Oregon Church Rallies Community for High School Seniors Dispirited by Crisis
By Carl Stagner
All she wanted to do was encourage a few high school seniors. After all, the class of 2020 found themselves at the height of their school career when the pandemic brought expectations to a screeching halt. A bivocational pastor working with English-language-learners for the school district, Linda Tucker-Bays had a heart for these students discouraged as dreams of senior trips, final sports seasons, traditional graduation ceremonies, and student celebrations were dashed. When she created a page on Facebook offering her church and the community a chance to “adopt” a senior, little did she know how God would multiply her efforts. Pastor Linda and Chapman Community Church of God in Scappoose, Oregon, never could have imagined what would transpire over the next few days.
Since March of last year, Chapman Community Church of God has filled “launch boxes” in partnership with an organization called Every Child. Foster children aging out of the system face a variety of struggles, but launch boxes, filled with essential household items, provide a necessary boost to get these young women and men started on the right foot. As the COVID-19 restrictions upended daily life for everyone, the resulting changes have been especially challenging for children and teens. Linda Tucker-Bays recognized the unique problem and sought to find a way to expand their church’s launch-box ministry to cover high school seniors dispirited by the coronavirus crisis.
Chapman Community Church of God is a small congregation, so the idea had to take into consideration their limited resources. While scrolling through social media on a Sunday afternoon, Linda’s light-bulb moment came. One of her friends in another state posted on Facebook about her daughter who had just received a gift as a result of an “adopt a senior” page.
“I started a Facebook page by pretty much copying and pasting the information from this other online community,” Linda explains. She also sent a message to a friend whose son is a senior to get the project off the ground. Others could post a photo and brief bio about their high school senior, while church and community members were encouraged to leave a comment to indicate adoption of that senior. More than one person could adopt one senior, but the project would ensure that at least one person adopted every student. Whether by greeting cards, flowers, gift cards, delicious treats, or other creative means, each senior would receive a little extra support and love needed especially at this critical time.
“That was Sunday,” Linda recalls. “The community has since totally embraced this thing! By Saturday morning, we had 71 seniors posted and 70 adopted…we’ve run out of seniors who haven’t had someone to adopt on several occasions over the last few days.” As of May 13, the number of adoptions had climbed to 109.
Not all parents use Facebook, so friends of other soon-to-be-graduates began to post on their behalf. Depending on family dynamics, some students were more likely to fall through the cracks of the initiative, so Linda’s connections with the school district have helped make additional connections with students. The school is home to about 170 seniors, so there is still work to be done, and certainly obstacles will make it difficult to reach everyone. But Pastor Linda is utterly amazed by how God took this project from its humble beginnings to such widespread impact.
“I’ve realized, after the fact, that this is meeting several needs,” Linda explains. “Parents get to say publicly how proud they are of their kids. These students are seeing how much their community cares. One parent posted her son receiving a gift and said this was the first time she’s seen him smile in a long time. The community, like me, wanted to do something for these kids but just needed an avenue through which to do it. The resources of the community are being utilized, which go beyond those of the few families in my congregation. People love reading about these seniors. And, reading what people comment has brought (good) tears to my eyes!”
Linda notes another positive aspect of the project. People are shopping local, purchasing gifts from the local bagel shop, for instance, which was struggling due to the pandemic. Indeed, this has been yet another unanticipated blessing brought about by simple obedience.
“I just read a book recently about embracing the small church ministry,” Linda reflects. “It was really assuring to me that it’s not about the size of your church, but whether or not you’re doing what God has asked you to do. So, as much as I’d like to have a bigger number on Sundays, I think it’s important to do what we can with what God has given us. This has been such a simple thing that anybody can do. Don’t give up because you’re small. Keep looking for ways to serve the community around you.”
Help churches like these respond to urgent needs in their communities as a result of COVID-19:
Learn more about the response of Church of God Ministries to the coronavirus (COVID-19), including resources for you and your church, at www.jesusisthesubject.org/theway.
*Feature (top) photo-collage: Scappoose High School senior pictured with younger student (from the same school district) who “adopted” him! Used by permission.