You can imagine my delight when I visited a church in Edwardsburg, MI to present Bethesda Outreach last fall, opened the bulletin and read that they were offering a free babysitting night to area foster parents! Here is an article by Stephanie Graham describing how this church family who partners with Bethesda Outreach globally does orphan care locally. (Don)
What can grow out of a heart for Christ and foster children? For Community Baptist Church in Edwardsburg, Michigan, those seeds are all it took to sprout a diverse ministry. Community hosts an annual Christmas party, is a certified visitation site, offers free babysitting, and houses a free clothing/supply closet – all for the local foster care system and families.
The growing ministry stems from multiple families in the church with a passion for orphan care. Assistant Pastor James Solarek and his wife adopted four children out of the foster care system in addition to their two biological children. Through that process, Solarek says, “Our eyes were opened to the tremendous orphan needs in our community, our country, and our world. We really believed the church could do a lot more to meet these needs.”
With this desire in hand, Solarek attended an informational meeting to learn how Community could better partner with their county’s DHHS (Department of Health and Human Services). This led to becoming a certified visitation site and hosting the DHHS annual Christmas party.
The foster parents’ night out and clothing closet began with some simple questions. Amy Kniffin, coordinator of both programs, says, “I started by emailing the local contact for the Cass County DHHS office asking them what needs their foster families had and how our church could serve them.”
Often children are removed from their homes and brought to foster families with little or no warning. Now the clothing closet is stocked and ready for those families to find free clothes in all sizes for the kids in their care.
The blessings from these programs extend not only to the children, but to the foster parents as well. “The foster parents’ night out allows us to say thank you, we respect you, and we appreciate what you’re doing for these kids. Ultimately, when you bless the foster parents, you bless the children in their care,” Kniffin says.
With each opportunity, Solarek hopes to cultivate in all Community church members a desire to help. Whether it means becoming a foster parent or supporting foster parents or ministries with prayer, finances, or time, Solarek says, “My dream is for everyone in our church to play some active role in caring for orphans in our community and in our world.”