After adopting two children of his own, something happened that Mark Kuykendall did not expect.
“People say ‘Y’all are such great people,’ but adoption has changed us more than people realize,” he said.
Kuykendall is just one of the East Texans who will attend Hope for 100’s second “God’s Heart for Orphans” conference on Jan. 31 and Feb. 1, designed to motivate the community to become involved in helping children who are without parents.
A concert with Stephen Curtis Chapman, an internationally known Christian singer, will be featured on Jan. 31.
“He’s a fantastic artist and has sold 10 million records,” said Gillian Sheridan, one of the event organizers, in a radio interview with the Tyler Morning Telegraph. “Besides drawing a crowd, he’s a prominent advocate for orphan issues. He adopted a daughter, and started ‘Show Hope,’ which has provided financing for 4,000 adoptions. He’s a man with a heart who sees orphan care as more than a ‘good cause.’ Back in 2008 he gave Hope for 100 his endorsement on its plans. Since this is our fifth anniversary, it seemed very fitting.”
Hope for 100 was a mission of Green Acres Baptist Church created in 2009 to adopt or foster 100 children. They have since exceeded that goal with more than 170.
The ministry expanded to include other churches and has a support network called “Forever Families.”
And that support is important, Kuykendall said.
“When we were adopting, we had so many questions, but didn’t know where to go for answers,” he said. “People who have adopted before you will understand what you’re going through.”
One of the speakers who will be featured at the adoption conference on Feb. 1 is Dr. Karyn Purvis, director of the Institute of Child Development at Texas Christian University. Dr. Purvis is known among the adoption community as “The Child Whisperer.”
“It’s really about learning to listen to the children,” she said of her work with children who have been adopted from abusive or neglectful backgrounds. “There’s a lot of talk about keeping kids safe, but they’re not really safe without a sense of belonging. The most beautiful thing that can happen in adoption is the same thing that happens in a biological family: When you can look in someone’s eyes and know who you are, when you can say ‘I am yours, and you are mine.’”
Kuykendall, 40, and his wife Marla, 39, adopted their oldest child, now 11, domestically, after trying to have one of their own for more than a decade. They adopted another from Ethiopia, who is 5, and their 4-year-old is biological.
“At first, adoption was the way we were choosing to have a family, but as we got more involved and learned more about it, it became a calling,” he said. “I hope others are inspired to do the same.”
Those who wish to attend the conference or concert can register at www.orphanconfer ence.org. Tickets to the Stephen Curtis Chapman concert are $20 each. Tickets for the conference are $15 for individuals and $25 for couples. Register by Sunday to receive childcare.