A Monumental Occassion!

In the midst of our Paddle Challenge, staff changes, new staff training and the day-in-day-out experience that is life at Grace Landing; we totally forgot to celebrate one of our young men! We posted a photo on our Facebook, but we wanted to take some time to recognize the hard work and effort of Angelo Armstrong. Angelo has been with us at Grace Landing for about a year. When he first came to us, he was in school at Harmony High School and he was riding a bike to school everyday and managing an overnight job at McDonald’s. Angelo worked very hard and eventually transferred to Gateway High School, for ease of class attendance. This was not an easy choice for him, but he made it in order to increase his chances for success and for completing high school.

The end of May and the beginning of June brought Angelo a birthday (he turned 19) and graduation from high school! We are so proud of Angelo and all his hard work to stay the course and finish high school. When he came to us, there were significant factors working against Angelo to reach this milestone. He was not deterred and rose to the occasion and overcame his obstacles.

Angelo has been accepted by Valencia and is awaiting orientation next week to register for classes. His educational plans include studies in business and health sciences. Angelo is also looking for a part-time job (so if you have an opening, or know someone who does… let us know!) and training for a marathon. Running is something Angelo uses to clear his mind and help him to keep on track (no pun intended) in life.

We are thankful for successes like this and want to celebrate Angelo and his hard work. Join with us in celebrating his success!

angelo graduates

New Staff Training

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Last week we completed our first ever week of new staff training! If you are following what is going on around Grace Landing, then you know we are opening a licensed Group Home for young men ages 15-18 in foster care and in need of a home; you know we brought a new intern on for the summer; and we hired the Family Teaching Couple who will be living in the group home. With all the new adjustments and changes around Grace Landing, we held a week long training for all of our staff to train ourselves on the procedures, methods and skills we want to employ in our group home as well as our independent living home. We have a lot of fun as we discussed some core concepts and ideas essential to the work we do daily at Grace Landing. We discussed Abraham Maslow and his theory on human needs. We Spent time walking through Kubler-Ross’ cycle of grief and learned about Sutherland-Fox’s thoughts on grieving also. We Discussed Eric Erikson’s model of child development. Juda spent three days training us in Trust Based Relational Intervention or TBRI. We discussed the cycle need and attachment and gained a greater understanding of the situations and circumstance our young men come from. We finished up the week by ensuring we are better informed about trauma and how it continually impacts foster youth. All in all, it was great week where we learned a lot and began to grow closer as a staff team and deepened the relationships we will build upon to complete the work God has called us to.

Staff Transitions

This summer brings with it some significant changes in our staff at Grace Landing.
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David O’Malley joins us as an intern working with our Independent Living program. David is a student at Johnson University who will graduate in December. David will be with Grace Landing until February, when he is getting married.

KirksChad & Morgan join our team as our Family Teaching Couple (what we are calling our Group Home houseparents). They bring with them their three year old daughter and almost five years of experience as houseparents. Chad & Morgan aren’t approaching this position as just another job, they feel called by God to serve as houseparents to foster youth.

While we are happy and excited about the new additions to our staff, we are saddened by the departure of Matthew Marion who has been a stable face and constant servant here at Grace Landing for almost three years. Due to a shift in our focus and future plans, we have made a decision to restructure our staff and Matt is no longer going to be with us. Matt has expressed a desire to pursue a position in full time youth ministry. We pray for Matt to be used by God in this next phase of his life, but if we are honest with ourselves we will miss him greatly.

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Eli Westfall will be taking the reigns of Independent Living Coordinator along with his responsibilities managing the Group Home. We are restructured his role a little and given him the job title of Program Director as he will be directing or managing the day in and day out functions of both the Independent Living and Group Home programs.

College Visit Road Trip!

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DeShawn, one of our Independent Living Youth, runs track for Osceola High School and is being scouted by several colleges. Berry College in Georgia is beginning to build a track team and they are interested in having DeShawn join their team as one of the first track athletes in the school’s history. This is potentially a wonderful opportunity for DeShawn, because he would be able to assist the team in developing their track program and have a chance to show them his talent and really shine on the team.

Frank (Juda’s husband) took DeShawn to north Georgia this week to visit Berry College. While they were on the trip, they were able to make a connection and visit Shorter University, where they found to coach who was very interested and willing to speak to DeShawn from the moment he met him.

DeShawn came home from this trip with a renewed excitement to finish his senior year strongly so he is able to attend one of these colleges on a track scholarship.

If you see DeShawn congratulate him and wish him luck!

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And the winner is…

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This year we had ten teams sign up for the paddle challenge. Due to unforeseen circumstances, a few teams weren’t ultimately able to participate. Despite those hang ups, we had a successful paddle challenge and a fantastic time. We made some adjustments from last year and overall things went much more smoothly. A huge thank you to all our volunteers who made the paddle challenge possible and successful.
Here are the 2015 standings:

1st place – Real Life Christian Church

2nd – Celebration Community Church

Division I – Companies – Gatorland

Division II- churches – Real Life

Spirit Award – Real Life

This year we raised $41,455. Additionally, we raised $660 from our silent auction to provide needed items for our group home we are opening this summer.

Normalcy

Found at: http://www.jamesjroberts.com/normalcy.html

Grace Landing still needs your help to wrap up our group home!

We need a flat screen television for the foster youth in the group home.

We need a grill for the group home, so our Family Teaching Couple (house parents) are able to utilize it for meal preparation and fun times with the foster youth.

I know what you are thinking, do they really need a flat screen and a grill? The answer is yes. For one simple reason.

Normalcy. Normalcy is a fancy-sounding word to mean we want to foster youth to experience a normal teenage life as much as is possible while at Grace Landing. We want to offer them the same opportunities other youth not in foster care have.

We have found, it is the little things like this which allow the foster youth to feel like they belong in a family and they are living a normal teenage life. We have a PlayStation 3 that was donated to us we plan to use the TV for, as well as a Surround Sound System which was donated to us. Our Family Teaching Couple (FTC or house parents) come to us with an extensive history of grilling food and would like to build on that experience to make our foster youth feel at home.

If you are able to provide these items, please contact Juda (judaa@gracelanding.com) or Eli (eliw@gracelanding.com).

The Finish Line

In January of 2014, Eli Westfall (one of our staff) ran his first marathon. As the miles wore on he hit ‘the wall’ and felt like he wanted to give up and quit. Like most of us, as we near the finish line of any daunting task we feel as though we have given every thing we have and feel like our reserves are gone. As Eli rounded the last turn of the race, bringing the finish line into sight he was invigorated with a renewed sense of energy and purpose and found he actually did have the strength and reserves to finish the last few miles to finish the race.

 At Grace Landing, we have rounded the final turn and we have the finish line in sight and we have our group home almost complete. There are a few loose ends as far as work goes to wrap up. We have one last inspection to be completed. We have turned in all necessary paperwork for our application with the Department of Children and Families.

 The end is in sight.

 As we take a moment to realize how close to be finished, we realize two things: we couldn’t do it without all of our community partners; and we still have some big needs left! We have almost all the work completed, but we still need many items to furnish the home and provide a safe, stable and loving environment for the young foster boys who will live there. Please take a moment to check out this list of some of the big ticket items we still need or check out our gift registry at either Target or Bed, Bath & Beyond for some the smaller, yet still critical items we need (to find the registry search first name Grace, last name Landing at either store).

 We are so thankful for everyone who has helped us get our group home up and running. God has used many servants to accomplish his work at Grace Landing over the last couple of months. We couldn’t have completed this work without the help of God’s servant like you. Thank you so much!!

 Enjoy these photos of the completed work in each home!

And then there was carpet…

Kissimmee Carpets and Tile has partnered with Arnco Construction to provide carpet in the two bedrooms of the Group Home for Grace Landing. We are very thankful for community partners like these two companies who have provided the supplies and labor at no cost to Grace Landing. God is bringing together a wonderful Group Home for the young men we will minister to and the couple who will live with the young men. God is doing immeasurably more than we could have ever imagined! Here is a photo of the Kissimmee Carpets and Tile guys installing the carpet for us. A huge thank you to both Kissimmee Carpets and Tile and Arnco Construction for helping us realize the vision God has given us for helping foster youth!

kissimmee carpet install

The Love of a Savior

Photo credit unknown.
Photo credit unknown.

One of the tenets of Christianity setting apart from other world religions, is the love of a savior. Christianity alone has at its center a God who loves his creation enough to call them children and to die in their place in order to satisfy his wrath upon sin.

 Jesus himself draws the stark contrast of this revolutionary approach to life when he comments that few people would die for a good man. What isn’t said there, but what is certainly hinted at is that we are not good men. We are sinners. We live in a fallen world and we are bent towards sin. Knowing this, and loving us anyway, our God sacrifices himself to pay the penalty for our sins.

 This act is so revolutionary, so extraordinary, so out of the box we as a humanity can scarcely grasp the full weight of what he did or why he did it. Paul writes in Romans, that Christ died for us while we were still sinners. While we were still in opposition to him. He loved us enough to move towards us. To take the first step to have a relationship with us. Which is a second tenet separating Christianity from other world religions, God desires to know us personally. He doesn’t sit on a throne far above in the heavens looking down at us, waiting for us to screw up so he can capriciously punish us. Rather, he engages in our lives with us, walking alongside us each day. In fact, his desire is to dwell within us. To live in and through us. Paul also write in one of his letters to the church at Corinth, that as Christ followers we are temples to the Holy Spirit (God’s spirit he sent to dwell within us). In this particular passage, Paul was correcting the Corinthians on their sexual immorality, however the idea that our bodies are temples of the spirit of the almighty God should have broad applications in our lives. Our lives should be lived in such a way that God is glorified by our actions.

 As we prepare for today and this weekend, ask ourselves this question: Is God glorified in the way I am living, in my habits and daily routine, in my work, in my attitude and in the way I treat others? If not, now seems like the right time to reorganize our priorities.

Group Home Showers!

They say April showers bring May flowers… we are hoping for Grace Landing that April showers bring towels, pillows, kitchen supplies, steak knives… and anything else you can imagine you needed the first time you moved out on your own. One of the biggest expenses with moving out on your own is outfitting your home with the numerous items you need just to function daily. I remember when my wife and I first got married, and I came to the realization that you must purchase toilet paper. As a child and even a teenager, my parents always ensure we had toilet paper. As a newlywed, this was now my responsibility. This is the reality we are facing with our Group Home. We need to supply every possible item to make the Group Home be able to function day to day.

We have registered with Bed, Bath & Beyond and Target. You can go to either website and search a registry using Grace Landing as the name (first name Grace, last name Landing). You can order items from the registry and have them sent straight to us. All you need to do is order it from the registry and you will be an integral part of helping us open the Group Home. If you have any questions, comments or concerns please feel free to contact Juda either by phone (407-470-6041) or email or Eli at (706-202-0304) or email.

We are thankful for your involvement in opening our Group Home!