BY HOLLY MCCRAY
The 20-acre property surely seemed like a bit of heaven on earth to open-house guests June 10 at Oh Be Joyful Farm, a new foster care site near Coweta for the Oklahoma United Methodist Circle of Care.
Children and adults fished in the pond, explored blackberry and blueberry patches, interacted with animals, and roamed the land, hills visible in the distance. They jumped in a bounce house, played beanbag toss and other simple games, enjoyed grilled burgers — and toured two comfortable homes for foster families.
This generous gift from Brad and Becky Johnson, deeded to Circle of Care last year, provides safe haven for young brothers and sisters who are in the custodial care of the state.
The Johnsons founded LawnAmerica, based in Tulsa.
When Becky began volunteering at a shelter in Tulsa, they became acutely aware of life for children without homes. They were deeply affected, and a vision for them to help children began to take shape. They began hosting shelter staff and children at their own farm, offering a day to enjoy the outdoors and the animals.
"They have a heart for serving children," said Sarah Steffes with Circle of Care. "They felt compelled after they worked with the children" from the shelter.
Becky and Brad tell their story in a Circle of Care video. You can view it at http://circleofcare.org/ministries/oh-be-joyful-farm
At the Tulsa shelter, Becky recalls in the video interview, she learned a 5-year-old girl didn’t know the song "Jesus Loves Me." It broke her heart. The Christian couple sought God’s will for them to be of help.
The answer came in Bible verse. Pharoah’s daughter rescued baby Moses and instructed another woman, "Take this child home and nurse him for me" (Exodus 2:9).
Yes, Moses was a foster child.
The Johnsons’ vision expanded when the property now known as Oh Be Joyful Farm went on the market. The couple bought it for foster families.
"They felt their property was a very safe space, and the children could really connect with their Creator and let down some of the guard they would have in a shelter," Steffes said.
The Christian couple learned about Circle of Care through friends Jono and Jenny Helmerich. Brad was impressed with the ministry’s 99 years of experience serving children.
"It would be better stewardship for us to pass it on to them," he says in the video interview.
Both Brad and Jenny now are members of the Circle of Care Board of Directors.
The foster parents at Oh Be Joyful Farm are trained through Circle of Care, certified through the state’s Department of Human Services, and receive ongoing support through the Circle.
"Our goal is to place sibling groups at our campus foster homes," Steffes explained. In addition to the farm, those sites are Children’s Home, Tahlequah; Boys Ranch, Gore; and Holsinger Home, Enid. The ministry also has 10 regional recruitment/training offices across the state.
For information about serving as foster parents, contact Child SHARE Foster Care services at 866-978-2956. Opportunities are available.
"What’s beautiful" about the farm is the collaboration between the Johnsons and Circle of Care, said Steffes. "We are compelled to take care of the children. The focus is on responding to God’s call to take care of the orphans. The Johnsons really want to give all they can to that purpose."
Children stroll beside miniature horses from the Boys Ranch during open house June 10 at Oh Be Joyful Farm, the newest Circle of Care campus serving foster brothers and sisters.
PHOTOS BY DESTINY CREATIVE
Children test vintage hand pumps to draw water while attending an open house June 10 at Circle of Care’s Oh Be Joyful Farm.
Because of the generosity of Brad and Becky Johnson, foster children find safe haven at Oh Be Joyful Farm, which the couple donated to the Circle of Care. A church in Colorado inspired the Johnsons to give the farm its name.