Category Archives: Together Called

Glimpses of Together Called 2016

12 incredible raffles

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2 sweet-sounding friends to disarm us and lead us to the throne

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2 ridiculous men in costumes to make us laugh and remind us to lock our doors
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2 faithful servants willing to share their story to help us understand our own

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10 kindred spirits committed to loving each other and serving together as He has called

TSF team

Over 200 husbands and wives committed to loving each other and their families well

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ONE GREAT GOD BEHIND, IN FRONT, AND IN IT ALL

together called 2016 stats

TC2016 breakout sessions

Wanna sneak peek at what’s in store for couples this weekend? Here are summaries of our breakout sessions and the friends who are guiding couples through them.

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(Not Quite) Expert Marriage Panel

We’re together called to this parenting thing. At times, that “together” part is what seems the hardest. This session won’t be teaching as much as honest sharing as a few experienced couples field questions and share the real stuff behind their personal journeys of living out being together called in every season of marriage and parenting. (Note: couples attending this session will have the opportunity to anonymously submit specific questions ahead of time to make this time as fruitful as possible.)
About the panel:
11 years: Jeff and Julia Pearson have served together on Young Life staff for 11 years, have parented together for over 8 years, and answered the call to grow their family through adoption 2 years ago. They live in Glenside, PA with their three children (Ruby 8, Grady 5, and Davey 2) and are waiting to adopt Number 4. Jeff and Julia are passionate about Jesus, family, and adoption and are thankful that they get to live out their love for all three daily. Note: you may recognize Jeff as one of our gifted love doctors.

17 years: Mark and Kelly Raudenbush founded The Sparrow Fund in 2011, having been changed by the adoption of their youngest child and desiring to meet what they saw as a need among adoptive families. Kelly holds a Masters degree in counseling and serves as a therapist through the Attachment & Bonding Center of PA. After a 19-year career in the finance industry, Mark quit his job in 2013 to go on full-time staff with a large nonprofit serving students in Asia. Together, they consider it a joy to serve as a team and pour into both mothers and fathers who are eager to do the right thing for their families, encouraging parents to understand their own hearts more clearly as they seek to care for the hearts of their children. Mark and Kelly have 4 children, their youngest joining the family through adoption from China.

29 years: Pastor Bill and Kelly Rumbaugh have 10 (!) children ranging in age from 8 to 27 and two grandchildren as well. Bill is the senior pastor at New Hope Fellowship Church in Westminster, MD, and Kelly is involved with advocating for waiting children in China and runs a care package service for families adopting from China. With 8 children from China with various special needs, they have become more and more convinced of how God hand chose each child to complement their family in His perfect timing. They are passionate about navigating both the blessings and the hard stuff (which are also blessings) as a team.

30 years: Jeff and Cheryl Nitz bring both professional and personal experience to share as they offer insights, challenges, and encouragement to families whom God has brought together through adoption. Jeff is the Sr. Vice President of Adoption & Family Services for Bethany Christian Services. Cheryl is a therapist and the Director of the Attachment & Bonding Center of PA, specializing in working with families impacted by adoption, trauma, and attachment challenges. But, Jeff and Cheryl often say their best education has come from being parents to their four kids (two of whom came to the family through adoption) and grandparents to four. Most importantly, Jeff and Cheryl are presenting as fellow sojourners—sharing with other adoptive parents the joys and challenges and lessons learned and deeply committed to fostering a fun, growing, supportive marriage in the midst of chaos!

Life-Giving Speech

Parents have been assigned by God a place of authority in their children’s lives. What we say, therefore, has more power than most to frame their worlds. Our tongues carry the power of life and death, and this session will remind us how to harness their power for the good of our children, especially in the face of the messages that relinquishment, trauma, neglect and abuse speak to our children. Come discover how to leave a legacy of life-giving speech.
About the speaker:
Beth Templeton is the mother of 7 children, four of whom were adopted from Russia. With all 7 children now in their 20s, Beth has many stories to tell of the faithfulness of our God in her home, in her children and in her heart. Cofounder of Hope at Home based in Atlanta, GA (http://hopeathomeblog.blogspot.com), she is passionate to come alongside adoptive parents as they colabor with God in the transformation of orphans into sons and daughters.

A Touchy Subject: Working Through Sensory Challenges as a Family

Some children thrive on touch, movement, sound, and lights; other children are on the opposite end of the spectrum, withdrawing from such activities. In this breakout, an experienced physical therapist will present an overview of Sensory Processing Disorders or Sensory Integration Dysfunction, including why adopted children are more susceptible to these challenges, in terms that are practical and easy to understand. A large portion of the session will be the presentation of activities, toys, and experiences for families to assist them in coping with and working through sensory issues.
About the speaker:
Physical therapist Sue Becke learned early about her future career in medicine, having contracted Polio at 3 months of age. She underwent numerous corrective surgeries and physical therapy for many years and grew up to realize the benefit of physical therapy for children with special needs and determined that if children were going to receive such services, there must be a “better way” to provide it. As a professional, she established an out-patient clinic which provided physical, occupational, speech, and aquatic therapies as well as counseling services for children and their families. Currently, she is self-employed, providing physical therapy services to children ages birth to 3 in Franklin and Fulton Counties in Pennsylvania and in Carroll County, Maryland. She enjoys using play to work through challenges that children may have; pool noodles, empty soda bottles, painters tape, and ivory soap are some of her favorite therapy tools! As an adult with a disability, she has a unique perspective on growing up with a disability and is passionate about providing practical strategies to families.

When It’s Not Happily Ever After

What do you do when you discover that your adoption experience is not the storybook life you had envisioned, when weariness has replaced your warrior spirit. It is easy to talk about the beauty of adoption but sometimes difficult to find a safe place to be real about the hard parts. Painfully, what can be seen up close and personal is not always pretty. This discussion will focus on stripping our coverings of protection to reveal our struggles and find community with others who are willing to be broken open.
About the speaker:
Tiffany Barber is the mother of 8 children (aged 12 to 30), two of whom were adopted from China. Her life is full as she seeks to balance her roles as wife, mom, homeschooler, and nurse. Ridiculous and impossible are the best terms to describe their adoption story. They both felt called separately without a conversation between them. Although they were on the brink of a financial crisis, God showed up in miraculous ways to make a way for two former orphans to become a son and daughter. Yet, as amazing and miraculous as their journey began, coming home has been much more challenging. Tiffany writes about her struggles with adoption, faith, and family as a means to process her journey and encourage others in hard places. She believes that when trouble tests our limits and our faith, it can be our greatest opportunity to know God intimately and experience His presence as never before.

Play With A Purpose

“Play is the work of childhood.” – Fred Rogers. In this session, you’ll learn how to better harness the power of play in your family, specific focusing on strengthening the parent-child relationship using three distinct approaches (the arousal/relaxation cycle, repetitive claiming, and positive interaction). Over it all will include practical ways parents can use play to grow connection and attachment to their child or teen. (Note: a basic understanding of attachment is recommended for couples attending this session.)
About the speakers:
Daron and Heidi Holland began their life with adoption in 1977 when Heidi was placed in her forever family at 2 weeks of age. A few years and three adopted children later, they have become passionate about children from hard places. They both have been trained to teach the Empowered to Connect material which is based on Trust-Based Relationship Interventions®, Karyn Purvis’ research and methods for children who have experienced trauma. Heidi is also a trainer through Institute of Human Services. They have helped to begin a global orphan care ministry based out of Dayton, OH. They are passionate about helping parents work towards the goal of walking with their children to heal from their pasts and begin to feel safe, secure, and valued.

Being the Husband and Father You Long to Be

Few men fully understood what they were getting into when they chose with their wives to grow their family through adoption. Countless joys have likely been a part of your family story being written. But, along with that have come many unexpected challenges that often men are unable to easily fix. Instead of feeling like Peyton Manning quarterbacking a well-run team to a Superbowl win, family life can seem more like you’re coaching the Sixers on another 16 game losing streak. And to top it off, keeping your marriage strong and vibrant can now feel like a distant third fiddle to the demands of parenting and just keeping the bills paid. This session is an encouragement and challenge for men who are committed to cherishing their wives and children as God would want even when they may get very little in return.
About the speaker:
Jeff Nitz has spent the past 30 years working in the field of child welfare social work with experience in foster care, residential treatment, foster care adoption, international and domestic infant adoption as well as Safe Families For Children. For the past 21 years, he has served in various capacities for Bethany Christian Services, currently as the Sr. Vice-President of Adoption and Family Services where he helps to lead the U.S.-based service and marketing teams. Jeff has been married for over 30 years to his college sweetheart, Cheryl, and counts her as his very best friend. Together, they are the parents of four adult children ages 23 to 37, two of whom were adopted. Jeff and Cheryl attend New Life Presbyterian Church in Dresher, PA where Jeff serves as an elder and together he and Cheryl are involved in marriage ministry. As a licensed clinical social worker, he also enjoys serving with his wife in providing counsel to couples who are struggling in their marriage.

Fearless Parenting

There isn’t a mother on the planet who doesn’t wrestle with some fears or anxieties for her child. It can be so easy to live in the “what ifs” of life, especially as we face the after shocks of trauma from our child’s past. We probably all know we aren’t at our best when we parent in fear, and we long to be the kind of mother who is able to truly trust our Father God with our children. In this session, Beth Templeton will share the ways God has been teaching her to be a fearless parent and to enjoy the peace that comes when we let go of the “what ifs.” (Note: this session is specifically for women. If you select this option, wives will attend this session, while husbands attend Jeff Nitz’s session.)
About the speaker:
Beth Templeton is the mother of 7 children, four of whom were adopted from Russia. With all 7 children now in their 20s, Beth has many stories to tell of the faithfulness of our God in her home, in her children and in her heart. Cofounder of Hope at Home based in Atlanta, GA (http://hopeathomeblog.blogspot.com), she is passionate to come alongside adoptive parents as they colabor with God in the transformation of orphans into sons and daughters.

Troubleshooting: Building Relationship When It Seems Like They Just Keep Getting in Trouble

We want our children to know they are dearly loved and that we’re for them. But, how do we do that when she’s driving me crazy with backtalk and bedtime hassles, or he’s hitting his sister and hiding lima beans under his pillow? We want good things for our kids, so it’s frustrating when they choose poorly. How do we discern the best response? When should we simply advise? When do we give them a choice? Do consequences have a place? When do they need to “make it right”? And, how do we convey hope in the midst of these challenges? At this workshop, we will start with affirming that, although we all have room to grow, you are what your child needs. At his or her very core, your child needs and desires a relationship with you. On that foundation, the path to effective discipline becomes clearer. Come join us as we talk about irksome and troublesome behaviors, the messages we want to send our kids, and practical tools to help our kids grow in maturity and become all God created them to be.
About the speaker:
Cheryl Nitz, ACSW, LCSW has worked in the field of adoption and foster care for over 30 years. In 1997, she began specializing in working with families impacted by adoption, trauma, and attachment challenges and is now a therapist and the Director of the Attachment & Bonding Center of PA where she and her staff are committed to joining with parents to help their children find hope and healing through the love and security their families provide. In addition to her professional experience, Cheryl often says her best education has come from being a parent with her husband to their four kids (two of whom came to the family through adoption) and grandparent to four. She presents as a fellow sojourner – sharing with other adoptive parents joys and challenges and lessons learned both in the trenches at the Nitz home and from the families with whom she has had the privilege of working.

Return to Joy

We all are bombarded by the world’s false messages on a daily basis. Disapproving voices of some friends and family who don’t support or understand our call to adopt may be drowning out a call that once seemed so clear. Negative emotions, nagging fears, and realities of daily life may leave us feeling stuck and overwhelmed. The lies of the enemy pollute our thoughts, choking out the life-giving truth of God’s Word, often becoming the only voice we listen to. Intentionally focusing on God’s True Words helps our families discern the lies of this world, strengthen our identity in Him, and return to joy. Whether your family is particularly struggling in this area or not, this breakout will give you practical tools to guide you and to use with your children to guide them in time with God and help them return to joy.
About the speaker:
Stephanie Smit and her husband have three daughters, two of whom joined their family by way of adoption. After 18 years teaching in the classroom, she stayed home after the both of their daughter, and that’s when her education in following God’s call really began. Through their three girls, God has revealed Himself most clearly. He not only worked a miracle in the birth of their biological daughter, He continued to show Himself in mighty ways throughout their adoption journeys in China and Bhutan that were anything but normal. Stephanie enjoys encouraging and connecting with other adoptive families through speaking and serving on the Board of Directors for The Sparrow Fund and managing “We Are Grafted In,” the blog connected to TSF.

Together Called 2016 {calling prayer warriors}

April 8th-10th has been marked on our calendars for only about a year now. It’s the largest event The Sparrow Fund hosts in terms of numbers as well as logistical efforts. It was born at a cafe as so many great ideas are. A group of women gathered there to talk about how we could better serve the needs of adoptive moms, how we could support women locally, how we could come together in unity to encourage and bless each other. We sipped our lattes and shared challenges and ideas in this faithful brain trust and landed on something big that kind of took all of our breath away. We needed something for couples, not women alone, not for simply a community of mamas; we needed something to build up marriages. It just made sense. The best way to serve families is to build up the partnership of a husband and a wife.

We started Together Called with 60 couples in 2013, filling all 60 spots in 15 minutes. In 2014, we added a few more couples, forcing us to have overflow housing at another hotel. In 2015, we moved to a larger place to open it up to a few more people while still keeping a small retreat feel. Now, this weekend, for Together Called 2016, we have about 100 couples coming—couples from 12 different states around the country who represent 334 children born to them or born to others and adopted into their families from at least 16 different countries around the world. The magnitude of the impact of pouring into these 200+ parents who are in turn pouring themselves out is incredible.

As April 8th-10th has gotten closer and closer and now is only days away, the magnitude has become more and more apparent but also has the mess that often comes with that. Where there is a place for transformation, life change, and healing as these marriages are and can be, there is also opportunity for weariness and a sense of never, impossible, and stuck to creep in. We need prayer in a significant way as our team—all of whom come with our own stories—seeks to serve each one of these men and women and enter into their stories. We want to honor that charge and be intentional to have consistent prayer coverage over the course of the whole weekend as we press on in it. The needs of the couples coming are that great—our needs as a team seeking to be effective conduits of His mercy and hope are that great.

If you want to pray at any time however you are led, please do. Let us know in a reply at the bottom of this post or on our Facebook page that you did because it will build us up and encourage us. If you want to pray over a specific time frame to be a part of consistent prayer coverage for specific needs that we’ll provide to you, then let us know via email and we’ll direct you as to how to do that.

where we'll be in a few days sans the Christmas wreath

where we’ll be in a few days sans the Christmas wreath

Prom Changes Worship

The Sparrow Fund team did a few cartwheels when we got the call from the Morlans in 2014 saying they were IN to join us for Together Called 2015 and lead worship. All of us had long been Seeds Family Worship groupies. Their hearts for adoption, worship, and living out faith with the next generation by our sides made them a great fit. Once they joined us, we knew they were actually the perfect fit to partner with us. We had them locked in for Together Called 2016 before we said goodbye at Together Called 2015.

But…

They’ve got kids. And, one particular kid is a senior this year. And, her school decided that they couldn’t have some theater production and senior prom on the same night. So, they gave the students the good news that they were going to move senior prom to another weekend…the weekend of our marriage retreat.

While the Morlans are the worship leaders we love, they are also the mom and dad their children need. So, we told them kindly to STAY HOME, do hair, take pictures, wait up late for their girlie, and send someone else to lead us and serve with us.

We’re excited to share the couple who they recruited to bless us!

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Ross King has been a full-time songwriter, worship leader, performer, and producer since 1995. His songs have been recorded over 150 times, including cuts by The Newsboys, Jason Gray, Todd Agnew, Jimmy Needham, Carrollton, North Point Community Church, The Village Church, OBB, Casey Darnell, Charles Billingsley, Student Life Camps, The Austin Stone, Liberty University and many others. He has recorded several independent albums of his own music, has sold over 45,000 CDs, and have had his recordings downloaded over 60,000 times. In 1998, he helped plant Community Church of Bryan/College Station, where he served as an elder and worship leader for 17 years. He currently provides for his family by doing several different things including writing songs for Simpleville Music/Fair Trade Services, doing concerts, producing music at his recording studio, and leading worship all over the country. His newest record entitled “Unfettered” released in May 2015. Ross lives in the Nashville area with his wife, Staci, and their four children.

Ross and his wife Staci chose to pursue adoption after a couple of years of “trying.” They had been interested in the idea of adoption when they first got married but thought they might go that route after growing their family first biologically. But, God had another plan for their family. Sam is 12, Jude is 9, Naomi is 7, and Sunny is almost 3. All four were adopted domestically as infants through an adoption agency/ministry in Texas that helps/houses/counsels unwed mothers. Their adoptions are all “semi-open,” meaning they have some limited contact with each of their children’s birth families.

Ross and Staci are excited to be joining the Together Called team as worship leaders this year. And, we can’t wait to welcome them and pour into them as well.

Ross King family

Together Called 2016 Registration is on Sunday!

TC 2016 mug designWe told you we’d send a reminder to you. And, so we are.

Together Called 2016 promises to be a weekend you don’t want to miss. It was created for you—an entire weekend devoted to blessing you and giving married couples considering adoption, waiting to adopt, or who built their families through adoption years ago an opportunity to reconnect and be refreshed.

We’d love to have you join us April 8th-10th, 2016 at Liberty Mountain Resort right outside of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. We’ll be joined by some awesome folks who are eager to bless you—Matt and Becca Whitson of Community Bible Church in Arkansas, Phil and Jessica Morlan of Seeds Family Worship, Jeff Nitz of Bethany Christian Services and Cheryl Nitz of The Attachment & Bonding Center of PA, Beth Templeton of Hope at Home, Jeff Pearson and Bjorn Anderson of Young Life, and the entire TSF team.

For the last 3 years, Together Called has filled up in minutes with couples registering from at least 14 different states around the country every year. Don’t wait. Set your phone alarms for this Sunday evening at 9pm EST. Registration will officially open at precisely that moment with the link posted on our website on the Upcoming Events page.

Investing in the two of you is one of the best ways you can bless your family. We want you there.

TC2016 Speakers

We shared the location of Together Called 2016 months ago. But, many of you have been emailing us since then…

Who is speaking this year?

Dying to know who is going to speak this year!

Our team put a lot of blood, sweat, and prayers into finding the couple called to be our keynote speakers at this next Together Called. And, we found them.

Allow us to introduce you to our new friends and Together Called’s next speakers…

Matt and Becca Whitson.

Matt and Becca Whitson

Matt and Becca Whitson

Matt and Becca Whitson were married in 1998 and have three kids via both birth and adoption. Matt is the Executive Pastor at a multisite church in Arkansas, and Becca is a licensed therapist in private practice. They believe in the power of stories—in their ability to heal, to expose our hearts, to build community, and, most importantly, to reveal God’s work in our lives. They are passionate about sharing the hope of Jesus through their work and family—the failures, the successes, and the brokenness and beauty of everyday. They enjoy traveling and speaking together (which we’re thankful for!), and they write (when they find the time!) about marriage, parenting, and life as a transracial family at WhitsonLife.com.

Mark April 8th-10th on your calendars now!

And, set an alarm for Sunday, October 4th at 8:50pm so that you have your fast fingers ready to sign up right as registration opens at 9:00pm.

#TC2016 Save the date!

We’re not going to try to put into words why you need to be a part of Together Called 2016. We’ll let these quotes from couples who attended last year make the point for us.

There simply are no words. We haven’t brought our daughter home yet, so we didn’t even know if we belonged at this retreat. We could not have been more blessed….God reaffirmed our calling and reassured us in so many ways this weekend….We also received great insight into our marriage and our bio kids just by having this time away that was centered upon family. God has mightily worked through you by you following his calling to put on this retreat. You blessed our socks off, and we could never thank you enough.

We gained a perspective from others, hearing what they have walked through, that gave us great encouragement as we look at our pending adoption. The stories of hope we heard as we connected with other couples were the biggest takeaway.

The retreat was so wonderful start to finish. As simple as it might sound, the care package with the note as soon as we entered our room put many of our concerns to rest immediately. We truly felt welcomed.”

It was the first time in a long time that we got to really talk and have direction in our discussion!

We came into this weekend so dry and distant and really struggling. After about 14 months or so of what we’ve deemed “crisis living,” we really needed this time away. It did not disappoint. We feel infused with support, truth, and a renewed sense of purpose for our marriage and our family.

Put TWO events on your calendar right now:

  • October 4th. Registration for Together Called 2016 will open on Sunday, October 4th at 9pm EST. If this year is anything like previous years, it will fill up fast (and by fast, we mean potentially minutes). Be ready to register right at 9pm to make sure you get one of those spots. If you are on our mailing list [hint: add yourself to our mailing list now], we will send out a reminder to you.
  • April 8th-10th. Those are the dates for the marriage retreat itself. We’re at a new location this year that promises to impress you. Liberty Mountain Resort is close to Gettysburg, PA and accessible from Dulles Airport, Baltimore Washington International Airport, or Philadelphia Airport. Consider coming out on Thursday and staying through Monday, perhaps, to take advantage of all that Gettysburg has to offer!

TC2016 Save the Date