The Spiel: The Conrads and Compassion

This is the first entry in an ongoing series that celebrates how families from the Church are living out their calling as Household Wells.


Andrea Conrad doesn’t like cats.

That wouldn’t be noteworthy – many people don’t – except for one thing:

For the better part of two years, the Conrad family has been fostering felines.

“Do you think God’s doing anything through this? I sure hope so,” Andrea laughed. “There’s a lot of cats in our home for this not to be doing anything.”

Throughout 2022 at the Church, we’re learning how to revive our pandemic-weary spirits and household wells.

January’s emphasis is compassion, and the Conrads have it in spades.

“Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn,” Romans 12:15 implores us.

Heartache, though, tinges compassionate souls.

“Those animals would just be in pounds or, honestly, euthanized,” James said. “It’s nice to feel like you’re doing something for someone else.”

Andrea added, “They didn’t choose to be born into a world where nobody wants them.”

Back in 2020, the Conrads just wanted a pet.

Andrea preferred dogs, but James and their boys, Brennan and Soren, overruled her.

So they compromised: “Yes” to a cat. “No” to adoption. They’d foster instead.

And then they adopted the first cat they fostered.

Roni arrived with a (mis)diagnosis of feline cancer, a fatal disease. So when nobody else wanted him after five months, the Conrads kept him on permanently.

“So often with the adult cats, we get the rejects,” James said.

Last September, the family welcomed three little foster kittens. But by the time the third one was adopted in January, 7-year-old Soren was smitten.

“Soren was just beside himself (saying goodbye). Tears,” Andrea said. “He and that little black and white kitty really connected, so that was really hard for him.”

“We’ve had our share of great fosters, and we’ve had not-great fosters,” James said. “I still have the scars from one of them.”

That story, in fact, is Andrea’s favorite.

James: “It was a brown and black adult tabby, and we were trying to give her a bath. I had to coax her out from behind the toilet. She climbed the towel on the wall and then she hopped and was hanging off the shower bar, like the ‘Hang In There’ cat! And then I picked her up, and she was like (clawing motion), and just destroyed my arm.”

Andrea: “She stayed hidden in our basement for three weeks. We finally had adopters who were interested in her, and we were so honest with them! We showed her to them, and we were, like, ‘This is the cat. She does not come out. She does not want people.’ They said, ‘She’s perfect.’”

The turning point came shortly after the tabby went to her new home.

“They decided to get a kitten,” Andrea said. “And as soon as they got the kitten, she was a completely different cat. So they send us pictures now. She lays in their bed. She loves the (other) cat. They play. She’s just a happy cat.”

“That is why we foster,” Andrea said, then laughed. “For me, it’s not about the cats. I really love seeing how much joy it brings to the adopters.”

Compassion flows when we allow God to use us in surprising ways.

“God’s compassion always moves Him to act,” Pastor Jeff said in a recent sermon.

“Is it possible this year that we could be known, our households could be known … as a household that is lavish and extravagant with sharing love and compassion and grace? And if we were to do that, could our compassion embolden our neighbors to come home when they’re in need?”

James and the boys dote on cats who need care and a loving home. Yet Andrea’s willingness to acquiesce is equally important.

“So, I don’t like cats, (but) by expanding myself to allow myself to try this, we’ve now opened ourselves up to this community of people that otherwise we wouldn’t have had access to,” Andrea said. “So I feel like that’s another route where we could potentially be a household well, I guess. I just see it as another point of touching a community that otherwise I wouldn’t.”

For Brennan and Soren, James said, it’s a lesson in stewardship,“how to treat things with respect and gain respect for animals.”

Andrea added, “I think that’s how God works through this, to show that even these tiny little kittens, who probably in the grand scheme of things mean nothing, mean so much because you’ve touched a person (and) the cat has a new life.”