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Love in Action

From the series Love in Action

Would you believe that almost half a million kids are in foster care right now? So how should Christians in the U.S. respond? In this program, you will hear about the new movie “Sound of Hope”, which sheds light on this pressing and challenging crisis. Experience the true story of a little church in Possum Trot, Texas, that started a movement by radically caring for the hurting kids in their community.

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Message Transcript

CHIP: Well, I don't want to start on a negative note, but sometimes good news isn't good news until you know the bad news. So could you paint the picture of what life is like in the foster care system right now?

JOE: Yeah. You know, Nelson Mandela once said that there can be no keener revelation of a society's soul than the way in which it treats its children. And so if we look at our most vulnerable children in the nation, what is the condition of our society's soul? And Chip, it paints a very grim picture. In the richest country the world has ever known, every year, four million families stand at the front door of the foster system. And we're talking about vulnerable families struggling with things like poverty, addiction, domestic abuse.

And in the system, we have nearly 400,000 children with more than 100,000 waiting to be adopted. And the kids that go into the system experience horrific downstream outcomes. If you go to girls who are rescued from sex trafficking raids, if you go to our nation's prisons, if you go to our homeless camps, people on the streets, you will find so many had a journey, a traumatizing journey through the foster system. The state was never meant to be a parent.

There is a myth that the driver of kids going into foster care is abuse. Actually, the number one driver of why kids go into the foster system is neglect. And so much of that is poverty related neglect. You have addictions, like I said earlier, other complicating factors, but these are preventable reasons and we're living in a nation right now that seems to be okay, letting the most vulnerable families fall apart and the most vulnerable children to flood into systems. It cannot continue.

CHIP: Tell us about this film and what in the world does it have to do with rescuing kids?

JOE: I'm convinced that we are in a Kairos moment of a care revival at just the right time in the country and that God is doing something supernatural and extraordinary. I'm equally convinced that what's going on with children and families in crisis, not just the 4 million families on the brink, but the 400,000 in the system and the 100,000 waiting for adoption is a spiritual war. It makes no sense that there are nearly 400,000 churches lifting up the name of Jesus and, and nearly 400,000 children languishing in the foster system.

And we are releasing a film, which is meant to be a catalyst. for an impact campaign to end the foster crisis in the nation, that when people see this film, they will be moved in their deepest part of their souls that this cannot continue. And I have a personal role to play in my community and I am going to take action.

And when the collective of all of us are moved in spirit to go do something radical and to declare that this is time for a care revolution. When that happens one by one, we are going to see something that eyes have not seen and ears have not heard. And I believe that to the depths of my being.

CHIP: I've had the privilege with my wife of watching in advance the movie. I didn't realize the name is actually a place. And I watched it and it was way beyond educational. It was like, if this could happen here in this way, and it's a true story, this could happen everywhere. So tell us a little bit about the story without giving it all away.

JOE: Very few people have heard of it, but Possum Trot is a small town, you won't find it on the map, in deep east Texas in the Piney Woods. And there's a little local church there named Bennett Chapel with a Bishop W.C. Martin and First Lady Donna Martin and a handful of families that live in little trailers out in the woods.

They are a church of great faith. In fact, in the front sign and the lawn of the church, it says, you know, we are a church that moves by faith and not sight. And in the mid 1990s, the Lord convicted them that they were supposed to start adopting. Some of the most vulnerable kids in Texas. And when they looked up, 22 families by the movement of the Spirit of God had adopted 77 of the most difficult to place kids in child welfare, and they launched a revolution through Texas, and that reverberates through the nation today. And we're bringing the gritty, honest truth of how God moved. and how he used a humble people to do something that most of us don't have the guts to do.

CHIP: Well, I expected, candidly, a little bit of Hollywood glossing over some of the challenges. If anything, the realism was like, wow, this is the way it really is. So what happened to turn this from an amazing thing that happened in the 1990s to a feature film.

JOE: Yeah, so Bishop Martin and Donna Martin and Bennett Chappell are legend in this movement space, but very few people outside of it know. So I've walked with them and known them for years, and this amazing couple in Los Angeles, I mean just powerful filmmakers, Josh and Rebecca Weigel. were moved by the Lord, their adoptive parents. They heard the story and about eight years ago, they felt moved and they start writing the screenplay. And for years and years, they wrote it and they wrote the straight truth about what would happen. And they had offers to go sell the script but then all of the truth was gonna be ripped out of it. The power of the spirit would be ripped out of it by some of the usual suspects.

And they were like, you know what, it's not for sale. They held the course. And ultimately we connected and when I read it, knowing the story, what we saw together was not just a movie, but an impact campaign to ignite the church to child movement in America to a whole different level. So it was really that connection in December of 2020 and here's the coolest thing, this film is so unique. Behind it all, Josh and Rebecca sold everything and they moved to East Texas to be part of the community, to make sure they were true to them and honest to them.

And then the Lord raised up a handful of families who wanna remain anonymous and donor funded the entire thing for kids. So how the film got made is supernatural. God gets the glory for that. And as you mentioned, the film itself, it pulls no punches. And for all of us, especially those who claim to be believers, it's a great challenge and an encouragement that while these kids are suffering, the Lord has given us the ability to enter into their suffering and bring real healing.

CHIP: Since it's donor funded, does that mean the proceeds of the film will actually go to help kids? How does it work?

JOE: Well, I mean, the theaters have to get paid and the distributor has to get paid. But there will be funding, God willing, if profits that come to the production itself. Everybody involved in this film, the producer, the director, Letitia Wright, who's in one of the executive producers, she plays Shuri in Black Panther and an unbelievable leader. Everybody gave up their right to profits, everybody. So the profits. The donors who put their money in will get their money back, God willing, so they can give it away again. But all of the profits are gonna go to care for kids and families in crisis. So it's literally all in for children.

CHIP: Well, tell us a little bit about when it's going to be, what people can do, because, you know, I'm guessing you don't have a multi-million dollar budget for advertising. So if the answer is the church in terms of action with these kids, what's one simple practical thing that people could do on July 4th that would make a huge difference in the fate of the most vulnerable kids in America.

JOE: We made the decision with Angel Studios to release this on Independence Day because we are in desperate need of a fight for children, for their freedom, for their independence, from trauma, from systems. And so we need to flood theaters in such a way that this nation has to stand up and recognize. We need to flood theaters in such a way that Possum Trot is a front page New York Times story. It's being released by Angel Studios as a follow-up to Sound of Freedom. We actually need a robust flooding of theater.

So here's what you can do if you're listening to this. Go to Angel Studios website there will be a simple link for you to buy a ticket. You can buy a ticket for yourself. You can pay it forward and send people to the theater. You can buy group tickets - And church - you can buy out an entire theater and bring all of your people to experience this together and take action. But the one thing we need is we need a bottom-up groundswell flooding theaters in every community across America as a statement of force for children.

CHIP: And what I would say to people is, turn your intention to a very specific action. Do something, say, hey Siri, remind me to buy that ticket when I get out of the car. Send yourself a text, do something. And it's such a small thing for each individual, but it can be such a big thing when tens of thousands of us just take the first step to buy a ticket.

And then what I will tell you is as you watch the film, I think the Lord will do something in your heart. And if he does something in a number of people's hearts, we will look in the rear-view mirror, a year, three, five years and there'll be kids life and their trajectory that'll be completely different. Completely different. They won't be in prison. They won't be in the sex trade. They won't be homeless. They will have found themselves either with their family or they will find themselves being loved and adopted and a part of a family that in all likelihood loves Jesus and is creating a world that they never knew was possible.

JOE: Amen. This film is changing lives. We put everything into this. And the film is changing lives. I want you to get a ticket. I want you to give tickets. I want you to bring your friends, God has something for you in that theater. Go get it.

CHIP: Well, I wish we had about five hours and you could tell the long story and the journey of how God has allowed CARE Portal to literally develop a system, a strategic plan, and partnerships with God's people that not someday somehow are making a difference. They're doing it right now. I mean, there is a solution. And so share some good news at what God is doing despite this difficulty.

JOE: Yeah, I love that. This is my favorite part. It's not a little bit of good news. It's a lot of good news. The wind is at the back of the church right now to fundamentally change child and family well-being in America.

Let me just give you a quick thumbnail about Care Portal, which is the care sharing technology platform that we operate. You know, in the midst of all the bad news we just talked about, if you go into any county in the United States of America, any county... and you just plotted, let's say on a map, a care dot, and you said, all right, a social worker is a care dot, and then you say a school teacher is a care dot, and even a police officer is a care dot, and then you move over and you say, well, local churches are full of people, believers, everyone, a care dot, and then you even bump out to the community, people in the community, businesses, et cetera, that have a heart for kids and families in crisis. Every county, you would literally have all of these points of light. So we don't have a provision problem. We have a connection problem.

And so care portal is actually what Uber is for ride sharing, care portal is for care sharing. We thought, well, what would happen if we developed a technology, we went into a given county and underneath all of these beautiful, wonderful people, we just bolted the technology under and social workers and school teachers, etc. that encounter the needs of kids and families in crisis every day, instead of yanking kids out of their home and putting them in the foster care, which actually destroys the well-being of the social workers too. What if they could put needs into an app? And then what if we could say to local churches nearby, Hey, if there was a hurting child, a hurting family in your neighborhood, would you be willing to receive a text message about it? And engage your people. That simple. If we just did that and created James moments like that, what would God do?

And then we would stay anonymous because we want moms and dads and grandmas and grandpas and social workers and local churches to be heroes to their own children and families, not us.

So I will give you a very common, let's say use case. There is a single mom who is struggling, lost her job, dealing with all kinds of bills, pain, etc. And she's on the child welfare radar screen because she's not able to care for her kids on her own right now. And there's an investigation of her and they find, for example, that the children don't have beds. They're sleeping on the floor. Now, mom doesn't need anybody yanking her children out of her love, out of her grasp, because of a lack of beds.

So a caseworker in that situation could say, you know what, let me enter this need into Care Portal, and then it goes out, and let's say 10 local churches that are in two or three miles of mom. Each of them have built response teams. So let's say there are 10 people on each response team. Now a hundred people get a real time notification saying, can somebody help mom with beds? Well, guess what? People are gonna raise their hands and here's the beautiful thing.

If mom needs a bed, she needs more than a bed, right? She needs a relationship. So local churches that are called to make disciples, this is a disciple making tool where someone in a local church can say, I can help mom with beds. Then they can actually connect with the social worker and with mom to deliver the bed and make a meaningful connection beyond the bed. And the ripples from the connections are what change the world.

CHIP: What would I do if I wanted to sort of log into this care portal and get a text that would say, hey Chip and Teresa, we want you to know that in this outlying place of San Jose, Here's the situation, and you all for 50 bucks or three hours or you and your church could actually make a difference. Just help that person who said, I would do one simple practical thing where I live. How would they do that?

JOE: Yeah, they would simply go to care portal.org. It's a very simple, intuitive platform. And if you go there, you will find where you fit in. Everybody has a place at the party. You will find where you fit in and the platform itself will get you plugged in.

Care Portal is live in 33 states. and a network of over 1000 child serving agencies, nearly 7000 local churches and scores of thousands of community responders have served nearly 270,000 children together, all through the local church.

CHIP: Wow. That is awesome, Joe. That is so encouraging. And I think one of the things that you all have done, and I'm just gonna sort of go out on the edge here, I think we're living in a climate right now where there's some hostility toward all the political things happening and social services and governments. It's not like they're all the bad guys and everything's corrupt and nothing is working. And the fact of the matter is, yes, we have challenges there. But you are working hand in hand with some government agencies, county agencies, city agencies that they're experiencing like, well, who are these church people that wanna help solve our problems and are actually meeting needs?

Could you say a word about that relationship? Cause I think sometimes, you know, people, you know, you just watch the news or you scroll and read this and read that. And we put you know, agencies or people in caricatures, rather than realizing we can build bridges and God really is at work.

JOE: I love this topic. I would say to all the listeners, just don't believe all of the rhetoric and the hype that is so divisive. The truth is there is a massive coalition at the ground level who are dying for someone to say, what can we do together? Like I know, I hear every day how I'm supposed to hate that person, but the truth is there is a thirst for unity, and by unity I mean concerted activity, not uniformity.

So for example, The Los Angeles County Division of Children and Family Services. I would say that most people would quickly reach the conclusion, oh, that's just a far left progressive agency and the church could never work with them. Do you know? That that is one of our very best partners in the nation. Would you believe that the social workers, all the way up to their leadership, they want to partner with local churches, especially in the lowest income zip codes who are willing to serve kids and families in crisis. And honestly, they roll out the red carpet. They are champions of care sharing through the local church. They're amazing.

And then I could go all the way over and say, well, what would LA have to do with, say, Florida? People would quickly say, man, that's just, they're diametrically opposed. Well, just like LA County DCFS, the Florida Division of Children and Family Services, with amazing leadership in that state, they are one of our best partners in the country. So it turns out that the Florida DCFS and the LA County DCFS, the workers there, have a passion for community-based care sharing to end the foster crisis in their communities. And that's something to celebrate and get involved with.

CHIP: Amen -- Well, as we wrap up our time, let me just say – God is very serious about the way we treat children – especially those that are in desperate need and burdened like the kids we talked about today. This is a bona fide movement of God to restore families and it’s clear to me, that it’s time for us as the church to step up, to be the hands and feet of Jesus, to be Christians that really live like Christians.

Dave’ll give you all the details about CarePortal and how you can get the tickets to this new movie in just a minute, but first – Joe thank you – thank you for the work that you and your team have done and thank you for taking the time today to talk with us about this holy ambition that God has placed on your heart people all across the country are coming together in a way like you’ve never seen and I certainly have never seen – to make a difference in the life of kids. So thank you very much.

JOE: Thank you.

CHIP: Almighty and ever living God, you know every human heart, you see every child, not just in America, but across the world, who are vulnerable, and hurting, have no idea what it's like to be safe, to be loved and to be loved by You. Would you move according to your will? Would you put your hand upon this film? Would you fill the theaters? Would you move people whom you've prepared to foster kids and adopt kids and help us to each one do our part to fulfill what you wanna do in the lives of these children.

And Lord we wanna tell you that we love you. And that we’re so grateful that you’re our Father. And we’re your children. And that at great sacrifice, Jesus you laid down your life, so that we could become the children of God. We love because you first loved us. Fill us with your supernatural love for these kids and move us to actually act. In Jesus' name, amen.