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January 06, 2023
Bringing Sanctuary to Central Florida Foster Families
By Nathan Fowler

Is there a better surprise than unexpected goodness? Living in a broken world, one filled with broken people and broken systems, we can come to expect injustice and unkindness. But that’s not who God is. The better we know God, the better we find Him to be. We cannot imagine a better God, One more able to exalt the lowly and humble the mighty, One more devoted to justice and yet astoundingly patient, One more committed to our good and the redemption of His world. Maybe the fact of God’s goodness ceases being surprising, but I expect that its degree always will be.

To my delight, I find that people who walk with God begin demonstrating that same surprising goodness. The better we know them, the more goodness we discover—not that they’re perfect, but actually Christlike: compassionate, thoughtful, forgiving, serving with joy. They offer sanctuary from the cruelty and hurt of the world, giving a glimpse of what the wholeness of God and His Kingdom are like.

I had the privilege of discovering unexpected goodness when I visited Tom and Rhonda Pittman’s small group and Family Advocacy Ministry (FAM) care team. FAM, the local church expression of Commission 127 at Grace, wraps around foster and adoptive families by providing practical help like meals, babysitting, mentoring, and prayer.

With laughter and some German chocolate fudge, I spent an evening getting to know the small group and being delightfully surprised by the goodness of God revealed through His people.

 

Serving Joyfully: A FAM Interview

How did you come to be involved with FAM?

We learned about FAM at one of the launches for new small groups. After our group got to know each other a little better, we invited Bill Behr [a FAM volunteer] to come talk about FAM. We watched some videos, and our whole group said, “Yes!”

 

How did you say yes so easily?

We wanted to love people in our community in the name of Jesus, and this opportunity was already set up for us to do as a group. We know God is concerned for the orphan and the widow, and we are too. We wanted to show others how much God loves them by how we love them. 

 

So you’re a group—coming together for Bible study, community, and prayer—and also a care team—wrapping around a foster family. What does doing these two things together actually look like?

Bondedness. We’re friends! FAM gives us an opportunity to serve outside the four walls of the church. We have a shared goal and shared joy through service.

 

How is caring for a family going?

We’ve just gotten started, but one of the best parts so far was visiting the foster family’s home. They were so grateful for the meal and gift basket we brought. We were amazed at how at ease the parents were with chaos, how welcoming they were to the twelve of us, and how even their biological child’s friends were helping change diapers. We left encouraged and joyful. That was a good night.

 

What have you learned about yourself in this process?

Assorted Responses from Different Small Group Members:

  • I could never foster, but I can certainly help a family who is. 
  • Seeing others serve motivates me to serve.
  • I get praise that’s not deserved. What I’m doing is not that hard. My part is so small, but collectively, it makes a big difference.

 

What keeps you going?

We like that FAM gives us the opportunity to serve families and kids locally. We can see the kids, talk to them, and hug them. We want to have a long-term connection with them, and we’re looking forward to more interaction, like mentoring. In our training, we learned that foster families with support are 90% more likely to keep fostering. We want our family to keep fostering. 

With FAM, the systems were already in place, the groundwork was already done, and the expectations were clear. FAM lives out Grace’s core value of wow-making excellence. Great tutorials and great support from [FAM ministry leader] Becky Robey make being a care team plug and play. Not only are we supporting a family—the church is supporting us!

 

How else have you seen God work in this process?

Scott Sherrer: My wife and I recently bought a new mattress. I made a few visits to the same store, trying out different mattresses, and got to know the manager. He grew up in church but disconnected at some point. I invited him to church, and he said he’d think about it.

A little while later, when we were taking a meal to the foster family’s home, I accidentally parked in their neighbor’s driveway. It was the guy from the mattress store! When he asked me what I was doing there, I told him I was bringing back my mattress. Then I told him that my small group from Grace supports his neighbors as they foster. Turns out, he grew up in foster care himself. How cool is it that God orchestrated that connection? We got to represent Grace and Jesus in a way that immediately resonated with that man’s story.

 

What advice would you give to a group considering becoming a FAM care team?

Just do it! This is a super easy way to volunteer. Having a good leader to coordinate and organize makes a big difference, but there’s a way for everyone to serve. I can’t imagine why every small group doesn’t adopt a family. If you’d like to get involved as an individual, FAM can also connect you with others.

 

If you’d like to learn more about Family Advocacy Ministry at Grace, email the team. 



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