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Saying "Yes" to Children in Need

by Steve Arnold

Children need good families. Numbers such as 400,000 children in foster care in America with 100,000 waiting to be adopted, can seem daunting. According to Assemblies of God U.S. missionary chaplain Eric Porter of Backyard Orphans, the Christian Church in America has the ability to completely turn the tide and provide loving homes for all of these children. If every church in America prepared and supported at least one called and caring family to foster and adopt kids who need a home, this enormous need would be met.


Backyard Orphans works with churches and church networks to engage, equip, and empower churches and Christians so they can be fully prepared and actively involved in fostering and adopting children who lack a safe, stable, and loving family environment.


Many believers care about the plight of hurting children, but they just don’t know how to go about helping. John and Jennifer Lapusan have fostered 27 children and know the difference between going it alone and having great resources and support to help them foster and adopt.


When they lived in Missouri, the Lapusans began to welcome foster children into their home. It was a calling Jennifer felt since she was a teenager. They didn’t know anyone else at their home church who was going through the fostering experience or adopting, and there wasn’t a developed support system in place.


After moving to Texas, fostering still seemed like a major challenge because they didn’t know anyone. God led them to Oaks Church, an Assemblies of God church in Red Oak, Texas, with a great built-in system to prepare and undergird families who foster and adopt. Not only did they find courage to continue fostering, but God also touched their hearts to adopt two children. Jennifer looks back at their previous experience and says, “We have such a support group here that I can’t believe we did it by ourselves before without knowing anybody.”


The Foster and Adoptive Ministry of Oaks Church, also home church to Eric and Trisha Porter, is an example of a thorough and effective church that meets the needs of children in their own community. Backyard Orphans walks church leaders, churches, and church networks through the detailed process of building a strong foster and adoptive ministry from start to fruition and beyond. In the case of Oaks Church, the ministry includes a meal team, a handyman team, trained respite babysitters, tangible care for families, and a support group that meets regularly.


The Porters and the Backyard Orphans ministry are part of the recently launched Assemblies of God Foster Care Network. This initiative aims to coordinate and encourage the Assemblies of God Fellowship in America to provide loving homes to care for 20,000 children in foster care, which is 5% of the national need.


Eric and Trisha felt called to this kind of ministry during his tenure as the junior high pastor at James River Church in Ozark, Missouri. Calling the child abuse hotline after encountering neighborhood children who were suffering abuse, Eric remembers, “It felt like I was handing them off to the government and it’s not their job; it’s the church’s job.” He continues, “I started seeing in Scripture that it’s a biblical mandate to care for vulnerable children.” In response, he and his family uprooted their life and followed this calling to make a difference for kids, families, churches, and communities.


The goal of the Backyard Orphans ministry is wholeness, not just patching up problems. Eric shares that while there is certainly a real need for adoption, “the goal of foster care is reconciliation. God told us to be ambassadors of reconciliation, and so we want those families to be reconciled and reunited. If they can’t be with mom and dad, maybe the kids can be with an aunt and uncle or grandma and grandpa.” Of the 27 children fostered by the Lapusan family, all but three went to live with either their biological parents or other family members. In some cases, they have connected with and minister to the biological parents of the children they fostered.


Backyard Orphans’ approach to working with churches and networks is tailored for success and sustainability. “Fifty percent of those families that say yes to foster/adoption quit after the first year,” Eric shares. “The number one reason they quit is that they don’t have support. We help that church build a support system, from the workshop to the launch Sunday.” The goal is to have everything in place, including good connections with government and other services in the community, Eric says, “so that family has an entire circle of support around them before they even say ‘Yes!’”

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