Extended Family and a Church Called Refuge

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JACKSONVILLE – Josh and Beth Glymph are different, but not in the way people might expect.

It’s true, their family photos are eclectic and multi-colored. “That’s because we have two biological children,” Josh says, “and we also have three adopted children.”

And it’s also true that four years ago, they planted a church. “We were sent out to do that,” Josh says, “simply because there are people all over that aren’t hearing the gospel.”

The Glymph family is eclectic. Josh and Beth Glymph have two biological children and three adopted children. In 2020, when they planted Refuge Church in Jacksonville, Florida, Josh and Beth discovered that God had a gospel purpose in mind when he put their family together the way that he did. NAMB photo by Ben Rollins

A fostering and adoptive family is not especially unique. And a church planting family is not especially unique. What makes Josh and Beth Glymph so uncommon is this: four years ago, God told them to simultaneously do the two hardest things they’d ever done. “Foster care and church planting,” says Beth. “I thought there was no way He’d ask us to do both at the same time. But that’s just what he did.”

The Glymphs would come to learn that God had his reasons.

In 2019, Josh Glymph was serving on staff at Fruit Cove Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Florida. He was content, and yet strangely restless.

“I’d been there ten years, and we loved it,” he says. “But God just began to do something in our hearts that made us say, ‘Alright Lord, what’s next?’”

The leaders at Fruit Cove had a ready answer for that “What’s next?” question—Ortega.

There’s a reason so many of Josh and Beth Glymph’s family photos were taken inside a courtroom. In addition to their two biological children, Josh and Beth have three adopted children, two of whom they adopted out of foster care. Now, God is using their experiences with foster care and adoption to help build witnessing relationships with other families as they plant Refuge Church in Jacksonville, Florida. NAMB photo by Ben Rollins

“Ortega was a community in Jacksonville that was very unreached,” Josh says. “You’ve got hipsters, you’ve got military, you have wealthy people and then you also have a lower socioeconomic area. It really is a melting pot. And, there were a handful of churches in the area, but some of them were dying, and some others had faded into no longer being what you’d call Christian, and all of us at Fruit Cove saw the need and got really excited about what the Lord might do if we planted a church there.”

When Fruit Cove decided to send the Glymphs to Ortega to plant a church, Josh and Beth were excited. And stressed. The timing felt overwhelming, especially to Beth, because the call to plant came at the same time their family of five was expanding to a family of seven.

One of the first things Josh and Beth Glymph did when they planted Refuge Church in Jacksonville, Florida, was launch a ministry for foster and adoptive parents. The Glymphs know what it’s like to welcome children into your home because in addition to their two biological children, they have three adopted children, two of whom were adopted out of foster care. Their ministry, called Seek Refuge, provides diapers, baby formula and other necessities for fostering and adoptive families, many of whom are now attending Refuge Church. NAMB photo by Ben Rollins

“We had actually just set out on our foster care journey, and some of our kids had special needs,” she says. “Foster care is so hard because anytime a child is removed from their biological family, there’s deep suffering that comes with that, and as a foster parent, you’re asked to step into that suffering with them. I knew the Lord was asking us to plant this church and to foster, but the timing of it all was just hard for me to accept.”

As Josh and Beth began to meet, then invite and then gather people together in Ortega, God’s grand plan for what would become Refuge Church began to take shape. The Glymphs discovered that Ortega, just like almost every other community, had families that were fostering and adopting. Josh and Beth’s biggest and most visible concern became Refuge Church’s biggest draw.

“People here who were fostering and adopting said, ‘Hey, there’s a family that’s doing what we’re doing. That pastor’s family looks just like ours,’” Josh says. “And that’s how the Lord began to build this church.”

Lots of people attending Refuge Church in Jacksonville, Florida, are from foster or adoptive families, and that’s not a coincidence. In addition to their two biological children, North American Mission Board church planter Josh Glymph and his wife Beth have three adopted children, two of whom they adopted out of foster care. Their testimony drew other foster care and adoptive families. “They said, ‘That pastor’s family looks just like ours,’” Josh says. “And now, I think about the children who come to Refuge who, if families didn’t say yes to foster care and adoption, those children would never hear about Jesus.” NAMB photo by Ben Rollins

When Refuge Church launched in 2020, one of the first things they did was start a ministry called Seek Refuge. Seek Refuge provides just about everything a fostering or adoptive family in Ortega might need: diapers, car seats, baby toys and even date night childcare.

“Fostering and adoptive families found out that here’s a pastor and a family who’s joining them in the fight,” Josh says. “They saw that, and they came here to get a need met, and through that we built relationships. Next thing we know, they’re in our church on a Sunday.”

A significant percentage of the more than 200 people who now attend Refuge Church are from fostering or adoptive families. The Glymphs never expected to plant a church like this, but now that they’ve done so, they recognize how God had this whole thing planned out from the very beginning.

“We didn’t set out to plant a church for foster and adoptive families,” says Beth. “The Lord just did it. And now that it’s happened, we get to see Him working right in front of our eyes.”

The Jacksonville, Florida community of Ortega sits snugly in the Bible Belt. Maybe that’s why people are so amazed when North American Mission Board missionary Josh Glymph tells them just how unreached Ortega used to be. One of the first times he came to the neighborhood, a resident told him they’d been praying for years that someone would start a church there. In 2020, Josh and his wife Beth did just that. Refuge Church, now a congregation of more than 200 people, is making Jesus known to people all over Ortega. NAMB photo by Ben Rollins

Southern Baptist’s gifts to the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering helped the Glymphs get Refuge Church up and running. Now in Ortega, where not too long ago churches were few and far between, Josh and Beth are making Jesus known.

“I think about the number of children who come to our church who, if families didn’t say yes to foster care and adoption, those children would never hear about Jesus,” says Josh. “I believe there’s no greater opportunity than this to share the gospel.”

The Annie Armstrong Easter Offering® provides half of NAMB’s annual budget, and 100 percent of the proceeds go to the field. The offering is used for training, support and care for missionaries, like Josh and Beth Glymph, and for evangelism resources.

Tony Hudson writes for the North American Mission Board.

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