Journey Church & adoption: 'It is in our DNA'
JONESBORO, Ark. (BP) -- In 2011, Dan Reeves began his first sermon series from the book of James as lead pastor of the newly launched Journey Church. At that time, he knew the future ministries of the young congregation were still unclear -- that is until he read from James 1:27: "Pure and undefiled religion before God the Father is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself unstained from the world."
Reeves' wife Veronica noted, "As a brand new, closely knit body of believers, we were collectively convicted to ask God to empower us to obey the command. We wanted to be doers of the Word and not hearers only."
The church in Jonesboro, Ark., prayed for the Lord to call and equip five families from Journey to adopt. As a reminder, Journey set up five empty picture frames in its foyer.
"I remember standing in front of those frames, praying for those five families and asking God to empower me to help them," said Veronica Reeves. "I had no idea that I had a daughter waiting for me across the world in an orphanage in Latvia."
Veronica Reeves recounts that God was present in every detail of their adoption story -- from the first conversations to their airplane ride home.
"God led us every step of the way, opening doors and closing others, until at just the right time we found our daughter, and He made it clear that we were to adopt her," she said.
Journey Church now has 25 families who have grown through adoption, including one family who adopted before the church was launched.
For Aaron Baker, the call to adopt started on a flight home from China.
"Once I boarded the plane, I found that the entire flight was full of families returning to America from their adoption trips," Baker said.
An international flight full of young children is not desirable. Although the flight was loud, Baker enjoyed talking with the new fathers.
Once he returned home, he discussed the trip with his wife Beth.
"I explained the flight and marveled at the joy and hope that the parents had for the children they were bringing home," Baker said. "That conversation sowed a seed that would be watered and grown over the next years."
The Bakers began looking into adoption and filled out paperwork for more than one agency. Repeatedly, the doors would close instead of open.
Even after the birth of their twin girls in 2009, the Bakers still felt God calling them to adopt.
"Beth's heart continued to run to the kids here in Arkansas who were struggling to find a home. From her time in the school system, she saw kids that needed someone to tell them they were created for greatness," Baker said. "My heart would take a little more time. However, God opened my eyes and heart to foster care."
The Bakers opened up their house as a foster-to-adopt home. Their second placement was a little boy, and from early on, they were in love with him. In January 2017, the Bakers adopted him.
"He has challenges, but when he smiles and laughs, you can see true joy in a deep way," Baker said.
The Bakers are still undergoing training through the Unplowed Ground program offered by King's Ranch, a non-profit organization that provides support, education and training in therapeutic parenting tools.
Unplowed Ground was developed by Eddie and Lee Anne Cooper, members of Journey.
After they began their own adoption journey 15 years ago, the Coopers compiled what they have learned through the years working with children with histories of trauma, loss and abuse. The Coopers focus on equipping families to help their adopted children heal.
"Every adopted child, no matter if an infant or a 16-year-old, has a history of trauma on some level," said Veronica Reeves, who works as church and donor partnerships coordinator for King's Ranch. "At Journey, we emphasize the importance of training for all our adoptive families."
The program also serves traditional families who are struggling with behavioral difficulties.
Through the partnership with King's Ranch, Journey provides every family with a scholarship for their Unplowed Ground therapeutic parenting training and coaching.
"We believe that for every family called to adopt, God calls several more to surround that family with care, support, encouragement and provision," said Veronica Reeves. "God has answered our prayers and called some Journey families to adopt, but all of us have clear ways to obey James 1:27."
Church members can show their support by taking a meal to an adoptive family, mowing their yard, helping cover expenses and being trained to provide therapeutic respite care.
"Adoption is and always has been a key component of the culture of Journey," Veronica Reeves said. "It is in our DNA."