For Citrus Church Senior Pastor Brian Johnson, the best days include the simple things in life.
Sitting with members over a cup of coffee, listening to their life story, praying with them or hearing what God has done in their lives – these are real privileges, he said.
Now Johnson is using his passion for people in a new way – through an organization called Embrace the familieswhich aims to keep struggling families intact and improve outcomes for children, youth and young adults beyond the reach of traditional child protection services.
With the help of several influential members of the community, Johnson helped raise over $400 at a food drive hosted by the Rotary Club of Horizon West. He also organized a special Mother’s Day offering at the church to help those in need.
“My job is to serve them (the people) and help them grow in their faith and in their spirituality and find ways to connect that to their daily lives and then use it to make a difference in their community,” Johnson said. “I love being part of the lives of people who want to dedicate themselves to God but also finding a way to love their fellow man and being there to walk them through those life journeys really inspires me.”
Esma Dennis, foster care recruiter for Embrace, said she met Johnson when she spoke at the Rotary Club.
“When I contacted him about the possibility of sharing the need for foster homes, having our materials within his religious organization, he, without hesitation, let me do a course for parents of home as well as put brochures and business cards inside. the church,” Dennis said.
Johnson said it was inspiring to see how the church could provide much-needed space for the organization to share important information with the community.
The two stayed in touch and as Mother’s Day approached, Johnson said he had an idea.
“We didn’t want to do the traditional things that churches do for Mother’s Day, and our children’s director, who also has a passion for foster families and adoptions, said, ‘Why not accept a offering for Embrace? We will be sharing a little information about what they are doing with our congregation and using Mother’s Day as an opportunity to help people do something good in the world instead of just giving them a flower,” Johnson said.
Crystal Holic, children’s ministry coordinator who helped organize the effort, said not all women are mothers and Mother’s Day can be difficult for those who don’t have a mother or want to be a mother. . Supporting foster families allows people to feel and give the love of Mother’s Day.
“I love that our church is willing to support organizations like Embrace to make sure kids know love and (are) loved,” Holic said. “On a personal note about Embrace and foster care, it is incredibly heartbreaking for a child to face abandonment, lack of needs, homelessness, hunger and more. None no child makes the decision to be in this situation. It is my firm intention to do everything I can to support these children and ensure that they are safe, happy, healthy and loved.
SUMMER FOOD DRIVE
According to Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Floridaone in seven adults—and one in five children—are food insecure, which means they don’t know how they’ll get the next meal.
With that in mind, the Rotary Club held a two-week summer food drive in mid-May to alleviate hunger for families facing tough decisions.
“Everyone in the room was ready to do something tangible for the community,” Johnson said. “We shared the need, and it was one of those things where I was a little overwhelmed with how much they raised and how quickly it happened.”
The club collected the gift cards along with shelf-stable supplies including canned vegetables, meat, spaghetti, soup, fruit, beans, jelly, peanut butter, pasta , water and rice.
“Esma is an incredible representative for Embrace Families,” said Past President Terri Hatfield Dull. “They do so much to help children in need during such a vulnerable time in their lives when they are often the victims of neglect or abuse.”
Dennis said the best way for a community to show support for the nonprofit is to help connect Embrace to different businesses and organizations.
“We have children (in) care who have been abused, neglected and abandoned, and we need you,” she said. “If you are not the one (who will) do the placement, you may know someone, or you can share the information and help us provide education.”
In the future, Johnson hopes to partner with Embrace and others to raise donations for a one-time event to form a partnership through which the church can provide ongoing support.
“What we’re really trying to do as a church is find out what the real needs are and try to ask our community questions…so it’s less of that mindset” We’re here to save you,” and more than, ‘We want to be with you in your life and in your service in some way,'” Johnson said. the community who are already doing a great job?’ »
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