(KYTX) – If you have ever considered helping a foster child, there is an event coming up in Tyler you will want to attend.
It's the East Texas Family Conference – God's Heart for Orphans. It is happening January 31 and February 1 at the Crosswalk Conference Center at Green Acres Baptist Church. It begins with a concert Friday night by Steven Curtis Chapman, followed by the conference the next day.
It will cover everything from fostering, adoption, how to support a family in their journey, as well as caring for special needs children, the cost of adoption and legal issues.
Rocky Gill, with Express Employment Professionals, has been instrumental in helping put the conference together which is sponsored by Hope For 100 and the East Texas Orphan Network. He says it is open to anyone in East Texas.
"The conference is for anyone at all that has an interest with working with orphans at any level. It's not just an adoption conference. It's not just a fostering conference. We've designed our breakout sessions so that wherever you are in the process, we can meet you there. So you could be just at the thought stage and not even made any decisions. We can help you with that. Or maybe it's that you just want to support a family who is fostering or adopting by bringing them a meal. We have information on that too."
This is the second time Green Acres Baptist Church has hosted an Orphan conference. The last one was in 2012 and hundreds of local families benefited, and ultimately ended up helping a child in some way.
"There are so many resources you learn about. There's other people to connect with and we just learned so much about foster care, adoption and other ways you can become involved," said Jessica Allen about attending the previous orphan conference.
Jessica and her husband, Billy, have a three year old biological daughter and say the conference encouraged them to be open to whatever God brings into their path.
"We received a foster baby a couple weeks ago so we are still waiting to see what all happens from here. We would be open to adoption."
Carrie and Chad Larsh also attended the last conference. They have two biological sons and were fostering at the time, but have since adopted two children; another boy and a little girl.
Carrie said. "Fostering is the best and hardest thing we have ever done. When I talk to people who say they are nervous because they feel it would be too hard to say goodbye, I tell them we've said goodbye. I tell them you will never regret loving too much, but you will regret if you don't love enough."
Carrie says the conference is the perfect place to share those kinds of fears and feelings. "When you attend these conferences, you are surrounded by people who get it. They get it! They get the questions. They get the hard parts. They get the joys and the sorrows. It's just the camaraderie that you are around people who are like-hearted."
A couple of years ago, Charity Mullins was still waiting to see how her family would take shape, but was working at the church during the last orphan conference.
"The support system has been great and just the care there for people that are interested in adoption and just the information that's available. It's just really helped us find our way and the path that God wanted us to take."
That path lead Charity and her husband, Mark, to a baby girl who they are now in the process of adopting.
It's been said, "To a child, loved is spelled T-I-M-E. Do you have some time to devote to a child? The East Texas Family Orphan Conference can help guide you to make a difference in the life of a child.
"It is just amazing to me to see how God opens doors for us to get involved in the lives of children," said Carrie Larsh.
To learn more about the Steven Curtis Chapman concert, the orphan conference or to register, go to www.orphanconference.org. You can also learn more by joining Gillian Sheridan for her "Children are a Gift" report, Tuesday night on CBS 19 Ten @ 10.