Sometimes the smallest steps of faith can feel the most risky. But once we take the step, we can see God’s trustworthiness on display. The Gipon family has seen how saying “yes” to what God puts in front of you can be life changing.

Leslie and her husband, Olaf, have been married for almost thirteen years. They have four children—Olaf and Jonah are their biological sons and they also have two foster daughters. Their oldest son, Olaf, has a chronic illness that caused him to have a difficult time settling into a small group.

When a volunteer mentioned the SOAR program to the Gipons, Leslie “was so weary from Olaf not fitting in or feeling good at church and school that I was upset over the suggestion. However, upon meeting Emily, and then the staff, we knew immediately that this was God’s answer to prayer regarding our son. SOAR is nothing short of amazing!”

SOAR is a ministry specifically designed for children with special needs. Every SOAR class has trained volunteers who know exactly how to care for the kids in their classroom. The classes focus on teaching a Bible story in several different and easy-to-digest ways. Sometimes they play a short game, watch a video, make a craft, or tell a story. Each aspect of the class is intentional. The goal is to make sure every child feels safe and loved during their time at SOAR. 

Leslie has seen how the format of SOAR classes has helped her son. “SOAR allows people to hear the message in a relaxed environment and in a way that the individual person can understand it. It is truly a no-judge atmosphere. Everyone is accepted.” Olaf now has a place to belong where he feels safe. “He knows all of his friends there by name and loves interacting with everyone.”

For Leslie and her family, SOAR has changed the dynamic of Sunday mornings. Before they decided to put their son in SOAR, going to church was tense. Leslie and Olaf never felt at ease during the service because they knew their oldest son wasn’t enjoying his class. But now, they feel at peace every time they attend church. All of their kids look forward to their time at church, including Olaf.

In addition to providing classes for kids on Saturday nights and Sunday mornings, SOAR also has programs throughout the year. From mom support groups to family workshops, families can find the tools and support they need from the church and from other families. SOAR holds events like Friday Night Fun to serve parents and provide a fun night for their kids.

Leslie and her family have taken advantage of the Friday Night Fun program. Once a month, SOAR staff and volunteers take care of the kids so that parents can go on a date night. This aspect of the SOAR ministry has blessed Leslie and her family, “beyond measure.” It’s “something that all of our children and the adults look forward to.”

Putting Olaf in SOAR took a step of faith—the same faith the family depends on daily as they seek to adopt their foster kids and care for all four of their children. We all face our own small steps of faith every day. The question is whether or not we’ll walk forward and trust God to guide us.

Leslie sees how God has shaped her and her family through joining SOAR. “God teaches us through SOAR and life in general to simply trust. Just trust. Be obedient. He will not lead us astray.”

If you’d like to learn more about SOAR, or how to get involved, click here.

Please consider supporting ministries like SOAR by giving to the General Ministry Fund.

Written by Sophie Demuth