“If your dream doesn’t scare you, it’s too small.” Those words leaped off the page as we made our way through Mark Batterson’s book, Chase the Lion. In 2010, God was preparing our hearts. When He finally made it clear we were to chase the “lion” of orphan care, it wasn’t without human doubt and fear. God’s response? “Don’t you think I’ll take care of you?” And has He ever! We were given a God-sized dream to see no more children waiting. It was scary. But because it was ultimately His vision for our life and ministry, He has taken care of us every step of the way for the last decade.
In Batterson’s words, we “[went] after a dream that [was] destined to fail without divine intervention.” Here’s how it went.
Exactly 10 years ago this month, Trisha and I were attending the biennial General Council of the Assemblies of God in Phoenix, AZ. At this event, God asked us to transition from local church ministry and take a blind step of faith into orphan care. We knew God wanted us to chase the “lion”, but we didn’t know what it would look like. In fact, we had no idea where to start until God prompted us with the question, “where is the missing link?”
The missing link? The orphan crisis is so massive; the foster care system is so broken; there are so many moving parts within child welfare. How were we to find the missing link? We decided we needed expert weigh-in and had the opportunity to interview well-respected leaders in the field. Everyone we spoke with said the Church is the missing link.
We thought, “how could this be?” As we prayed and pondered, we realized that we had been flying over kids to reach kids. We realized, like our own at the time, most U.S. churches are not aware of the problem in their own backyard.
- The problem is that there are 400,000 children in U.S. foster care.
- The problem is that there are not enough families waiting for children, so these children are sleeping in child welfare offices around the nation.
- The problem is that 50% of foster families quit after the first year due to a lack of support.
- The problem is that the biological families need help in keeping their children out of foster care or getting their children back from a temporary foster placement. (Come on, parents, don’t we all need a circle of support around us?)
- The problem is that 20,000 youth age out of foster care and are a pipeline to the prison system and human trafficking.
We, the Church, have to fix this! We are the missing link! With God’s help alone, we are the solution! When mobilized, the local church is the hope of the world!
So, our family set out to bridge the gap between local churches and the need in their own backyard. We’ve been chasing down our God-sized dream for 10 years now and only look back to marvel at the miracles along the way.
Here’s a look at what He has done!
- God called us to take a blind step of faith and leave the only vocation we knew. | After 10 years, we have a clear vision for the nationwide organization, Backyard Orphans!
- God called us with zero dollars to get things started. | After 10 years, 200+ donors are partnering with us and God has helped us raise $1.7 million for children!
- God called us to build a team across the U.S. | After 10 years, we have 15 team members helping children find family in 22 states.
- God called us to build a system to train churches to care for children and families involved in foster care. | After 10 years, we have a proven 4-step plan to offer churches!
- God gave us a vision to see more families waiting for children than children waiting for families. | After 10 years, we have seen at least one county go 90 days without children waiting for adoption!
- When God called us, there were few churches in our network involved in foster care and adoption. | After 10 years, we have engaged thousands of churches and equipped hundreds!
- When God called us, my wife and our 4 kids were the only “members” of Backyard Orphans. | After 10 years, we have 4 biological + 2 adopted kiddos, a staff, a governing board, a pastoral advisory board, and dozens of partner organizations.
- When God called us, there were zero state-based strategies within our sending network. | After 10 years, there are 9 state-based networks with a foster care strategy and more in our process.
- God called us to help hurting children find healing homes. | After 10 years, we have helped over 1,000 children find homes!
- When God called us, college campuses were not emphasizing orphan care on their campuses. | After 10 years, there are 3 college campuses bringing attention to orphan care.
- When God called us, we did not know how to equip a church to foster, adopt, or support children and families involved in foster care. | After 10 years, we have created a train the trainer program that raises up leaders to equip churches across the country.
- God called us to engage church leaders. | After 10 years, our team was ready to engage in a national network event with over 4,000 church leaders in attendance. (See below for highlights.)
- When God called us, our sending network did not have a national foster care strategy. | After 10 years, we have helped our national network of 13,000 churches launch a foster care strategy! (See below for more info about this recent launch and to register.)
We are ready to train the next trainer, the next church, and the next network of churches in order to see a day in the U.S. where there are more families waiting for children than children waiting for families!
“Your greatest regret at the end of your life will be the lions you didn’t chase. You will look back longingly on risks not taken, opportunities not seized, and dreams not pursued. Stop running away from what scares you most and start chasing the God-ordained opportunities that cross your path.” (Chase the Lion, Mark Batterson)
What “lion” is God calling you to chase? What dreams has he placed in your heart? If Trisha and I had not been obedient to God regarding our orphan care journey, there would be thousands of kids still waiting. When our vision is from God, we can rest in knowing that He will fulfill it. It may take longer than 10 minutes of prayer, 10 weeks of planning, or 10 months of hard work. Sometimes it takes 10 years to see a dream come to life. Don’t give up! Chase the dream.
We had the privilege of attending the biennial General Council of the Assemblies of God in Orlando, FL. 12 of our team members collectively traveled over 24,000 miles to engage pastors and spread the word about Backyard Orphans! Over 16,000 people attended, representing over 4,000 of the 13,000 Assemblies of God churches!
Thousands of conversations were had with church leaders about kids finding family, 34 more churches are interested in launching an orphan care ministry, 3 more statewide networks are interested in launching, and 3 more leaders are interested in becoming Backyard Orphans trainers!
At the General Council event, we also had the opportunity to help launch the National Assemblies of God Foster Care Network! If you are connected to the Assemblies of God and to foster care in any way, please register via fostercare.ag.org so we can all see how many people are already working in this harvest field. Registering is the first opportunity of many for this network launch. Also, this is the first of many national networks we pray God uses us to launch into church-based foster care ministry. Pray with us that our Baptist, Church of Christ, Methodist, Four Square, Church of God in Christ, non-denominational churches, and any Jesus-preaching, Bible-believing national network launches an orphan care strategy. That is a God-sized dream that will pave the way to see more families waiting for children than children waiting for families!
Founder & Chief Executive Officer
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