This month, we are placing the spotlight on Jason and Courtney Neland, co-founders of Carry the Cross Ministries. Carry the Cross (CTC) is a faith-based organization that exists to serve children, families, and young adults who have experienced trauma and are trying to overcome life’s most difficult trials.
We know that nonprofit leaders have a passion for what they do, determination to push through hard times, and a love for those they serve. Jason and Courtney Neland are no different. In 2005, Jason and Courtney purchased “The Firehouse,” a fourplex located in the heart of Kansas City, KS and opened their Carry the Cross. Their mission was to establish transitional housing for the homeless and serve the families in their community with a focus on children. They knew that through loving God and loving others they would be able to provide a stable, caring, Christian-family support system to those without one and help the lost find a way home.
Over the last 14 years they have used their resources to run programs, host community events and conduct neighborhood outreach which has connected them with those in need. They view CTC as a privilege to see how God has used these long-term relationships to open doors to new ministry opportunities and equip them to better serve their neighbor’s physical, spiritual, and emotional needs. You can read more about their ministry HERE.
Like many amazing nonprofit organizations, Carry the Cross Ministries was born out of a personal experience. Please take a few moments to read as Jason and Courtney share their hearts for loving and serving their neighbors.
Where are you from? Where do you currently live?
We were both born in the KC Metro area. Jason moved around the country while he was young and settled back in the area in 1992. Courtney made a brief journey to Colorado but has remained in the metro most of her life. We now live in and run our organization out of what we call “The Firehouse” in the heart of Kansas City, KS.
In your words, what does your organization aim to do?
Courtney and I both faced a bit of a rough road growing up. When we met and decided to move towards marriage we wanted to dedicate our lives to serving those who had faced similar situations as we had. Our goal is to simply love the unloved, to help do whatever we can to bring hope to the hopeless, and to provide a safe place for children who have been broken by the junk of life.
We focus on certain target groups for our outreach but we will never turn anyone away. Our door is open to any and all who might be struggling with the many curveballs that life throws.
Over the past few years as we have seen the need in the foster and adopt world we have turned a bit of our focus to serving in those areas, especially with children who have aged out, are already in custody or are in danger of going into custody. Our hope is to open a new branch of outreach called On Eagle’s Wings Farm where we will really hone in on those children and their families facing those types of situations.
What motivates you to do this work?
Our motivation to continue this work is ten-fold, but the bottom line, it’s the smiles, the laughter, the joy and hope that is found through the darkness and the tears. To see an individual, a family, find faith, hope and love, after struggling through what is normally a lifetime’s worth of pain and heartache is more than enough to give us a daily jumpstart.
Some of our best moments have come from folks who may have come and gone and maybe our thought was that we didn’t do much to help them while they were with us, and they come back years later and pour out gratitude for the love that was shown to them and the way that it helped to change their situation. Those moments have really helped to keep us going when we may have thought about giving up!
What need is your organization hoping to meet?
We have some specific areas of need that we target:
Serving children and youth in our surrounding neighborhood by providing programs that meet educational, physical, mental, and emotional needs. Our goal is to provide a fun and safe place for them to grow. We also love to explore parks, restaurants, and events around the metro.
All layers of poverty: homelessness, rent, utilities and food insecurities, and helping people get back on their feet after a rough time in life. We do this through providing shelter, counseling, financial support, connections to jobs and our food pantry. Our goal is to walk through life with folks until they are ready to thrive, not just survive.
If additional funding was available, in what ways would you expand your organization/programs?
We have several projects that are on the back burner which could benefit from more funding. Our top project is opening On Eagle’s Wings Farm, a farm where we will provide a home of Refuge, Restoration and Renewal for young people who are orphans, in the foster care system, or in danger of being placed into it. We will also work hand in hand with the families of those children to give them as much support as possible to help them find restoration for their family and get them back on their feet.
More funding would also open the doors for another project we have been working on that involves placing two tiny cabins on some land across the street from The Firehouse that would be utilized as an emergency placement facility for those who come to us in dire situations of homelessness. This spot would also be used as temporary housing for young adults that have aged out of foster care.
Finally, more funding would open up more doors of opportunity for the young people involved in our programs to go on mission and vacation trips around our country and possibly others. One of our goals is to expose the youth in our programs to as many different cultural activities as we can.
Are there any heroes within your organization who you would like to highlight/celebrate? Why?
The true heroes of our organization are the children and folks who have overcome the trials they have faced in life and are getting back on their feet to face the world with new hope!
We also love to recognize those who regularly give their time to volunteer in the many aspects that it takes to help keep our organization up and running. Over the years our volunteers and groups that have come out have paved the way for awesomeness at The Firehouse that went way beyond our expectations.
What is your favorite part of the day at your organization?
Truly our favorite part of the day are the hugs. We have several little folks who daily run across our yard and launch into our arms. The joy that comes with connecting with people, young or old, sharing love and creating common bonds in that love are moments that can’t be beat. One of my favorites came a few months back, when an older gentleman who was about a foot taller than myself with a big ol’ cowboy hat came into the yard to chat and pray. By the end of the time he had wrapped me up in this massive hug, tears flowing from both of us as we sought healing together. Those are the moments that keep us daily going forward.
We have also loved watching our children who have all grown up in our organization and outreach serving alongside us on the journey. I have come out of our door many times to see any one of our five children, sitting on the stairs or out on the porch sharing a healing conversation or a hug with one of our neighbor children who are in need.
How can people join you in your effort to change the world?
Pray: First and foremost, our hope is to recruit as many people to faithfully pray for our ministry and those who we are connecting with as we possibly can.
Volunteer: Whether it be bringing a group out for a work project, putting on a neighborhood event, or helping us out at one of our events, we would love to have you join us. Please reach out for opportunities. (Learn about volunteering HERE)
Give: Our hope is to build a financial foundation that will enable us to begin and continue in our ministry to children and family’s debt free. Whether you wish to offer a one-time gift or to give monthly, every penny will go to support the daily needs of our children and families that we are connecting with. (You can give HERE)
If someone had $10 to give, how would you put that to use for the cause?
$10 can go a long way in our outreach. One of our favorite things to do is take the children in our programs out to a sit-down meal at a nice restaurant. You’d be surprised at how many young people and even adults don’t eat much more beyond the fast-food world. It’s quite a blessing for them to be able to go out to a nice place and have that whole experience. $10 will open that door!
Thank you, Jason and Courtney, for sharing your hearts and making an impact within your community! As you consider where to direct your generosity today, we suggest a $10 donation (or more) to Carry the Cross Ministries.