During this next season of the Heritage blog we will be celebrating individuals in our church body that are on mission for the glory of Jesus, both in our local community and even to faraway places in the world. At Heritage, we desire that the body of Christ seek ways to BE the hands and feet of Jesus to people that would otherwise be unlikely to attend our church. The individuals featured in this blog series are doing that! We pray that their stories encourage and inspire the people at Heritage to be on mission as well. If you are involved in being on mission here in the Rogue Valley, or to the world in any capacity, let us know. We would love to celebrate that, encourage that, and allow your story to inspire the body of Christ.
By: Brent Cisson and Marne Rickards
Photo: Heather Templeton
Heritage on Mission: Marne Rickards
Heritage family, we want to highlight the grace of God in Marne’s life. Marne spent her childhood in Washington State. After living in Alaska, Marne moved to Medford in 2014 to begin working for a national food distribution organization. Marne has two adult children in their twenties. Marne has been attending Heritage for approximately four years and serves on the Heritage Kids team. Marne is also on mission in our Medford community through a couple different organizations, one of which we will be highlighting—CASA.
Marne, tell us a little about your faith journey?
I was raised by parents who were of Lutheran beliefs, however they did not attend church. Yet, they did drop me off at Sunday school regularly. I loved going to church. As a child, I would characterize my relationship with Jesus as more distant. Honestly, I wanted to know Jesus because I was scared of going to hell, which is not the best doctrine. It did become very personal to me in high school when I attended a Keith Green concert; a speaker, Tony Salerno, challenged us to do something with our faith. From that point forward, my relationship became real to me.
You serve as a CASA. Tell us a little about being a CASA.
CASA stands for Court Appointed Special Advocate for Children. It is a national organization that is non-governmental (not an extension of DHS). A CASA serves the purpose of advocating for kids that are in homes where a parent/parents have allegations of abuse, neglect, or addiction. The children may still be in parental custody or they may be in foster custody. A CASA gets complete access to all pertinent information of the child so that the CASA can advocate for the child even in the middle of laws that may state otherwise. You can visit the local CASA website at https://www.jacksoncountycasa.org.
What served as a catalyst for you serve as a CASA?
With my children being out of the home now, I have had a heart for fostering children; however, I work in a job that requires me to travel quite a bit so being a foster parent is not feasible. Then, a few years back, I was at a women’s Bible study here at Heritage and a lady shared about the CASA organization, which I had never heard of! She explained how to get involved, and I immediately knew that being a CASA was my next step in life. Part of being a CASA is initially attending an informational meeting. I was in that meeting within a week of hearing about becoming a CASA because I was so convinced that it was where God was calling me. I get to be a “mom” to kids who don’t always have great examples from their own moms.
How do you become a CASA and what does it look like being a CASA?
In addition to attending the informational meeting, you are required to go through about 30 hours of training. After being sworn in by the courts, you have input as to the ages of the children that you want to advocate for. You are then assigned a child/family, put in touch with the guardians of the child, and then begin to set up meetings with the child (with the guardians present). From there, it is a lot of relationship building, touching base with the child’s teachers, counselors, etc. I then get to advocate for what I feel is the best decision for the child. Our input is often valued by a judge even over what law dictates.
How do you bring your faith in Christ into your role as a CASA?
Well, I can’t flat out share the gospel with the family but if a parent or a child asks questions about my personal life, I can tell them. As I have developed relationships with my families, I have built trust with them. They know my heart and I get to speak into their lives. I also get to continue to pursue relationships with them after litigation is complete, should I choose, and I can be more free with praying or sharing my faith with them.
What would be your encouragement to individuals who may be hesitant to serve in the community?
There are SO many different circumstances that children can need a CASA, but all equally important! Some complex, some not. I work full time and still manage to work through the cases of both of my families. Many CASAs are retired but many are NOT. It’s amazing what a few hours a week can do for the future of a kid! I had NO training or skill set prior to doing this, so I would hope that anyone with a heart for kids or the underserved would consider this organization. One life changed . . . is God’s work in this world. Not just to the children but to the parents.