Missionaries Launch Camp for Foster Children in Great Britain
Bryan and Misty Elliott, missionaries to Great Britain, are training churches to bring hope and healing to foster children in their own communities.Bryan W. Elliott met his wife, Misty, at Sterling College in Sterling, Kansas. Following graduation, the Elliotts moved to Manhattan, Kansas and started helping to fill various ministry roles at their local church, First Assembly of God. Soon, the couple was asked to be the Chi Alpha (https://chialpha.com/ ) directors for Kansas State University.
In their seventh year at Kansas State, the Elliotts attended the World Missions Summit in Kentucky. While there, the couple each had individual experiences during which they felt the Holy Spirit burdening them for Europe. Not knowing what they were supposed to do, they committed themselves to praying for the continent.
The next semester, the Elliotts met a freshman from England who had come to study for a year in the United States. While at Kansas State, the girl accepted Christ and asked the Elliotts to help her find a church in England so she could continue her spiritual journey. As the couple tried to assist the student, they felt their burden narrow specifically to the United Kingdom.
“We thought maybe God was asking us to pray for churches in the UK so that’s what we did for a year and a half,” says Elliott.
As they prayed, the Elliotts continued to hear about the UK. Knowing that the Assemblies of God World Missions had not been asked by the Assemblies of God Great Britain to send missionaries, the couple felt that all they could do was continue steadfast in prayer.
However, one day while at home, Elliott felt like she had to call the Assemblies of God World Missions headquarters.
“I needed to hear from someone that going to the UK as missionaries wasn’t an option,” she says. “I mean, I knew it wasn’t but I had to hear it so I could stop wondering and refocus on our ministry at KSU.”
When she called, she asked to speak to the then area director of Northern Europe and was miraculously able to reach him right then. To her surprise, the director, Tim Southerland, informed Elliott that the Assemblies of God USA had been invited to send missionaries to the UK the week prior but no announcement had been made.
“He told me that they chose to pray that the right people would call them instead of announcing and asking for missionaries to volunteer,” Elliott says.
The conversation revealed that there was a need for church planters due to the rise in numbers of churches that were closing.
In 2011, the Elliotts resigned their Chi Alpha position after 10 years of service and moved to Wales where they started Capital City Church. Within a year, the couple moved the church from their living room to an official building.
“We were encouraged by a British pastor to cast our net deep as a church so we started praying about what that meant,” Elliott says.
As they began to look around at what other churches were doing in the community, the Elliotts felt a burden for foster children and their families in the country. They reflected on their time in Kansas and remembered the incredible testimonies from both church volunteers and children that came out of First Assembly of God’s Royal Family KIDS Camp.
Royal Family KIDS Camp, a 5-day trauma informed camp for foster children, is a program put on by For The Children, formerly Royal Family KIDS, Inc. The camp, which is available across the United States as well as in nine countries in a manner similar to a franchise, offers children a week of life-giving activities that build resiliency and promote healing, according to their website.
The model of these camps empowers local churches to come alongside foster children in their community and offer restoration to the relational trauma they have experienced. The Elliotts knew they would be building the program from the ground up and had neither the funds nor the volunteers to pull off such a camp.
Yet with persistence and prayer, the Elliotts pushed forward and in 2015 they finally broke through the barriers that had made their dream of starting a camp seem impossible. However, the night before the deposit was due on the selected venue for their first camp, the Elliotts found themselves lacking the financial means to finalize the site.
“We just sat down, said a quick prayer, and committed the situation to the Lord,” Elliott says.
“Then,” she continues, “not five minutes later, we got a call from the international director of Royal Family KIDS who said they had received a donation for the purpose of starting a new international camp and asked us if we could use it.”
The donation turned out to cover the entire deposit deficit.
After several years, that first camp reached capacity and the Elliotts knew that they needed to recruit more churches to reach more children. In 2018, they launched The Starfish Alliance (a name chosen because the term “Royal Family” cannot be used in Great Britain), a national charity through which they could recruit, train, and equip churches to launch and run their own camps for children in foster care.
A second church is soon launching a new Starfish KIDS Camp in Wales.
Their daughter, Audrey Elliott, who has volunteered at three camps so far, states that volunteering is a great experience.
“It’s such a cool thing to be able to give the kids words of affirmation and encouragement that they may not get at home,” she states. “The camps don’t just change the kids, they change the volunteers, too.
Audrey recalls sitting by a young boy at one camp in Wales who told her that he had been sleeping well. While she thought none too much about the comment, the boy went on to explain that he usually does not sleep much at all because he is so scared but he felt safe at camp and had slept every night.
“This is the atmosphere volunteers and churches get to be part of creating,” says Audrey.
As interest has continued to grow, the husband-and-wife church planters and now senior pastors of Hope Church in Bedwas, Wales, have opportunities to help churches in other areas of Europe, including Belgium and Italy, serve those who Jesus referred to as “the least of these” in their own communities.
Opening more camps can’t come soon enough as there is normally a wait list for kids to come.
“We want to give children in foster care the gift of hope, the unconditional love of Christ, and a taste of healthy relationships,” says Elliott.