JENKS—When Teri Blanton began making plans for a new Vacation Bible School (VBS) event specifically designed for foster care families, she was unsure what all and who all she would need to make it work.
Blanton, who serves as Foster Care Coordinator for Oklahoma Baptist Homes for Children (OBHC), wanted to serve foster care families by helping them get their required annual training and offering their kids a great VBS experience.
Blanton believes the Lord provided just the right volunteers at just the right time.
“We had a total of 68 volunteers, from 22 different churches. From disaster relief volunteers, to an entire family of seven who volunteered—from a pediatrician to a person who had special training to work with people with special needs—we had an amazing mix of volunteers,” she said.
The VBS, which was sponsored by OBHC and the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma (BGCO), took place on Friday evening and all day Saturday, July 29-30 at Jenks, First.
“We couldn’t have done this at all without volunteers and without people who donated,” Blanton said. “We also had a lot of donations, including Oklahoma Baptist Disaster Relief providing meals for the families and volunteers, as well as CEC\Infrastructure Solutions engineering company, whose non-profit organization, Civil Servants, raised more than $700 for the event.”
Through the VBS event, 23 adults and 39 children were served.
“We tried two formats for the VBS event for foster care families,” said Blanton. “The first, which took place in Oklahoma City in early July, took place over five evenings. This second format in Jenks took place Friday night and Saturday. The reality is they both worked. The adults received their required training and the kids had a great time.”
Among the event volunteers was Hannah Hanzel of Oklahoma City. Hanzel, a member of Bethany, Council Road and also a staff member at the Baptist Messenger, was joined by eight other family members in volunteering at the event.
“I grew up in a Christian home, two parents, four siblings, never was hungry, and always felt safe,” said Hanzel. “As I held a one-year-old and rocked her at this event, I found myself drawn to tears. How blessed I am to have been rocked to sleep in safe and loving arms my whole childhood. It became clear to me that my job this weekend was not to babysit, entertain, or tolerate little toddlers. My job was to love them and to be Christ’s hands and feet to these precious ones. This should be the believer’s job 24/7 to people unborn all the way up to the eldest.”
A number of the foster care children taking part in the VBS had special needs. One child had a medical need that required a trained professional, according to Blanton.
Katie Dalton, a pediatrician who is a member at Jenks, First, was interested in volunteering for the event. When she heard someone with medical skills was needed, she could not resist God’s call on her to help.
“Foster care has been on my heart a while. God put it on my heart, taking care of children who are in the situation where their parents aren’t able to,” said Dalton. “When I saw the need, I signed up. A Facebook post said they needed a medical person to help, and I couldn’t ignore that call. I was glad to help this young boy while their parents received their annual foster care training. I believe God calls each one of us to use our training and skills to serve.”
Feeling exhausted, but blessed, after the two-day event, Blanton said volunteers were already asking when the next VBS would take place.
“The challenge in doing an event is not only making sure the adults being served are having a good event, but also that the volunteers are having a good experience,” said Blanton. “The Lord provided just that. Jenks, First did an outstanding job in hosting. They opened their entire facility. The kids wanted to be there. It was a great experience.”
Cody Brumley, executive pastor of Jenks, First, said, “Over a year ago, a team of volunteers at FBC Jenks dreamed about what we could do to help fostering and adoptive families. One idea was to provide training hours while providing childcare. We never imagined God was putting this on the hearts of those at the BGCO as well. We were thrilled to hear about the idea and very thankful to be a part of this event.
“This is what the church should look like. Volunteers from multiple church families coming together to care for children and support the families who are loving them day in and day out. We heard from many of the families that getting their hours of training was great, but it was even better to see how much the children enjoyed being at the church. The speakers were top notch covering a variety of topics like transracial adoptions and fostering, legal issues with wards of the state, attachment disorders and just balancing life. Doing this inside the church also allowed us the opportunity to pray over these families and speak directly about the Gospel,” he added.
From the Foster Care VBS in Oklahoma City, where at least one of the children made a profession of faith, to the VBS in Jenks, Blanton believes the church can find creative ways to serve the growing need of foster care in Oklahoma.
To find out more information about OBHC’s foster care initiative, visit www.obhc.org/foster-care or contact Blanton at 405/640-0622.