Like many others in Kansas, Cheney United Methodist Church has long supported EmberHope Youthville and its work. But members of the congregation may understand that work even better than some because they’ve seen foster care in action.

Several years ago, a member of the church took in three foster children, and they are working today to navigate the path to adoption.

“It’s a living example of EmberHope Youthville’s work and makes it a lot more real to be able to see day in, day out the fruits of a ministry like that,” Rev. Aaron Duell says.

With that experience, the church’s mission committee invited EmberHope Youthville staff to talk about their ministry at a “5th Sunday brunch.” The 5th Sunday events often raise hundreds of dollars to support the selected charity’s work.

Cheney UMC also supports EmberHope Youthville through the Back-to-School drive and Christmas Connection.

“The Bible makes it clear that God calls for special attention and justice for the widow and the orphan. And that’s EmberHope Youthville in a nutshell, helping the vulnerable who need special care,” Rev. Aaron Duell says. “Most folks in our congregation have families, kids, or grandchildren, so it especially resonates.”

The Back-to-School drive at Cheney United Methodist Church each summer gathers notepads, pencils, rulers, and many other supplies that, when lacking, can hinder success in the classroom. Members donate items such as binders, supplies, and more into a collection box. This year EmberHope Youthville collected about 20 bags of generosity.

As a fourth-grade teacher, mission committee chair Laurie Thisius knows how great the need is.

“Everybody carries around an ‘invisible backpack,’ and they have things in their backpack that people can’t see, all the things going on in their life,” Thisius says. Receiving supplies means “one less concern weighing on the hearts of the kids and the parents as well.”

Christmas Connection is a tradition, too. As the holiday nears, paper ornaments appear on a cheery bulletin board. Each bears the name of a foster child and a short list of gifts they’d like, some practical, some just fun. Members pluck a name, buy gifts and bring them to the church. The youth group often participates too.

It’s an opportunity to foster the habit of giving, as Thisius recalls her two boys selecting ornaments while Duell’s eldest is getting old enough to take part. The number of ornaments started small but kept growing each year. The need is always met.

“It warms our hearts to know that we are able to reach out in Christian love and help other people in need,” Thisius says. “When they receive the Back-to-School supplies and Christmas gifts, I hope they realize there is someone out there who loves them even if we don’t know them personally. It is our job to show them God’s love, so they can reach their full potential.”