Joe Chris and Karen Sparks both grew up in Texas. The two spirit-filled Christians met in 1997 and were married in 1998. Around the same time that the couple met, Joe Chris also found Andrew’s Gospel Truth radio program. Andrew’s ministry significantly impacted the Sparks. Neither of them, however, could have anticipated how significant Andrew's teachings would be in their lives, or the way the Lord would fulfill the desires of their hearts.
The Sparks had been married for almost two years when they began feeling led to move to Colorado. At the time, Joe Chris owned a successful auto glass business, where he employed Karen and several other family members. Joe Chris and Karen were enjoying their entrepreneurial prosperity, but the couple’s marriage was not going as smoothly as their business. “While business was good, we were failing miserably at marriage,” Karen shared. The two knew they needed some help.
The couple decided that moving to Colorado Springs, to sit under Andrew’s teaching at Charis Bible College, was just what their marriage needed. In 1999, they gave their business away to family members, sold their home, downsized their vehicles and moved to Colorado Springs. Trusting God for the provision they would need to live and attend CBC, they left Texas without any job prospects.
The Sparks were blessed during their relocation, and they found what they were looking for in Colorado. With their lives centered on the Lord and their relationship with each other, their marriage received the attention it needed, and the couple grew stronger. After their arrival in the Springs and classes were underway at CBC, Joe Chris also started another auto glass business. Just as He had in the past, God prospered the Spark’s new endeavor. Joe Chris went on to graduate from CBC in 2001.
In the years immediately following graduation, neither of the Sparks had a burning desire to enter full-time ministry. They were content to work and raise their daughter, Kaitlyn, whom they were blessed to welcome in 2003, after five long years of trying (see captions). The couple also found fulfillment in supporting other ministries financially.
Eight years after graduation, the Lord stirred something new in the Sparks' hearts, and they began holding a bible study in their home, complete with worship and prayer ministry. In addition to hosting the home group, Joe Chris and his nieces, who also attended CBC, started knocking on doors and sharing Andrew’s Discipleship Evangelism program with anyone interested. Within a few months, Joe Chris and his nieces saw 90 people receive Jesus as their savior and many were meeting to study weekly discipleship lessons.
It was during this season of change that Karen and Joe Chris also felt compelled to open their home to foster children. The Sparks had always aspired to have a large family; Joe Chris was one of 10 children, and had his heart set on having 10 of his own, and Karen had always looked forward to mothering a large brood. But, after years of heartbreak, loss through miscarriage, and a near death experience with one of Karen's unsuccessful pregnancies, the idea of offering foster care was a welcome alternative. The couple's first placement was a group of five sibling boys, ranging in age from four months to eight years. The boys were with the Sparks for more than a year before they were reunited with their biological mother. “That nearly broke our hearts,” Karen said. Joe Chris and Karen continued opening their home to foster children for the next four years and took care of 25 children in that time.
During their foster care experience, the Sparks’ view of ministry broadened, and their ministry, Mission Fatherless, was birthed. In addition to caring for foster children, the couple began to travel to assist orphans on the mission field. In 2011, Karen started traveling twice a year to Burundi, Africa, where she serves in orphanages sponsored by an organization called, Youth For Christ. In addition to working with the orphans, Karen also helps construct homes for widows, provides food for the poorest in local villages, teaches pastor’s wives, and feeds the orphans on the streets of Burundi. Joe Chris too, began traveling to share the gospel. Last year he visited India where he ministered in the slums and preached in the crusades.
Today, the Sparks' mission is to eradicate what they call, "the orphan spirit" by revealing the heart of the Father. “Mission Fatherless was birthed out of a huge need we saw in the earth; God’s children, living Fatherless. Not only do we feel called to help the physical orphan, but also the spiritual orphan. We have encountered so many, even believers, who are living life as orphans. We call it the ‘orphan mentality.’ They are taking care of their own needs, living according to their own ability to provide, and serving God in their own efforts. Much of their Christian lives are being lived-out as one without the love of a Daddy. We feel called to share the Father's heart with all His kiddos, not just the physically orphaned,” explained Karen.
In late 2013, the Lord led Joe Chris and Karen to permanently expanded their family when they adopted five children. The kids, all siblings, have lived with the Sparks for a total of three years. “This was a huge step of faith for us in every area, especially financially,” said Karen. Since opening their home, Joe Chris downsized his business and began working from home in order to be more involved with the children. For the first time in the Sparks' lives, they were no longer the ones providing financial support, but were the ones in need of provision instead.
“We felt like this was of the Lord so we did it—without seeing where the money would come from. God has proven Himself faithful to us, and there has been provision for us every step of the way,” Karen shared.
Nearly fifteen years ago, the Sparks thought moving to Colorado Springs and attending CBC for the purpose of discipleship was just what they needed to heal their marriage. Turns out, they were right. But true to God’s abundant nature, He provided much more than a restored marriage. Between Mission Fatherless, their newly expanded family, serving as volunteer associate pastors at their church, and other outreach efforts, life is busy and overflowing with adventure and blessings for the Sparks family.