the next chapter

 

Close up view of classmates sitting on bench

Over the past two months, I’ve consciously known I was living in the middle of a major life-testimony. Most of the time, I was extremely grateful and appreciative for this. Witnessing such incredible support and love from my wife, family and community has been humbling and I’ve been so honored to know and be reminded by you all that the Lord is up to something big. (When is He ever not, right?)

The awareness that my current season of life would be a major talking point for years to come also made it more difficult at times. Although I knew my wife and I would be placed where the Lord wanted us to be, and that we would continue to be used by Him in powerful albeit uncomfortable ways, I was most definitely not without stress. The fact that I still had to wrestle against all kinds of lies was really frustrating. Matthew 6:33 had only recently become one of my favorite life-verses when I was laid off from my job and yet there I was, full of worry at times.

As it turns out, our next chapter has been in the works for longer than I can possibly fit into a short blog post. Many of you were so encouraging to me when I first made the announcement that I was no longer the LIFEGroups and missions pastor at Fellowship of the Parks. I am so appreciative of the opportunity this church gave me to grow almost four years ago, but even when I moved to Texas for this responsibility, I felt it was a preparation for something else. Admittedly, I was thinking this “something else” had to do with a more radical type of international mission work. Based on the response by many of you a couple months ago, I don’t think I was alone in that thinking. (Maybe it was my African wrappa hoodie I rocked occasionally, or my stories of teaching a class of Burmese refugees for a month. Or hey, maybe it was just my “strange” appreciation for squatty potties.)

Truth be told, God has slowly showed me a need to repent of those far-reaching and radical ministry expectations. That blog is coming next, but let’s just say the urgency and ordained purpose of working whole-heartedly on the local mission field has never been clearer to me.

One of the last responsibilities I carried as a pastor at Fellowship of the Parks was to help launch one of the arms of its new orphan care initiative. CarePortal is a program that naturally fell to our missions department, and right away, even before we gave a whole lot of detail about what it involved, it received an overwhelming show of support. The only thing people knew about it was that it was created to empower the church to care for families in crisis from our own communities. On the orphan care spectrum, CarePortal is a hike upstream with the goal of addressing the source of orphans by helping to keep the biological family intact. It is local outreach to those who need it most, starting with simple, tangible items but hopefully resulting in real and impactful Christ-centered relationships.

I am excited and honored to announce that this relationship, which began with me helping to bring CarePortal to Fellowship of the Parks, is now continuing with me “switching sides” and becoming a regional manager for CarePortal in Dallas-Fort Worth. Now I will have the honor of helping other churches get introduced and develop relationships with families in crisis in their own backyards, as well as to continue coaching Fellowship of the Parks in their own implementation. 

Bridging the gap

As a now-former missions pastor, I have been given a unique inside perspective on caring effectively for the families and kids in our own communities. Not doing enough in this arena can often be one of the louder criticisms against the church, but I can tell you that it’s a lot harder than you think because the church has ceased to be the place where people naturally go to report their crises. That destination for our culture is now the government, which carries the illusion of being off limits for the Church.

How and why this information drifted away from the church isn’t the point. It’s the reality we are staring at now as 21st century Christ followers in America who intend to carry out the universal mandates we have been given, one of which being to care for widows and orphans in their distress (James 1:27).

An unnecessary gap has existed for a long time between the American Church and Child Protection Services, which is utterly overwhelmed by how much family-in-crisis work it is expected to respond to. CarePortal is the tool that bridges the gap and allows the church to have access to legitimate, verified needs from its own community. And the amazing thing is that CPS is welcoming the love, compassion, and even the discipleship of the church through CarePortal.

Why I love CarePortal so much

The reasons I immediately connected with CarePortal go far beyond just wanting to care for kids in crisis. Here are my three favorite things about CarePortal, and why I became a champion of this program before I ever had a job with them:

  1. CarePortal is honest about the real problem
    Here’s an interesting question: if every child in the world who needed to be adopted immediately had a family step up to take care of them, would the church’s job be over?

    That’s like saying infinite buckets are available for a leaky pipe but no plumber. The fact that the floor is getting wet requires attention, but the leaky pipe is the real problem. In the case of orphan care, the source of the crisis is really the disintegration of the family. Adoption is real and absolutely necessary, just like a bucket for a leaky pipe, but we aren’t helping as much as we think unless we’re also working to fix the pipe. CarePortal is the toolbox that allows the church to go straight to the source of the issue and try to restore families to be what God intended for them to be: an illustration of his relationship with us, which brings me to the next point…

  2. CarePortal honors the power of the biological family
    The reality is that adoption is often an extremely traumatic experience for a child– not to mention the difficulties it poses for the adoptive parents. Of course adoption can be a beautiful thing; however, that beauty is ironically defined by the hardship adoption represents. The reason for this is because biological relationships carry enormous power. We cannot be so fast and willing to rip families apart without striving to resolve the issues that threaten them. Some issues will still not work out, but if we can learn to see the need for adoptions as a necessary (and very honorable) evil in our world, maybe we can unlearn our habit of demonizing biological families who need help.

    If the Church considers it a basic right for a child to have a safe living environment, shouldn’t it also consider it a basic right for that child’s biological family to be offered help and restoration so they can be the ones to provide that environment to their own kids?

  3. CarePortal helps get us back to missional living
    Many Americans have come to view “mission” as something they need a plan ticket for. I was honestly one of them. More to come on that, but CarePortal lets us see that our mission is right here in our own communities as well. One of the most powerful things I think could happen inside the American church is for us to get back to day-to-day missional living rather than having to request days off from work and pack a bag.

    The universal mandates the Church was given are not independent from each other. Caring for the least of these is not unrelated to making disciples. And it goes both ways. Not only can families be restored through the power and redemption of Christ, but those from the Church who knock on their door with a car seat or a crib are given the chance to grow in their faith as an ambassador of Christ and His church.

    The disintegration of the family and the resulting orphan crisis is an intimidating problem to address, but maybe that’s why the gospel is such a powerful, life-changing message. CarePortal gives us the opportunity to go out with this message onto the front lines of our own community’s  battlefields and wage war using the full armor of God against what is happening in our culture.

I want to thank you all again so much for the amazing prayer, encouragement, and support you’ve shown for me and my wife in this time of transition. Indeed, everything has been good, as we knew it would be simply because we serve an amazing and loving God. And if you haven’t joined a Fellowship of the Parks CarePortal team at your campus, go to www.FOTP.church/CarePortal to learn more!

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