In this special episode, co-hosts Lynette Ezell and Tera Melber share an inspiring conversation with Shon Murray and her teenage son, Nijel, about their foster care experience and their ministry, Klothes for Kids. Learn more about Klothes for Kids, and hear how the family is pouring into children in the foster care system aside from fostering. You won’t want to miss this unique and heartfelt story!
Tera Melber: Welcome back to the Adopting and Fostering Home Podcast. Shon and DeWayne Murray stepped into the waters of foster care two years ago. They have one biological child, 15 year-old, Nijel. The calling upon their family to foster was only the beginning of the plans God had for their family. And we are thrilled to have Shon and Nijel with us today to share how God continues to use them to reach foster children with the love of Jesus in Las Vegas.
Tera Melber: The best part of this story is that we say all the time that everybody may not be called to foster children in their home or they may be, but it doesn’t really matter about your age. We’re all called to, and can do, something.
Tera Melber: So welcome, Shon and Nijel!
Shon DeMurray: Hello! Thank you!
Tera Melber: Well, we’re super glad to have you here.
Lynette Ezell: So, Shon, why don’t you tell us about your family and how you got involved in foster care?
Shon DeMurray: Sure. My husband, DeWayne and I have been married for 18 years and like you mentioned we have Nijel. Nijel is 15 and we go to church here in Las Vegas. Our home church is Hope Church, Las Vegas and it’s under the leadership of Vance Pitman. About a year ago, a year and a half ago, our church launched this big campaign called Next. What that looked like, we were asking God as a church, what is next for us? What is our next step? You know, what is our next chapter?
Shon DeMurray: Because we’re known throughout the city as this really big church that’s doing all of these things but we didn’t want to be known as that church that’s sitting on Cactus with the good music and preaching.
Lynette Ezell: That’s right.
Shon DeMurray: We begged to God for the answer to this question. How can we make a lasting difference in our city? How can people’s lives be radically changed because Hope Church exists? And through much prayer, I’m telling you the Lord showed us this crisis that is happening in our city once we prayed, He revealed to us the crisis as it relates to the foster care system. And that crisis is currently there are more children in foster care than there are licensed families and so, that was what the Lord revealed to us and our response to that was, we wanted our prayer as a church, whole church, is that one day the foster care system in our city would have more families waiting on children instead of children waiting on families. And that’s how our story began.
Lynette Ezell: Oh, that’s beautiful, Shon. I just love that. We love your church and your pastor’s on board. That makes a huge difference. We talk about that a lot.
Lynette Ezell: Can you share? So you all decided to foster and so, can you tell us about your first placement?
Shon DeMurray: Yes, so once we went through that with our church and responded to the Lord, our yes was on the table. And so through that, a beautiful ministry was birthed called Fostering Hope at our church and its ran by Carly Silva. And Carly was on your show.
Tera Melber: Yes!
Lynette Ezell: Yes, she was!
Shon DeMurray: And she has such a big heart for this and so, they asked us to respond by signing up to take classes to be licensed to foster. Even people who were not necessarily ready at that moment but for us it was just telling the Lord, our sails are up and we’re waiting for your wind. You know, it’s sort of like when you get a passport. You may not be sure exactly where the Lord is going to send you but you know He called us all to go so just to have that passport and just waiting on the Lord to tell you where to go. That’s what the license is for us. It’s like a passport. We’re just waiting on the Lord to tell us exactly when, what child, when we get the phone call and so, that’s what we did.
Shon DeMurray: And so we got the phone call once we went through the classes and we got the phone call from Child Haven to come and to meet a little boy who was twelve years old. And we went down and we met him and within probably the first fifteen minutes I knew that I wanted to bring him home. So, Nijel and his dad, we all spoke with him. And so we asked him, hey, would you like to come home with us? And he said yes and we were so excited but I had so many thoughts and so many emotions going through my mind. I feel like I called every friend. I texted everybody like hey, it’s happening, it’s happening, we’re going to take this child home.
Shon DeMurray: And so that’s how it started and we brought him home and that was in October and we had him for roughly around 4 months he was with our family.
Lynette Ezell: Well, Nijel, what were your first thoughts when you began to realize, uh-oh we’re not just going to volunteer at church but they’re bringing home another child into our house? How’d you feel about that?
Nijel: I was actually really excited because I’m the only child so I don’t really have anyone to play with or talk to when my parents aren’t home or whatever. So I was excited to have a new little sibling.
Lynette Ezell: Oh, that’s great. I love that.
Lynette Ezell: Well, we’re just so privileged to know you all and see the Lord unfold this new ministry in your life. And so after your first placement was in your home, I know that you really still had a burden even after he left and so I know that you began a ministry called Clothes for Kids. So, Nijel, tell us a little bit about Klothes for Kids and why you felt led to start working for the needs of foster children.
Nijel: So, when we first got our foster children. When he got here, he didn’t have any clothes that fit him. They were either too big or too small, so we had to go to Wal-Mart or whatever and buy him some clothes because he didn’t have any clothes that he could wear. When we bought him the clothes, he just seemed like he was so much more happier, like he had more confidence and he was enjoying the clothes that he wore and I thought that this probably happens to a lot of foster kids. So I decided that I could do something about it.
Lynette Ezell: That’s incredible. And that is the story that we hear so often of kids coming in and they do receive new things from their foster families or from ministries like yours and it makes such a big difference to them that they feel loved and cared for and that somebody thought enough about them to provide things for them that they really needed. So, it’s really awesome how the Lord took just an initiative at your church to prompt your parents but then its changed your life as well.
Lynette Ezell: You know, Shon, I’m sure as a mom, I like to fix things for my kids whether they need it or not. And so, I’m sure this has grown. We’ve been watching you guys online, you and our friends. We talk and, I’m sure there’s been times where you want to jump in and provide or fix things for Nijel’s to make sure these needs are met in this ministry in order for it to thrive. But how have you been able to kind of let go and see the Lord provide for Klothes for Kids.
Shon DeMurray: Yes, you are so right. As a mom, I want to jump in. I want to fix everything and do everything for him but just learning to just allow the Lord to work through Nijel’s heart and in his life because if I do it all, you know he had the idea, and if I do it all, then he’s not going to learn even more compassion and just empathy and just those different things. And I just really, really see the Lord opening his heart and his mind even when he may not. You know there’s been some days he didn’t want to do Klothes for Kids.
Lynette Ezell: Right.
Shon DeMurray: I’ll just kind of put him in the place. You know, some days I think, Nijel, close your eyes and imagine if you would, you go to school tomorrow and from school, a social worker shows up and takes you directly to Child Haven, you won’t get a chance to go home, get any of your favorite things or any things. So I just try to keep him in that space of what does it look like for other kids and what would that feel like? So, when it comes to, I love how you guys are doing the duffel bags and so it was just wonderful to be able to grasp onto that concept.
Shon DeMurray: And so when you do the things for comfort, I was telling Nijel, if you got taken to Child Haven today, what are some things of comfort that you wish someone would bring to you? And his response, I wish someone would maybe bring my Rubik’s Cube or you know one of my books or things like that and so from that we came up with this idea. Okay he loves Rubik’s Cubes and you know, kids can work on that for an hour and it just takes your mind off of things.
Shon DeMurray: And so, that’s one of the things that he is doing with some of the money that he has is he’s going to order some Rubik’s Cubes and take them to Child Haven and just from kid-to-kid, peer-to-peer just give those kids some things and say “hey, this’ll take your mind off of things just for a moment, maybe just for an hour.” Just teaching him how to put himself in that place and so that he knows that the way that you’re living now it is just the grace of God. And I never want you to take that for granted or feel that you’re better than any other kid because that could be you.
Lynette Ezell: That’s right. That’s so true. And these are lessons, Nijel, that you’ll take for the rest of your life, for sure.
Lynette Ezell: So, Nijel, what’s your goal for Clothes for Kids? Where do you see it going from here?
Nijel: My goal really is just to help as many kids as possible that I can. It doesn’t matter how many, just as many as I can.
Lynette Ezell: So how are you collecting the clothes and the items for the bags that you’re giving out? For others who might want to start something similar in their area, how did you go about collecting things?
Nijel: So, we created a Facebook page and my mom has been posting on her Facebook as well that I’ve been trying to get clothes. But also this Saturday for my birthday we’re actually doing a clothing drive where people can just drop off clothes that they have or that they want to donate or toiletries or any necessities that the kids might need.
Lynette Ezell: And when the bags are packed and ready to go, how are you getting them to the foster children?
Nijel: So, whoever needs clothes or a duffel bag, they can email us or call us and then we’ll go and take the bag to them.
Lynette Ezell: Oh, so you get to deliver them. That’s fantastic!
Lynette Ezell: Oh, that’s great. You know, Nijel, when I think of Paul’s charge to young Timothy, I know the Lord had you in mind. Cause in I Timothy 4:12, Paul declared, “Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young but set an example for the believers, in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity.” And so I just want people to hear your story, our listeners, and I just want to encourage folks to please take action just as Shon, DeWayne and Nijel have done.
Lynette Ezell: We know the entire body of Christ, just as Tera has said, isn’t called. Not everyone’s called to foster but the Church is God’s Plan A to share the love of Christ with kids from hard places and to help meet their physical needs just like Nijel’s doing.
Tera Melber: That’s right. When young Daniel was removed from his home and forced to live among strangers in Babylon, he reminded God’s people in Daniel 11:32 that the people who know their God will display strength and take action. So I think about that.
Tera Melber: There’s a Biblical example like Shon, you were talking about when children are removed from their home and forced to live among strangers and Daniel was forced to live among a Pagan nation and they were trying to get him to understand their culture and everything like that. So our prayer of course is that faith families will rise up and will foster so that children, when they are taken in by strangers, can hear and see the love of Christ.
Tera Melber: But even so, those who are not called to foster can do something. How do you think this has changed your thoughts and just your family dynamic, Shon, as a whole?
Shon DeMurray: It has really helped us to be more aware of the needs of others and particularly children. I love that quote that you guys say, not everyone is called to foster but everyone can do something. It just opens up our eyes of really what the church, the village that the church is. In the world, in the foster care system, they have a lot of wrap-around services.
But a lot of times you’ve got to go through a lot of red tape to get those wrap around services to get those wrap around services for the kids. But as a body of believers, as a Church, which I’m so grateful for what they’re doing at Hope Church through Fostering Hope, we are able as a body to be our own wrap around services.
We have educators, that’s like the largest domain at our church and so, when we had our foster placement and he was struggling educationally, we were able just to reach out to some of the educators right at our church and they were able to give us direct help.
And for us as a family, although we don’t have a child in our home right now, being able to help those families at our church who do have children. There are 30 families right now who are licensed and we’re able to be wrap around services for those people. We can babysit, we can take a meal, we can drop off some clothes, we can take toys. So there’s so many things we can do as a Church so even if you don’t have a child in your home just consider that, giving a family a break for the weekend or even for an hour.
Tera Melber: Right. Right. Absolutely.
Tera Melber: And the greatest lesson that we can teach our own children is to serve others with the love of Christ and sharing your home with a perfect child is a way to do this, providing wrap around care to those who are doing so is a perfect way to do this.
Tera Melber: Its teaching ourselves and our children to be others-focused in the name of Christ.
Lynette Ezell: Absolutely.
Shon DeMurray: Amen.
Lynette Ezell: Well, we hope this ministry continues to grow, Nijel. What’s been the funniest part of it for you? What’s the part of it you enjoy the most?
Nijel: I really enjoy when people give me donations for the kids. It just brings joy to me.
Lynette Ezell: Wow. That’s great.
Tera Melber: It almost feels like Christmas when you’re giving stuff away, doesn’t it?
Tera Melber: It really does. And I think when you have one student, get a high school student sharing with other students, it just breaks down the barriers.
Shon DeMurray: Yes.
Lynette Ezell: And Nijel having his friends see him do this, it changes the culture of a generation when they understand the need for foster care, especially in Las Vegas when the need is so, so severe.
Lynette Ezell: So how could people find out about Clothes for Kids and donate gift cards or send you things?
Nijel: On my Facebook page, its Klothes4KidsLV, on my Facebook page, if you want to donate money or anyone wants to donate money, there’s a donate button you can click to donate money and then you can also email us, KoolKlothesforKids and everything is spelled with a “k” as well. But it’s not the number 4 its F-O-R, for.
Lynette Ezell: Well, we’ll put all of that in the show notes so that people can get in touch with you and we encourage all of you to do so. So, Nijel and Shon, we thank you for being brave and taking action and doing something for the glory of God. Because when we obey and serve beyond what even our natural abilities are, Christ receives the glory.
Lynette Ezell: I’ve been talking to our boys this week as the school year starts that we are to let our light shine before men so that they may see our good deeds and give glory to our Father in heaven and I’m grateful that that’s what your family does.
Shon DeMurray: Amen. I just want to just say this one thing that was on my heart.
One of the ladies at Child Haven was telling me that one of the things that was so powerful about what Nijel is doing is because so many of the kids, they’re accustomed to adults giving them things but they’re just not used to a peer giving them something, another child their age being able to relate and saying, “hey, you know I understand what you’re going through,” and maybe just being able to speak to them.
So right now we’re working on Nijel and maybe some of his friends from his basketball team, being able to go to Child Haven and maybe just do a game of basketball with the boys in the cottage that are his age and just to show, peer-to-peer, kid-to-kid, you know, “hey, we see where you are and we just want you to know that we’re with you.”
Tera Melber: Right. Absolutely, Shon.
Tera Melber: You know someone did that for our son before he was adopted. Just a teenager, a young college student, cared enough to go to his orphanage and start playing basketball with him and Shon, that was a game-changer in his life.
Shon DeMurray: Wow, that is so awesome!
Lynette Ezell: It really is. We love you guys, we appreciate you and thanks for being with us today.
Shon DeMurray: Thank you so much for having us on the show. We appreciate it.
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