Over the past seven years, adoption has changed the Elworth family dynamic so completely that the ripple effect has impacted the community of Shippensburg, Pennsylvania.
Kevin and Crystal Elworth were married shortly after graduating from TBC in 2004. Their heart for missions led them to spend five years in Costa Rica and Mexico as full-time missionaries before transitioning into ministry at Grand Point Church in Pennsylvania in 2010.
Kevin is now pastor of Grand Point Church’s second campus.
One of the most unique things about this new campus is the fact that it is nearly entirely volunteer-run. They started the new campus on faith – there was no budget to support it. So, Kevin got creative. He wrote job descriptions for ‘volunteer staff’ and prayed over them. Over and over, he has been amazed at the individuals who have stepped up to fill the need.
“It’s been incredible to watch God make this work. For example, one of our unpaid staff members owns two businesses but feels like his God-calling is young people. He doesn’t need a paycheck, so he volunteers his time.”
Going deeper than church life and ministry, Kevin and Crystal have inspired a dramatic culture change in Grand Point Church.
After the birth of their son, Austin, in Costa Rica, it became apparent that having more children was not a possibility. So, when God orchestrated their move to PA just a few years later, they began to pray over the possibility of foster care and adoption.
“You know, if God hadn’t moved us off the mission field, we probably never would have adopted. It just wasn’t on our radar. Our focus was church planting and missions. We started to notice the need once we were back in the U.S. We had been here for about a year, and we decided it was time to get involved.”
Their first case was two young brothers whom they have since adopted. Although the process definitely was not straightforward!
“We fostered them for 774 days before we were able to adopt, and it was a rollercoaster. We wanted to give up so many times. The system is broken. So many kids come in, go out, and come back in. You can’t do anything without permission… you literally have to get a court order just to get haircuts!”
Grand Point Church families began to join the ranks.
As church families watched the Elworths open their home to more children, the passion for foster care began to spread. A support system naturally developed among the involved families and the church as a whole has welcomed these children with open arms. Adoption and foster care have become so second nature to Gran Point that the local adoption agency has taken notice. One representative called Kevin to ask,
“Hey, there are so many in your membership who are active in foster care… can we just come train your people there at the church?”
Fast forward to 2020 and the Elworths now have five kids ranging in age from five to ten years old.
In seven years, Austin happily gained four younger siblings – two sisters and two brothers – through adoption. During that same time frame, two additional foster children have called the Elworth house their home.
Adoption has impacted them each as individuals just as much as it has impacted the family unit. Surely, the sleepless nights, the heartbreaking stories, the laughter, and the ultimately the joy that comes through fostering and adoption cannot help but make an impression on hearts and lives.
“We have learned to much about us. This grew our family, but more than that it has grown our faith in so many ways. For us, every day is an opportunity to trust the Lord in ways we never thought about.”
After seven years in fostering, the Elworths consider themselves “retired” from that season… for now at least.
They are pouring into their kids and joyfully watching the gospel take root in their lives. The Elworth family is very open about their family dynamic. The kids each know their own story, talk freely about their biological parents, and ask questions.
“People ask us often about adopting from other countries, but for us personally, we saw a huge need here. One mind-blowing thing that happened with us was that we discovered we have an orphanage in our town, and NOBODY knows about it. The kids go to the public school next door. They are kids that don’t have foster families, or it was a short-term thing so the system didn’t want to plug them into a family. The whole thing is an overlook by the government and community in general. It’s this glaring necessity to deal with, but no one talks about it. Isn’t it our job as Christians to care about this stuff?”
In Crystal’s perspective, adoption is as a vivid picture of redemption.
“For me, this whole thing is such a reminder that God forgives. Some parents have made super awful decisions, but over and over again we’ve watched God change a generation. Not because of us, but because God loves these kids. We can be the hands, but God does the changing. People sin and do wrong to others, but our reaction to that can make all the difference.”
Kevin and Crystal are passionate and eager to help others make a difference through foster care.
Misconceptions about foster care and adoption are prevalent. The Elworths are doing what they can to dispel these false assumptions. One of the most common misconceptions regarding roster care and adoption that they have encountered is that foster kids are bad, and/or their biological parents must be bad people.
“These kids… they had to have gone through a really bad situation in order to be in foster care at all. So, a lot of people think foster kids are bad. Or their parents are awful people. The truth is the kids aren’t bad; they’re broken. Every child comes with their own level and element of brokenness.
And, honestly, in our experience, the parents for the most part love their kids and simply have no clue how to care for them. Yes, some parents make awful decisions… some of those things we’ve had to work through with tears and heartache. But most of them love their kids. They just literally don’t know any better. Some of the parents have never lived in a home or had a family; never had a job; never knew what it meant to be cared for; how could they know any better?”
Elworths offer practical advice to anyone who is interested in learning more about adoption and foster care:
- Contact your local adoption agency. Every large area has one. Educate yourself. Information is available, but it’s not communicated. It was astounding to put a magnifying glass over our community of 20K people and recognize that we have an orphanage and plenty of foster kids to go around. It starts with education.
- Seek out people who have already done it. Ask them out to coffee. I promise you, they’re willing to share; they want you to know about it. They will tell you the truth. And yes, there is some scary stuff.
- Research and pray. You can specify the age group and the gender that you feel best fits your situation. Yes, you can be single, you can be a senior citizen. You absolutely don’t have to be a young family to get into this. Some of the best foster people I’ve met are older women. They grandmother these kids until they’re ready for adoption and then people who are wanting to grow their family can take over when the process is cleared.
- If you’re not at a place to adopt or foster, look for a way to help those who are. There is a new law that allows friends and relatives of the foster parent to provide respite care. This means that as long as you complete the approval process, you can support the foster parent by giving them a short break. It is a fantastic opportunity. Foster parents have appointments all over the state, have to get court orders for every decision, and are not allowed to spend the night away or leave the state. It’s overwhelming. So, having someone who can babysit or watch the kids for a weekend is a huge deal.