Dozens of families are becoming certified to provide foster care in Harrison County. The weekend-long training is being called the first of its kind in the state.
A summer bible study at Michael Memorial Baptist Church in Gulfport presented the congregation with a challenge.
"Why are we not serving the people in our own backyards?" said the associate pastor's wife, Angelia Wallace.
The church felt a particular calling to serve orphans in the community, and sought out to do just that in a very ambitious way.
"It's very exciting. It's frightening. It's going to change the face of the church," said Wallace.
Under the leadership of Rev. Tony Karnes, Michael Memorial started an initiative called J127. The initiative helps families through the process of becoming foster certified.
"This is unprecedented. Nothing like this has ever happened in the state of Mississippi," said Harrison County Court Judge Margaret Alfonso.
The initiative is grounded on James 1:27, which calls for the care of orphans and widows. Alfonso remembers Rev. Karnes asking her what the county's needs were when it came to orphans.
According to Alfonso, more than 700 children are currently in custody of the youth court. She says Karnes stepped up to the need of those children.
"I cannot say enough about his dedication, commitment and all out energy to make this happen," said Alfonso.
To make it happen, Rev. Karnes brought several people together, including Mississippi Supreme Court Justice Dawn Beam. According to Beam, the intense weekend-long training didn't cut corners.
"These folks have been fully trained, but we have done it in a way that would allow it to be done over a weekend as opposed to spreading out over several months," said Alfonso.
Several months that Beam says could be spent preparing to take in a foster child. Overall, almost 90 people signed up to participate.
"At the end of today we will have roughly about 50 families that will be ready to begin the home-study process," said church member, Michael Dickinson.
According to organizers, the initial goal with the program called Rescue 100 is to train 100 families to be certified for the foster care system. After that, they hope the program will spread statewide.