Indiana Was Just the Beginning - Discrimination or Religious Freedom?

For the past couple of weeks, I have shared details regarding a proposed bill moving through Florida's House of Representatives. The bill - HB 7111 - was passed on Thursday in the House, but not without some powerful debate.

Depending on which version of reporting on the issue you read, this was either a "declaration for religious freedom and conviction" or a "license to discriminate." Sound familiar? These are the same elements that Governor Mike Pence and the Indiana legislature were facing just a few weeks ago.

The Bill As Viewed From Both Sides

HB 7111 is a bill, developed quickly as a response from constituents who declared the dangers of a previously passed bill intent on helping foster and adoption within the state. The new bill is designed to allow faith-based foster and orphan care organizations in the state to stand firmly on their religious convictions when placing children in foster homes or adoptive families. 

Ultimately, the issue is the placement of children in homes where both parents are of the same gender. In many faith-based groups, being forced to place children in such homes would cause a conflict with deeply held convictions.

The divide is clearly visible.

Groups opposing the passing of the bill on the grounds of LGBT discrimination have made the following statements:

 

 

During the debate on the House floor, representatives on both sides of the issue at hand were vocal and clear in their personal convictions. Scripture was used. . . by those opposed and by those in support of the bill. Applause was heard numerous times within the chamber, leading the Speaker to call for quieter support throughout the remainder of the discussions. By and large the debate was civil, but it is clear that this issue will fester and grow and become a political hot button for our state, regardless what the Senate and the Governor eventually do.

To give you better understanding of the depth of the debate, click on the video link here or the image below. The debate on HB 7111 begins near the 58 minute mark.

Screenshot 2015-04-11 18.42.28

To be clear, I am biased regarding this bill. As a pastor of a Baptist church who supports financially and in other ways the work of the Florida Baptist Children's Homes, I firmly believe the passage of HB7111 was needed. In fact, I believe more is needed as we now await possible movement in the Florida Senate and then a potential signature from Governor Rick Scott. Religious liberty is at stake, regardless how the argument is framed. I am not "hiding behind religious freedom" as some politicians have stated, in order to discriminate against those in the LGBT community. Nevertheless, some will never view it this way. The hashtag #KidsFirst has been used by those opposing the religious freedom declaration of HB 7111. In my opinion, the push against this bill and potential law has little to do with the #kids and much to do with adults, agendas and those who oppose any who have religious convictions that are not concurrently held by all.

The bottom line is that Florida Baptist Children's Homes, as well as other groups within our state may be forced to cease offering services for fostering and adoption if religious liberty is not protected. While many faith-based groups do receive state money, it should be noted that there exist areas where religious conviction and categories of conscientious objection allow for services to not be offered (i.e. abortion services in certain hospitals and clinics) even when it would be legal to do so. Since there are over eighty children's services organizations within the state of Florida, it stands to reason there would remain many that are not religiously affiliated and therefore, would not have a conscientious objection to certain placements as would others.

106,000 Children

If the Florida Baptist Children's Homes were to forced to cease offering these services, over 106,000 children would not be served annually. Truly, this is for the kids. 

 


Religious Liberty, the Gay Adoption Ban & Florida Faith-Based Orphan Care

As you are likely aware based on previous emails, blog posts and the announcement shared this morning, there is a vital bill moving its way through the Florida House of Representatives designed to allow faith-based children's service organizations working with the state to place children in foster homes and with "forever families" through adoption to be able to stand firmly on their religious convictions in determining home placement.

Our local state representatives (for most of Clay County it's Rep. Travis Cummings - 18, and for the southern region, it's Rep. Charles Van Zant, Sr. - 19) and senator (Sen. Rob Bradley) are fully aware of the bill in the house and the need for this to pass.

However, at this late stage of session, the rules for introducing new bills in the state Senate are very restrictive. Therefore, while there is a need and many seek to move forward, the guidelines and rules will prove to be a great hurdle in this case. Bills can only be introduced at this late stage by committee. Senator Bradley's committee does not hold jurisdiction over such matters and therefore will be unable to introduce a Senate bill coinciding with HB7111.

Nevertheless, Senator Bradley has stated clearly that he is interested in fixing the faith-based children's program problem that will develop without intervention. 

When the House introduced HB7111 shortly after the beginning of session, they did so to address the problems present in the present bill (HB7013). 


Here's the history as presented by The Donaldson Adoption Institute:

FLORIDA HOUSE BILL WOULD REMOVE GAY ADOPTION BAN FROM LAW

03/11/2015 - AUTHOR: BRENDAN FARRINGTON

The Republican-dominated Florida House quietly acknowledged Wednesday, March 11, 2015, that gay people have the right to adopt children when they supported a bill amendment that removes a gay-adoption ban from law. The bill still needs a House vote but has wide support.

Florida-House-Bill-300x206The Republican-dominated Florida House quietly acknowledged Wednesday that gay people have the right to adopt children when they supported a bill amendment that removes a gay-adoption ban from law.

The vote came five years after an appeals court ruled that the state’s gay-adoption ban is unconstitutional. Then-Gov. Charlie Crist refused to appeal the decision. While some Republicans voted against the bill amendment, none spoke out against it and it was quickly approved. It is part of a larger bill (HB 7013) that would create incentives to adopt children in state care.

———————————————

HB 7013 – Adoption and Foster Care

Revising requirements for agreements between the Department of Children and Families and specified entities for the provision of educational services; requiring the community-based care lead agency to contact by telephone the child’s adoptive family within a specified period after the date that the adoption is finalized; authorizing a direct-support organization established by the Office of Adoption and Child Protection to accept donations of products or services from private sources to be given to the recipients of the adoption achievement awards; requiring licensed child-placing agencies that provide adoption services for intercountry adoptions to meet specified requirements.

———————————————

“It’s an acknowledgement of different times. The language that was essentially repealed was put into statute in 1977,” said House Democratic Leader Mark Pafford of West Palm Beach. “Sometimes it’s about people and not about politics.”

The full bill still needs a House vote, but it has wide support. The Senate and Gov. Rick Scott would also have to approve the bill before the gay-adoption language is deleted from law.

Republican House Speaker Steve Crisafulli said the vote isn’t necessarily an endorsement of current policy that allows gays to adopt.

“Philosophically, I’ve never really been there on that, but I’m somebody who operates under the letter of the law,” he said. “I recognize that this has been taking place for five years, so our bill is going to reflect that.”

Republican Rep. Dennis Baxley of Ocala said there were conservative members who quietly said no when the amendment was passed on a voice vote.

“It’s a sad acknowledgement that we already lost in the courts on this discussion. I still think a mom and a dad are what kids need,” said Baxley. “A lot of us didn’t vote for that amendment today. It was a pretty weak no vote.”

Asked if he was one of the quiet no votes, Baxley said, “I was just quiet.”


I am confident our representatives and senator from our districts are on-board to protect the religious liberty of faith-based children's service organizations. As is the case often, that which seems "logical" and "easy" (i.e. just pass the bill and present a Senate version) is never as easy as it sounds. 

Nevertheless, the challenge remains. 

Pray for those who represent you in local, state and federal government. God is sovereign and no one holds a position of leadership apart from His design. 

Regarding HB7111 (the fix to a problem on an otherwise good bill) passage is needed.

If you contact your representative and senator, encourage and be brief. Recognize the limitations of their position. Once the campaigns end, the signs are removed, the babies have been kissed and the speeches have been made, the minutia of the job sometimes can be overwhelming.

_______________________________________

Florida House of Representatives - myfloridahouse.gov

Florida Senate - flsenate.gov


A Needed Bill to Protect Faith-Based Orphan Care Ministries In Florida May Not Move Forward

Yesterday, I posted a detailed plea for prayer from Christian friends regarding a proposed bill moving its way through the Florida House of Representatives. Today, I was notified by Dr. Jerry Haag, President of the Florida Baptist Children's Homes, that even if the bill makes it through the House (which seems likely) there is no one in the Florida Senate planning to move it forward there. Dr. Haag then sent me the following e-mail, that has gone to pastors and leaders state-wide. Please read it carefully and if you live in Florida, contact your Senator.

92b45241-7354-40b9-b2f3-ee0bd310bb12

As an update for the faith-based conscience protection bill (HB 7111), we need you to take action for this critical legislation to pass. The bill is scheduled to be reviewed by the House Judiciary Committee next week, and we have reason to believe it may pass there. However, after meeting with Senate President Gardiner yesterday, the Senate does not yet have intentions for a companion bill, which has to happen for this legislation to go into effect. We need individuals who have relationships with their legislators, especially members of the Senate, to make contact with them on our behalf so that we can help 106,000 MORE children this year and every year after.  If you have a relationship with one of our Florida senators, will you call them to, first, make them aware of this bill that is heading to the Judiciary Committee in the House next week?  Also, if you have a relationship with one of our representatives, will you make contact with him or her to ask for his or her support? Finally, if you have a church member who you know has great relationship with a Florida legislator, will you reach out to them personally today to see if they can help us? 

Here is what we need our Senators to know:

  • This house bill (HB 7111), as well as a companion bill (which has not yet been initiated) in the Senate, is critical for organizations like Florida Baptist Children's Homes so they can continue placing children in homes. 
  • It's critical because estimates show that more than half the children in Florida's foster care system are served through faith-based and private agencies.
  • This is an urgent matter because this could end faith-based child care in the state of Florida.
  • We need the Senate to put all politics aside so that our faith-based organizations can continue to care for children.
  • We need the Senate to take a stand with us on this conscience bill and put the wheels in motion for companion legislation.
  • Will you do everything in your power to help make this happen so that our state will not face a crisis and do what is in the best interest of children who will be affected? 

Here is what we need our Representatives to know:

  • This house bill (HB 7111) is critical for organizations like Florida Baptist Children's Homes so they can continue placing children in homes.
  • It's critical because estimates show that more than half the children in Florida's foster care system are served through faith-based and private agencies.
  • This is an urgent matter because this could end faith-based child care in the state of Florida, and we need this bill to pass through the Judiciary Committee and on the House floor this session.
  • We need this conscience bill so that our faith-based organizations can continue to care for children.
  • Will you do everything in your power to help make this happen so that our state will not face a crisis and do what is in the best interest of children who will be affected?

Thank you for your continued prayers.

Together for Children,

Jerry T. Haag, Ph.D., CFP®

President

FLORIDA BAPTIST CHILDREN'S HOMES

If you know your Representative or Senator personally, please encourage them to not let this bill die in committee or never make it to the Senate. If you do not know your Representative or Senator personally, you still have a voice. Please contact them and urge them to move this bill forward to be becoming law.

Most importantly, continue praying.

Your State Representatives & Senators

Go to these sites for contact information on your state representatives and senators. Pray for them and contact them encouraging passage of this bill (in the Florida House now.)

Florida House of Representatives - myfloridahouse.gov

Florida Senate - flsenate.gov

The Full Story

For more details on HB-7111 and why it is needed in Florida, read my post from yesterday, linked below.


The Church's Role in Orphan Care Is In Jeopardy

Yesterday, I received a request from Dr. Jerry Haag, President - Florida Baptist Children's Homes (FBCH), to join him in prayer and spread the word regarding a bill moving through the Florida legislature. The bill (HB 7111), if passed, will allow faith-based organizations like the FBCH to continue serving children in our state while remaining true to biblical truths and Gospel-centric beliefs. 

Why Is HB 7111 Needed?

There is great danger on the horizon for Christ-centered fostering and adoption agencies. Joni Hannigan, writing for the Christian Examiner, states that "Adoption and foster care in Florida are on the verge of collapse if efforts by some lawmakers to provide "conscience protections" to faith-based and private agencies fail.

"There is no more dancing around the issue. Faith-based organizations are critical to thousands of children." - Bill Bunkley, President, Florida Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission

As with any public statements, movements or bills regarding "conscience protection" there have been detractors to this bill. The objectors claim that this bill will allow faith-based organizations to legally discriminate. This is the same argument used in areas such as so-called same-sex marriage.

Bunkley states that the Florida bill codifies practices already in existence in our state. These are practices that "protect the moral beliefs of our faith organizations." Ultimately, this bill, if passed as law, will protect child-placement agencies from violating their "religious and moral convictions."

A federal bill - The Child Welfare Provider Inclusion Act, sponsored by Senator Mike Enzi, R-Wyoming, and Representative Mike Kelly, R-Pennsylvania, was re-introduced on March 4, after failing to make it out of committee last year focuses on the same issues. It would allow licensed child welfare providers to continue operating while also holding to their religious and moral convictions on homosexuality and family structure. (Baptist Press)

Ultimately, the bill will allow faith-based children's services to continue operating while having the right to refuse placement of children in homes with parents whose lifestyles fall outside the biblical mores as believed by the agencies. 

Girl face

Whittling Away Conviction in the Name of Tolerance

Tolerance is the trending buzzword of the decade. However, it's a one-way tolerance that is propagated. Personal belief and conviction are labeled as "intolerant" if they run counter to the cultural popular opinion and especially if they line up with a biblical understanding. 

"In the name of tolerance, we're not being tolerated," Bishop Thomas J. Paprocki of the Diocese of Springfield, Illinois, told The New York Times.

Granted, there has been a long-standing movement to redefine Scripture to have it match a more culturally-acceptable understanding, yet that is not truly the issue here. The issue is the forcing of a worldview or belief system onto a group who are morally opposed to such. 

Is It Just About Gay Adoption?

While it may appear, on the surface, as just another "conservative Christians against the LGBT community" it truly is deeper than that. Though opponents will continue to label supporters of the bill as "haters" and "bigoted" (and, unfortunately, some Christians are known more for what they're against than what they're for, and therefore wear the "hater" tag well) the truth is that Christ-followers who hold the conviction that same-sex marriage and same-sex parenting are outside the boundaries of God's design and yet, seek to love God and others are being told they cannot love without affirming that which they believe to be sin.

Tweet: Love and affirmation are not synonyms. @davidtarkLove and affirmation are not synonyms.

The media has jumped on the so-called "intolerant" haters who refuse to bake cakes, provide chapels and other wedding services for gay couples. In some cases, businesses have closed due to pressure and fines. While lost in the argument is the fact that personal conviction has been ignored in the name of tolerance. The banner of "gender discriminator" has been placed upon these individuals as their character has come under attack.

The Inevitable?

The gay marriage debate seems to be a losing one in the culture. It was in 2012 when author and futurist Alex McManus shared with me and others that gay marriage will be the law of the land in just a short amount of time. "It's inevitable," he said. At first, many of us refused to believe it, but after just three years, he seems to be a prophet. 

Is the same true for gay adoption?

Some would say that it is, but at some point, faith convictions in a nation that claims to hold to the promise of "freedom of religion" must mean something.

That means, from my perspective, the Muslim, Buddhist, Wiccan, Mormon, Catholic, Atheist, Hindu, Liberal Christian, Moderate Christian, Conservative Christians, Evangelical and others all have the right to hold true to their convictions and faith beliefs. 

That does not, however, mean that personal convictions that truly harm others (i.e. terrorism and evil in the  name of religion) is a protected right.

What Has Happened Elsewhere?

In three states (California, Illinois, Massachusetts) and the District of Columbia, faith-based adoption and foster care providers have been forced to stop providing services because they refused to place children with same-sex couples. This could be the case in Florida without protection under the law defined clearly.

106,000 Children at Stake

Dr. Haag shared with me that in 2014, the FBCH helped change the lives of more than 106,000 children and families through adoption, foster care, emergency shelter, a safe home for those rescued from sex trafficking (Florida is the #3 state in the US when it comes to trafficking,) international child care, compassion services and more. 

These are incredible numbers when you realize each number represents a soul, a person, an individual that likely would never have been helped without the ministry of FBCH.

As this bill moves through our state legislature, we must commit to pray for and support those on the front lines. Why? For starters, so that 106,000 more children may be helped and rescued this year and each year following.

Prayer Is Not Passive

This call for prayer is clear. It is not a passive reaction, but an active response. At this point, the best that Christ-followers can do regarding this bill is to unite in prayer. We seek the face of God and plead for His strength and direction. He will make a way. He does not need us, but he has stated that prayer of righteous ones avails much. We need much availed here. So, we come confidently in the name of Christ to the Father asking him to direct our lawmakers in a righteous way to allow the continued ministry and work for the orphan to occur.

As a church, we said "YES" to God when he called us to care for the orphan. Our prayers, at this point, are part of that "YES."

Your State Representatives & Senators

Go to these sites for contact information on your state representatives and senators. Pray for them and contact them encouraging passage of this bill (in the Florida House now.)

Florida House of Representatives - myfloridahouse.gov

Florida Senate - flsenate.gov


Our Next Steps In Orphan Care

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.

Orphan care

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 sfeltner@opfirst.org

WHAT'S NEXT?

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.

ORPHAN SUNDAY

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.

ALL IN Intro from Arrow on Vimeo.


Ever Feel Abandoned?

LonelyFeeling abandoned? Everyone, at some point in life, will face feelings of loneliness, abandonment, hopeless and fear. 

Doug Grote's story from Sunday resonates with this message. As he shared from the Old Testament prophet Habakkuk, it became clear that these feelings are more common that we would like to think.

Author and teacher, Josh McDowell, known for his best-selling book Evidence That Demands a Verdict as well as books such as Right From Wrong and years of speaking to students and parents throughout the world has produced a film sharing much about his early life.

Josh's early life was very difficult. He grew up with many heart wounds and he hated God. In fact, he became an atheist, not believing that God even existed. If there was a God, then why would his life be so very hard? These questions echoed for years in Josh's mind. 

The clip below from a film titled "Undaunted: The Early Years of Josh McDowell" gives us insight into this chapter in his life.

 

Of course, he later came to Christ while in college. He was attempting to disprove God's existence and through that process was confronted with the reality of God and His love. 

The feeling of abandonment runs through all our stories. Doug's. Josh's. Habakkuk's. David's in the psalms. The widow's. The widower's. The single mom's. The forsaken husband's. The orphan's. The foster child's. The refugee's. The immigrant's. 

Your's.

Mine.

These feelings are common. Questions abound. Questions to God such as . . .

"Where are you?"

"Why aren't you doing anything?"

"Why aren't you listening?"

"Don't you even care?"

God hears. God cares. God loves. God can handle these questions.

When you're in the midst of the storm, as that cloud of doubt and discontent floats around your head, Romans 8:28 is the last verse you want to hear. Oh, the verse is true. It's powerful. However, in the midst of the storm, it often sounds empty.

God knows this. He also knows the message of that verse, and all others, is far from empty. It's powerful. It's hopeful. It's real.

I'm reminded of the power within the Great Commission. Most church attenders know this passage and focus upon the "go," "make disciples" and "baptize" portions of the passage. These should be the focus, but at the end of the commission is a sentence that offers comfort, power and grace to us. I think at times, the last sentence is just read quickly and often deemphasized. Here it is. Let this sink in.

And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age. Matthew 28:20b (ESV)

The Creator of everything speaks to His children, as Father, and promises "I am always with you!" 

Lonely?

Fearful?

Angry?

Abandoned?

Remember His promise (and His promises are never broken) "I am always with you!" This is what gets you and I through the storms of life.


Our New Baby/Child Dedication Strategy

Last Sunday, I had the great privilege to stand before our fellowship with Jennifer and Jay Fuller as they dedicated their son, Cooper, to the Lord. A baby/child dedication is a special moment in the lives of a mom and dad. We have had these special events regularly in our worship services for years and I have always been honored to be asked to lead these times.

Baby-dedication_postDedicating one's child to God has been modeled in Scripture and affirmed for centuries. Dedication is not akin to salvation, but is an intentional and strategic step for parents in recognizing and acknowledging God's grace, mercy and protection. What a significant time in the lives of young parents to state publicly their belief and trust in God as it relates to the lives of their children! It is at this moment the community of faith, the church, agrees to pray for the young child and his/her parents and to be models of Christlikeness before them.

Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD, the fruit of the womb a reward. Psalm 127:3 (ESV)

Following Sunday's service, as is often the case when we have baby/child dedications, another couple approached me and asked how they, too, could have a dedication like this.

I told them about a new opportunity we are developing for parents of young children and asked if they could wait a few months. They seemed excited about this, as have others.

After discussions with our Director of Preschool Ministries, Donna Hutcheson and pastoral staff, we are now implementing a new strategy for young parents.

I'm really excited about this as it dovetails into our developing strategy of lifelong discipleship complete with markers at significant life-stages. This strategy includes guidelines for dedication, a special class and a time of dedication during a Sunday worship service.

Parent-Child Dedication Guidelines at First Baptist Church of Orange Park

  1. Parents of the child to be dedicated must be born-again Christ followers and members of First Baptist Church of Orange Park. This is due to the fact the dedication is primarily for mom and dad and the charge to raise their child in a home that honors God. The dedication process is also a church-wide affirmation and promise of prayer and support. Therefore, to not be Christian nor to be members of the church disavows significant portions of the dedication.
  2. We believe in the sanctity of marriage between one man and one woman. Therefore, parents wishing to dedicate their child should be dedicated first to God and secondly to each other in a covenant marriage relationship. The single parent who is striving to live holy and desiring to dedicate his/her child to God is lovingly welcomed to participate.
  3. All parents wishing to participate in the dedication service are required to attend a class the week prior to the ceremony. This class is taught by one of our pastors.
  4. Reservations by parents desiring to participate in the ceremony are required so that all pertinent items may be secured for the class and ceremony. If the deadline for registration is missed, we ask that parents wait until the next scheduled dedication ceremony.

Parent-Child Dedication Class

Our first scheduled Parent-Child Dedication Classes will be held on Sunday, October 6 at 9:15am and 10:45am. The class will be taught at both hours, so parents can register for either option. This class will be led by me on this day. That's right, I will not be preaching this day so that I can take the time with these young parents to share with them biblical guidelines of parenting and God's desire for moms and dads. We will also talk of what a dedication truly is. These classes will be held in the "Greenhouse" room in our Administration Building. This room is on the second floor above our offices and is accessible via the elevator in the "E" Building.

This class is required by all who desire to participate in the dedication service the next Sunday.

Parent-Child Dedication Service

We will dedicate the babies and children of those who participated in the class on Sunday, October 13 at 9:15am and 10:45am (dedications in the service the families normally attend.)

Opportunties to register for the class and the dedication service will be made available soon. This moment is a significant spiritual marker in the life of a young child. It is valuable for parents and the church and we are excited to celebrate this day together with our young families.


Orphan Care Initiative: Step One for Foster Care & Adoption Complete

Last week our first series of PRIDE Classes (no - it has nothing to do with gay rights) here at First Baptist Church. PRIDE is a state required class by the state of Florida for those wishing to foster or adopt a child. PRIDE is an acronym that stands for "Parent Resources for Information, Development, and Education."

Our partners at the Florida Baptist Children's Homes led these classes on Wednesday evening. We are so blessed to have such a ministry in our state. 

Kaytee Jimenez, our Orphan Care Coordinator worked with the FBCH to secure these classes here on our campus and our desire is to offer them regularly for our church and the Christian community here in Clay County.

Children's home kidsI was so very encouraged to see the number of people attending the classes, and especially sticking with them through completion.

What does this mean for these families as it relates to our Orphan Care Initiative?

For some, fostering children in the home will occur. For others (or perhaps the same people) adopting a child into their family is the next step.

Orphan Care is one of our "Big Three" here at First Baptist Church. It is more than a fad or a passing emphasis. Click here for more on this initiative and how we view it as a church. Whether adoption or foster care is God's desire for you, we believe it is God's calling for every Christ-follower to be an advocate.

Pray for these families as they seek God's lead for the next steps.

The Florida Baptist Children's Homes are wonderful partners in this ministry. On Mother's Day (May 12) we will be collecting a special offering for the Florida Baptist Children's Homes. Plan to give that day (or now, if you choose to give online) to this special offering. Click here to give online TODAY!


So. . . God, What Are You Doing? (More On Our Adoption Story)

A week or so ago, I posted about our journey toward saying "Yes" to God's call for our family to adopt. We are confident we have heard God's voice in this. The message was to step into this story of adoption full-force. Yet, sometimes, God calls us to a part of the story without fully giving us fullness of how it will play out.

I often ask God to give me "high beam headlights" so I can see what lies ahead, maybe even around the bend. God continues to answer "My Word is a lamp for your feet and a light for your path - just enough light for you to see the next step you are to take."

There's strength in that promise.

So, as I shared previously, we believed God desired that we adopt a young boy from Haiti named Climako. The pieces seemingly fell into place for this young boy to join our family. We had heard that his backstory was one of abandonment following the earthquake. As with many things in Haiti, sometimes the stories aren't as accurate as first believed.

Today, we discovered that Climako's mother is still alive, loves her son and is now at a place to take him back home. We had heard a few days ago that she was still alive and that abandonment may not be the story. Apparently, this is the case. She just needed help for a season and did the right thing by allowing the Cabaret Children's Home care for son for a time. Today, via the Cabaret Children's Home Facebook page we discovered that this young boy is going home.

We (my wife Tracy and I) believe that the very best thing for a child is to be in a loving home with his/her parents. So, as the story unfolds, we are celebrating that the young boy we have been praying for, is now back home.

This is a God story and an answer to prayer.

We had been praying for Climako to have a loving home. We thought that meant our home. In this case, it means going back home with his biological mother. So, God did answer and we are praying for Climako, his mother and his entire family.

Are we saddened by this news?

Surprised, because we didn't know this was part of the story, but saddened? Maybe initially just because we thought this little boy would be moving into our home, but as we survey the larger story, the sadness is clearly dwarfed by the joy of knowing God has blessesd this little boy and his mother and family and reunited them. That's incredible! How could we be sad about that without being selfish and ungodly?

What does this mean for our family?

That's the question my wife and children have just asked. Apparently, they think I have the answer.

Here's what I believe it means right now for us. It means God was testing to see if we were serious about the story of orphan care, or if it was just something the church was proposing that we said was a good idea.

Was this our Abraham-Isaac moment?

Perhaps. Yet to be seen.

Will we be pursuing adopting another child?

I believe so, but understand that adopting a child is a decision to be prayed over and through. This is God's story, not ours. We're just invited into it.

I know our family needs a greater story. We were created for such, just as all families have been.

I'm excited about what God is doing (just wish He'd give me some of those high-beam headlights.)

Here is a photo of Climako and his mother being reunited at Cabaret. We continue to pray for him and request that you do as well.

Climako and mom


Sometimes God Says "Slow Down." (The Latest on Our Adoption Story)

As you may know from yesterday's post, Tracy and I are pursuing the adoption of a young boy from Haiti. We are hard at work on the prep work for our home study, as well as looking at funds and other details needed.

Today, after talking with representatives from our Haitian orphanage, we are hearing God say "slow down."

HandsThe little boy we feel led to bring into our home has a backstory that continues to be unveiled. At first, we thought he had no mother and was dropped off by his aunt. Now, it appears his mother may still be alive. We really do not know more than that, but there are documents and other things that must be done for an international adoption to move forward. The American side of the process is challenging, but a piece of cake as compared to the Haitian side.

Nevertheless, since the home study here in the States is only good for eighteen months, we are delaying this part of the process until we know more about Climako. The bottom line is we do not want to have to do this twice (it's not free.)

Of course, after updating my wife and children on the situation, emotions kind of run high.

So. . .God says "slow down."

We are confident of these facts:

  • God loves our family.
  • God loves the children, all of them, and especially those who are orphans.
  • God is calling our family to step into the story of adoption.
  • We have taken the first step of faith on this journey.
  • God is writing this story and while we only see this page right now, we're confident He has an incredible epic in store for us.
  • God may very well bring Climako home to live with us.
  • If God so chooses, Climako may go back to his birth mother.
  • Since God has effectively opened our hearts to adoption, we're confident our family will increase in this way (whether with Climako or another child we have yet to meet.)
  • All of this. . .and I mean all of it. . .is for the glory of God!