When Cody and Breanna Brumley began the process of adoption a few years ago, they asked two dear friends in their Sunday school class for advice.
“This is going to be hard,” Breanna Brumley remembers the friends telling them. “This is going to change you, but for the better.”
The stern warnings surprised the couple, who already had two biological children: “There are going to be times that, even though you know God has called you to adopt,” the friends said, “you’re going to feel alone, even in the church.”
“That really broke all of our hearts, sitting there thinking, ‘This is not how it should be,’” said Breanna Brumley, whose husband serves as executive pastor of the First Baptist Church of Jenks, Okla., near Tulsa.
The Brumleys set out to change how their congregation related to families involved in foster care and adoption, creating a Wednesday night fellowship meal and support group called the WRAP ministry.
Cody and Breanna Brumley discussed their experience at a recent rally dubbed “The Gospel, the Church and Foster Care” organized by the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma, an association of 1,700 Southern Baptist congregations statewide.
The couple’s congregation is just one of hundreds of houses of worship making a difference in this Bible Belt state’s effort to recruit more families to care for roughly 9,600 children in state custody, according to government officials.
Since 2012, the Oklahoma Department of Human Services and its contract partners have recruited 4,200 new foster families — the highest increase in the nation, said Gov. Mary Fallin in a statement last week citing a report by the Chronicle of Social Change. The Republican governor praised houses of worship across the state for their impact.
At the BGCO event, hosted by the First Baptist Church of Edmond, a suburb north of Oklahoma City, Christian advocates for foster care and adoption urged congregations to become involved.
Speakers at the rally included Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, who noted that if each church in America supported one foster or adoptive family, the crisis of children without homes would disappear.
Moore, an adoptive father himself, is the author of the book “Adopted for Life: The Priority of Adoption for Christian Families and Churches,” which was distributed to attendees as part of a packet of resources for those contemplating adoption.
Renee and Charlie Blount have a daughter, Avery, 16, and twin boys, Ethan and Evan, 13. They also have fostered nine children, including two pictured here. Photo courtesy of Charlie Blount
Moore said he was impressed by the collective effort in the state. “It seems to me that Oklahoma is miles ahead of most of the country when it comes to calling churches to this task,” he told Religion News Service.
Charlie Blount, lead pastor of the First Baptist Church of El Reno, Okla., said the Bible makes plain the importance that God places on caring for orphans. Even so, he admits that his own connection with foster care began by happenstance. In a series of events he said he still doesn’t quite fully understand, he found himself serving as an emergency caregiver for a foster child — a boy in one of his child’s classes.
“Long story short, we began to volunteer,” said Blount, who with his wife, Renee, has three biological children and has served as a foster parent to nine. “Now, all of a sudden, they’re not just foster kids, but kids with a name.”