William and Joyce Rodriguez, the former pastors of Portage Lakes Assembly of God in Akron, Ohio, and the former visitation pastors at Evangel Temple A/G (also in Akron) are being called to a new commission they have become foster parents.
They have been serving Christians through various kinds of ministries but never thought of reaching out to nonChristians. But over the past five or six years, they have seen God taking their ministry and all the surrounding outward things of their lives to grow into an inward home ministry as their children, Angela and Dawn, introduced the idea of becoming foster parents.
"About six or seven years ago," William says, "our daughters came to us and said that they wanted to talk to us about something."
"Joyce and I took this as a confirmation from the Lord," William says, "because we had talked and even planned to do just that a few years before. At the time, we felt we needed to hold off until our girls were older -- then here they were telling us that we should become foster parents."
Right then, William and Joyce started gathering information about becoming foster parents. The process of becoming approved as foster and adoptive parents took about a year. In September 1998, the Rodriguezes became licensed in the state of Ohio.
As William and Joyce started fostering children, they were little worried since they were working with non-Christians.
"This was a challenge for us to give up a pulpit ministry and replace it with what many would consider to be a social ministry," William says.
However, William and Joyce soon realized that foster parenting was an incredible opportunity to impact the future of the lives of the children and for the society as a whole. Whatever they teach to the children, the children would be influenced by it and they would apply what they received into their lives after they go back to their families and also later when they become parents themselves.
In the next five years, 44 foster children would come to their home to be loved and learn about Jesus. When the children leave, even in the midst of sorrow, William and Joyce would carefully pack a suitcase of the things they taught them about being a Christian for the children but not all of them are leaving.
"We have adopted or are in the process of adopting seven [of the foster] children," William says
"After I thought about this, it became clear to me that this was the greatest task God has ever called me to do," William says. "I am so happy that Joyce shares this same calling with me and we walk this road together."
"At times it can be stressful and very expensive, but we know that we are making a difference in the lives of these children," William explains. "Some of them have never been in a Christian home before and are learning for the first time who Jesus really is. It is a lot of work but the rewards are great as well. When one of these kids climbs into my lap and gives me a hug and says, 'I love you, Dad,' well that is all the thanks I need."
William and Joyce are grateful for God's provision and for those who share in their lives by helping with birthdays and Christmas. But they both still are astounded by God's blessing.
"God promised Joyce and me that our house would be blessed with children after we lost our first three pregnancies," William says. "We were blessed with two wonderful children of our own . . . . With the addition of the children that we have adopted or are adopting, we had no idea that we would be this blessed!"
"There is one thing for sure," William says, "we will not have an empty nest for many years!"