In January of 2017, Kerri Vinyard’s phone rang with a familiar voice on the other end. The caller was a young lady who had aged out of the foster care system years before. Kerri had the privilege of meeting her while doing volunteer work with a local girls’ group home. This dear young lady was frantic as she explained that she and her toddler would be homeless in the morning. This single mother did not have the resources to get a room at even the cheapest of motels in the area. When morning arrived, and Kerri looked into the hopeless set of eyes before her, she recognized this as a pivotal point in the story of H2O Ministries.
God began revealing that there were no resources in Tangipahoa Parish to provide adequate housing and support for teenagers who have aged out of the foster care system. Not only was God educating her, but He was breaking Kerri’s heart to become part of the solution. Eventually, this young mother had to go to New Orleans to receive the help she was looking for due to the void of resources in Tangipahoa Parish.
Soon after, God began to build a team of volunteers from Woodland Park Baptist Church and River Fellowship who would become prayer partners for these young girls in foster care. These volunteers came alongside the local teenagers to do life with them and be a mentor and confidant when they had none. As these youth aged out of the system with nowhere to go, they began to reach out to Kerri and their prayer partners with desperate pleas for help. Kerri and the prayer partners answered calls from hopeless young women who were homeless, stranded on the side of the road, hungry, sick, and alone. God used each of these situations to reveal the deep need for housing, support, and encouragement that lacked for these young men and women. He also used it to show the lack of available resources to fill these needs. In November of 2018, God rallied this team together with a common interest to create a non- profit that will help youth who have aged out of the system. It was effortless to determine that God was working through this, as scripture shows us God’s heart is for orphans.” Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” (James 1:27) The board members God joined together for this much-needed task are as follows: Roberta Flanagan, Ken Howe, Ginger Jones, Judy Liner, Shonda Kinnison, Wende Powell, Randy Ray, Angie Thomas, and Kerri Vinyard.
For the first few months, the ministry board was very generic in their approach towards assisting the aged-out foster children. It was not until the board members did a group 3-day prayer that God made the ministry’s direction unanimously clear. In a meeting following the board’s prayer emphasis, they realized that He was calling this team to delve into the messy housing arena for the vulnerable youth of Tangipahoa Parish and beyond. Thus, H2O Ministries was the name chosen for this endeavor, which stands for “Housing Source 2 aging Out Youth”. This team knew that they wanted to provide housing while leading these young adults to know that Jesus is the living water, which is the source of life. “They will neither hunger nor thirst, nor will the desert heat or the sun beat down on them. He who has compassion on them will guide them and lead them beside springs of water.” (Isaiah 49:10)
The board members began networking with people around the state to gain wisdom while developing their programming. While in the transition period, the ministry continued to help the young adults that had previously aged out by providing other support such as assisting with rent, purchasing tires, providing furniture, and spiritual support every time they reached out to the group. This team also implemented an Open Table to come alongside a young lady who had recently aged out and was attending SLU. This ministry advocates for the youth in different areas of life, such as community, education, transportation, finances, and employment, to name a few.
As of August 2020, the ministry signed a year lease on a house in Tangipahoa Parish. They have been furnishing the home with financial donations from locals who also desire to see a solution to a rampant problem. By the time this article releases, the home should be housing up to four young ladies in a home with a house coordinator. A donated van provides needed transportation for the young ladies. This organization’s goal is to share Jesus, offer job training, educational support, financial budgeting advice, and a stable environment in which to thrive. After completing their time in the home, these young ladies should be better positioned and equipped to live independently with success. God willing, H2O Ministries will eventually purchase their own home in Tangipahoa parish and even begin another housing program for the young men who age out. There is no limit to what God can do, and H2O Ministries is grateful to God for all His provisions.
For those who would like to financially support this ministry to transform a young adult’s life forever, please check out their website at https://h2othesource.com/