Planting the love of Jesus deep within the heart of New Orleans
By Sherye Green
Georg Ross’s zeal for sowing seeds of God’s love into the hearts and lives of individuals and communities has been years in the making. The whisper of the Lord’s voice, which George answered at age 11, grew into a call of ministry on his life throughout his college years in the early 1990s. Now almost three decades later, that same vision has expanded in ways he and his wife, Joy, could never have imagined.
The Rosses have made New Orleans their home since 2013, when they were appointed as Send City missionaries by the North American Mission Board (NAMB). The couple are committed to doing all they can to spread God’s love and share His empowering Word. They are also advocates for the work done through the Send Relief Ministry Center in the city.
The Send North America initiative was created in 2011 by NAMB to plant churches in 32 strategic cities across the United States, Canada, and their territories. Send Relief focuses on meeting the needs of individuals and families in communities compromised in some way because of crisis or circumstance. Its five main focus areas are poverty, refugees and internationals, foster care and adoption, human trafficking, and crisis response.
Planting deep roots of faith
“As a Send City missionary, I am an advocate for the city of New Orleans,” George shares. “Our ministry works with established churches to plant churches in the unreached and unchurched parts of our city. Joy and I work together providing planter care to our church planters and families across New Orleans.”
The need for church planting is great in New Orleans. The city, with a population of more than 1 million people, has only one Southern Baptist church for every 7,252 people. Projections are to plant 50 new churches in New Orleans in the next ten years.
Founded more than three centuries ago, New Orleans has a culture as rich and diverse as the people who call The Big Easy home. George says ministering in New Orleans, however, is anything but easy. “New Orleans is a spiritually hard city. As one long-term pastor put it, ‘You better wake up each day with a purpose in New Orleans, or you will get punched in the face!’ A history of spiritualism, generational religion, poverty, and crime are only a few of the difficulties one encounters on a daily basis.”
George and Joy both agree, “Living and doing ministry here requires an unshakable pursuit! It is impossible to thrive when you are not passionately pursuing Christ.” Inherent in their eagerness to see new churches blossom in the greater New Orleans area is their desire to nurture and protect church leaders—pastors, their spouses, and children—in ways that will allow them to thrive at the same time.
“Acts 20:28 calls on pastors to pay careful attention to themselves if they are going to shepherd the flock of God,” George says. “Sadly, as many pastors pour out and sacrifice to lead their flock, they have no one who cares for and tends to them. Joy and I realize the need for planters and pastors to have someone caring for them, and we are honored to stand in the gap.”
A Kingdom family
Married in 2001, the Rosses and their six children—Isaac, Hannah Ruth, Abigail, Jeremiah, London, and Rueben—are involved in ministry together. “Our family is a kingdom family, striving to embody the character of Christ,” George says. “We intentionally live out the mission of Christ through the Spirit of Christ for the glory of Christ.”
Each new day affords countless opportunities for George and Joy to model kingdom principles for their children, whose ages range from 14 to 6. A key verse that has served as a guide for their family is Jeremiah 29:7: “Seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you. Because if it prospers, you too will prosper.”
George is candid about the challenges of a family-centered ministry. “There is no shortcut here. Daily, unrelenting pursuit of Christ has allowed my family and I, by God’s grace, to stay faithfully on mission in the greatest city on the planet. Even though the difficulties we face sound overwhelming, our family has never experienced as much joy, peace, and purpose, knowing we are exactly where God called us, carrying out His mission of making disciples and planting churches.”
Foster Care and Adoption — Gospel Issues
Another aspect of ministry that God has placed in the hearts of George and Joy is foster care and adoption. The couple became intrigued by the concept of foster parenting, even after their first four children were born. While still living in Mississippi, they completed a foster parent certification process. Soon after their move to New Orleans, George and Joy began a foster relationship with London and Rueben, a sister and brother who would later become their adopted children. That process, however, created some of “the hardest times of our life” together.
There were many factors to consider. George and Joy were engaged in full-time ministry. They already had four biological children. Bringing other children into their home would not only change the family dynamic but also introduce someone else’s problems into their lives, difficulties the Ross family itself may have never encountered.
“Later in our foster care journey, we just wanted to give up,” George says. “We had encountered setback after setback. A once-promising end was nowhere in the future. In fact, after the two years, we were as uncertain as ever about the possibilities of adoption, when we thought for sure it would happen.”
George and Joy continued to walk by faith during these difficult days. Praying fervently, they also memorized and clung to Psalm 18:1–2: “I love you, Lord, my strength. The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.” God’s Word brought the couple the comfort and confirmation they needed when there seemed to be more questions than answers. Further support came through church friends and Crossroads NOLA, a local Christian foster care and adoption advocacy group. Before the relationship with London and Rueben ever began, George and Joy had an opportunity to work with another child. After a period of prayer and seeking wise counsel, the couple said no to their first possible foster assignment, as they didn’t have a peace about it. They, as a couple, had already determined that unity of their spirits, hearts, and minds concerning a foster relationship would be nonnegotiable. God honored that decision.
The four older Ross children have relished the opportunity to be brothers and sisters to London and Rueben. Becoming a “forever family” is a work in progress, as the brother and sister continue to adjust to life with their new parents and siblings. George and Joy remind their two youngest children daily, “We love you, you are safe, and we’re going to take care of you.”
Although George and Joy agree that foster care and adoption are not for everyone, mainly because of the incredible commitment and sacrifice involved, they note there are still many ways for Christians to participate in, support, and advocate these two practices. Simple acts like taking meals to an adoptive family, cleaning the house of a foster family, or calling often to check on parents with a newly adopted child are tangible, meaningful ways to encourage and strengthen fellow believers.
The “City that God transformed”
The acts of planting churches and sowing seeds of love, stability, and security deep within the wounded hearts of newly adopted or foster children are two sides of the same coin—displaying the dazzling love of Christ to a dark and dying world. George and Joy are committed heart and soul to both causes.
George believes the act of worship expresses the truth of adoption. “Worship is one of the great reminders that we were once strangers and aliens, dead in our sins, and separated from God the Father. God not only forgives our sin but adopts us as His very own.”
The crazy, busy, challenging life and ministry that George, Joy, and their children strive to man- age has brought them their greatest joy. The keyword is together. Each member of the Ross family has a critical role to play in supporting fellow church planters and their families and encouraging other families involved in foster care and adoption.
“Through church planting and relief ministry, New Orleans, long known as the ‘city that care forgot,’ will become the ‘city that God transformed,’” George says.
Sherye Green is a freelance writer and attends First Baptist Church in Jackson, Mississippi.
Reprinted from the November, 2019, issue of Missions Mosaic, Woman’s Missionary Union, Birmingham, Alabama. Used by permission. To receive this issue, or subscribe to Missions Mosaic, call 1-800-968-7301.