by Nancy Zugschwert / Dec 16 2021
In 2019, One Church of Gahanna, Ohio, orchestrated a drive to provide gift cards for every teen in the foster care system in Franklin County.
At the time, Greg A. Ford, One Church’s lead pastor, told AG News the next year every foster teen in the state could be helped if other congregations participated in the effort.
Ford proved to be prophetic. Last year, 65 Ohio Ministry Network (OMN) congregations managed to give two $25 gift cards and a handwritten note to 5,000 foster teens throughout the Buckeye State. The exponential growth of the initiative is due in part to a partnership with Father’s Heart, a ministry of OMN. This year, more than 4,300 teens will receive a gift.
Paris L. Yanno, director of Father’s Heart, lights up when she talks about the ways Ohio churches are caring for foster kids, foster families, and the parents who struggle to care for their children.
“It was an effort of a bunch of churches coming together,” Yanno says. She notes that while the initiative begins at the county level, Father’s Heart is able to facilitate distribution to ensure that churches in counties with fewer foster kids that collect more than they need are able to share with counties with larger numbers of kids. “It’s incredible to see the church working together to make sure every county is covered.”
The heart for foster kids exhibited by Ohio churches has moved far beyond gift cards. Churches such as Rock of Grace in Kinsman have experienced a surge of compassion that’s led adherents to become foster families to 36 out of 140 kids needing foster care in Trumbull County.
One of those families includes Jordan M. Biel, Rock of Grace lead pastor, and his wife, Danielle.
“The gift card ministry is one aspect of a bigger story about what God’s done in our church,” Biel explains. He sees the church’s commitment to serving foster kids as an extension of a larger initiative to transform communities.
Biel says God has given Rock of Grace a vision to plant 10 churches in 10 years to transform Trumbull County — an area with some of the highest rates of crime, drug deaths, and foster kids in the state.
“This is a big movement of revival the Lord is doing today,” Biel says. “It’s not going to look like five nights a week of worship services as in the past; it’s going to look more like the Church solving the orphan crisis and the Church really becoming the Church, going from believer to disciple.”
Rock of Grace speaks boldly of its initiative on the Transform Trumbull website, aiming to see so many people equipped and licensed as foster parents that there are zero kids without a safe and loving home. There are currently 130 foster kids in the county.