It began simply enough. We had welcomed our son home less than a year earlier, and we were on our way home from a small gathering of adoptive families at a local church. That evening was spent listening to a couple of stories shared by other adoptive families, and telling the basics of our own story over and over as people bounced from one conversation to another before and after the event.
But for everything this gathering lacked – organization, intentional purpose, polished speakers – it offered the one thing we needed most: a connection to those who “got it.” Never mind that few of the families had come together and looked just like our family. They were all adoptive families and that counted for a lot. It meant we were familiar and understood. It meant that we belonged.
Fast forward three years later and the leaders of this small church group asked us if we would consider taking over the group and leading it. What had started as a vibrant and growing support system for families that had adopted older children from Russia in the late 1990’s had dwindled to only a small handful of families that met every other month. Honestly, there was not much to “take over,” but we had what seemed like a crazy idea at the time. Our idea was that maybe other families needed what we needed – connection, encouragement, and help. And maybe, just maybe a church was the perfect place to offer it and for others to find it.
So in September 2005, Tapestry began as the adoption and foster care ministry at Irving Bible Church. Our first event was less than impressive. We had a whopping 22 people attend. But that mattered little as the focus was on building relationships. As a ministry, we had little to offer. No materials, no expertise, no elaborately planned events or high-quality seminars and conferences. Instead, we simply offered friendship and the promise that we would be honest about our journey and would be open to the honesty of others.
At our first event we set out what has become known at Tapestry as the “three things.” We told the group gathered that evening the three things that we believe are absolutely true about the adoption and foster care journey. Those “three things” are: the adoption/foster care journey won’t be easy; it will be worth it; and you should not go it alone. The truth of these realities continues to guide Tapestry today.
During the past seven years Tapestry has been blessed to walk alongside literally thousands of adoptive and foster families. Locally, Tapestry is privileged to serve hundreds of families face-to-face through a variety of activities and events, including discussion-based small groups, large group educational events, parent training courses, family-to-family mentoring, outreach events, a summer family camp, and the annual Tapestry Conference. And thousands more families are served via Tapestry’s website, through the distribution of our resources and materials, and through Empowered To Connect, a partnership between Tapestry and Dr. Karyn Purvis, author of The Connected Child.
Yet even as Tapestry has grown to become one of the largest church-based adoption and foster care ministries in the nation, it remains unique in many ways. For example, while Tapestry is a local church ministry of Irving Bible Church, nearly 85% of the estimated 1,400+ people that we serve face-to-face each year do not attend our church. In fact, many of those connected to Tapestry do not regularly attend or identify with any church. In that sense, Tapestry has truly become a community-wide resource that openly welcomes anyone desiring to find connection and encouragement for the adoption or foster care journey.
In addition, Tapestry’s work is led and carried out by an incredible group of volunteers, many of whom benefited from the ministry in some way and now serve as a way to “give back” to help other families. And rather than charging participants to attend, Tapestry continues to offer nearly all events and activities (including its annual day-long conference) as well as most of its resources completely free-of-charge.
Still despite all of the growth and impact that Tapestry has had, the heart of the ministry remains the same. Annie McClellan, a young adoptive mom that Tapestry began supporting five years and who now serves with her husband Scott on the Tapestry leadership team, puts it this way: “Tapestry is a ministry committed to meeting the real needs of adoptive and foster families, being in community with them, and supporting them through the highs and lows of the journey. Wherever the adoption or foster care journey leads, Tapestry will be there.”
Over the years Tapestry has been blessed to walk alongside countless families. Along the way we have seen miracle after miracle as families have been formed and lives have been transformed. What began as a simple idea and a dream has grown into a reality that offers real help and true hope to families traveling the adoption and foster care journey.