Greetings and Blessings!
My name is Jason Neland. I am the executive director at Carry The Cross Ministries in Kansas City, Kansas. My wife Courtney and I have five beautiful children: Gracie, Joshua, Luke, Evie and Maggie. We began our ministry journey almost 13 years ago not long after we were married as we sought to live a life fully serving Christ while reaching out to those who were less fortunate in our community. We both had experienced homelessness in one form or another and wanted some how to help those who struggled with the same issue. We ended up purchasing a four-plex, The Firehouse, in Kansas City, KS and starting Carry The Cross Ministries, a non-profit organization set up for the purpose of bringing in families who are homeless or needing a fresh start while also reaching out to and connecting with the community around us. It’s been an amazing journey so far.
Over 17 families have stayed in The Firehouse for up to a year at a time, some a bit longer. Life has definitely been a continuous adventure as our cul-de-sac has had a long history of gangs, drugs and prostitution. Though we have seen many trials, the blessings have been abundant. Praise God our neighborhood is now continuously seeing positive changes and the community is functioning together as a true community should.
Our home is now looking more like an urban farm with chickens, goats, rabbits, and numerous garden plots. Much of this part of the project was made possible over the past several years by the support physically, prayerfully and financially of several different churches in the Kansas City area. These groups have brought countless blessings to our families and the families of our neighborhood that will be echoing for years to come.
Throughout this journey we have always kept a dream in our back pockets. Our dream has been to start a farm, where children who are orphaned or in foster care would have a safe and loving family to call home. A farm where families that have been broken or stained by the craziness of life, could come to find hope and restoration. A farm, where whomever needed a moment of peace, hope, joy and love; could come and find it.
Over the years God has shaped, molded and trained our family in ways that would fit perfectly into this picture. Thanks to Him we have experienced community living to its fullest with numerous families staying with us, much of the time having ten or more children in our building at a time. We have learned farming through tilling up our land and planting community gardens. We have been a place of hope and restoration, for those who came to stay or in the neighborhood who have had no hope. We have run a program where we took at risk youth to a farm to learn how to care for and ride horses. We were even blessed with an opportunity to foster a young girl from the neighborhood whose family went through a period of brokenness.
So why a foster farm? Through our time in our neighborhood, my five years working for KVC as a counselor and almost ten years as a teacher and coach in District 500 of KCK, we have been able to witness over and over the increasing need for quality foster care within the metro area. Consider the statistics:
I’ll never forget a moment I had with young man who had been brought into custody for abuse. He had blood dripping from his ears. As we began to clean him up an officer relayed a sad story. The young child’s dad had locked himself and another sibling in a bathroom, high on crack cocaine. A family member had alerted the authorities and they came to the bathroom door to try and get the children out. The dad was threatening to shove pencils into his son’s brain through his ears if the police tried to come through the door. After he refused to negotiate the police broke through the door and rescued the two children.
That morning around 2 am we had found what were supposed to be safe places for them to stay. I made the drive to take the one who had had the pencils shoved in his ears to his foster home. As I arrived, there were two pretty rough guys coming out of the front door, remember this was 2 am. I accompanied the young man into the home to check on his new living situation. As I questioned the foster parent about the situation she stated that she had a recording studio in her basement and that is why the guys were there. I asked her where he was going to be sleeping and she said he would have a sleeping bag on the floor until they figured out better arrangements. I phoned my boss and let them know of the situation and they said they would send someone to check things out.
My heart was broken. From that point on we have seen numerous situations and heard story upon story echoing the same type of situation that I had encountered that evening. I knew from then on that we would do our best to find a way to help bring joy, hope, love and restoration to the children of our community, especially those that were “without hope”.
Our hope and prayer is that On Eagles Wings Farm would be a place of refuge, restoration and renewal! It will be a fully functioning, nearly self-sustainable farm complete with small-scale animals and crops, where children who are enduring hardships in life can come and visit or live in a Christ-centered family environment where they will be surrounded by love, encouragement, grace based discipline, intensive-family counseling and Christian morals and principals. Children who come to stay for long or short term will have full interaction with the farm environment.
They will also be encouraged in their talents, whether it is in sports, music, dance, or whatever talent or skill they find joy in. They will be given daily tasks that will prepare them for their future lives such as cooking, cleaning, building things, taking care of siblings and solving daily problems that they might encounter when they leave. But most importantly, grace, hope and love will be consistently modeled and poured into their lives through living together in a cohesive family structure.
Our goal is to offer a loving home and services to those who have been abandoned or are no longer able to live within their family structure. These children will be given a chance to stay short or long term in one of our homes with house parents and staff who are trained in helping and counseling with children in their situation. Our prayer will be to be able to bring the broken families together in a nurturing environment to begin a process of healing and to help overcome and restore hope no matter how hopeless their situation may seem. This could include counseling sessions where they come and share positive bonding time together riding horses or participating in farm and sponsored activities throughout the week.
Our hope is to partner with as many local churches, businesses and individuals who are as passionate about helping to bring hope and restoration into these situations as we are. We will not be able to accomplish this without being connected to the body. We need a group of sponsors and donors that will help begin to lay a solid foundation for this work to be accomplished and to continue it for years to come. We need volunteers to come out to the farm and share your love and joy for life and the Lord with our young people. We need prayer, to be the foundation that leads us every step of the way. Would you join us?