Maumelle, AR – Pastor William Jaques and his wife Marabeth have devoted their lives to caring for those in the foster care system. They have served as foster parents to many children over the years and have opened their home for emergency care and at-risk placements (those kids who are at risk of being taken from their families). The Jaqueses have now adopted four of these children and have permanent custody of another.
First Baptist Church (FBC) of Maumelle has been helping minister to foster families since 2013. That was when the church made a commitment to partner with The CALL, a non-profit organization that mobilizes local churches to serve local children and youth placed in foster care. They dedicated two rooms on their campus as a “CALL Mall” with the purpose of serving foster families with clothes and other needed supplies.
When the church found themselves in need of a new pastor a few years later, God led them through the search to find William and his family. William was called as pastor in 2019. In October of that same year, Marabeth was given the role of directing the foster care ministry.
During the season of change as the church searched for a pastor, the CALL Mall had remained in operation, but just barely.
Marabeth immediately set to work helping to reorganize, refocus and reenergize the foster care ministry. She helped create a playroom and recruited volunteers from the church body to help. The church has since adopted the ministry as their own. Volunteers all have different jobs with some collecting and donating items, others sorting and hanging clothes, and still others staffing and assisting when people are shopping.
In December of 2019, FBC held a Christmas shop to help provide Christmas presents and needed items during the holiday season for foster families. There was no budget item for this ministry, so a designated fund was set up to allow for individual donations. The church body completely funded the event and provided everything that was needed through the money and items that they donated.
Marabeth says that the Christmas event in 2019 helped broaden the vision of what the ministry could be. Operating the CALL Mall under the umbrella of The CALL, the church was limited in the services they could provide and to whom. William and Marabeth realized that the need was bigger than what was being met at the time, so they began praying about expanding the ministry.
God answered those prayers in February 2021 when the church entered a new ministry partnership with The CALL where the two groups would walk alongside each other in ministry. In March, the CALL Mall reopened as the Families First Ministry Center (FFMC). Now instead of only serving a specific group of foster families, they can serve all foster families as well as adoptive families. In addition, they can now provide assistance to those involved in protective service cases. These are cases where kids are taken away from a home or are at risk of being removed because of a lack of necessities.
Marabeth uses the illustration of a mom who had recently gotten all of her children back into her home. She had most of what she needed to care for her kids but was in need of a bed. If they were provided a bed, they could stay together, and the Department of Human Services would not have to take the kids away. In these cases, the ministry center can provide needed items that help biological families stay together.
In addition to providing items, the FFMC also provides a visit room. This is a room set up to allow for supervised visits for foster kids and their biological parents. Marabeth says there is a huge need for these type of visit rooms around the state. There is a shortage of available foster families in the state, so kids are often sent out of their county for foster care. If there are no designated rooms available, these visits are done at restaurants or other public places. By providing a visit room, the FFMC allows families to have a safe, quiet, private place to hold their supervised visits.
Marabeth says there is no doubt that God is using this ministry to impact people’s lives. She says moms and dads come not only to get needed items but to talk to each other. They have found love, acceptance, help, hope and support. They have been able to connect with others in similar circumstances which has helped them find a sense of community. Marabeth says the ministry has also provided opportunities to share the love of Jesus by sharing the truth of the Gospel. She said, “I have been able to voice what I believe. This has opened up spiritual conversations, Gospel conversations. I have been able to build relationships and gain trust just by listening and showing people that I care about them.”
Currently the FFMC operates on a referral basis. The goal is to open at least once a month for the community to come in on a specific day or days. The FFMC is open the 2nd and 4th Saturday of each month from 10 a.m. to noon. They’re also open every Wednesday evening from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m and also help people who are referred to them at other times. They are currently working to bulk up on donations and volunteers and to get the word out to the community and to other churches across the area and across the state. Marabeth has a desire not only to see the ministry at FFMC grow, but for other churches to get involved in this type of ministry as well. She says the ministry center is patterned after the Cooperative Program. “The Cooperative Program (CP) is why we personally are Southern Baptist,” she said. “I want us to function like the CP functions, where our ministries work together to accomplish the Great Commission.”
Churches can replicate what they are doing, but Marabeth wants everyone to know that they don’t have to open ministry centers to minister to foster families. She says they can partner with First Baptist Maumelle by providing volunteers and donations. The FFMC is in need of such items as new socks and underwear, diapers and wipes, cribs, bunk beds, bassinets, strollers and car seats. As churches send donations and volunteers, FFMC can cooperate by providing the space and serving as a clearing house that everyone can use. “They can collect and send their stuff here and then send the people who need the stuff they send,” Marabeth said.
Churches can also partner together in getting the word out about the need for foster care. Marabeth says she would be willing to come and do training and talk to any group about foster care and the need for resources. She could also assist churches in setting up a visit room in their church for foster families to use. She says having a visit room in every town would be huge.
James 1:27 has become a life verse for the Jaques family. “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” Marabeth says that they want to be the hands and feet of Jesus in the lives of families at risk as well as foster and adoptive families. “My philosophy is that James 1:27 is not a suggestion. The only choice you have is how — not if — you are going to obey the command,” she said. “You can do foster care, elder care, serve in a nursing home or donate supplies. If you feel led to live it out by supporting this ministry, I will be glad to help you do that.”
To donate, volunteer or ask questions you can reach William or Marabeth Jaques by calling the church office at 501.851.3547.