It all started with a dream. Six years ago, in September of 2010, Stephen woke up from a dream with the realization that we were going to adopt a little boy from Africa. Adoption had been on our radar 20+ years ago, but since then we had three biological daughters and were looking towards being empty nesters in the near future. After a lot of prayer, seeking wise counsel, lots of tears (by me, Laura) researching, and more prayer, we moved forward with adopting our son from Uganda, Africa.
From the beginning, we always felt that our adoption story was going to have more to it than bringing a child into our family. We had no idea everything that God had in store! A 501 C3 non-profit was started and an adoption community was formed. We decided on the name, Journey Together Ministries because adoption is a lifelong commitment and journey with your child and with the community you surround yourself with. What originally started as an International adoption group quickly became and International and domestic adoption group. About 2 years into the journey with Journey Together Ministries, (JTM) foster care was brought to the forefront. This created a big learning curve for us and praise God He once again sent incredible people to help, lean on and learn from. Learning more about foster care, hearing of the huge need for licensed foster families, assistance needed for children transitioning out of foster care, help needed for the DSS workers; the list goes on and on. It was overwhelming and daunting to say the least. But, God. What may seem overwhelming and impossible to us is God’s way of showing us that we can’t do anything without Him and this was no exception.
In 2013, some good friends kept urging us to visit a ranch in Tennessee where they serve on the board. We finally visited Wears Valley Ranch in November of 2014. It opened our eyes to an absolutely excellent, God honoring, life giving, transformational way of helping kids from hard places, heal, grow and thrive! We left the ranch with big dreams and a longing to see something like that in the lowcountry of South Carolina. At the time though, Stephen was running the business we had started 5 years ago and I was managing JTM. We were also parents to 5 children, active in our church and didn’t have a lot of extra margin in our lives. But, that didn’t stop us from thinking about and talking with friends about a Wears Valley model. Several of us would look at camps or farmland for sale in the area, sigh wistfully and think, one day. In October of 2016, Laura drove by a farm for sale in the small town of McClellanville, SC where our youngest son attends school. To say it is perfect would be an understatement! Big sighs followed by thoughts of, this is so ideal it’s crazy and maybe one day, went through our heads. In December of 2016, we made the hard decision to shut down the businesses we started. There were a lot of reasons and a lot of prayer that went into that decision but overall, we both felt it was the right thing to do.
With Stephen now having more margin, do you see where this is going; we decided to take a closer look at the farm in McClellanville. Yup! It was perfect! Lots of praying, seeking wise counsel, talking to people that are really good and knowledgeable in areas that we are not, meeting with planning boards, meeting with the JTM board, meeting with our church leadership, meeting with our mentors and of course talking with our family happened next. The whole thing sounds absurd, incredibly overwhelming and even impossible; if we’re being completely honest! What we know: we don’t have 2.3million dollars to purchase the farm; we aren’t farmers, teachers or counselors. Here comes that But God again! But God, has all of the above and even more!
This whole adventure is an opportunity for us and this incredible community we call family to say yes to a God sized dream and watch how He puts it all together! There is seriously no other way this will work! Yes, we have to do the hard work of planning, goal setting, budget planning, hiring of staff, buying farm animals, getting two houses up to code and more on a very long to-do list! But as long as God keeps moving this forward, we are going to keep following His lead. We are believing for an Ephesians 3:20-21 blessing, “Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly, abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.”
Our home Church is Seacoast and there are three simple things they tell people: Pray. Give. Go. We would like to ask you to please join us in prayer. Pray that God would give us and the team we have leading this charge wisdom and discernment. Give of your time, resources and knowledge. And, go! Will you go with us on this journey? There will be lots of opportunities over the next few weeks, months and years. We would love to grab a cup of coffee or some sweet tea and share this God sized dream with you! On February 25th, 2017 we are having a fundraiser at the farm! If you or someone you know would love to hear more about the vision, walk around the farm and be a part of impacting the lives of children and their families, we will send you an invitation and we will see you at the Farm!
If you would like to receive more information about JTM and the Fundraiser at the Farm, please send Stephen Lewis and email at: firstname.lastname@example.org