Meet the Pursifulls: Touching Lives, Making a Difference for Thousands
BATON ROUGE – Stephen Pursifull is one of the most popular and talented members of the Central High School Class of 2015. In fact, he was named “Most Talented” in the senior class and “Most Courteous,” just as his older sister Brookney was in the Class of 2012. Stephen played the trombone in the Jazz Band, which was much acclaimed. He also won the Piano Award this year.
One of Stephen’s younger sisters, Sarah, a junior at Central High, won the DEMCO essay contest and was named “An Advanced Placement” Superstar.
But who are these Pursifulls who keep winning awards and getting recognition year after year?
Well, there are a lot of them, and their numbers keep growing!
James and Jessica Pursifull, who live in Central, have four biological children of their own and four adopted children. According to James, they may just add more!
They have a passion for children whose moms and dads may not be able to take care of them. So far, they have been foster parents to 42 children. “Fortunately, most of the children ultimately go back to their parents or grandparents. But our attitude about every child is that if they need a permanent home, we are willing to take them.”
The Pursifull’s four oldest children are biologically theirs. The four younger children were all adopted — children who were first the Pursifull’s foster children, and for whom there was no solution in their own families.
James Pursifull said 80 to 85 percent of the foster children he and Jessica have hosted come from parents who are incapacitated by drug abuse. Sometimes their parents are in jail for long sentences, and there simply is no family member to take care of them.
James Pursifull’s story begins in Guadalajara, Mexico, where he was born to American parents who were serving as missionaries. His father was from Alabama, and his mother from Tennessee. He attended bilingual schools and for six years was home-schooled. He became fluent in both English and Spanish.
When he was 16, James came to Baton Rouge to finish high school at Family Christian Academy. Then he enrolled at the Ministry Training Institute on the campus of Bethany
Church in Baker. In his first year of college he met Jessica, a Cajun girl from Crowley. He asked her to marry him on Valentine’s Day 1991. They were married in November that same year. He was 20, and she was 18. A year later, their first child, Brandon, was born.
After graduating from college, the Pursifulls headed back to Mexico to begin their own careers as pastors and missionaries. In the State of Michoacan, they planted a church, the Center of Faith, and built it for three and a half years.
By 1999, they moved to Tegucigalpa, Honduras, to plant a new church for Bethany. It was the first church in Honduras for SURGE, Bethany’s church planting initiative. By 2005, the Pursifulls were back in Louisiana, and began working with pastor Larry Stockstill’s church planting initiative for Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean.
In Baton Rouge, the Pursifulls got serious about building a business income, in order to help support their commitment to missions. James worked with an RV dealership that grew rapidly after Hurricane Katrina. He and Jessica managed several companies — golf courses, real estate brokerage, importing granite, running a campground, and investing in real estate. At one point, they managed 14 companies. Now they have three businesses of their own.
In 2008, the Pursifulls were ready to go back to their ministry, and they started the Spanish campus at Bethany as volunteers. In 2014, James accepted a full-time position with Bethany as head of the Influence Department, which represents all of Bethany’s contact with the world outside the church. This includes the Publications Division, music labels, marketing of Bethany, and many other responsibilities.
James is one of six department heads at the church, which has campuses in Baker, South Baton Rouge, and Livingston Parish. In September, Bethany will launch a new church, which will operate on weekends on the campus of Baton Rouge Community College.
When the Pursifulls returned from Honduras, they had four biological children. Then in 2006 they began fostering. Over the years, they have taken in a total of 42 children. The maximum number of kids they have had at one time is 11, including their biological and adopted children.
“Most foster children have stayed with us two to three months,” James said. “We love to foster, and we’ve gotten a lot of our friends to become foster parents. People don’t realize how easy it is. One of our rules is we never accept a child who is older than our youngest child.” Today their youngest is three. So they are only accepting toddlers or infants.
Here’s what the Pursifulls’ eight kids say about each other:
• Brandon, 22, a student at SLU who is an outstanding sculptor. He makes pottery, and ceramics. He is the scholar in the family and had a 31 on the ACT. He’s very detail oriented. He built his own computer. Fluent in Spanish. Has been on many mission trips. He lives in Hammond while going to school.
• Brookney, 21, graduated from Central High in 2012. She’s at SLU, starting nursing school. Currently works at OLOL as a nurse’s aide. She enjoys going to Honduras and participating in medical brigades.
• Stephen, 19, just graduated from Central High. He loves music and music technology. He plays in the church band. Coaches gymnastics at CG Gymnastics. Plans to attend the LSU School of Business. At Central’s senior prom, he organized an interesting diversion. Students were given the option to attend his program which teaches students to swing dance and teaches them to teach swing dance. More than 150 students participated, and the school administration invited him to come back next year and do the same thing at the next senior prom.
• Sarah, 17, is “the middle child,” she says. She is a junior at Central High, where she has won many honors (mentioned earlier). This summer she will be working at Dr. Tony Lobue’s animal hospital. She loves movies, especially Disney movies, and was awarded the title “Film Fanatic” at Central High. She plans to go to SLU and wants to travel but hasn’t decided exactly what she wants to do after college.
• Victoria, 12, is going into the 7th grade. She’s a Star Student and is very dedicated. She does her homework before play. She loves English and history, loves summer trips, and plays the saxophone. She is a writer and an athlete.
• Violette, 10, is going into the 5th grade. She loves swimming and wants to be a masseuse. When asked how much she charges, her response is, “It depends on whether you are a member.” Her siblings add “And how much she needs!” Violette is athletic and plays softball and soccer. She likes roller skating, history, and mission trips to Mexico or Honduras.
• Nathaniel, 8, is going into the 2nd grade. He loves legos and cats. He likes projects and is very entrepreneurial. When asked about it, he produced a design for his store, the Pursifull Sandwich Shoppe. He plays the piano and wants to teach his cat to play.
• Noah, 3, likes Mickey Mouse. He likes to eat Mickey Mouse nuggets, and he likes to play with Mickey Mouse toys. When asked whether he is mama’s boy or daddy’s boy, it quickly says “Daddy’s boy!” [Daddy was holding him at the time.]
Here’s what Jessica said about James: “He can do anything, anything he decides to do. If it’s being a pastor or designing advertising or selling real estate or raising honey bees or raising a foster family. He’s always the best, and he’s my best friend!”
Here’s what James said about Jessica: “She’s who makes this a home. Few could hold so much together. It’s amazing how she gets everyone in the house into a routine. She makes this a strong family. Very organized. She’s so young and lively with the kids. She’s a businesswoman, a broker, a pastor. She pastored the Spanish campus eight years. But she devotes herself to the kids. She’s a Cajun girl. She likes to walk around barefooted. If it’s hot and she wants to make gumbo, she has to turn on the air conditioner real cold to get in the mood. She’s my reality check. She’s kept me from making a lot of mistakes. They say behind every good man there’s a better woman. That’s true.”
James and Jessica have been married 24 years. Through the churches they have founded, the missions they have run, and the children they have fostered, they have enriched thousands of lives!
Now you know the Pursifulls!