Thank you to all the people who worked long hours behind the scenes at the Arkansas Democrat Gazette to prepare this article with such excellence. Also, a special thanks to Kelly Barnett for running writing such a beautiful account of what God has done in our lives. We are humbled and hopeful. God bless.
Following God’s Plan
FOLIARTS PLAN MOVE TO PERU TO PLANT CHURCHES
Anything is possible through hard work, dedication and, most of all, faith in God and in his plan for each of his children.
Josh Foliart is living out God’s plan, which he first realized as a walk-on to the Arkansas Razorback football team in 1998.
Foliart transferred to the University of Arkansas as a freshman in the spring of 1998 after attending one semester at Henderson State University on a football scholarship. Having no football scholarship from Arkansas, though, Foliart said he expected he’d never play football again.
“I came here and took a semester off. It was the fi rstsemester I had not played since fourth grade,” Foliart, 33, said.
“That spring was probably the worst semester of my life.”
Foliart spent the following summer with his family in his hometown of Van Buren, where his parents encouraged him to try out for a walk-on position with Coach Houston Nutt’s Razorbacks.
Walking on is not an easy path, Foliart said. Of the 50 players who walked on with Foliart that day in August 1998, only four were left by his senior year. He spent the fi rst two years on the scout team and said he saw no hope for growth.
The main task of players on a scout team is to practice against the starting players. They play little, if at all, in the football games.
During those scout years, Foliart pulled his hamstring twice. Each time after rehab he came back stronger, he said.
The coaches took notice and in the summer of 2000 invited him to be one of only 20 walk-ons to participate in two-a-day practices.
The week of that season’s fi fth game, Foliart got word he would be replacing a sick teammate and starting on the kickoff team against the South Carolina Gamecocks.
In that game, his first time on the field as a Razorback, he made a solo tackle and secured his spot on special teams, where he played the next two years.
“The journey was pretty amazing,” Foliart said. “But strike God from the story, and it really doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.
I really think God had a plan (for me) to use (football) as a platform, and I would not be where I am today had that step not been taken and had I not stayed with it.”
Foliart said with his stature, weight and speed, there’s no reason he should have been able to play college football. While he was still on the scout team and suffering from one of his hamstring injuries, Foliart said he probably would have quit the team had it not been for Ron Harris, former men’s campus director of Arkansas Athletes Outreach at the university.
“He said, ‘Josh, if you never step a foot on the fi eld and you never play a down of college football, will you stay on this team for God’s purposes?’” Foliart recalled. “He challenged me and really got to the heart of the matter. I was still kind of wanting it for myself. Almost instantly, when I said ‘yes’ to that, God began to open doors, and I began to have a chance to play.”
Harris said at the time he met Foliart, he’d been praying for a young man who would see being part of the team as more important than playing on the fi eld. Harris said Foliart played a signifi – cant role in the spiritual revival on the football team, and some of the players from that era’s roster are now involved with ministry as a result of Foliart’s personal walk with Christ.
“When I met him, I met a world changer,” Harris said. “He’s the kind of person that gets it. He understands people, how people operate, their gifts, talents and abilities. … He helps them reach their full potential.
“We need more people like him who can go into a country and leave a spiritual footprint,” Harris added.
After college, Foliart followed Harris to Arkansas Athletes Outreach, where he worked for three yearsin ministry, including taking mission trips to the Dominican Republic, Honduras and Haiti.
“That’s really when I fell in love with the nations and fell in love with the missions and knew that God was calling me to something bigger. I began to understand my call as a minister, and now I understand my call as a church planter.” SEEING THE SIGNS
Foliart recently stepped down as associate pastor of Christian Life Cathedral in Fayetteville, the church he’s attended since 2000 and where he’d been on staff since 2006. He’s readying his family, which includes his wife of 10 years, Casandra, 6-year-old Lucas and 3-yearold Sofia, to move to Lima, Peru, to plant churches.
“God has spoken to us so clearly that this is his purpose for us, this next step for us as a family,” Foliart said.
Foliart first visited Lima two summers ago during the week of July 28, which is his birthday and his daughter’s birthday. He learned it also is the date of Peru’s Independence Day.
“God really gave me a heart for this nation and kind of whispered to me that there’s something for me in this nation,” Foliart said. “I didn’t know at that point that we’d be moving, I just thought, ‘OK, I’m going to be back here at some point.’”
Over time, Foliart said, he and his wife began seeing signs from God pointing them to Lima – a library book the children chose was about a journey Paddington Bear takes to Lima, and the number 555 appeared on almost everything. That number is significant to Josh, his wife said, because several years ago God gave him theverse Isaiah 55:5, which says: “Behold, thou shalt call a nation that thou knowest not, and nations that knew not thee shall run unto thee because of the Lord thy God, and for the Holy One of Israel; for he hath glorifi ed thee.”
The numbers are just confirmation that this is what they are called to do, Casandra Foliart said.
The sign that made Foliart call his wife and say he had enough evidence from God was when he continuously encountered one particular story about Moses.
Before he began reading where he left off in “Wild Goose Chase” by Mark Batterson, Foliart prayed about Peru, specifically asking God for clarity. The next chapter talked about God asking Moses to lay down his staff, he said.
“His staff represented his security, his protection, his finances. Everything about that staff was symbolic of his identity, who he had become, and his safety,” Foliart said. “In that chapter it talks about how God speaks to him to lay down his staff so that it can become something more powerful and something better. I felt the Lord speaking to me, ‘Are you willing to lay down everything you know, everything you’ve become, for something new?’”
He encountered that story again in another book, Jentezen Franklin’s “The Fasting Edge,” during a 48-hour getaway he took to spend time alone, praying and journaling, he said.
“I sit down and do the exact same thing. ‘Lord speak to me. Give me a direction.’ I open the book to the chapter I’m on, and it’s the exact same story from Exodus Chapter 4. He uses the same exact point inthat book.”
Foliart called his wife and said, “We’d just being disobedient at this point, because God’s made very, very clear that it’s time for us to do this.”
Planting churches isn’t building churches, Foliart said. “The church is not a location, not a building. It’s a group of people who are purposed in the same direction,” he said.
Through their initiative, Multipli, the Foliarts will train people to be “authentic” leaders and release them into society to continue God’s work.
An authentic leader is someone who is serving a bigger purpose and does it without pretense, Foliart said. “In one word, Christ. The example of Christ. He was not pretentious, he was very genuine. It wasn’t about being promoted or serving himself.”
Casandra Foliart said this generation of people is attracted to leaders who are real. She said she andJosh are open about issues, such as marital difficulties or parenting, they have dealt with and overcome through Christ.
“One of the things I love about Jesus is Jesus never had a problem with weakness,” Foliart said. “He was never repulsed by weakness. He was repulsed by pretense. … I can relate and I can connect with that kind of a leader. I try to be that.”
The Foliarts’ home church, Christian Life Cathedral in Fayetteville, is one of many churches helping send the family to Peru as fulltime missionaries to plant churches.
“He really understands the various cultures,” Steve Dixon, Christian Life Cathedral senior pastor, said of Foliart. “He’s very much a global thinker.”
At the church Foliart led The Link, the church program for college students and young adults, which saw an average attendance of about 300 and includes people from many nations, Dixon said.
“Josh is the kind of guywho raises up leaders, and he’s raised up some great leaders in The Link,” he said. “I have all the confi dence in the world they are going to be doing a tremendous job in Lima.”
Dixon said he and Foliart share the same philosophy of training, equipping and releasing leaders into their various fields of calling. And that’s what Christian Life Cathedral is doing for the Foliarts – releasing them into the fi eld.
While this move will take Foliart and the children away from their home country, it will take Casandra Foliart closer to her home country of Bolivia. The whole family is looking forward to the move even though their leaving will be sad for friends and family, Foliart said.
“People call it a sacrifice, what we’re doing, but I consider it the greatest privilege on the earth, “ Foliart said. “To be able to serve alongside and build what is truly the longest lasting organization on the planet – the church – it’s pretty amazing.”