Revive Our Hearts Podcast

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Leslie Basham: Christie Erwin is sounding an alarm. We need more believers in Christ to step up and join her as foster parents.

Christie Erwin: I have a job to do, and I have a responsibility. And there are kids that are counting on me, and they’re counting on you, and they’re counting on the Body of Christ. Their lives—literally and figuratively—depend on what we do and what we say. If we’re not willing to step up, some of them are going to lose their lives.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, author of Lies Women Believe, for May 11, 2018.

If you don’t want to consider being a foster parent, then don’t listen to today’s program. All week Nancy’s been talking with Christie Erwin about the calling the Lord has placed on her life as a foster mom. Let’s pick the conversation back up.

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: Well, this has been an amazing conversation with Christie Erwin over the last several days. Christie and her husband Jeff and their children have been involved for twenty-five years now in foster care and adoption. There’s a picture of their family on ReviveOurHearts.com if you want to go and see the family that God has blessed them with. Now, they’re starting to have mates and the starting of the next generation.

Christie: Yes.

Nancy: How many grandchildren now?

Christie: Two!

Nancy: Two—and you’ll be glad to show us a picture of your grandchildren, too?

Christie: Oh, absolutely.

Nancy: Could you have imagined twenty-five years ago what your family would look like today?

Christie: No. Quite honestly, I could not have imagined being an older mother with all of the young, little, twenty-something mothers. I have a third grader, and I’m a grandmother. So God’s economy is different than ours, and I love that—love it.

Nancy: And in the process, there have been a lot of sacrifices. You and your husband have taken in lots of little ones who needed a place for temporary care, interim care in most places, but in two cases you ended up adopting those children.

Christie: That’s right.

Nancy: Why have the sacrifices . . . I know what the answer is: It has been worth it.

Christie: Right.

Nancy: But why has it been worth it?

Christie: I think it’s been worth it because . . . well, lots of reasons, obviously. We have been able to see the difference one person can make. I think one person who’s ill-equipped, who is not perfect, who is just willing to say “yes” to hear God’s call and to say “yes” . . .

I think oftentimes people try to put it in a box and have it make sense. For me, it was unexpected. Obviously, it’s unexpected that I have children that are thirty down to eight. That’s unexpected.

Nancy: Yes.

Christie: It doesn’t make sense to a watching world. They can’t quite understand that.

I think that’s a challenge for people who think, Well, I’m single. I couldn’t do that.

I have a dear friend who’s a single mama now because she heard God’s call, and she didn’t let her singleness keep her from fostering. And that fostering then led to her adopting.

Same thing with people who maybe feel like they’re not qualified. “I’m not the perfect parent. I don’t have the resources I need.” Yet the call is still the same. God will equip you if you say “yes.” If you answer.

Nancy: You’ve seen some sad stories of what happens or can happen when nobody steps up and there isn’t anybody there.

Christie: Yes. Several years ago I got a phone call from the adoption supervisor and just mentioned to me that there was a little girl who was critically ill at a local hospital. I just said, “Can I go and just be with her?”

And she’s like, “You don’t want to do that.”

And I said, “I have to do it.”

Nancy: So this little girl didn’t have . . .

Christie: She was in foster care, waiting to be adopted. She was in a very interesting and strange situation that I can’t really expound on. But it was a result of child abuse, and she was in a coma.

I stopped by and picked up some blankets and, once again, did not want anybody to think that she was less than. People needed to know she was valuable.

Nancy: She mattered.

Christie: She mattered.

So I stopped and picked that up, and I was not ready for what I walked in on. I walked in the ICU, and there she was—perfect, beautiful—with a million different wires and blankets and monitors hooked up to her.

Nancy: And how old?

Christie: Not quite two.

I sat down, and I just began to weep. Over the next three days, there were two or three of us that spent time there. We were just with her and talking to her and singing to her. Finally, the doctors came in.

Nancy: She was in a coma?

Christie: Yes. She was in a coma. We got permission, obviously, from the state to be there. And so the doctor came in—there were two of us there—and he said, “Do you all want to leave? We’re getting ready to do a test to see if she can breathe on her own.”

And we said, “No way. We’re staying.”

Nancy: You had a mama’s heart.

Christie: Yes. And so there we were. We were just standing—and I can just see it today, and that’s been nine years ago. We were just holding each other, and I felt myself saying (in a whisper), “Let her breathe. Let her breathe. Let her breathe. God, please, let her breathe.”

And they pulled the little plug thing, and there were sixteen eyes looking at this little abdomen, and nothing happened. So they plugged it back in, and they said, “It’s over.”

So we asked him if we could hold her because we felt like she needed to be held. And the doctor said, “I was wishing somebody would ask.”

So they unplugged what they needed to unplug, and we sat down. Heaven knows, I’ve held a lot of babies, but this was like no other. I looked down, and I said to her out loud, “Kikki, your life is not going to be in vain. It’s not going to be in vain.”

And when she passed away the next day, we went to our favorite clothing store—there’s three of us that just love to shop for baby clothes—and this was a very somber day.

Nancy: Yes.

Christie: But we went in, and we found all the perfect little clothing and a little cross bracelet for her. I called my pastor, Brother Bill, and I said, “Hey. I have something really hard to ask, but would you preach this service?”

And he said, “Absolutely.”

So there we were at the little graveside. No family. Just DCF staff and these mamas who had loved her well for three days. And I said, “People need to know she mattered.”

We began raising money for a headstone. And I was, like, “No. We’re not getting that little thing that’s flat. We want a big one.” And so we did. People were so generous, and we raised the funds for that. And it’s there. I still visit her grave.

It was really interesting. One day we drove up, and there was this huge angel statue that had been erected right by her grave. And I thought, What in the world!? The groundskeeper was there, and he said, “There was a woman that passed away, and she wanted something for the children’s cemetery.” So there’s this huge statue that’s just right there by it.

What that taught me was that I have a job to do, and I have a responsibility. There are kids that are counting on me, and they’re counting on you, and they’re counting on the Body of Christ. Their lives—literally and figuratively—lives depend on what we do and what we say. If we’re not willing to step up, some of them are going to lose their lives. And it’s just not okay.

So she taught me a beautiful lesson in that short amount of time and moved me to heights beyond what I could have imagined at that moment in history.

Nancy: You ended up not just taking children into your own home and heart, but becoming an activist here in the state of Arkansas to get children the care they need, the foster care, the adoption.

Christie: Yes.

Nancy: You started something called Project Zero.

Christie: Yes.

Nancy: Tell us about that.

Christie: Project Zero has one goal, and that’s to have zero kids waiting in foster care to be adopted. That sounds crazy. We have—in Arkansas—we have 500 kids, around 500 kids waiting. It’s a crazy, crazy goal, but, you know what? I serve a God over the crazy. I serve a God who is the author of zero.

And so when I keep that in my focus, there’s just no question I’m going to dream big. I’m going to pray boldly. I’m going to stand firm. I’m going to press on with what He’s called me to do.

So Project Zero does three things: We raise awareness about the need through statewide Heart Gallery.

Nancy: Whoa—what’s a Heart Gallery?

Christie: Heart Gallery? That’s a good question. I’m sorry. Heart Gallery is a collection of professional photographs. We have photographers all over our state who volunteer their time and talents to capture photos of our waiting kids. So we have an online exhibit and the website TheProjectZero.org. And we have three traveling exhibit that travel to churches and businesses. There’s something about hearing there’s 500 kids available. It’s a whole another thing to look them in the eyes.

Over the last couple of years we have taken another step further and given them a voice. So we work with a filmmaker to do short films to feature them. We’ve just seen tremendous success with people—inquiries coming in from Australia. They’re not going to go to Australia—they’ll be staying here—but Australia and England—people seeing and being moved to action by seeing our waiting kids.

So we raise awareness. We build hope in waiting kids by having monthly events—things like Project Prom where we take . . . This year, we took eighteen kids to buy their prom dresses and have lunch together.

Nancy: So some of these are older kids.

Christie: Yes. Many of them are older. The kids featured in our Heart Gallery will not usually be young unless they’re in sibling group. We’re talking: sibling groups and teenagers and kids who long to be adopted, who long to be homed.

We have seen . . . Last year we were honored and blessed to have 125 kids find their families as a result of Project Zero’s efforts, and, more importantly, as a result of God just setting kids in families. It’s just amazing. To get to be a part of that has been above and beyond everything, literally Ephesians 3:20, I could ever ask for or imagined.

Nancy: What happens if they don’t get adopted?

Christie: If they don’t get adopted—over 20,000 kids in the United States age out of foster care every year.

Nancy: What does that mean?

Christie: It means they’re cut free. They’re cut loose of the system, and they don’t have a family.

Nancy: At what age?

Christie: It can be anywhere from eighteen to early twenties. In Arkansas you can be in your early twenties and going to school or working. You can stay and have the system as your umbrella. But ultimately, they still don’t have a family.

And the statistics, I think I mentioned earlier, are just terrible for kids who age out. You can imagine, with no support—no one to teach you to buy insurance or budget or make your bed, or whatever it is. There is no family to come home to when you go to college—if you do go to college, which is a small percentage that do if they age out. So we’re fighting that fight, and I feel the responsibility of that heavily.

Nancy: You began praying that your church, which is a vibrant church here in the Little Rock area—your pastor and his wife are good friends of mine and ours.

Christie: Yes!

Nancy: How did you pray that the church would get involved?

Christie: Well, our church, our pastors have always been so open to hear what I have to say and to hear the need of the orphan. I just began to pray—on my own, not really publicly or mentioning it—that our church . . .We’re a great-sized church, but we’re not the biggest church in Little Rock, but I began to pray that we would adopt 10% of the waiting kids—which meant fifty—that we, our one church would adopt fifty waiting kids.

Now, to put that into perspective, one of the statistics we give is that if one family in every church in our city would adopt a child, one child, then all of the kids in our state would be taken care of.

So, to ask for a church to adopt fifty. . .

Nancy: That’s huge.

Christie: That’s just really big. But I prayed that. I didn’t pray it consistently like I should have, but I prayed it. I told our pastors that’s what I was praying and just kind of left it there. It’s been a couple of years ago, or maybe longer than that.

I got an email maybe two months ago, maybe not even that long, from the person that heads up our orphan ministry at our church. She said, “I just wanted to tell you we’re about to hit fifty.”

Nancy: Wow!

Christie: She said, “Next week, number fifty is going to be finalized.”

Now, that is just kids from the foster care system. We have other adoptions that have happened, which are important too, that are domestic and international.

Nancy: Yes.

Christie: But my specific prayer was based on my specific calling, which was kids in foster care who needed us.

Nancy: How did the church get the burden for this? How did you increase awareness and get this into the hearts of the people?

Christie: It’s just part of the DNA of our church. I think people began to see kids of different colors, kids that didn’t belong to you one week and the next week they’re with you. There was support both from the administration, the staff, the Body, and the Lord honored that. So I just basically said, “Well, okay, our prayers are too small now. Let’s go for 100. We need to up our prayers.”

Nancy: Tell us a couple stories of some families in your church that have made room for one more.

Christie: Oh my goodness. There are so many of them.

It was really interesting, I got a call one day from a young woman, a mother of three, and she said, “I have to see you this week.”

I said, “Okay.” She was not a great friend, but a good friend. She said, “I have to see you this week.”

I said, “Okay.”

She said, “I could not leave the church building until I called you.”

I said, “Okay, I can see you tomorrow.”

So we went to coffee, and she said, “I was sitting in church, and the Lord just said—it’s been rolling around in my brain, but the Lord said—‘This is what you guys need to do: You need to foster.’”

So I told her how to get going, get started. What was really interesting to me was my own personal rebuke because I’d never been so shocked in my life. She wouldn’t have been who I would have expected to answer that call. They immediately went through the process. They have already adopted two children, and they fostered countless—I don’t know how many.

So it’s like this multiplication happens. People begin to see, and they begin to think, Hey, maybe we could do this. Maybe we should do that. Maybe we should look into that. And just by example and by . . . I can’t stress the importance of a pastor embracing it and understanding it and realizing the urgent need.

Nancy: Yes.

Christie: That’s the thing. We can’t keep putting it off. There are kids who are relying on us today that need a family, that are waiting on you and me and those of us who are in the listening audience to say “yes” today.

Nancy: I think it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the statistics, the hundreds of thousands in the country and worldwide who need families.

Christie: Yes. Absolutely—millions.

Nancy: And to think, I’m one person. I can’t handle . . . I can’t even process all those zeroes.

Christie: That’s right.

Nancy: But you’re saying one person, one family really can make a difference.

Christie: We talk a lot about the incredible power of a single “yes” and how that one “yes” can change lives.

Last year we had a big event for Project Zero at Capital Hotel with the teenagers. It was called “Dream Big.” We’ve done it two years. And it’s just to help them experience this fun, getting waited, on and all that kind of stuff. And we have an inspirational speaker.

One of the boys had been waiting for a family since 2009. I’d sort of known him. I’d moved his Heart Gallery picture a million times. We were sitting at the same table together, and we were debating the fact that I really did have six children.

He said, “You don’t have six.”

I said, “Yes, I do.”

“No you don’t.”

“Yes I do.”

So I said, “Do you want to see my family?”

And he said, “Yes.”

So I got up from my seat, and I went around in-between these two teenage boys, who at that time were living at the facility in another part of the state, and I pulled up my phone, and I showed a picture of my family.

He looked right up at me in my eyes, and he said, “Do you want to make it seven?”

Nancy: Wow!

Christie: I got back to my seat, and I thought—something just changed, and I’m getting ready to advocate for William. I’m telling you, this is not going to die. I started this all-out avocation for him. We talked about him on social media. We told stories about him. I went down to visit him, and we just began to talk about him. And the most incredible thing happened.

He was seventeen-and-one-half, so he was going to be eighteen. (He just turned eighteen.) William’s home. He has a family. He has a family because of one “yes,” because of one family that said, “I’m willing to step out in something that’s uncomfortable—a seventeen-and-a half-year-old who’s been waiting since 2009 for a family—and I’m going to say ‘yes.’”

And because of their “yes,” this godly family who loves him so well—his life is forever changed. He’s to play football. Instead of a cinder-block wall, he’s in a home with a family. God did that, but somebody had to be obedient. William is home now, and he is a delight. His whole countenanced has changed.

I saw him a couple of weeks ago. We hosted a birthday party for him. He loves basketball at the university here. He saw me, and he said, “Miss Christie, I want to volunteer at Project Zero now.”

Nancy: Wow.

Christie: He showed up at our last event—and we have events connecting waiting kids and waiting families all the time. We have little wristbands that they wear. It’s difficult, but we have to do it. So if you’re available for adoption, you’re in a green wristband. And if you’re in a sibling group, you’re in a turquoise. But if you’re not available, and you just happen to be there for some other reason, you’re in a red one.

So all these years he’s had a green one. He and I had our picture taken together in August at this event, and I posted on social media, and there in all of its glory was William’s red wristband.

Nancy: Wow.

Christie: People that had been following his story just commented on how beautiful that little paper wristband was because of what it said.

Nancy: Yes.

Christie: And what it said is, “This kid is valuable. This kid is loved. This kid is worth fighting for. And this kid is home.”

And that’s what we need to happen with every single waiting child, but we can’t do it without the Body of Christ. We cannot do it without people who think they can’t do it, saying “yes.” It’s going to take all of us. It can’t just be a remnant. It’s going to take a family to make zero a reality. And God is in it. All we have to do is just say “yes” and be obedient to what He’s called us to do.

Nancy: Yes.

There are some people listening to this conversation today, and my eyes are filled with tears, and I think there are not a few others who are having that same experience. Some of these hearts the Holy Spirit is just prompting: “You need to say ‘yes.’”

I know the laws differ from state to state, and we have people all over this country and other countries listening.

Christie: Yes.

Nancy: For somebody who’s just thinking, I’m one of those who’s supposed to say ‘yes.’” What do they do?

Christie: Listen, I’m happy to help. I really am. I point people to DHS in other states all the time. So I am totally available to direct you in the right place for your state if you just let me know.

Nancy: We’re going to put a link to Project Zero on our website, ReviveOurHearts.com. If you go there, click on that link, go to Project Zero, and you’ll see there how you can contact Christie. You might need people to help you, Christie, because I think there are going to be a lot of people contacting you.

Christie: We’ll bring in reinforcements if we need to.

Nancy: And let’s just pray that will happen.

Christie: Oh, yes.

Nancy: Wouldn’t it be great to see hundreds, maybe thousands of—one thing leads to another—people saying, “Yes, I want to be involved. I want my church to be involved.”

Christie: Yes.

Nancy: And Christie is a great resource. She can point you to some other resources as well that may be available in your area.

Christie: Absolutely.

Nancy: I want to read a passage of Scripture that has been on my mind as we’ve been talking, and then I’m going to ask Christie if you would close our time in prayer. This is such a powerful thing, not only for these children, but for our witness in the world of what the gospel looks like, a God who welcomes people into His family.

Christie: Amen. Yes.

Nancy: We were all estranged—strangers, aliens, foreigners, orphans—spiritually, and God said, “I want you in My forever family.”

Christie: That’s right.

Nancy: So when we take in these children, infants, teenagers, we’re reflecting the heart of our Father God. God feels strongly about this, and He addresses it, and other similar kinds of issues, in Isaiah, chapter 58.

God’s people were going through religious motions. They were going through their religious festivals and feast days and fast days. And they said, “God, it doesn’t seem like You’re listening. It doesn’t seem like You’re doing anything. All the stuff we’re doing, does it really matter?”

And God said, “Is not this the fast that I choose?” (Not the way you’re doing it, which is just going through the motions.) But He said,

The fast I choose [is]” to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the straps of the yoke, to let the oppressed to free, and to break every yoke. Is it not to share your bread with the hungry and to bring the homeless and poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover him and not to hide yourself from your own flesh? Then shall your light break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up speedily; your righteousness shall go before you; the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard.

Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer; you shall cry, and He will say, ‘Here I am.’ If you take away the yoke from your midst, the pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness, if you pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then shall your light rise in the darkness and your gloom be as the noonday. And the Lord will guide you continually and satisfy your desire in scorched places and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water (vv. 6–11).

Christie: Amen.

Nancy: Christie, pray for us, will you?

Christie: Oh, Lord, how grateful we are that you are the Father to the fatherless. How grateful we are that You took us when we were an orphan, and You brought us into Your family. How grateful we are that You love us unconditionally, that You are there in the midst of the storm and in the midst of the joy.

Lord, I just cry out to You, as Nancy has mentioned, that lives will be turned upside down on behalf of the orphan, that ears that have heard the cry for help would cause hearts and homes to be opened in a way that nobody’s expecting.

I pray for radical change. I pray for the Church to step up, to step out, to be counted. I pray for people who feel inadequate to know that their inadequacy is not the important part, that our Heavenly Father is adequate. You are able, Lord, to do exceeding abundantly above all that we can ask or imagine. Things that don’t make sense in this world’s economy make total sense in Your economy.

I pray, Lord, that we will have foster homes and adoptive homes where brokenness is healed, where lives are restored, where dreams are born, and destinies are realized. I pray that we will be homes where visions are fulfilled and hope lives and breathes, where peace abounds, and the love of Jesus is shared by actions and words, were laughter flows and joy reigns, and where families are cemented in truth and love, and, Lord, where You dwell. We just pray that in the name of Jesus, amen.

Leslie: Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth has been talking with Christie Erwin about the huge need that exists today for foster parents.

I hope you’ll pray about how the Lord would have you get involved, and then let us know by visiting ReviveOurHearts.com.

We’re only able to bring you programs like this one as long as listeners like you get involved and support Revive Our Hearts financially. When you do, you’re part of stories like this one.

About twenty years ago I prayed there would be biblical materials in Spanish because I did not have resources in Spanish, and I did not speak English. He answered the prayer through Revive Our Hearts.

Leslie: This is an email we received from a listener.

I thank the Lord for all the brothers and sisters God has used to be a blessing to a local church through Revive Our Hearts. The Lord has allowed me to go to different countries to minister to women and to be blessed to have materials in their own language that are biblical and we can recommend. That’s such a blessing.

Last November the Lord gave me the opportunity for the third time to go and teach the Word for a week in Cuba where we showed the video you supplied for the Cuban sisters. It was a great blessing. They hear that your [Nancy’s] parents were on the island for their honeymoon and that you were made in Cuba. They were moved. They shouted, and they applauded like good Carribeans.

I shared about the teaching from the ministry and how they could visit the Internet page and be able to have resources for help in their spiritual growth. I had the opportunity to give counseling and told them how to study Seeking Him.

I also had the opportunity to take eighty books you provided me. I left the books with those who would be traveling in the mountains where there are missionary sisters who have no resources. Thanks to Revive Our Hearts and Aviva Nuestros Corazones for their service in the kingdom of our Lord.

Nancy: Wow. Travel may be limited to Cuba from the United States, but God isn’t limited at all. I’m so grateful for Revive Our Hearts’ listeners who helped us have the resources we needed to say “yes” to this opportunity.

And the reason that we could share materials with this envoy to Cuba, and with others, by the way, who were sharing these resources in Cuba, is because of listeners like you who’ve supported this ministry financially.

Now, in order to be able to respond to these kinds of opportunities in the months ahead, we’re asking the Lord to meet a need here in the month of May. We’re asking Him to provide at least $680,000 as we close one fiscal year end and prepare for a new budgeting cycle.

You can get all the details on this need, as well as some of the opportunities that God is opening up around the globe by visiting ReviveOurHearts.com. And that’s also where you can make a donation online, or you can give us a call at 1–800–569–5959.

Thank you so much for helping us spread the truth that sets women free, whether they’re in Cuba, or right there in your community.

Leslie: Thanks, Nancy.

I hope you have a joyful weekend serving in the Body of Christ and connecting with other believers at your home church, then join us again Monday for Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth wants to help you fulfill God’s calling on your life. It’s an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

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