From cribs to college, James’ Storehouse serves kids in foster care. On this special episode, join co-hosts Lynette Ezell and Tera Melber as they talk with Stacey DeWitt, executive director of James Storehouse, about how the ministry began and what it’s currently doing now. You’ll also hear stories of Stacey’s personal journey with foster care and adoption.
You won’t want to miss this episode!
For you and your church’s next step on mission in this unique ministry, visit sendrelief.org/foster-care-adoption/.
Announcer: Welcome to the Adopting and Fostering Home podcast. Whether your family has been on this journey for years or you’re just getting started, we’re here to support and encourage you along the way. And now your hosts Lynette Ezell and Tera Melber.
Tera Melber: Welcome back to the Adopting and Fostering Home podcast. I’m Tera Melber along with Lynette Ezell and I’m really excited about this topic because Lynette and I sort of dabble in this a bit here in Georgia and we are welcoming a guest, Stacy DeWitt from Los Angeles. Lynette, you met her online.
Lynette Ezell: Social media.
Tera Melber: Social media.
Lynette Ezell: Yeah, we just, I just kind of contacted Stacy on social media. Loved what I saw she was involved in. I messaged her, she got right back with me so Stacy welcome. We are so glad to have you today.
Stacy DeWitt: Thank you. I’m so excited to join you.
Lynette Ezell: Your involved with a ministry called James Storehouse and so I know that adoption grew in heart before you, I’m assuming, before you got involved with James Storehouse. You have three children and one of them are adopted, is that correct?
Stacy DeWitt: Yes. Our youngest is our daughter and we adopted her from little orphanage in the heart of Guatemala City.
Tera Melber: Oh, that’s awesome.
Lynette Ezell: Wow. That’s beautiful. Tell us more how did the idea of James Storehouse begin?
Stacy DeWitt: Yeah. Before I can tell my part of the story I have to tell you a little bit about my friend’s part of the story. Her name is Kim Bigler and she’s the founder of James Storehouse. Long story short, just a little bit of her story is she received an email, a massive email to a 100 people asking if someone had a space heater in the middle of winter for an aged out youth and Kim thought, that took longer to write that email and send it out that if someone …
Lynette Ezell: Than to go get one.
Stacy DeWitt: Were just sort of go to Walmart and deliver it to her. And she was upset and then the Holy Spirit just began to speak to her and say, “I wanted you to go do that.” Then, Kim got that memo from the Lord and she went out and that started, that sparked something in her that God wanted to birth. That become James Storehouse.
Stacy DeWitt: James Storehouse is named after James 1:27 that says, “Religion that God our Father accepts is pure and faultless, is to look after widows and orphans in their distress and to keep yourself from being polluted by the world.” These orphans are, our modern day orphans are kids in foster care.
Lynette Ezell: That’s right.
Stacy DeWitt: And it turns out that the widows that we’re helping are these grandmothers and great-grandmothers and their families who are willing to take in these kids and we have the privilege to love them with the love of Jesus and provide for them. That’s the backstory. And then my story comes in when my husband and I started our church about seven years ago. When we sat on the floor of our living room and we prayed and we said, “Lord, what is it that breaks your heart for our community? And we want to do something about it.” Right away, He impressed upon our hearts that it’s foster care but we didn’t know anything really about foster care. No one was talking about foster care in our community. There weren’t any ads. There really wasn’t anything but the Lord was waking up our community to this. We didn’t know it at the time.
Stacy DeWitt: I’m a doer so as soon as I got that word, I was trying to find out where can I get involved? Where can I learn? And every single door closed and I was like, I know my shepherd’s voice, I know He said foster care, but what is it Lord that you’re trying to do? I gathered three other friends and we met at a coffeehouse once a week and we fasted half a day and we just said, “Lord, show us what it is that you want to do.”
Stacy DeWitt: During that nine months of time, interestingly that it was nine months of time.
Lynette Ezell: Oh wow.
Stacy DeWitt: We received a phone call from a police officer one morning, asking us if we’d come pick up a three year old from one of the hotels. And so I jumped in my car and went and got her and he handed her to me outside the hotel and she was just wearing a wet diaper and had an empty sippy cup. Those were all of her belongings.
Stacy DeWitt: Of course, I wrapped her up in a blanket, put her in the car seat in my car and brought her home and then realized that instead of bonding with her and getting her comfortable, I had to start making a plan because I didn’t have a bed. I didn’t have any diapers for the next diaper change. I didn’t have anything for her. Clothing, nothing. And so I started getting on the phone and calling my sister-in-law who had little kids and calling neighbors and going out to Target to provide for her. I wanted her to feel loved and cared for. But, in the middle of all this, the Lord was showing us what it’s like to receive a child with nothing.
Lynette Ezell: Yes, that’s right.
Stacy DeWitt: And we found out that there are thousands of other families in our community that are willing, if they have some help. Then, the idea of meeting back with my girlfriends at the coffeehouse and saying, “This is what is happening in my life. I think we should start a warehouse.” The Lord brought Kim and her family from the valley to our tiny little church. We still don’t even know why and how she ended up at our church but we were talking about foster care and this idea of a warehouse and Kim says, “I have heart for foster care and I’ve already made some contacts with social workers and I have this thing called James Storehouse.” And so the Lord just birthed that. In fact, what was really, really cool is sometimes the Lord gives me dreams to confirm things or to tell me things and the Lord was so sweet to give me a dream that represented Kim’s dream of James Storehouse which He was birthing in me. This was going to be my baby to do in California.
Stacy DeWitt: He made it just really simple and really easy understand what He was trying to do. Our tiny little church of a 100 people, raised a $100,000.
Lynette Ezell: That is incredible.
Stacy DeWitt: It’s incredible. Incredible. We have stories of some of the youth, the teenagers who are working in fast food restaurants and saved all their tips and brought them up at the end of this time that we were saving our money and as an offering. And had this stack of cash and it just brings tears to my eyes to see the faith in the youth, believing in this call the Lord had for us. And so by a miracle we have this money and then we were able to find a warehouse and open up a little free boutique and so we started out with just a couple of clients and now last year, just last year alone, we served 3,262 foster children in kinship and their families.
Lynette Ezell: Wow.
Stacy DeWitt: The Lord has just exploded this ministry. We’ve been able to share the love of God with so many people just through these resources. They opened the door to sharing about who He is and His love for them and that they’re not alone.
Tera Melber: There’s so many thing in what you just said that I’m just so excited about. And things that I think we need to remember because it’s not as if, necessarily, we always get excited when we feel something that we feel like the Lord is birthing within us but we are as doers, many of us, ready to start yesterday. I love the way that the Lord says, “This is going to happen in my timing so I want you to seek me and I want you to desire me more than you desire what you’re passionate about. I want you to spend time with me. Fast for me. Wait upon me.” And then in that timing, the not the coincidence but that the Lord brought Kim into your church family right at that particular time, it just to me, shows that the Lord sees the helicopter view of all.
Lynette Ezell: From the beginning to the end.
Tera Melber: From the beginning to the end.
Lynette Ezell: That’s right.
Tera Melber: And He says, “Man, I’ve got this plan and you just get to walk the journey but I want your desire for a relationship with me above all things.”
Lynette Ezell: That’s right.
Tera Melber: I love that. That’s incredible.
Stacy DeWitt: And that’s exactly what it was. I tell the story in a very linear way where it’s like all the pieces fit together so logically but going through it …
Lynette Ezell: We get it.
Tera Melber: It didn’t.
Stacy DeWitt: Lord, where are you?
Tera Melber: Right?
Lynette Ezell: Exactly.
Stacy DeWitt: I’m not seeing any fruit yet but I just, if anybody’s listening and God has put something on their heart, for these kids just to keep pressing in and surrender your ideas. Surrender what you think it looks like and God will bring about what He has in mind.
Tera Melber: And then He receives all the glory because we can’t make this stuff up. You can’t say, “Oh I went from thinking something to serving nearly 4,000 kids in one year in Los Angeles of all places. You can’t manufacture that. This was all just an unfolding of the Lord.” He receives all the glory for the whole thing.
Lynette Ezell: Absolutely.
Stacy DeWitt: Oh 100%. 100%. And my word for the year, this year is remain. Remain me and I in you. In other words, He’s reminding me that if I break away from the vine, I cannot do anything in my own power because it’s all about Him.
Lynette Ezell: Absolutely. I was thinking, Tera and I started something like this on a smaller scale here in the state of Georgia and we were like you Stacy, we knew the Lord was moving our heart. We’ve not hit 4,000 families but the idea of that number just can make me nervous.
Tera Melber: Oh it does.
Lynette Ezell: Bring fear into my heart and that’s why, like you said, you have to be completely dependent upon Him and abiding ’cause we bring nothing to the table.
Tera Melber: No, we don’t.
Stacy DeWitt: That’s true. That is so true.
Lynette Ezell: Absolutely.
Stacy DeWitt: And I feel like the more I let go, the more I’m able to see the power of the Lord through what we’re doing. I sat on my living room couch last year and I said, “I want what you’re dreaming about Lord.” ‘Cause I can think of these plans of what we can do but I want you to show me what you’re dreaming about. And a cool thing happened was that not just a couple days later, on my front porch of my home, a lady dropped off 30 American Girl dolls.
Tera Melber: Oh my goodness.
Stacy DeWitt: Beautiful American Girl dolls and I went, “What am I going to do with these dolls?” But I remembered my prayer and I said, “You create Lord. What is on your heart to do?” And that birthed a new activity that we get to do with the girls every year. We call it Dream Day and these little girls who are recovering from so much trauma, so much abuse, so much neglect, we bring them to the American Girl doll store where they pick out a doll. They get to have a special lunch. They get to be like all the little girls in our community and it’s a day where they get to be carefree and just feel like a little girl and be honored in that way. That particular event, what must have been on the Lord’s heart because these things just come to us and then we say, “What are your plans Lord? And show us what to do next.” It’s really a fun adventure.
Lynette Ezell: Wow. We were talking on the phone. You and I were talking last week and I was asking you to tell me things that I can see on Instagram and Twitter and look online at things I think you’re doing really well but I want to hear your heart how that as the ministry of James Storehouse has grown, for instance Dream Day for the girls but some things that you feel like, that are going really well that how the Lord maybe taken it a different avenue than what you saw from the beginning. Like helping with placements and things like that. What are some things that kind of changing or evolving there in the ministry?
Stacy DeWitt: That’s a good question. We are seeing that as we’re meeting these emergency needs, the heartbeat of what we’re doing is, social workers can’t place the children into safe and loving homes unless there are certain things in a home like there has to be a bed or a car seat. There has to be a table and chairs. There has to be food and a refrigerator. Sometimes we’re providing even a refrigerator and food. These emergency needs we’re meeting but as we’re meeting these needs and as we’re able to share who Jesus is, even just a prayer with someone, we’re finding out, they don’t just need our gently used things, they are needing relationship.
Stacy DeWitt: And so especially with these older youth, they’re needing ongoing relationship. And so what the Lord’s put on my heart next and we already fundraised for it but we need to expand. We’re looking for a new location. We’re needing about 3,000 square, we’re in 1,600 square feet now and we would love to have a kitchen in this space because with this older youth, we’re finding out that they really want relationship but they’re afraid of relationship because they’ve been rejected so many times. If we create an environment where they’re learning a life skill that they don’t have and they need anyways, then it’s really easy to get to know one another and get to trust one another. I’d love to have a simple kitchen where can teach them how to cook and we can develop a relationship at the same time.
Lynette Ezell: That is just beautiful.
Stacy DeWitt: That’s one of those things.
Lynette Ezell: That’s a great plan. There is a ministry here in Georgia that does just that. Teaches birth moms how to feed their children with proper nutrition and so they could keep the family unit together. And so when you have a need come up like that Stacy, for a refrigerator or baby beds, how does that work?
Stacy DeWitt: Okay. The way that it’s working right now is social media has been fantastic. We will put out the need if we don’t have it already, we’ll put out the need on Facebook or we have some local moms’ groups on Facebook. We live in Conejo Valley so there are I think there are 10,000 moms on that little site on Facebook. Moms of Conejo Valley, we’ll put that out there and we’ll say, “This is the situation.” We don’t give identifying information but we’ll say, “This is the situation and we’re looking for this item or does anybody have this that they could help out with?” I don’t think we’ve ever had a need go unmet in that way or someone will say, like we had one time there was a sibling set of 11 kids who needed things and that’s a lot of money to go out and buy things new but between the combination of people saying, “I don’t need this anymore, I can help.” And, “I don’t have the items but I have some money.” We’re able to provide in that way.
Stacy DeWitt: Social media has been a great way to provide those emergency needs. And it also helps spread awareness. People have come in and say, “I want to do more. Tell me about fostering or tell me about respite care.” The really cool thing is that everybody can do something.
Tera Melber: That’s right. That’s right.
Stacy DeWitt: Whether it’s providing a meal or fostering or bringing an outfit in for a little new baby. There’s something. Everybody has a talent or something that they can give.
Tera Melber: We found here through the ministry that we’re doing that it provides intake bags with new outfits and just things to get the family started with their foster kids which is really fun but we found that it’s been a really good on ramp so people get excited about that. It’s an easy way to give or an easy way be involved and then people want to say, want to ask questions and they get to know a foster family and think, well I could babysit for them. Or, I could take them a meal. And then the next thing you know, they’re going through classes to be a respite or a foster family.
Tera Melber: Through James Storehouse or through Restoring Dignity in north Georgia, I find that it’s just an easy way, raising awareness, then leads some people into a deeper way to serve children but all ways are good ways to serve children so they’re all things that are useful and beneficial but I do think it’s interesting that people will just say, “I just want to help with such and such.” And the next thing you know they’re doing something even bigger.
Lynette Ezell: They go from a bag of diapers to having kids for the weekend. It’s really a beautiful story.
Stacy DeWitt: It’s so true.
Lynette Ezell: It really is.
Stacy DeWitt: It’s so true. I know we have one volunteer, she just was coming in to sort donations and help the kids shop and the Lord was just speaking to her heart and so they have their first placement of two little sisters and God is working His beautiful story of restoration and they’re being reunited with their mom and dad and she gets to be along the journey for this. And so yeah, it starts with often just a little thing. One step.
Lynette Ezell: Exactly right ’cause James Storehouse began to birth in Kim’s heart with a space heater.
Stacy DeWitt: Yeah, right?
Lynette Ezell: And it’s a beautiful story. A lot of people want to go on vacation and go to the beach or they want to go see the Golden Gate Bridge, I want to come and spend a day at James Storehouse.
Stacy DeWitt: Yay.
Lynette Ezell: And my son lives in California so I would love to come out there. Can you just tell us, I know this is a loaded question, but can you just kind of give us some insight into a typical day at James Storehouse? From when you unlock the door, kind of what the day would look like.
Stacy DeWitt: Oh okay, that’s really fun. Okay, we have volunteers that are signed up for different days of the week. Sometimes they come in multiple times during the week, their shifts, or sometimes people are just once a week for however long that they can stay. Volunteers are ready. We have a couple of college interns that are there with us that are ready for the day and a couple of other staff members. We are ready to start our day and then we have appointments set up all throughout the day. We know who is coming and what the needs are so we can be as prepared as we can be. And then we also have people just drop in.
Stacy DeWitt: Also we open doors and we’ll have our first clients come in and the kids can play. We have a little family room out front. There are books and toys and up on the wall are pictures of volunteers and clients and babies and teens because the one thing they don’t have right now is family so we want to create …
Lynette Ezell: Oh that’s beautiful.
Stacy DeWitt: A family environment and we have food out and drinks and just we want people to feel so loved. We want them to feel hope. This is the most traumatic time in their lives and so we want them to feel when they leave that they know that they have a place to go where they feel loved and safe.
Stacy DeWitt: And so they come in and then we have the volunteers. They bring out the tubs of clothing in the different sizes. In our warehouse we have from floor to ceiling, every size of everything you could ever need for a child or a teen. Shoes, undergarments, toiletries, our volunteers have it so organized. It’s just beautiful and so we bring those things out to the caregiver or the grandma or the foster mom or dad. They do the shopping and then for the older youth, the ones that are kind of like 12 and on up, we take them back to the boutique area. We have painted on chalkboard with chalkboard paint on the wardrobe walls, we have words of their identity. Who they really are.
Lynette Ezell: Oh that’s beautiful.
Tera Melber: That’s awesome.
Lynette Ezell: I love that.
Stacy DeWitt: They’re loved and they’re beautiful and they’re wanted and they’re resilient. I wanted them surrounded by words of their true identity. Who they really are in Christ. And then we have the big letters up on top the wardrobe that say L-O-V-E-D, loved. And some of the youth will sign that when they come in. And they can shop for whatever they want. We have volunteers that are stylists for them and help them pick out what it is they’re needing. We have obviously we have a little bathroom and they change if they need to try on bras or whatever it is. The guys too can try on whatever it is they’re needing.
Stacy DeWitt: And then we have the community around the back of warehouse, they are dropping off their donations all day long. We have volunteers out there too. And then just depending on who’s coming that day. We are either holding babies, passing around babies. That’s my favorite is have a baby on my lap while I’m typing at the computer. We have youth as young as 13 years old who have found themselves with babies of their own now or who have recently been rescued out of trafficking situations the night before. Always our prayer is that we would see the people first before the work and so so there was this one youth who had been rescued the night before from trafficking and before she was ready to shop, she just needed a volunteer to wrap a blanket around her and just hold her until it was going to be okay.
Stacy DeWitt: We have a job to do but our heart is to minister and to care for them and to love them. It’s such a joy and a privilege to care for them.
Tera Melber: That’s incredible.
Stacy DeWitt: We bag up their stuff and we help them to the car and then in comes the next round of people and it is just the thrill of my life to get to serve the Lord like this. Like I see His face on every child’s face. I just love Him so much and just it’s no work to do this. It’s just all joy.
Lynette Ezell: That’s amazing. Well Stacy, I know people are going to want to follow you on social media so that they can watch what’s going on, see how they can be praying for you. We’re specifically going to be praying for that 3,000 square feet that you need so any listener that has anything.
Stacy DeWitt: Thank you.
Lynette Ezell: Just contact Stacy. But how can people find you on social media?
Stacy DeWitt: We are on Facebook, so we’re James Storehouse California. Kim is in James Storehouse Louisiana so you can find her on Facebook too. And then we are on Instagram and we are just James Storehouse and we’re on Twitter, James Storehouse. You can find us in all those ways.
Lynette Ezell: What town in Louisiana is Kim?
Stacy DeWitt: I’m going to mess it up.
Lynette Ezell: Well we’ll look it up and find out for sure.
Stacy DeWitt: Yes.
Lynette Ezell: That’d be great for Louisiana folks.
Stacy DeWitt: Yeah, they are doing beautiful work out there. They recently which is so funny, they recently had a church donate a building that they don’t need anymore. Now the entire church is being upgraded and they’re going to have a James Storehouse resource center. They’re going to be able to provide more than just resources. They’re going to be able to provide mentoring and all kinds of things in that beautiful location.
Lynette Ezell: That’s amazing.
Tera Melber: That’s amazing.
Stacy DeWitt: Isn’t that cool?
Tera Melber: We just can’t even think of things like that but man, I’m all over that. That sounds great. Let’s franchise to downtown Atlanta. I’m ready to go. We really appreciate you being with us today Stacy. It’s such a blessing and it’s so great that you’re doing the work that the Lord has called you to do when He’s given you a passion for it and it just is a joy and not difficult. Even in the hard times it’s still a joy to go in and serve. Thanks so much.
Stacy DeWitt: It’s so true.
Lynette Ezell: Thank you for being with us.
Tera Melber: We really appreciate that.
Stacy DeWitt: My pleasure. Thanks for inviting me.
Tera Melber: Thank you.
Lynette Ezell: But if anyone has the world’s goods and see’s his brother in need yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him. Little children or can I say body of Christ, let us not love in word or just in talk but in deed and in truth. First John 3:17.
Tera Melber: Amen.
Stacy DeWitt: Beautiful.
Announcer: You have been listening the Adopting and Fostering Home, a resource of the North American Mission Board. For more information about today’s podcast and other relevant resources, visit sendrelief.org.