“Foster care was nowhere on my radar screen.” said Steve Hambrick, senior pastor at Vintage242. “I had never considered it personally…until we sat down with two couples who had done foster care and adoption.”
When Steve and his wife Randel started the church, they had a heart for unreached people groups, communities who, in general, have not heard about the Gospel and know Jesus. Planted in Dallas, Georgia, a northwest suburb of Atlanta, they assumed that their life-long passion to serve those who had not yet experienced God’s love, especially children, would be in other places. Because they had close friends who worked with children’s homes in India and Africa they were familiar with missions to these areas.
Until they were introduced to foster care.
At the time, there were about 100 children in foster care in their county. These children were unable to stay with their biological parents or family because of brokenness and, in many cases, pain. These 100 children were placed with strangers and put their heads to sleep on unfamiliar pillows in unfamiliar homes with unfamiliar rules and toys. About 100 children needed loving, caring families. A huge, unreached people group with whom most people, like the Hambricks, were unfamiliar.
Foster children in Paulding county became the unreached people group and the heartbeat of the Vintage242 congregation. Talking about foster care regularly from the pulpit, this is the community in which the church now participates and serves.
“If you’re part of Vintage, we ask that you be involved in some area of foster care,” said Randel, who works with missions, women’s ministry and events at the church. “It doesn’t mean you have to foster, but we are asking that you find a way to plug in. It’s going to be our primary local ministry, and we are asking everyone to get on board.”
With that kind of focus, the church about 300 people has more than 60 adults participating in the Community of Care.
Such audacious and bold expectations of an entire congregation participating in the foster care story are backed by the Hambrick’s personal involvement in the ministry; they’re approved foster parents and have fostered several children, including sibling sets.
Their journey with foster care ministry was ignited by working closely with the two couples who first mentioned it to them. Yet it wasn’t a conversation or a comment that changed their hearts and minds and led them to change their lives. It was their own personal conviction of God’s heart for foster care fueled by observing a Faithbridge family and realizing it wasn’t as hard as they thought it would be.
That same “come and see” approach is how many people get involved. Foster children are now considered a normal part of their church. Families see that others are able to foster and foster well, which creates confidence for others to begin fostering. Volunteers have similar experiences. It might take a little while for people to dip their toes in the water, but once they get a taste, they dive in head first and love it.
Vintage242 not only has a heart for foster children and families but also has a heart for their local community. Located in Paulding county, they are truly there to serve, with hopes of fostering children who are from that area. This helps the children in foster care remain close to the location of visits with biological parents and potentially stay in the same schools while continuing to have some sort of familiarity when everything has so drastically and abruptly changed.
What started as a vision to reach an unreached people group and was influenced and fueled by experience and passion to serve children halfway around the world in India and Africa has brought the Hambricks and Vintage242 right back home again to serve in their very own community. And what a beautiful journey that is and will continue to be.