The story of Hope for 100 out of Green Acres Baptist Church in Tyler, TX is a great inspiration to many. In January 2009, stirred by a deep sense of God’s heart for the fatherless, Hope for 100 set out to inspire and support one hundred families in the church to care for an orphan through adoption or foster care. (See a prior blog post on this vision). As of August, this goal was met. The resulting impact on the church and surrounding community has been considerable, as it has been for the children as well. Meanwhile, a number of other churches have taken the vision and applied it in similar efforts also.
With their initial goal fulfilled, Rocky Gil and the Hope for 100 team have felt called to a new undertaking. The new vision—centered on children in the foster system in their region—is thrilling in itself. But what touched me the most as I heard about it is the story of the couple that is stepping in to implement it. I asked if I could share the story of Tim and Trena Clark, and they gladly agreed. The following note from Tim is a bit longer than a typical blog post, but well worth the read…
My wife and I worked together as missionaries in Ireland from 1998 to 2007. I’m from England and my wife, Trena, is from Tyler TX. In 2005 we adopted our first child, a baby girl (Ashlin), while visiting family in Texas. This was our initiation into the drama of adoption with all its blessings and challenges.
In late 2007 we completed our mission work overseas and decided to come and settle in Tyler, TX. We both felt we wanted a break from “ministry” at least for a while.
I trained for work as a caseworker with Texas Child Protective Services and worked in Athens, TX for the conservatorship department (basically this deals with the jurisdiction of children from the time of their removal by the State to either the return to their biological family or their entry to substitute care and the ongoing monitoring of their time in care). Trena volunteered for the local adoption agency (Loving Alternatives) from whom our first daughter had come.
I came to see at first hand the drama of the children in state care: the removal from family, the complex legal process, the disruption and uncertainty of foster care. I suppose what really distressed me was the way in which a child comes into the system essentially innocent (in 99% of cases) but has a real possibility of leaving it damaged (or even guilty if as in some cases they make the transfer as teens from CPS to the criminal justice system). I can honestly say that I have never seen so many dedicated people thwarted on a daily basis by bureaucracy and the enormity of the task.
Of course, the older the child the more difficult it is to find homes. Basically there is a notable “cut off” point at around 9 years for boys and 11 years for girls where the chance of finding a permanent adoptive home in TX is reduced by 80%.
Trena and I talked and reflected many times about these issues. The question always started by being- “what can be done???” Somehow though God kept bringing it back around to “what can we do??” It’s so easy to expect something of everyone apart from ourselves. The more we complain, the more justified we feel in our indignation.
In mid- 2008 we knew that we could do more. When we first adopted, like most people, it was because we wanted children and we couldn’t have “our own”. We now realized however that we had actually done little in terms of sacrifice. We realized that actually we were playing safe, and keeping close to certainty and having control. But were we really willing to take risks for God, to just be obedient and do what we knew was right? The result was that we signed up to do training for foster care and become a licensed foster/adopt home with Christian Family Homes in Tyler.
Then, out of the blue the phone rang. A home was needed; were we willing? Not just one child but three needed a home. So just before Thanksgiving 2008 a sibling group of three came to be with us. From the start we knew that these children (aged 1,3 and 4) needed a permanent home. We felt out of our depth, out of our experience, out of our comfort zone on a daily basis for the first two months.
Every area of our personal lives was put under pressure. In addition our first little girl had to be “dethroned” for the sake of all the others. I cannot tell you that this seemed like the ideal family. But I can tell you that we knew God speaking and being with us in a special way. In some respects I now see it as a wake up call in the midst of life. We decided we would adopt them all. This, then, was maybe an answer to “what can we do?”
During the adoption process I quit my CPS job and went to work as a mechanic for a local school district, which gave me more time to spend with the children and Trena. For the next 18 months we talked and wrestled with the issue of doing more for other children. We felt that somehow our combined experience in missions, CPS and adoption was something that God could use- but how??
In mid 2010 we were introduced to Rocky Gill a business owner in Tyler and a real advocate for adoption. Rocky had started a ministry called Hope For 100 in his local church in 2008. Essentially his goal was to raise up 100 Christian families who were willing to commit themselves to adopting or fostering a child. The program met with considerable success over the next two years.
From the first time we met with Rocky we sensed a common bond with him for finding families for children. Also we all felt an awareness of the incredible potential God has given the church as a whole, especially when it is willing to make sacrifice in His service.
After some prayer and meetings we decided that we wanted to work together to combine the various abilities we had and to promote adoption in the form of a mission to any local congregation open to us, and in doing so to recruit families to adopt and foster children.
During the early winter of 2010 our Pastor had preached several messages from Ecclesiastes that really challenged us. What exactly is most important to us? What has lasting meaning? We took this a quiet but deep confirmation of the direction we were thinking about. I finished my job with the ISD in December 2010 and we are starting the regional format of Hope For 100 in January 2011.