Seymour Christian Church assembles bags for foster kids


As a child is removed from his or her home to be transferred to a foster home, they often leave with only the clothes they’re wearing.

Their other clothes, toys, photos of loved ones and other personal belongings are left behind.

Fortunately, there are people like Terry and Marylin Durham who see that as an issue and take action to ensure kids have what they need.

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The Seymour couple are members of Seymour Christian Church and work with a local group called Broken and Beautiful, a branch of Waymaker Ministries Inc. that serves Jackson County through support of families in crisis, fostering and adoptive advocacy. It also provides community and support for those working for the Department of Child Services, Court Appointed Special Advocates and churches.

The Durhams received a $500 donation from their Sunday school class to purchase 100 duffel bags, and members of the congregation stepped up to fill them.

Items include a toiletry kit, a notebook, a photo album, a coloring book, colored pencils, pens, a card game, socks, pajamas, a shirt, underwear and a Bible donated by Gideons International.

The filled bags are then delivered to the local DCS office, which will distribute them to kids they serve.

“It’s traumatic enough to leave your home, let alone with nothing, so the idea is having these ready,” Terry said. “They’ll have that bag ready, so when they pick the child up, they can give that bag once they get them out of the house. It’s just the idea that they’ve got something personal, their own and something new.”

Marylin said that’s important.

“Could you imagine what you’d feel like if you didn’t have anything and they take you out of your home and you didn’t even get to take your little bitty photo album that you kept your friends’ pictures in, maybe your brothers and sisters’?” she said.

Making them feel loved is important, too, she said.

“Some children, when they live in this really bad situation and if they grow up that way, that’s all they know,” she said. “They don’t know the love of an actual family, a Christian family and what they can actually have. They don’t have to have things, but to have the love is more than anything.”

During a recent Sunday service, Pastor Andy Schroeder worked the message of the project and the importance of fostering and adopting into his Power of One series.

At the time, the duffel bags were empty, and he challenged the church members to pick one up, take it home, fill it with the items listed on a card inside and bring it back.

“We had some people do a bag. We had some people take four or five bags. Some people really got into it,” Terry said. “The church has been overwhelmingly supportive of this. The elders in the church filled quite a few of the bags, just took it as a project and were very supportive from the pulpit and talking to people. … Our church, they are great about caring and are willing to help and support.”

Schroeder admitted he thought 50 of the bags would come back filled, but the church came through and filled them all.

“I was blown away by that, but this church never ceases to amaze me,” he said, noting they also came through at Thanksgiving to feed 250 families when he thought it would be 100.

He said it’s great to see something positive that people can rally around, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We went through that series called the Power of One, and I think when you preach and you challenge people that ‘Hey, you can make a difference, even if it’s in the life of one person,’ that’s what’s going to change our world is when we all get serious about making a difference in someone else’s life in a positive way,” Schroeder said. “This was an opportunity to do something tangibly.”

The church’s goal is to get other churches in Jackson County to do a similar project. Joe Doyle with Broken and Beautiful recently talked to his pastor, Steve Greene, at The Point in Seymour to get it going there.

“We can hopefully then reach out and reach more and more kids,” Terry said.

Not only did the Durhams do this project for the kids, but they supported the DCS workers, too. Marylin filled coffee mugs with candy and delivered them to the office as a thank-you for what they do on a daily basis.

They also want to do a fundraiser to buy a cart to place in the office and stock it monthly with snacks for the staff.

“If we can show them a little more love, too, that will pass on down to the kids,” Terry said. “We’re just looking at different ways that we can make sure that child gets all of the opportunities they possibly can.”

Terry was told the local DCS office serves around 50 homes with a total of nearly 100 kids.

Then when he and his wife met Christian music singer-songwriter Chris Tomlin backstage after a concert, they learned there are 100,000 kids in the United States waiting to be adopted.

After that, they felt called to do the duffel bag project, and Schroeder helped by educating people about fostering and adopting during a church service.

“It sounds astronomical, except there are 400,000 churches in the United States, so if we could get one out of four churches to find somebody that will step up and foster and adopt, you could take care of those,” Terry said.

That also would address the issue of generational poverty, he said.

“All of the things that drive this problem we have in the country, we depend on the government to do it,” he said. “The fact is it’s not their job. Scripture tells us it’s the church’s job, so we want to use them and we want to support them, but we don’t want to just leave it to them because we want these kids to find a good, faith-based home. I just want them to have a good home.”

Terry said there are elders in the church who have adopted kids, and they are thriving.

“They were adopted into a family that had the Christian values, brought up that way and are good kids,” he said.

One man has helped 20 kids throughout the years and has agreed to adopt again.

“That gets one out of this church, but that’s not enough,” Terry said. “Our goal is ‘How many can we get as a church?’ Our congregation is really giving, supportive and I know there are plenty of young people here that would want to get into that fostering or adopting.”

They, however, realize fostering kids isn’t always easy, and nearly 50% of foster parents aren’t able to do it after one year.

“It’s hard on them, so what we want to do is find those people that will step up and foster or adopt. Then we want to have people from our congregation, we could wrap around those folks. That’s like the family-type atmosphere,” Terry said.

“The reason those foster parents quit, they don’t have any support, they don’t have free time. It’s just so hectic. It’s a hard job to do,” he said. “Well, if some of us could come up and say, ‘Friday night, you need date night. Mom and Dad, go out. We’re going to watch the kids for you. Go have some time together.’”

The church members also could provide opportunities for the foster child and foster parents to do things together, like going to a professional sporting event.

“A lot of these kids never get a chance to do anything like that, and the foster parents want to, but they may have other kids they’ve already got and are supporting them and now are supporting this foster child,” Terry said. “If we make it easier on those foster parents to do what they want to do, what their heart told them to do to go and foster, they will stay with it.”

It’s a matter of letting the foster parents and foster children know they are not alone.

That will stay with the kids, and they will go on to live prosperous lives.

“If you want to stop that generational thing, you’ve got to start with the generation,” Terry said. “The idea is to get these kids in an atmosphere that when they grow up and they have a family, now they have a true picture of what a family background is and how to raise their kids and all that kind of stuff. They’ve seen the love of family.”

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For information about Seymour Christian Church’s project to provide duffel bags filled with items to local foster children, call 812-523-3335.

The church also is looking for other churches in Jackson County to do a similar project.


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