When Cassandra Thompson listened to the radio, she had no idea of the dramatic effect it would have on her and her family. As was her routine nearly every morning, she tuned the family's kitchen radio to 94.5 FM in Nashville, Tenn., for the FamilyLife Today broadcast. The stay-at-home mom discovered the radio show produced by the marriage and family branch of Cru while a college student, and she has listened to it ever since.
"What the audience appreciates most is hearing an authentic application of Scripture," explains co-host Dennis Rainey. "Not being pious or perfect, but presenting our experiences in a way where we can pass on truth through even some of our biggest mistakes."
On this particular day, the guest speaker challenged Cassandra and the other listeners to be bold and not live apathetic lives. Cassandra was moved.
"One thing he said that really stuck out to me," says Cassandra, 32, "was that Jesus went out of His comfort zone to die on a cross for us. Then the speaker asked, "When was the last time you did something uncomfortable?"
"I couldn't think of anything," she says.
However, she had no trouble thinking of what she and her husband could do. Cassandra had lived in a foster home until her biological mother felt ready to raise her again. Maybe we should host foster children, she thought.
She had reported to her husband, Brent, what she heard on the program. The parents of three children (Aaron, 8; Grace, 6; Emma, 4) had barely pondered becoming foster parents, and had never pursued it before. The idea of welcoming transitional children into their home was intimidating and uncomfortable to them.
The radio program catapulted them into action. They decided to pursue foster care.
Says Brent, "I was surprised and encouraged by the things Cassandra heard on the radio. So I was willing to see more of what FamilyLife had to say."
The couple attended a FamilyLife seminar they heard about on the radio, "If You Were Mine," for those interested in adoption or foster care. Brent and Cassandra also enrolled in another program to learn how to become foster parents. They believe God used these workshops, among other things, to clarify that they needed to add some temporary children to their family.
They completed home studies and wrote biographies about their lives. Finally they were approved. Two weeks before Christmas 2004, the social-services department placed a 3-year-old boy and his infant sister in their home.
"I am amazed at how many times a listener will write us or will call to say that what we were talking about on the radio on a specific day was just what he or she needed to hear," says Bob Lepine, who co-hosts FamilyLife Today with Dennis.
The duo and their team spend about 30 to 40 total hours producing one half-hour program.
The award-winning radio program is one of 7 produced by FamilyLife. Available on 503 stations, they boast a total listening audience of 9 million people.
"God amazingly orchestrates things," says Bob, "so that a topic or a conversation recorded in our studio somehow intersects with a person at a specific point in time, and alters the course of that person's life, their family -- maybe even their eternal destiny."
And maybe, as in this case, a child's.
The foster children's biological mother decided she wanted her baby girl back after a few weeks, but left the 3-year-old boy in foster care with the Thompson family and terminated her parental rights.
The little boy (whose name is withheld for legal reasons) was unruly. He bit, screamed, tore the curtains and threw temper tantrums, not to mention bullying Emma. One day he bruised their youngest daughter's eye. Another day he gave Emma a bloody nose.
"What did we get ourselves into?" the parents wondered aloud.
"I didn't react in anger," says Brent. "It was something we'd been told about at the ["If You Were Mine"] conference. I was very glad for that conference, otherwise we might not have even pursued foster care."
"Children need a Christian environment; they need a stable environment," says Cassandra.
They decided to become foster parents not because it was easy, but because they felt like God was directing them to step out of the realm where they felt at ease.
They worked with the little boy, disciplined him and gave him boundaries. They applied some of the parenting principles she had learned from tuning in to previous broadcasts.
"FamilyLife Today pricks your heart, and you know the Holy Spirit is working. It's encouragement every single day. It keeps you on your toes to remember, I need to talk to God today," Cassandra says.
After 11 months, in September 2005, the little boy moved out of their home. Authorities had found a "forever family" for him -- adoptive parents and a sibling. By the time he left, the social workers commented that he was a brand-new child, no longer the biting, screaming child they delivered less than a year prior. He was well mannered and disciplined.
The Thompsons felt a sense of loss when he moved out. They had adjusted to having him around.
Still the Thompsons signed the list to take in more foster children. They want to continue to be used by God. And they trace it back to the radio.
"I guess I shouldn't be surprised," says Bob Lepine. "I can think back to things I've heard someone say on the radio or on a tape that God used profoundly in my own life. Faith does indeed come by hearing."