The Heart of Compassion at Church of the Resurrection: An Interview with Jenn Ranter

Over the next few months we’re featuring interviews with a few people at our church who are immersed in local outreach in Christ’s name. This week we asked Jenn Ranter, the leader of our Replanted ministry, to share how God opened her heart for the orphans and abused children.

How did you first get exposed to/ get involved in foster care and adoption issues?

Almost three years ago I took a job as a therapist for kids and families in the foster care system. I received my Masters degree in clinical psychology from Wheaton College in 2011 and felt passionately about working with children and families in their healing process. I wasn’t entirely sure what that would look like or where God was leading me, but in February 2012 I accepted a position at Youth Service Bureau working primarily with children, walking alongside them in overcoming the abuse and/or neglect they had experienced.

When did you become passionate about getting the church involved in this issue? Was there one specific experience or moment when you felt called by God for this area of ministry?

That is a tough one to answer specifically! Looking back on this journey, it’s easy to see the ways the Lord was nudging my heart towards Replanted.

Here’s a snippet of my story. It was Holy Week 2012 at Church of the Resurrection. My visa was running out (because I’m Canadian and need a visa to be here). After graduating from Wheaton, it was easy to get a one year extension to my work visa, but one year is all you can get under the OPT visa, and anything after that is tricky, stressful, ambiguous, and overwhelming. So with my OPT visa expiring, I was feeling very overwhelmed at the thought of pursuing another visa and had no clue where the Lord wanted me to be. Should I go home to Canada where all my family is or should I stay in Wheaton? Can I even get a visa to stay in Wheaton? For anyone that knows me well, I’m terrible at making BIG decisions. So I prayed for clarity about where I should be. Well, God answered that prayer in such a bold way that it felt almost comical.

It happened during our Good Friday service at Wheaton College when we had invited Antioch Community Church to be part of that service. Sitting towards the back, I was approached by a woman from Antioch Church. Apparently, she felt the Lord asking her to pray for me, and after her prayer her friend told me that he was receiving a vision from God. Without knowing about my situation he said, “God has your feet in concrete blocks and he’s telling you to stay put.” I had never experienced God in such a bold and profound way, but I knew I had to stay, and I knew there was a purpose for that.

Now fast-forward three months. God had been stirring a community here for the cause of the fatherless. Then in the summer of 2012 I met Fr. Gregory Whitaker. When Fr. Gregory asked me what I did for a living, I said, “I’m a therapist for kids in foster care,” And that was the first conversation of many that would eventually lead to our church launching Replanted, a ministry to serve families in the adoption/foster care/safe families’ journey. It’s amazing how the Holy Spirit has moved and created a stirring within this community for the cause of the fatherless.

What have been some highlights and struggles of since you and your team launched Replanted?

I’m constantly amazed by the beautiful community God is orchestrating through Replanted. The heart of our ministry was to reach out to the community and be a united body of Christ in the journey of adoption, foster care, and safe families. We have a variety of families participating in Replanted from many different churches and communities. The relationships being developed has definitely been a high point. Over the past year we have expanded to a second support group and are in the midst of drafting a third. We have hosted many different informational nights, workshops (with Bethany Christian Services and ECFA) and fun family events, including a pajama pancake breakfast in June and bonfire/smore night in August. We’ve journeyed with families as they consider adoption and begin the process. We’ve prayed with families discerning where the Lord is leading them to care for the fatherless. We’ve provided financial assistance for adoption costs. We’ve listened to one another and shared the joys, sorrows, burdens, and hopes of our experiences in a real and honest way.

As for the struggles, Replanted as been growing at a relatively rapid rate and we are constantly in need of volunteers, especially for our childcare team. We want to serve families well, and part of that desire is that we have a consistent team of volunteers invested in the lives of these families and children, especially given the trauma they may have experienced. It’s a great opportunity to love and invest in these precious children. So consider joining our childcare team for our support groups on the third Thursday and Friday of each month from 6:30-8:30—we’ll even pay you!

What are your hopes for Replanted for this next ministry year?

We are opening up an adoption fund through LifeSong which is very exciting. This will allow people to donate to the fund that will be used as a gift to help families with the cost of adoption. We are also hoping to launch a resource center where we will collect new items that we offer as gifts to families in need. And, third, we are planning a workshop day to train and equip families, followed by an evening of prayer and worship in November.

Ultimately our hope is that we will continue to build a community that will walk this journey together. It is our prayer that more families will prayerfully consider adoption, foster care or safe families.

How can people at Church of the Resurrection get more involved in this ministry?

Here are a few ways that people can get more involved with Replanted:

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// Church of the Resurrection