“In Matthew 6:28-29, Jesus is looking out among a field of wheat, and He sees lily flowers sprouting up among the grain. In seeing this He says, ‘Look at the lilies of the field and how they grow. They don’t work or make their clothing, yet Solomon in all of his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are’ (NLT).” (thelilyinitiative.org)
This Biblical passage provides the foundation for the Lily Initiative, a brand new foster care, adoption, and support ministry whose vision is that every child has a family and a place to call home. At Backyard Orphans, we were honored to play a part in its inception, but what is now a blooming ministry, was once just a seed in the heart of Pastor Josh Skjoldal.
Pastor Josh and his wife, Jenaye, had already walked the adoption journey on a personal level. In fact, their daughter, Lily, is the eponym for the ministry. However, they didn’t know where to start in getting orphan care launched at Evangel Church. “How do we tangibly make a difference?” they pondered. When they were introduced to Backyard Orphans, they knew they had found the guidance they needed.
On May 15, 2021, our team had the privilege of leading a workshop for the Evangel staff on their campus in Bismarck, ND. The customized training helped them move the ball forward with a ministry structure and an action plan. Their staff and volunteers came alive during the building process. “We watched our church become more and more excited and passionate about caring for the kids and families in our community,” explained Annika Hapip, Evangel Church’s Community Life Coordinator and Orphan Care Point Person.
The church invited foster families to the workshop to weigh in on the ministry plan. The families answered questions, provided insight, and helped identify the greatest needs that foster care brings. As the team brainstormed, a plethora of support ministries began to take shape.
- The Meals + Errands Team provides practical support to families through the delivery of meals/supplies or running of errands.
- The Childcare Team builds a relationship with foster kids while giving parents much needed time off.
- The Family Advocate Team encourages and connects families to resources and support within the church and community.
- The Prayer Team offers regular or on-call prayer for families and the kids in their care.
- The Grandparents Team builds relationships with foster kids to encourage and invest in their lives.
“We watched as a tear streamed down the face of a man who has fostered for over 30 years.” Annika relayed. “That day we were bringing solutions to the table where foster and biological families would feel seen and known not just by the church, but by a God who loves them.”
After much planning and preparation, Evangel Church launched The Lily Initiative on November 7, 2021! The outcome from Launch Sunday was awe-inspiring!
- 24 new families expressed interest in becoming foster parents, 12 of whom have already begun the paperwork process!
- 133 individuals signed up to become support team members on one of the five teams!
- The financial response to the Lily Initiative enabled the church to begin a reimbursement process for Evangel foster families!
It is clear that The Lily Initiative was designed as an entire church initiative, not just an auxiliary ministry. “There are certain people in your church who have a special gift of caring and support that needs to be used.” Annika said. “This might just be the spot for them to shine and be used for the Kingdom.”
“Our encouragement to other churches is this,” Annika shared, “Jesus has already given us the command to care for orphans and widows, so we know that because He is for them, He will not fail them. He will provide for your church in the process, He will bring people out of the woodwork to colabor with you to support kids and families, and He is already stirring hearts within your church to foster and adopt.”
We, the Church, know that God has called us to care for the fatherless. The question then remains, how is your local church fulfilling that calling? Perhaps you can relate to Pastor Josh. You know what you need to do, you simply aren’t sure how or where to start. That’s where we come in! Just as we were for Evangel Church in Bismarck, ND, we are here to guide you.
“Look at the lilies,” Jesus said in Matthew 6:28. “These lilies are just like children today who are experiencing the physical or emotional loss of a loving parent. Society may see their trauma as an inconvenience, but God sees them and calls them beautiful. The name “Lily” signifies purity and innocence, and there’s nothing more innocent or pure than children. The Lily Initiative was named to remind us to consider the lilies—to consider the children—and call them beautiful.” (thelilyinitiative.org)
If your church has an orphan care ministry, perhaps now is the time to get involved! If they don’t, could you be the catalyst to start one? It’s not about what you believe you can do, but about what you’re willing to let God do through you! For more information click the link below!
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