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Phoenix-based Assemblies of God missionary chaplains Gary and Tammie Webb now have a major additional tool in their efforts to help kids in foster care around Arizona.
In December, the Webbs received a new Ford Edge from Speed the Light, the National Youth Ministries’ program to provide vehicles and equipment to missionaries. The Webbs sought a six-cylinder vehicle that could traverse mountains to deliver supplies to two dozen church-based foster care resource centers across the state.
It’s an example of a ministry financed by youth helping youth in need.
“If we preach a gospel apart from justice and compassion, we preach a gospel Jesus never preached,” says National Youth Ministries Director Heath Adamson. “Right now in Arizona, Speed the Light is empowering youth to steward what God has given them to impact other youth. It’s evident that there’s power in responding to the call of the Holy Spirit through sacrificial giving.”
After 22 years as AG youth pastors, the Webbs in 2010 became U.S. Missions chaplains. They focus on grassroots community awareness while connecting churches with kids in foster care group homes. Through their nonprofit ministry OCJ Kids, the Webbs act as a liaison between churches and 285 group foster homes in the state. Children who have been removed from their residence live in the institutional settings because there aren’t enough individual home foster care parents available.
Since the beginning, a major concentration of OCJ Kids has been to ensure that children and youth in group homes have mentors from churches who interact with them on big events such as a back-to-school party or Thanksgiving dinner. The adults also make regular visits, doing everything from playing board games to working on craft projects with the kids.
More recently, the mission of OCJ Kids has expanded to care for children bereft of basic necessities when removed from a home situation. In conjunction with congregations, the Webbs collect hygiene kits that contain toothpaste, soap, shampoo, and a toothbrush, as well as “kinship kits” that include a pillow, blanket, and stuffed animal.
“Kids come in with just the clothes on their back, and sometime not even that,” Gary Webb says.
The new STL vehicle allows the Webbs to drive collected hygiene and kinship kits from a warehouse in the metro Phoenix area to resource centers in smaller communities, where the need for the items exceeds donations. The couple also received the STL crossover utility vehicle in time to deliver toys to various statewide foster care events before Christmas.
The Webbs have reproduced the model that has been implemented in the Grand Canyon State in parts of Louisiana, Mississippi, and New York as well. Gary meets with state welfare officials to explain the program and then presents the program to business and church leaders. He also conducts training at churches, ensuring there is a point person.
In Arizona, OCJ Kids is connected with 115 congregations.
Marnie Green is director of Family Support Services, a private agency that operates group homes in the metro Phoenix area and contracts with the state. She is in contact with OCJ Kids staff at least monthly.
“The new vehicle is going to prosper everything they do,” Green says. “It will enable them to reach many more kids.”