Salem Baptist Church smashes Mission Georgia goal, commits to continued support for foster children and forever families


DALTON, Ga. — Families at Salem Baptist Church have seen firsthand the positive impacts that fostercare and adoption have had on the lives of vulnerable children.

“It changes lives not just in eternity but in the here and now,” said Pastor Darey Kittle, whose congregation includes a dozen families who have opened their homes to hurting children.

Little wonder that when Salem Baptist Church set a goal of $7,000 for this year’s Mission Georgia offering, the congregation smashed it, giving nearly three times that amount to the initiative that helps Christian families take in abused and neglected children.

At last count, Kittle said, the church had received $20,000 for the Mission Georgia offering, which congregations across the state collect each September.

The Mission Georgia  offering, one of three major offerings recognized by Georgia Baptist churches, is dedicated to reaching the state with the gospel. The other two are the Lottie Moon offering that supports international missions and the Annie Armstrong offering that supports North American missions.

Mission Georgia funds a multi-faceted approach to reaching Georgia. That includes finding forever homes for foster care children, helping to rescue teenage girls from human traffickers, providing prenatal care and counseling for mothers-to-be to ensure they deliver healthy babies, helping at-risk children learn to read, and helping immigrants learn English and find jobs.

“To me, Mission Georgia is living out what the Bible tells us to do by putting legs on the scriptures and on our prayers,” Kittle said. “These are ministries we can do in our own backyard. I’m for missions around the world, but Mission Georgia really touches where we live.”

No one knows that better than Salem Baptist Church staffer Holly Akins, who, along her husband, have fostered some 15 children. The Akinses have also adopted four children to raise along with their two biological children.

Their outreach to children began when two teenage sisters they knew from church were removed from their home.

“They needed a place to go,” Akins said. “We got permanent custody of them.”

That was followed by the adoptions of two more foster children, the latest one just this year.

In their home, the Akinses display the familiar story of a boy walking along the beach tossing stranded starfish back into the ocean. In that story by Loren Eisley, a man tells the boy, “Son, don’t you realize there are miles and miles of beach and hundreds of starfish? You can’t make a difference!”

After listening politely, Eisley writes, the boy bent down, picked up another starfish, and threw it back into the surf. Then, smiling at the man, he said, “It made a difference to that one.”

Akins said that story reminds her that making a difference in the lives of even one child is worth all the effort.

“To that child, it’s going to matter,” she said. “It’s not easy. It’s the hardest and most rewarding thing we’ve ever done.”

At Salem Baptist Church, the passion for fostering has spread through the congregation.

“At one time, we had 12 foster families in our church,” Holly Akins said. “Now, we have a lot of adopted children.”

It has helped, Akins said, for people to be able to see what it looks like for a family to take in foster children.

“People are kind of scared to do it at first,” she said. “It can be messy. It is difficult. But we have several families going through the program right now. So, I’m very encouraged. Our church is very supportive in terms of helping foster families, mentoring kids, and being there for them.”

Mission Georgia has facilitated training for foster families at Salem Baptist Church and sponsored outings for them.

“They’ve come in and walked right alongside us, provided the support we need” Akins said.

The Georgia Baptist Mission Board staff that oversees Mission Georgia, Akins said, is one of the reasons why Salem Baptist Church gave far more than their goal for the initiative.

“They’re amazing,” she said.