Searcy’s Fellowship Bible Church Helps Foster Families

Pastor Chris Massey and his wife Jennifer with their daughters Stella Kate, Wallace, and Ada Grace.
Pastor Chris Massey and his wife Jennifer with their daughters Stella Kate, Wallace, and Ada Grace.

At the moment a child is born who will be adopted, joy and sorrow collide. The experience is hard to describe in words, says Pastor Chris Massey. Loss and gain are simultaneously experienced by both the birthing mother and the family who will take the child.

Massey was adopted as an infant by his mother’s new husband, so when he and his wife were looking to start their own family in 2014 they started with adoption. They asked to be matched with a birth mother who would be open to continued relationship.

“Our heart wanted that; there is loss on both sides, but we wanted to gain a relationship with the birth mother, not something that was separate – to have family together in that,” he says. The adoption agency called on a Friday to say we’d been matched. We met the birth mother on Tuesday, and the baby surprised us all by being born on Saturday – five weeks early.

“It was a crazy whirlwind story. From beginning to end it was about seven or eight months. And Stella Kate has changed our lives,” Massey says.

Wallace, a biological daughter, joined the family next, and then Ada Grace, now 2, through a second adoption.

“I love the girl gang that the Lord has blessed us with,” Massey says. “And that’s how our family got started on adoption. And my heart has been changed in such a way that I’m compelled to ask: How can adoptive families be supported? How can foster families be supported? So that they can be successful in their families and marriages and all the areas that can tend to blow up when things get tough. And that’s my heart behind trying to encourage our church body.”

Massey is operations pastor at Fellowship Bible Church in Searcy, where all families – and increasingly those who’ve adopt- ed or are fostering – can turn for everyday practical support, discipleship, prayer and fellowship.

“I feel like it’s what God calls us to do, each and every one of us, to take care of the least of these and come along and serve them as well,” Massey says.

The church operates within 70,000 square feet of what used to be a Kohler sink warehouse in Searcy. Space is gradually being converted to support programs and ideas for helping the community. Church staff noticed in the late 2010s that more church members were becoming foster parents, and sometimes those families needed extra help.

“Then those families started adopting a lot of those children when reunification wasn’t happening. So there were some greater needs,” Massey says. “We realized that not only can we help our own foster families, but we can help all the foster families in the city. We became the “casserole church” for the community. If you take new children into your home or have a busy schedule and don’t have time to get a meal together, you can stop by the church and get some soup or a casserole.”

Recently the church organized a service day to go into local homes and help foster families with laundry, car detailing, yard work and projects as needed. Another vision has developed to build a visitation area where biological parents can comfortably and safely visit with their children who are in foster care.

“It’s heartbreaking to go to Chick- fil-A or McDonald’s and see a biological parent trying to bond with their kids and show them love and care. We knew that we could be a part of giv- ing them a space to just be, in privacy.”

Someday, the church hopes to build such a dedicated indoor area, and for now existing preschool areas are made available for this type of use.

“We have enough space for anyone in the state who needs to have a visitation in White County,” Massey says. The church building is open from about 6 a.m. to 10 pm., and a coffee shop, Imago Dei, operates in the lobby.

Recently, the church brought on staff a 100 Families caseworker who collaborates with existing community resources to help a family in crisis get help with a spectrum of practical needs: housing, transportation, food, employment, education and/or recovery. Paired with the church’s minis- tries, most any needs that a family might encounter can be addressed.

“When people come in, they might meet our case manager, our ministry assistant, any pastors who are on staff. Everyone is on board with what is going on, and anybody who’s in that front office will be there to offer some water or food or whatever is needed to show love and respect. It’s truly amazing to see someone walk out carrying groceries, having been seen and loved and heard for those few minutes they were in our offices.”

Smart Justice is a magazine, podcast, and continuing news coverage from the nonprofit Restore Hope and covers the pursuit of better outcomes on justice system-related issues, such as child welfare, incarceration, and juvenile justice. Our coverage is solutions-oriented, focusing on the innovative ways in which communities are solving issues and the lessons that have been learned as a result of successes and challenges. 

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