WITH LOVE FROM THE EASTS

Cover Story
2018
JAN/FEB

Make no mistake - every human being on this planet was created in the image of God and therefore has immense value. May we all come to understand His love more deeply, and in turn, love generously all those around us - no matter their color. - KEVIN EAST

The East’s have a beautiful family. Pictures posted on their social media show a tight-knit family; one that loves together, shares together, and laughs together. One look at any of their many adoring photographs and you will see that there is something special about the love they share … different, but very special. 

Kevin and Stephanie are foster parents as well as “Mom” and “Dad” to five children. They are the biological parents to three children and parents to two children who were born in their hearts rather than biology. Their family is made up of different ethnicities which undoubtedly brings attention to those unaware of the East’s remarkable story. Kevin shares that: “It’s a beautiful picture. God is a God of creativity … seeing a large family, with 2 different ethnicities, just makes people curious. Here’s what we love about that: We live in a deeply divided culture here in America. Christians are more known for what they are against as opposed to their love for others. Because people see us living out our faith in this way, they are much more receptive to hear us talk about Jesus, and the fact that ALL Christians have been adopted by God the Father.”

Stephanie remembers wanting to foster and adopt at the age of twelve. She comes from a family of six and says that her parents were always very nurturing to other children and tried to fill the needs among families around them. After Kevin and Stephanie were married, Stephanie shared her desire to foster and adopt with her husband. “We did not need to adopt so we could have children; we had children,” she recalls. She put her faith in God and remembers thinking: “It had to be the Lord; it can’t be me (who makes this decision).”

Kevin was moved to adopt and foster after hearing a pastor from Nashville speak on the subject. Not so much a “calling”, Kevin explains that “I would describe it more as responding to a need. I never realized how big the need was until I heard the pastor speak about it … once I heard his message, I knew I had a choice to make – to be a spectator or be part of the solution.” The need is great for a Christian home for children in waiting. The Texas Department of Family and Protective Services listed that “In 2016 there were 28,732 children in foster care in Texas.  As of January 2017 there were 3,600 children waiting for adoptive families.”

The East’s are a family of sharing. They are very open and discuss the idea of fostering and adopting with their children. Kevin describes how they involve their children with the process, “In the past, we have circled up our kids around our ottoman and talk to them about our latest phone call. We want them to hear what we are hearing; to learn to pray and ultimately to make a decision.” By involving their children and being open about the great need for Christian foster homes, the East’s have learned that this is the best teaching tool for their children. The East’s share: “There are so many broken families in our community. There is an extreme sense of awe that you get to be a part of what God has called us to do on this earth. This is the best decision we have made as parents.” Stephanie says that fostering and adopting “gives our kids compassion on a daily basis. It is allowing them to live out the gospel. It is an everyday, all day experience of giving. This is an opportunity for our kids to see that God is real. It is opening their eyes to God.” In effect, the East’s children see first- hand that God is creative and has gifted us all with unique features and abilities. The children have a tradition of laying their hands on top of each other. As they stack their hands, they say, “Peanut butter. Chocolate. Peanut butter. Chocolate. Both valuable. Both beautiful.” This visual act is a simple but powerful reminder that God has made us all. “Every human being on this planet was created in the image of God and therefore has immense value. May we all come to understand His love more deeply, and in turn, love generously all those around us - no matter their color, “Kevin stated on a past Facebook post. 

The East’s extend their open hearts from their home into the community. Kevin is the President of The Mentoring Alliance, “a ministry dedicated to mobilizing godly people into the lives of kids and families, to provide tangible help and eternal hope.” Three ministries work together to form The Mentoring Alliance: The Boys and Girls Club of East Texas, Rose City Summer Camp, and Gospel Village. Kevin asked parents and grandparents how these ministries could best serve the needs of area families. A grandmother, raising her grandchildren and working multiple jobs replied,” What we struggle with is the ‘lack’ in general. I’m trying to work 2 or 3 jobs. I am gone a lot. What we lack are good role models.” This is where The Mentoring Alliance steps in. The Boys and Girls Club of East Texas (a branch of The Mentoring Alliance ministry) offers an after school program that focuses on the growth of the whole child: academics, as well as emotional and spiritual growth. Kevin says that “People love that we are very clearly a Christ centered community and the efficiency in which we operate.” Mentors help with children’s’ homework, and make sure each child has food in their bellies before they arrive home. As stated on their website:  “Operating in 17 locations throughout East Texas, the Boys & Girls Clubs of East Texas provides fun, high-quality and enriching after-school care for children in elementary and middle school. Our program is uniquely designed to give students a safe place to play, to learn and grow, to foster encouraging relationships with caring role models, and to build character and confidence in all of our kids.” 

Rose City Summer Camps, another ministry under The Mentoring Alliance, provides two weeks of summer day camps in schools throughout East Texas. These camps are “action- packed” and the website promises to “bring all the fun of camp right to your backyard, turning classrooms and playgrounds into unforgettable camps full of new friends, non-stop activities, and out-of-this-world fun!” While the camps try to close the “summer gap” that students experience during the time that school is out, they ensure “the gospel (is) at the heart of each day at camp. Every day is packed with activities that students love, while an academic component is woven in to help them start the next school year strong!”

A third ministry linked to The Mentoring Alliance is Gospel Village. Here, children are connected one-on-one with Christian mentors. Gospel Village provides “Mentors (who) walk alongside children and their families to help young people discover and live out God’s purposes for their lives. Our hope is to see children understand that they are made in the image of God, foster their unique gifting and become leaders in our community. Our prayer is that our community becomes stronger as people of all ages, cultures and backgrounds connect with each other and tear down barriers. And our desire is to see the Great Commission fulfilled both in the lives of children and their mentors, as they navigate life together and grow closer in their relationship with God.” Always on the lookout for Christian mentors who are ready to “get started and become a world-changer for one person, “Gospel Village can help you on your journey to connect with families in the East Texas area. 

The hope is that The Mentoring Alliance becomes the model in which other communities can build their ministries. To get involved and provide “tangible help and eternal hope”, visit www.thementoringalliance.com. Together, we can break the chain of brokenness in families among us.  

The East Family has opened their home and hearts to a world in need of healing. With over 20 children fostered in their loving home, and ten placements, along with their five children, this quote, in my opinion, best fits the East’s journey: “If you think our hands are full; you should see our hearts.”

For more information about the East’s journey and information on fostering and adopting, you can follow Kevin’s blog at: http://followingtolead.com/

Or as my kids and I love to say, "Peanut butter and chocolate. Both beautiful. Both valuable.” - KEVIN EAST

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