Healing and wholeness through Christ-like community

By Jamie Mitchell | Jul 9, 2021

As Christians, we know God created us for community. He is a communal God within Himself, and He has called us to pursue community both with Him and others — healthy community that builds up one another and provides a safe place to grow in Him.

We’re called to image God to one another, however, because of sin, we often hurt instead of build up. And sometimes those who are supposed to provide healthy community for us fail to do so — in small ways and in detrimental ways.

Often, the young women who come to live in the Arms of Love Home have histories of fractured and unstable community.

They’ve been part of the foster care system and are now aging out to be “on their own.” The statistics are staggering related to homelessness, incarceration and other struggles for teens who age out of foster care without support.

“General patterns and statistics, however, are nothing compared to Christ and the healing He can accomplish, by His Spirit, through Christ-centered community,” says Danica Koestner, Arms of Love Home resident assistant.

This is exactly why Arizona Baptist Children’s Services & Family Ministries established the Arms of Love Home in Phoenix — a safe and loving home for women ages 18 to 21 who are aging out of foster care — a place where they can be cared for and mentored in a healthy community as they transition into adulthood and independent living.

Before the first group of women moved into the home during the spring of 2020, the house was renovated in a serious community effort.

“I was blown away by how God used community to care for the widow and orphan as the Bible calls us to,” says Koestner, who lives in the home alongside these young women.

“So many individuals, churches and organizations came together to install a new AC unit, paint, put in baseboards, install fans and various other projects. It was so neat to see people who may not have traditionally served in foster care using their gifts to serve foster youth in this way.”

The home was renovated with the goal for it to be a reminder to the young women who live there of how lavishly God loves them and desires to give them good gifts.

“The Arms of Love Home staff wanted it to be a home, not just a house — a space serving as a reminder of God’s care for them,” Koestner says.

With the help of numerous volunteers, the young women who live in the Arms of Love Home are mentored and cared for as they grow in spiritual, physical, mental and emotional health. They focus on personal goals and learn life skills — from budgeting, finances and car maintenance to cooking and nutrition. They engage in Bible study together, make dinner and play board games.

They learn how to have hard conversations, address conflict, communicate their needs, hold someone accountable to their word and champion one another’s goals. For maybe the first time in their lives, they are experiencing these types of normal, communal things in a healthy way.

Perhaps unlike their childhood years, these women are now surrounded by community to celebrate both the big moments (graduations, birthdays and job interviews) and small moments in life (grocery shopping, hiking or studying for a test), thanks to a committed community of volunteers.

Transitioning into adulthood is a tumultuous time for everyone, even for those who have had stable upbringings. So, imagine how important it is for these young women to be surrounded by people they can depend on to be there whenever they need anything, large or small.

“I’ve never felt supported like this,” says one of the residents. “I’ve never had people show up like this for me before.”

The women see the value of community firsthand.

“We are hurt by people, but we can also be healed by people,” Koestner says. “God often uses His people — the church — to usher in that healing. In past relationships, these ladies were often abused, broken or abandoned, but also in relationship can they be healed, whole and restored. This ultimately happens in Christ, but we can serve as conduits of that healing.”

Another resident recently shared as she was preparing to move out of the home: “I have come to realize how important it is to have a community. Each person I’ve met has given me the opportunity to see God’s hand in my life. I continue to grow and learn new ways of becoming independent! I’m so ready for what God has for me in this next season.”

A community effort brought this home into being. The young women who live there are experiencing, maybe for the first time, what healthy, Christ-like community is like. And they are being launched into the world surrounded by a new community of support, ready to engage in and encourage healthy relationships with others.

The Arms of Love home is a place that celebrates community, indeed!

 

Jamie Mitchell, a freelance writer living in Phoenix, is a member of First Southern Baptist Church, Scottsdale.

 

Next Steps

            —Give a tangible gift. From helping with house/landscaping projects, to preparing welcome baskets for new residents, to funding an experience for all the girls to do together, there are numerous ways to bless these women in a tangible way. Email Danica Koestner at dkoestner@abcs.org if you have an idea or want suggestions.

            —Mentor or teach. If you are a female and interested in long-term relational mentoring or a more occasional life-skill teaching opportunity, email Danica Koestner to learn the best way to get connected.

            —Go bowling. Visit abcsfostercare.com/bowling to learn about attending the Arms of Love Home’s annual bowling fundraiser in October.

            —Stay connected. Visit abcsfostercare.com/housing to sign up for their regular e-newsletter where you can stay up to date on stories of what God is doing through this ministry and additional opportunities to bless these young women.

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