In 1966 the concern for orphaned children stuck in institutionalized orphanages weighed heavily on the heart of Howard Justiss. These children had no way to experience a home or family. Justiss, along with others at the Otter Creek Church of Christ, began looking for a compassionate and professional solution to the problem. They quickly formed the Committee of 200, which provided the initial funding for AGAPE. As other local churches became involved, the leaders knew it was time to create a board of directors and begin the work of finding Christian homes for orphaned children in Middle Tennessee. Needs quickly evolved, leading many to offer the gifts they had: church members welcomed unwed mothers into their homes, Dr. Lowry Kirby freely provided medical care for the children, and Myrtle Qualls joined the staff as AGAPE’s first social worker. From that humble beginning, AGAPE has become a cornerstone in the Middle Tennessee foster care and adoption community.
As with any successful organization, AGAPE underwent some growing pains. After the addition of the formal counseling services in 1979, the increasing demand for services meant a need for more space. Tom Burton, who began his 30-year term of service as Director in 1982, provided leadership through two physical moves into larger facilities. Tom actively pursued AGAPE’s original mission to provide foster care and adoption services and expanded the agency’s services to include numerous affiliate locations that offer counseling and psychological services throughout Middle Tennessee.
In 2018, the Board of Directors for Morning Star Sanctuary, a Nashville-based domestic violence relief organization, and AGAPE completed a process of due diligence that led to the decision for AGAPE to officially acquire the Morning Star Sanctuary Domestic Violence Shelter and Court Advocacy Program. Morning Star Sanctuary is one of only two emergency domestic violence shelters in Davidson County, and the Court Advocacy Program assists victims of domestic violence in obtaining Orders of Protection.
At any given time, AGAPE will be serving 60-70 families through adoption, foster care, and maternity support, another 15-30 individuals through domestic violence shelter, and this year, the agency will conduct over 10,000 counseling sessions in multiple locations across Middle Tennessee. God is working in incredible ways through this ministry. AGAPE employs some of the most highly qualified Christian social workers, counselors, and staff members who care deeply for the people they serve. Many clients without a faith background come to AGAPE because of this reputation. The services they receive provide an awareness of the love of Christ that they may have never experienced.
From the beginning, AGAPE has relied on the strong support of those who share the vision of serving families and children with unconditional love. Foster families who open their homes give sacrificially of their time and emotions. Donors give generously of their financial resources, and volunteers give selflessly to do whatever is needed. Without this long list of willing servants, AGAPE would not exist today. To paraphrase Moses’ words in Deut. 6:11, we drink from wells we did not dig.
Over our 50+ year history, AGAPE has provided for the needs of over 3,000 children, as well as thousands who have been helped and healed through counseling and domestic violence relief. We are thankful to have been a part of the way God’s love works in Middle Tennessee. For a brief overview of AGAPE's history, click the photos below to view our 50th anniversary timeline.