"What are you going to do?" That's the question that God put in Ronda Paulson's heart after she and her husband Corey witnessed the brutal reality of the foster care system.
Ronda explains, "When we were taking our classes to become foster parents, on week seven they had us take a field trip to a Department of Children's Services. And so, we're sitting in this conference room, and its state-issued furniture, blank walls, no color, no warmth. And the gentleman leading the class said that when a child is removed from their home, they come here. And I just kept looking around that room and I thought, 'Why would you bring a child here?' And so, I thought, 'I bet he's confused.' And so I raised my hand and I said, 'I'm sorry, sir, but when you say a child comes here, like what do you actually mean?' And he said, 'A little girl slept in this room last night.'"
"I couldn't get over how forgotten she must have felt. And God had never forgotten her. I don't know what else was said, I couldn't get it together. And then I heard God say, 'These are my children, what are you going to do?'"
"The caseworker said there's a 9-month-old little boy that needs a home. And we didn't know if Isaiah needed a mom and dad for a month or six months or two years but he needed one and we could offer that for him."
Corey says, "He brought so much excitement into the house. And I can see my kids working together, and putting him to sleep and reading him stories, and it was so fun to have that kind of energy in the house."
"And I feel like God pursued me from that moment on and it was just constant," Ronda says. "In January of 2017, I finally said 'Yes.' And I remember I just broke down and I said, 'I don't know what you want me to do, but I will do it.'"
Corey says, "We start going through the book of Isaiah. It's in the first chapter, right in Verse 17. Where we read the words, 'Defend the cause of the fatherless.' It just hit us like a ton of bricks, like, 'Oh my gosh, that's it. That's what we have to do.'"
"Learn to do right; seek justice.
Defend the oppressed.
Take up the cause of the fatherless;
plead the case of the widow."
Ronda and Corey then founded Isaiah 117 House, a safe and loving home for children awaiting foster care placement.
"So, in January of 2017, that's when the dream really started to take shape. That's when we started to understand that this dream was an Isaiah 117 House. And that was really the beginning," Ronda says.
"We opened our first home in 2018. My wish for children on that day of removal, I want them to know that they are loved. We want every part of their visit to an Isaiah 117 House to be basically the exact opposite, as if they went to a DCS office, in that fact that everything says, you're not in trouble, you are loved. And so, from the colors to the fluffy furniture that we choose, to any toy in the house is yours if you want it. Everything is about that child," she explains.
"We want them to know that they are worth it. That they are that loved, that they deserve. And we also want them to leave with items they've chosen, items that were their favorite, and items that are now theirs. And we believe there's dignity in that," Ronda says.
Corey explains how their ministry works. "They leave with a bag full of a few days' worth of clothes and some new shoes, and toiletries and things like that, that they might need for their own hygiene and things like that, so the foster family doesn't have to run out the next morning."
"35 states have reached out wanting an Isaiah 117 House, two countries. We have over 20 expansions. We're in Indiana, Tennessee. We've now entered Georgia, and it just keeps going. And all of it reminds me, first and foremost, how big our God is. There is a foster care crisis happening in this nation, and until God's people stand up, it will continue because this was always our calling."
In 2018, The Paulsons adopted Isaiah and his younger brother Eli on National Adoption Day.
"Isaiah and Eli, I'll look at them and say, 'I'm so thankful that I get to be your mama'," Ronda says.
"And Isaiah 1:19 says, If you are willing and obedient, you will taste the best of the land. And we both believe, wholeheartedly, that those two little boys, our family that's now a party of six, that is the best of the land. We are getting to experience the best of the land."
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