Gift of Love: Faith Leads Couple To Help Foster Children - - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

2/23/05-Sulphur Springs

Gift of Love: Faith Leads Couple To Help Foster Children

If you were given the chance to help a child, would you? The Texas Legislature is hoping the answer is yes. This month, we've been telling you about a new faith-based initiative passed by lawmakers. It's called CHILD, Congregations Helping In Love and Dedication. It creates a partnership between church and state to find foster and adoptive homes for Texas' foster children. In this report, we visit another local church that has already embraced this new program to help children.

Jon Paul and Amy watch as their children play. "We've always had a big heart for kids. That was one reason we only had two children of our own because we always wanted to foster or adopt," says Jon Paul.

The other little feet running around the playground belong to a set of three year old twin boys this East Texas couple are now fostering. Jon Paul says, "You can't not love them. They're just bundles of energy and joy. They have definitely grabbed our hearts and not just our hearts but that of our son and daughter."

Their long desire to foster, and one day adopt, began on faith. "I remember when I was in high school, every day before I went to bed I would pray, 'God let me make a difference in the life of a child.' I guess it wasn't until we got our license to foster that God showed me that here it is, I'm answering your prayer, the prayer that you prayed everyday and that yes you are making a difference in the life of a child," says Amy.

That concept of helping children comes from their church. Jeff Jenkins is their pastor at Shannon Oaks Church in Sulphur Springs. "I think one of the things that Christians have that the world doesn't have is at least a concept of unconditional love and family," says Pastor Jenkins.

Several members of Pastor Jenkins congregation have already adopted children and he says it's just the beginning. "I expect in the next two to three years five to ten families to step up and be involved in foster care and adoption in one way or another just because it's starting to breath in the atmosphere here. It's starting, there's an awareness of it here like no place I've been before."

This East Texas family has not only welcomed foster children into their lives, they're changing children's lives. At first, these little boys were terrified of being left again, even if Jon Paul or Amy left the house just for a few seconds. "Walking out to the mail box to get the mail, there was fear and panic. The boys just crying and scared. They don't have that anymore," explains Jon Paul.

Those sounds of panic have now been replaced with laughter, all brought about by the Gift of Love. Jon Paul says, "I think as Christians one of our duties or responsibilities is to take care of children because they can't take care of themselves. They're so innocent and helpless and what better place to find people to go and love kids than to reach out to people that are in churches that have a faith and belief in God. Maybe it's God's calling for their life and God's mission for them."

Since the CHILD program began last year, about 60 families have become licensed foster families, 15 of those here in East Texas.

If you'd like to know more about CHILD or would like to schedule a presentation at your church, call our Gift of Love hotline. The toll free number is 1-888-kids-275.

Gillian Sheridan, reporting.

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