Two wonderful kids, just in time for Thanksgiving

Woodridge Church

Woodridge Church, Medina, Minnesota, and the four other churches in its Aspen Grove Network have set a goal. It’s not a typical church goal such as attendance growth or planting a multisite. It’s much more personal. Senior pastor Paul Johnson has led community outreach efforts for decades, from feeding 350 at-risk children every week to transforming the Twin Cities with a network of churches. He’s never once considered an adoption ministry. He took note when his Mercy Hill Church family ministry director John Walt and his wife Katie began the process to foster children.

“I realized what a great gift that was,” Johnson said. “We did research and found out there is a great need in Minneapolis to adopt children and there is a foster care crisis. There are so many children who cannot get into foster homes.”

Minnesota passed legislation to make it easier for children to be removed from dangerous situations, which in turn created a larger need for foster homes. Even group homes and shelters are full. Children are being removed from harmful homes, but now the state is in crisis about where to put them. A social worker told Walt a family was licensed to foster and two hours later had a baby in their home. 

“My wife always had a desire to adopt since she was a young girl, and we attribute that to God,” Walt said. “My parents adopted my younger sister, so I’ve always cared about adoption. But God really grew that desire for me.”

The Walts have been foster parents for three years. The goal of fostering is to reunite children with their parents or family members. Children of all ages have come to live with them, but a year and a half ago two siblings, 4 and 5 years old, came to stay with them.

“We learned they may need to be adopted,” Walt said. “The social worker asked us if we would be open to adopting them down the road. Katie and I really had to think and pray about it, but after their year and a half in our home, you become attached.”

It was the Walt’s act of love to open their home that inspired Johnson’s church staff. After praying together about what the church could do to help, another pastor asked about a goal.

“We set goals in other things because they help you get direction and focus on what we want to accomplish,” Johnson said. “So our pastor Aaron Sorenson said, ‘What if we adopted or fostered 50 kids in the next five years?’”

A few more prayers later, they made it the goal official. The church contacted Bethany Christian Services, and the local director is now engaged in helping the church network achieve the goal. The BCS director was interviewed at all services and all campuses to teach congregants more about adoption and foster care. Woodridge has also set up support systems for families who are entering the fostering process.

“We currently have three adoptions that are completed and two in the pipeline,” Johnson said. “There are five of the 50 already in place. This has all happened in just two months.”

The Walts asked themselves over and over again, “Are we ready to become parents?” Then they flipped the question, “Are children ever ready to not have a family or a home?”

“I think that having the leaders at our churches dive into this and lead the way has inspired a lot of other people to ask those same questions and really seriously think about doing this,” Walt said. “When you see leaders doing this, you can see yourself doing it as well.”

For the Walts, November 21 will forever be a special day. Zamira and Isaiah officially became part of the family.

“People who are thinking about adopting need to plug into their current support network,” Walt said. “My wife and I are not some extreme, awesome couple who can do it because we’ve had years of training. God made us care about something he cared about, and we took a step and did it.”

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    Point - September 2018

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