Jerry Welch is the family discipleship pastor at Colonial Heights Baptist Church in Ridgeland and a member of the leadership team of Hearts of Compassion, which helps fund adoptions by Christian families and focuses light on the plight of 147 million orphans around the world.
Welch grew up in Greenwood, graduated from Greenwood High School and graduated from Mississippi College in 1995 where he majored in English and secondary education. He earned a master’s degree in Christian education at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and expects to graduate in December with a doctorate in Christian education from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.
He served a church in Decatur, Alabama as the minister of education before joining the staff of Colonial Heights about 17 years ago. Welch and his wife, Julie, are the parents of Tyler, 21; Gibson, 17; and Maggie, 14.
When was Hearts of Compassion established?
“It was established a little over 10 years ago. Our first Hearts of Compassion 5K, a fundraiser, was 10 years ago. We formed Hearts of Compassion about a year after that.”
What is the mission of Hearts of Compassion?
“Our goal is to bring awareness to the plight of approximately 147 million orphans around the world and to help provide funding for Christian families who feel like God has called them to adopt. It’s our belief that if God has called you to adopt a lack of funds should not keep you from obedience.”
Does Hearts of Compassion partner with any organizations?
“We are thankful to partner with several groups around the city through various churches that provide other aspects of orphan care or adoption care. Our biggest partner is Lifesong For Orphans. That is the partners that help us handle the financial side.”
How does Hearts of Compassion help people who want to adopt?
“My wife and several of the other couples that are part of our leadership team walk alongside families and help them. Once a family has chosen an adoption agency, we help them walk through the process. If they haven’t selected an adoption agency, we point them to some places.
“After a family is approved for adoption, we help them set up a fund through Hearts of Compassion so they can raise funds. We offer no-interest loans and matching grants. The majority of what we do is that.
“We’re not an adoption agency and are not partners with a specific adoption agency. Our goal is to help families pray through that.”
Why is adoption important?
“We believe we should help those in need and provide a way for them to be adopted into families.”
What led to the establishment of Hearts of Compassion?
“We had a family who felt led to adopt and had gone through the process, but it was so expensive that they gave up. What started with one child has grown into 115 children who have been brought home or are in the process. That’s awesome.”
How much does the adoption of a child cost?
“It’s usually north of $30,000. Many people who want to adopt do not have the money. We want to help them adopt and not go into debt. We believe if the family of God comes together, we can do this together.”
Are the adoptions Hearts of Compassion helps with domestic or international?
“Most of what we see have been international adoptions. We do help those adopting domestically. It’s a beautiful process. It’s usually long and tedious and can be tearful at times.”
Do you have to be a member of Colonial Heights Baptist Church to be helped with adoption?
“Many of the families helped are members of Colonial Heights, but we’ve helped others from churches nearby who hear about Hearts of Compassion. Other recommendations come through Lifesong from people in other states who don’t have a church with this kind of ministry. We help families across the Southeast.
“Our goal was to set it up so that it would be open first and foremost to our members and then open to others. It’s been an interesting process to see how it wound up becoming more.”
How personal is adoption to you?
“My wife and I adopted all three of our children.”
How much success has Hearts of Compassion had?
“We have seen 115 children be adopted or in the process of being adopted.
“We have raised over $430,000 in the last 10 years. Through our adoption fund and matching grants, we have mobilized over $750,000 for the adoption fund.”
When is your next fundraiser scheduled?
“The tenth annual Hearts of Compassion 5K, 1-mile fun run and silent auction is scheduled on Nov. 13 at Colonial Heights. All proceeds will go to our adoption fund.
“We tried a few other fundraisers early on as we looked for something that would be sustainable and work for many years. The first year, with sponsors, we were happy to raise $10,000. Now we raise $60,000 to $80,000 with the run.
“It’s been a tremendous blessing to see it grow and how it unites us. “
How much preparation goes into putting on the run?
“We are a volunteer-based organization. People from Colonial Heights serve as volunteers to staff every part of the race. They’ve been meeting months to get race ready and gather items for the silent auction. Many people jump in to make it work.
“A lot of our families will use the race to drive matching grants. They will get people to sign up, participate in the race and help. The run has been a good rallying point not only for our church but also for adopted families and people interested in adoption. We’ll have different ministries with information about adoption at the church on the day of the run. “
How many participants do you expect for the run?
“We’re expecting between 400 and 500 participants. Last year, we had a virtual event but this year it’s an in-person event. We’re excited about that.
“To sponsor the run, register to run or find out information about the silent auction, go to www.heartsofcompassion.life.”