A few years ago, it became very clear that God was leading the First Family in Orange Park to engage strategically in orphan care. We knew that steps would need to be taken in order to help those in our church fellowship as well as those throughout our community to view our church as a hub for resources and help for those fostering or adopting. It has been our desire to remove as many barriers as possible for families in our community seeking to enter the orphan care story.
That's a lofty goal, especially in a culture where churches are often the last organization or group to come to mind in areas like this.
For years, fostering and adopting has been considered such a personal, family issue that the local church has not even been on the radar. It is our conviction, however, that the absence of the church from this story is not only a mistake, but sinful on the part of the church.
THE BIG 3
That is why we developed our "Big 3" emphaseis a few years ago to highlight and promote three areas of missional living deemed vital. These three - Global Missions, Church Planting and Orphan Care, are part of the DNA of our fellowship and allow us to fulfill and be obedient to the commands and expectations of God in our lives.
As for Orphan Care, we have come far. Yet, there is so much more to be done.
Currently. . .
- We fully fund a missionary couple to serve at the Cabaret Baptist Children's Home, an orphanage and school in Haiti.
- We increased sponsorships of orphans at the Cabaret Home.
- We have partnered with the Florida Baptist Children's Homes and KidsFirst of Florida to provide the state-required PRIDE classes on campus for those seeking to foster or adopt.
- We provide facility space and transportation for KidsFirst of Florida for classes and outings.
ORPHAN CARE CHAMPION
Our next steps are already being put in place. Our church's previous Orphan Care Champion, Kaytee Jimenez now serves in Canada with her husband, Neil, as a church planter. She helped lay the groundwork for all that we are doing now. Our new Orphan Care Champion, Susan Feltner, is currently working to lead us into a strategy that provides even more for people in our church and community regarding orphan care. You may contact her for more information regarding orphan care through First at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In addition to the things we currently offer, some things in the works for the next few years include:
- A strategic partnership with The Abba Fund, a non-profit organization that offers interest-free loans to Christian couples who are adopting and meet pre-determined criteria.
- Connecting individual adoption stories into our framework for family discipleship so the adopton is a church-wide celebration, rather than just a family one.
- Provide information to those in our community regarding available resources for financial helps, loans, grants, fund-raising, etc.
- Provide "Where to Start" small group and information packets for families in the initial stages or "just kicking the tires" on the possible calling of fostering or adopting.
- Provide "All In Orphan Care" small groups throughout the community.
- Retreats for adoptive and foster mothers.
- Offer respite care for fostering/adoptive parents.
- Provide post-placement support to church members and those in the community through our partnerships with Florida Baptist Children's Homes and KidsFirst.
- And. . .more.
This ministry will continue to grow as God leads us to focus in this area. As one of our "Big 3" emphases, our plans are to create such a fully functioning and resource strong ministry for those fostering, adopting (both nationally and internationally) or advocating for orphan care, that First Orange Park becomes one of the primary groups that those in our community think of regarding helps for the journey.
November 2 is Orphan Sunday. This annual emphasis is set to remind us of God's call to serve Him by offering help and love to the orphans in our world. We will be emphasizing orphan care the entire month of November. We are excited how God is going to lead in this area for First. In truth, the best is yet to come.