Leadership, community, and investing in others are all words that characterizes things John Baxter feels passionate about.
While growing up in a Christian home, his story really begins in college while attending Liberty University in Virginia. A time defined when John’s faith and direction became his own.
There were three men who came along in John’s life that would help shape who he is today. These individuals were intentional and saw the potential he held as a teacher, husband, and leader and began to invest in his life. “They continually challenged me to be better,” he recalls.
One of these men, a pastor, started a leadership program and invited John to participate.
“I became a better coach, teacher, minister, husband, father, and community leader. They broadened my horizons with their influence and that influence still impacts me today,” he said. “It was their investment and sacrifice that enabled me to go further faster and I have intentionally sought to do the same for others.”
Seeing the impact and realizing what a difference it makes to have someone invest in others has created a desire in both John and his wife Ann to connect and invest with young couples and families.
Growing up on the east coast, a move to Kansas City was never on the Baxter’s radar, but a phone call from an old college friend got them started praying about their future. The friend spoke to John about what was happening at Graceway, the direction it was going, and encouraged John to apply for an open position at the church.
John and Ann spent time in prayer over it and decided to go ahead and apply. They received word that Graceway was pursuing another candidate, so it came as a surprise that a short time later, they received a call with a request to continue the interview process and a job offer followed soon after.
They prayerfully considered the offer given and sought wisdom from family and close friends for guidance. Their small group, their community, resonated with what the Baxters felt God doing. John recalls the day when his in-laws came to the house with tears in their eyes, telling them they believed God was sending them to Kansas City.
Receiving affirmation from God and these individuals, they packed up their belongings and headed West.
One of the most difficult things about moving across the country was leaving their family. Living so close to grandparents was a blessing to John, Ann, and their children. They prayed that once in Missouri, they would gain a family similar to what they had just moved so far from.
Soon after settling in, John and Judy Prada approached the Baxters and asked if they could ‘adopt’ them; become like surrogate grandparents to their five children. The families began to spend more time together and now you’ll find the Baxter children calling them Grandpa John and Grandma Judy. “This couple has lived out what it means to be the body of Christ — to be a true church family.”
John challenges others to consider to do the same, to find someone who may be in need of a family and consider inviting them to be a part of your life. Maybe it is a family who has just moved across the country or simply a college student who has left their hometown and could use a home cooked meal.
The Baxters currently spend numerous hours investing in young people of Graceway. They host a small group (sometimes jokingly referred to as the ‘not so small group’ due to its growing size) filled with couples and families starting a new season of life. They often meet with couples individually, and John even had the opportunity to officiate a wedding to one such couple they have invested in.
“We’ve experienced so much growth since coming here to Graceway. Overall growth through small groups, process groups, and forms of counseling. Not just my wife and me, but our whole family,” John recalls. He says the CARE Ministry of Graceway, participating in things such as facilitator training, and organizations such as Peace Partnership helped contribute to their growth process.