was calling them to be and how they were going to operate. Candace says her husband’s corporate background in laying a foundation and setting goals helped to set them on the right track before they even started down this path.
They were only going to foster—and they were only going to foster one child. But Candace says God was determined to bring them out of their “vapid, lukewarm lifestyle,” where their service to him fit into the hours and days they had available on their calendar.
“We tried to make deals with the Lord … but he never seems to need my input. Thank goodness. Otherwise, we would have never fostered and we would have never adopted,” she said. “In fact, Jonah had nothing on us. God was getting ready to throw us over the ship. He would not let us remain comfortable any longer.”
So, in just a few short years, they went from “table for four” to a family of 10.
“God has a way of knowing what our hearts will love,” Candace said. “He unlocked storehouses in our hearts we didn’t even know were there. These pockets were full of grace and love for children who were not born with our DNA, a love equal to what we felt for our biological children—something I would have promised you was impossible.”
As members of MacArthur Boulevard Baptist Church in Irving for more than 10 years, the Jones family has ushered through the church doors every child who has come through their home. Day in and day out, children who may not have ever been exposed to the gospel see and join in on this family as they study the Bible and pray together.
Early on in their fostering journey, one girl came to Jones family from a home where her father was in an a cult. Like the other children, she attended church with them and latched onto worship and Scripture. On the day she left, as they waited for CPS, she said to Candace, “Mom, this was the hardest year of my life, but it was the best.”
Candace says she memorized Scripture while living with them and vowed to teach her dad because “he knows who Jesus is, but he doesn’t know what he came to do for us.” Months later, Candace discovered the little girl and her family had found a church and were regularly attending services.
“The Holy Spirit sets up camp in our home in a big, unmistakable way when we bring in vulnerable children,” Candace said. “He will change their hearts. … Sometimes we’re not there for the whole A-to-Z plan. Sometimes we may be A-to-M or even just A-to-C, but we can rest assured that we serve a heavenly Father who will be there with our children.”
What began with resistance and then moved to a small crack in the dam has now busted wide open for the Jones family.
“There isn’t a single child that comes to our home and doesn’t wind up hearing about Jesus and loving the church. It’s a testament that God loves these children and they are a field ready to harvest,” Candace said. “Jesus is doing the work. If you’re interested in fostering or adoption, he doesn’t want you to be perfect. He just wants you to be obedient.”
Grappling with letting foster kids go
Derrick and Candace Jones know the challenges of fostering children that eventually will be placed in other homes. When asked about the heartache of saying goodbye to kids they have loved, Candace said that is the number one question foster parents are asked.
“It’s true. Half of all children in foster care return to their biological family. It’s a sad, daunting task to take care of a child, love them, and then send them back. At first, I said I couldn’t give them up either.”
However, early on, God showed the Jones family a few things:
“The real task of fostering is to point his children to a heavenly Father who loves them.
“He would give me callouses in the right places in my heart and keep the other parts soft. I love every child now—and that’s more than I could’ve said about myself before. There are some families who can get back on their feet and get their kids back, so you have to be prepared.
“The other conclusion that we came to is that we’re not the one coming to save the day. We’re just a part of the bigger picture. It’s really almost prideful to think we’re it for them. It’s more of a ‘I plant the seed and Apollos waters it’ mentality. He’s got a long plan with some of these lives.”