Join an “Open Table” Family Model for Young Adult Orphans

Date Posted: 4/28/2016

On May 7, learn how the Open Table model trains church volunteers to help resource, empower, and surround aging out foster youth so that they can thrive.

Most of us can’t begin to fathom this:
You've just turned 18 and your foster family can no longer support you – financially or emotionally. You are suddenly and frighteningly alone, for the first time, forced into making life-altering decisions for yourself and hoping they are the right ones.
 
No safety net. No mom, no dad – no one and nowhere to turn should you fail.  Of course, you’re not planning to fail. You’re not looking for rescue. But all the “what-ifs” in your life scream in your head as you stare at that entry-level job application and realize you can’t fill box that says “Emergency contact.”
 
Now remember when you were that age. Think of the ways you were supported – and the ways you weren’t. Think of the plans you had that didn’t turn out quite like you expected, “if I had only known.”
 
How valuable would it have been to you to have had your very own “advisory board” – a group of non-judgmental adults, committed to you, who could have helped you steer clear of obstacles on life’s bumpy road without shaming, blaming or telling you what to do?
The members of your church have years of life experience as well as personal and professional networks. We have a way for them to share that experience.  It’s called, Open Table (opentable.org.) The Texas Annual Conference has joined with the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston and Catholic Charities in launching this national, ecumenical movement in Greater Houston, in order to provide transformational relationships to at-risk individuals.
 
Explore the Open Table Pilot Program on May 7
According to Katy Sabayrac, Perkins intern who works for Missional Excellence, a Table is formed by six to eight volunteers who bring their vocational and life experiences to the individual. In a one-year commitment, the Table and individual develop and implement a customized LifePlan to help her or him reach full potential.
 
Table members are blessed while “being the church.” Adds Katy, “It’s a unique opportunity for them to share their time and talents in full knowledge that they are making a positive difference in someone’s life. It’s discipleship in the model Christ taught us: one hand, one heart at a time.  Table members serving young adults in communities around the country say this experience invites them to live a transformational life with the poor and marginalized and that it transforms them even more than their sister and brother (older youth/young adult participants in Open Table). 
 
This opportunity excites Rev. Diane McGehee, Missional Excellence Center Director. “Foster care children are some of the most vulnerable in our community, especially as they age out.  Imagine turning 18 and having no family, alone in the world, with no resources and an uncertain future, having to overcome a childhood filled with trauma, and often coming from a home environment that left you unprepared for adulthood,” she says. “We, as the church, can make a tremendous difference in the lives of these young people. The Open Table model trains church volunteers to help resource, empower, and surround aging out foster youth so that they can thrive.  It’s a discipleship model that equips the church to partner with these young people as they move into adulthood.”  
 
Research completed with Open Table 2013 participants established that 95% of graduates remained in relationship with their Tables after two years. “Jesus invites us into this mutually transformational relationship,” adds Katy, who is coordinating the upcoming pilot program for young adults transitioning out of foster care. “But it won’t work without willing partners,” she adds.
 
“With this shared model of a family support system, the adults can lend their expertise in a way that does not overwhelm anyone, and meanwhile the model will likely provide for a greater likelihood that the young adult will find a special bond or two within the group that will help them transition into adulthood,” notes Rev. Lyanna Johnson, member of the Missional Excellence Committee and pastor at Servants of Christ UMC.  “Most of us can’t imagine our young adulthood without having someone to help us look for a job, open a bank account, start a budget or buy a car. This mentoring opportunity allows us to give meaning to another person’s life and be in transformative relationships.”
 
Call to Action
Join the Exploration Meeting to learn more on Saturday, May 7, from 9 a.m. to 2:30 p,m,, at Servants of Christ United Methodist Church, 3827 Broadway (south of the I-45 Hwy and I-610 Loop intersection). Contact: Ann Hallmark, Main #: 713.454.6480 with any questions and to notify organizers of your attendance.