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Cultivate Updates - May 2024

We hope you have all had a great spring season!  Here are a few glimpses of what's been happening with Cultivate.


 



As we mentioned in our last update, we are now in full research and training mode as we seek clarity from the Lord in how to best help youth who are aging out of foster care.  Throughout this Spring, we have had some incredible opportunities to do this.  One of the biggest highlights so far was our visit to Big Oak Ranch in Alabama for their three day "Planting Oaks Intensive."  We were blown away by the beauty of the campus!

Big Oak is celebrating their 50th year of loving on foster kids in the name of Jesus.  We were awed by all they do - and by the resources they gave us to help with our own strategic planning. We were most interested in hearing about what they do for foster youth who are at the end of the normal span of care. All foster youth have the option to "age out" of the foster care system at the age of 18, but they don't have to. They can stay in the system as long as they pursue college or vocational training until age 21.


Big Oak foster youth who are approaching high school graduation, have the opportunity to apply for their "Ascend" Program. Ascend was designed from the ground up to provide foster youth H.S. graduates with a well defined upward path for career and spiritual development. One may opt for either trade school training or college education. Each ascendant is required to work a min of 15 hrs per week in a local business, pay a small rent fee, and be active in a small group and a local church. Big Oak provides all tuition, housing (supervised independent living), counseling, and coaching. The specific needs of foster youth have been carefully addressed and integrated into the entire process. It is a well run and effective program that got our wheels turning for sure.


Our visit to Big Oak prompted moments of inspiration along with feelings of beings totally overwhelmed by the sheer magnitude of what they are doing. To help put it all in perspective, John Croyle, the founder, told the story of how he got started.  He met five boys who desperately needed a home.  He and his wife built a home and they all started living there.  A man showed up at his door and asked, “Are you John Croyle?”  Mr. Croyle said, “Yes.” The man then asked, “Do you have five boys living here who are not your children?”  To which, Mr. Croyle replied, “Yes.”  The visitor then asked, “Do you have a license?” Mr. Croyle reached into his back pocket and pulled out his driver’s license.  LOL.  That story had us laughing but it also was encouraging to us.  The road ahead looks daunting and impossible and terrifying, but the Lord just wants us to keep taking steps in the direction He is leading us in.  We don’t have to have it all figured out yet.  There will be mistakes.  But we must keep moving forward.


In the coming months, we will be continuing to visit other organizations and ask them important questions.  Stay tuned!


 


Sometimes, you just need some validation for the direction you are headed in. Mali is a driven and passionate young woman. She loves topics about justice, public policy and debate.


Mali participated in COMPASS to re-evaluate whether she is suited for a career in law. Literally everything we discussed - assessments, history, personality, skills - confirmed this.


God has now provided a potential mentor to help Mali learn valuable information to help her succeed in law school. Mali received her Bachelor's Degree this month and will be headed to law school in the fall. YAY, MALl! We are praying for you!


 

SYMBIS PREMARITAL MENTORING...


I (Elise) love going to weddings of the participants in our SYMBIS premarital mentoring. I love it because I know these couples are going into their marriages with their eyes open to the challenges that lifelong commitment will bring. They are aware of the "hotspots" that will be in their marriages, and they are willing to face them head on. Below are two couples that have gotten married this spring.


Congratulations, Tyler and Holly Hand (left) and Connor and Taylor Adams (right)! We are praying for you!


PHOTO BY UPTOWN AND MORE PHOTOGRAPHY PHOTO BY A THOMAS PHOTOGRAPHY


 



During March, Elise and Rhonda participated in a “Healing Heart Wounds Group” at Choosing Him Ministries in Newnan.  This was an incredible experience of learning how to help someone process their trauma.  We highly recommend it if you have people in your life who have experienced trauma and need your support.


In April, Elise, Ken, and Ethan Edgar attended the Next Gen Mental Health Conference which was held in Atlanta.  The statistics about youth mental health are staggering and quite depressing, but we were thankful to sit under outstanding Christian professional counselors who exposed us to many ways the young can get healing.  


Both of these experiences have emphasized to us the importance of having partnerships with organizations and professionals who have expertise in trauma and mental health.  If you know of any we can talk to, please let us know.


In recent days, I (Elise) participated in trainings with the Georgia Center for Child Advocacy.  (Many thanks, Mary Hand, for making us aware of these trainings.).  One such training was “Connections Matter.”  It was amazing to learn how the traumatized brain responds and regenerates when a youth is exposed to healthy relationships.  God has made the brain to heal when a person experiences love and value.  He is so good. But this fact also emphasizes that God uses people to help provide the healing. Healing comes in the context of relationship.


 



As we attended the Next Gen Mental Heath Conference in April, we were confronted by many startling stories and statistics ranging from anxiety to addictions to trauma to abuse, etc. But perhaps no statistic was so daunting as one cited by George Barna during his session. Barna, the veteran researcher who founded the Barna Research Group, is now the director of the Cultural Research Center at Arizona Christian University which is focused on being "the nation's top research institution on worldview."  According to their National Survey 2024, 66% of adults in the US consider themselves as Christians, but only 4% actually have a biblical worldview while a staggering 92% identify with Syncretism as their worldview. (Source: Read the full report here)


What is a worldview? A simple way to describe a worldview is the set of lenses (intellectual, emotional, and spiritual) through which a given person views all of life and reality. A worldview consists of a person's structured set of beliefs. A person's worldview should answer the most important questions about life: Origin (Where do we come from / how did we get here?); Meaning (Why am I here / what is my purpose?) Morality (How do I know right from wrong / is there good and evil?); Destiny (What happens when we die / is there existence beyond the grave?). The answers to such questions as these should be true (meaning they actually correspond with reality), and they should be coherent (meaning they all fit together and don't contradict each other).


So, what is syncretism? Picture a shopping cart full of philosophical and religious ideas and beliefs that don't really fit together but simply cater to a person's whims and/or popular culture. Want a little of Jesus' teachings (just the things He said that you actually like)? Ok. Think Budda was onto something? "Enjoy the Zen." Intrigued by the concept of reincarnation? Karma sure sounds cool. Well... you get the idea. The ACU Cultural Research center puts it this way: "the typical American adult is not a worldview purist but is essentially a worldview plagiarist, combining beliefs and behaviors borrowed from an average of nine recognized worldviews into their personal worldview blend." The only test for truth becomes how one feels about it.  A worldview of Syncretism leads to increased confusion and anxiety about life because it doesn't actually fit reality.


This is how Barna summarized a few of these beliefs and the corresponding results during his talk at the conference.

Belief

Result

There is no God or I am god

Debilitating pressure to perform

There is no savior

Selfish, competitive, hopeless people

The value of life is what you make it

Victim of other people's opinions

There is no truth beyond my own truth

Chaos, unpredictability, selfishness reign

Morality is based on my feelings, desires

No trust, weak relationships, instability

No purpose beyond survival, happiness

Meaningless, unsatisfying existence

Success is based on current performance

Never good enough, impact minimized

Karma rules (you get what you deserve)

Fear, paranoia, anxiety

Barna's main point at the conference was that the first step in treating mental illness should be looking into a person's worldview. What one believes has a direct impact on their mental and emotional state of being. He encouraged Christian leaders and counselors to start with 7 cornerstones of a biblical worldview which he listed as:


  • Orthodox, biblical view of God

  • Humans are sinful by nature, and every choice we make has consequences

  • Jesus Christ is the sole means to salvation through confession of sin and reliance on His forgiveness

  • The Bible is true, reliable and relevant: the best moral guide

  • Absolute moral truth exists, defined by God in Scripture

  • Success is consistent obedience to God

  • Life's purpose is to know, love and serve God with all your heart, mind, strength and soul.


We must never forget that the solid foundation of the biblical worldview is the historical resurrection of Jesus. When Jesus rose from the dead, that validated His claims to be the unique Son of God and promised Messiah of the Jewish people. If there had been no resurrection, there would be no Bible today. The Christian movement would have ended with the crucifixion.


In the biblical worldview, we believe that all people should be valued equally because all people were made in God's image. However, not all beliefs and ideas are of equal value and some are downright harmful. We can love people, value them and disagree with them. This is exactly what Jesus did. Take, for example, Jesus' conversation with the woman at the well in John's gospel chapter 4. We see Him reaching across cultural barriers to engage her in conversation. He asked her some probing questions and eventually she brought up one of the controversies of her day by saying, "Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.” Jesus used this opportunity to point her to what was more important than that issue, having a life giving relationship with Him!


We must learn to love people while disagreeing with them. We need to help people come to a relationship with Jesus and then begin to help them form a biblical worldview. This does not mean that there are not legitimate mental health issues that require deep counseling, therapy and/or medication but we should not neglect one for the other. We need to see the whole picture.


 

EASTER EGGSTRAVAGANZA


One of our joys each year is the opportunity to support the Coweta Foster Families Association at Easter. It is wonderful to join with other community partners in providing a fun experience for foster youth. Many thanks to Chick-fil-A Fairburn for partnering with us in providing the food this year!


 

THANK YOU!


Cultivate is committed to provide most of its services free of charge. This means our ability to continue to do what we do is wholly dependent on God raising up supporters who believe in this ministry and generously support this work financially.


So many of you already support Cultivate through your prayers and financial support. We cherish your continued support and cannot tell you how thankful we are for your partnership. If you aren't yet a Cultivate partner, we ask that you consider joining our support team.


The easiest way to give is to use our online platform, provided by PushPay. Click here or text the word "Cultivate" to 833-245-6481 from your mobile phone. You can also contact elise@cultivatenext.org for more information.







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