Fostering a Heart Change
When Amber Sollie approached her husband, Tyler E. Sollie, to ask him to pray about the possibility of fostering children, he felt the request came from out of left field. At the time, Sollie had taken on a new ministry assignment as campus pastor at Life Center in Tacoma, Washington, and the couple had three biological children in their home.
“We were not bored,” says the 42-year-old Sollie, who now serves as senior pastor of the megachurch. “I didn’t know if I could add one more thing to my plate. But I told her I would pray about it — which is always a danger!”
A native of Tacoma, Sollie grew up at Life Center under the ministry of Fulton Buntain, a founder of Mission of Mercy in Kolkata, India. Sollie left home to attend Northwest University in Kirkland, Washington, graduating in 2002. In 2003, while serving as youth pastor at Eastridge Church in Issaquah, Washington, he and Amber married. They continued to minister there until 2012, when he became Northwest Ministry Network youth director. He returned to Life Center in Tacoma as campus pastor in 2015.
After promising Amber he would pray about fostering, Sollie left for a trip to Kolkata. While there, he sensed overwhelming needs while walking through hospitals, orphanages, and slums. He says he felt a nudge from the Lord to act.
Sollie came home and shared his experience with Amber. He told her he knew they could become foster parents. The couple had been familiar with the work of Olive Crest, a Christian-based organization dedicated to providing help for at-risk children and families in crisis. Assemblies of God minister Paul LaRose, executive director of Olive Crest’s Pacific Northwest Region, answered Amber and Tyler’s questions and helped them on the path to becoming licensed foster parents.
“As we embraced fostering,” says Amber, 39, “we learned that if every church in Washington had just one licensed foster family, there would be enough places for every child in the state who didn’t yet have a home.”
“We know that not every family is called to foster,” says Sollie, “but everyone can find ways to encourage foster families, whether it is providing gift cards or speaking encouraging words.”
The Sollies’ biological children — Judah, 14; Justus, 13; and Faith, 11 — have been very supportive while learning lessons of love firsthand. When their first foster brother was reunified with his family of origin, Judah tearfully expressed how much he missed the infant. Sollie explained how they still needed to love fully each child who came into their home — not at arm’s length — even though they might not stay long. He pointed to God’s love for His children that continues no matter what.
The Sollies shared their story with the Northwest Ministry Network to aid in the vision of Every Church, Every Child. To continue to raise awareness of the need for foster care, Life Center added a missional arm to a legacy event that has been ongoing at the church for over six decades: the Singing Christmas Tree. Through a partnership with Olive Crest for the productions, Life Center has been able to do provide tickets to the event for foster kids and foster families, as well as a party and gifts for the children. The church also donates a portion of the ticket sales to Olive Crest.
“The Sollies have encouraged other pastors who may have been reluctant to engage their congregations in foster care,” says LaRose. “They have been able to address fears, myths, and general questions in a personal and compelling manner. Their experiences have encouraged others to embark on a similar journey.”
“Sometimes God surprises us and works in the little details without us even knowing or understanding,” Sollie wrote in a blog post. “In His grace, He is setting things up, preparing us — without our knowledge or our input — for something that will go beyond what we would expect.”