The Hike

Brian and Rachell’s Story

“We went on a family hike three years ago in Tennessee. Right before embarking on our journey, we saw a sign that claimed treacherous terrain ahead. We thought about it for a minute and wondered if it was a good idea to bring our family of eight on this adventure. From where we were standing, we could see how beautiful it was and were desperate for more. We watched other people take the hike and we figured we were well-equipped to start the venture. We assumed we could handle it,” Rachell Strawser explains. This isn’t a story about hiking, but rather a story of how a single-family escapade can be so symbolic of how their lives have played out.

The journey of foster and adoption is much like an unforeseen hike. The warning signs don’t always stop you from grasping at the beauty ahead. The walk is difficult and sometimes you are begging to turn around, but you trust the destination more than the exhaustion. There are moments when you just need a second to stop and rest in the chaos of it all. There will be times when you fall and have to pick yourself up and keep moving forward, scraped knees and all. You may have to watch every step, not knowing if your footing is secure. You will experience instances of others being angry that you even started in the first place, and you must soothe their apprehensions and fears while handling your own. “We finally get to the destination, and everyone was on edge. The journey was almost too much. We wanted to turn back so many times, but the destination was worth it. The kids began playing and Brian began swimming. New growth. New opportunities to learn. But then we had to go back. After our victory, we had to go back to help someone else get through their treacherous terrain,” Strawser says with a smile.

Brian and Rachell Strawser are the founders of Florida 1.27. Parents to 6 children, 2 biological and 4 adopted, they understand the journey. The Strawser’s fell in love in high school and were married soon after. Rachell knew she wanted to foster and adopt a lot of children from a very young age. She was always drawn to kids and enjoyed reading books on children from hard places. When she was born her family was fostering 8 children, so you can say it was in her blood. Brian, on the other hand, had very different plans. He kept ignoring her desire to foster, hoping it would just go away. Ten years later, he decided to make a big bold prayer that changed everything. He awoke the next morning with a growing seed inside his heart. A seed that led to a forever passion. Soon after, they got licensed, approved and had their first foster placement. As time persisted, God placed it on their heart to start a non-profit.

God had His hand deeply in the Strawser’s story, working all things together for their growth. A couple from Washington read a cover story in the St. Pete Times about – Brian and Rachell. The article asked the question: “is blood thicker than attachment?” He was a foster and adoption attorney and invited the Strawsers to an emerging national foster and adoptive parent event. It took them four years to attend. It was there they connected with Project 1.27, a non-profit organization in Colorado that had experienced great success in bridging churches with its state child welfare system . Brian was hired as a contractor to help Project 1.27 grow their national network. This job allowed Brian to visit multiple states and learn what is happening in the foster realm across the nation. “While I was doing this, I kept thinking of what Florida needed,” Brian states. While on the job he heard of the Live The Promise program developed by Promise686 in Georgia. “This program answered the question of calling. Not everyone is called to foster, however; everyone is called to help in some way,” he explained. Live The Promise is a village mindset. It is not a one time show up and serve event, but a discipleship process that allows people to do life together. Promise 686 met tangible needs in a safe community. “I asked if they were willing to teach us and they were happy to share what they knew. We wanted to lead a Live The Promise program in Florida, which would make us the first to go over state lines with the non-profit’s model. We knew we did not have to reinvent the wheel to be successful,” Brian claimed.

They called Florida 1.27 after the verse James 1.27. “When we walked into this journey we didn’t know enough, and there were such limited resources. Once we knew we could help others and provide support and awareness to other families we had our driving force. The whole reason we took this on is because we believed in the importance of resources and support. We believed God called us to open the eyes of this community to unity,” Rachell said. Their desire to help came from their own story. It came from their pain of no community, except Facebook groups. Rachell states softly, “I remember praying to God, reminding Him that He brought us to this, and we know He is a God of victory.” The Strawser’s believe there is victory for everyone.

The Strawsers are both learners and teachers as they manage Florida 1.27 “It is such a blessing that our work has helped to train numerous volunteers that serve other foster, kinship, and adoptive families in our community. Just 8 years ago we were praying for people who could help and now we have that with multiplying results. Those who have entered into serve, serve at a greater capacity. Every vessel counts. They want to get deeper in the water with a healthy perspective,” Brian explains.

Helping families become whole, assisting families in providing safe places for vulnerable children and educating our churches on countless ways they can serve are just some of the passions of the Strawsers. “I am so thankful God gave us opportunities to focus on His ministry. I see His work on this side of heaven without regrets. Florida 1.27 is making eternal impact,” Brian says.

Much like their hike to the waterfall, the Strawsers made the journey in answering the call. They dealt with confusion, exhaustion and pain. There were bruises and feelings of anger. There was isolation and the desire to go back. But more than all of that, there was victory. The ultimate beauty of God’s creation. The experience of family and healing. The quiet dependence on our Savior. The joyful laughter of playing and swimming in the peace. Sometimes the warning sign won’t stop us because we believe God’s promises are bigger.

“As for us, we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.” Acts 4:20

  • This article was written by Shelbi Hales.  Read more about her and her work at her blog:  Love Into Freedom