Local doctors did not know how to help Henri’s wife, and he quickly became overwhelmed and exhausted. This woman was the wife that God had given him. He did not want to abandon her, but he didn’t know what to do with her either.
Let’s be honest. Many of us dread going to work. We often wish we were doing something more meaningful that would change the world. However, Jesus’ life and his “ordinary work” as a carpenter highlights the importance of work in our own lives, regardless of profession, title, and salary.
As a ten-year-old girl, I loved the beach, my cats, and collecting rocks. My favorite color was purple, and I was certain that I’d marry John Michael Montgomery. My biggest concerns were cleaning my room and fighting with my sister. Though the details vary, my experiences as a 10-year-old girl are similar to those of many other women I know.
Masresha’s story is different.
She was 10 years old when militants raided her Ethiopian village, setting fire to homes, killing people, and capturing others. Though her life was spared, her dignity, innocence, and childhood were not. Masresha was forced to marry her captor, a man who had torn her village and her life apart. Her life could never be the same.
A family member was able to locate and rescue Masresha, but she would never again be that 10-year-old. She had changed. She saw the world differently. Determined to move on with her life, however, Masresha remarried. Her husband was a hard-working carpenter, and they had a beautiful home together. She eventually gave birth to a daughter, Meron, which means “gift of God.” It seemed like the pieces were falling into place when it all fell apart again.
Masresha was unaware of her husband’s past. Prior to their marriage, he had killed a man in his hometown in Somalia. Seeking revenge, the murdered man’s friends came to Masresha’s village one day and killed her husband. Masresha quickly went from having a home and a happy life to being devastatingly poor and homeless. Most women in her situation would be forced to abandon their children in orphanages.
This wasn’t the case for Masresha, though.
Masresha and Meron were located through a church in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and Meron is now part of the Home Based Care program. Through the Home Based Care program, the local church has come alongside Masresha to ensure that Meron receives adequate food, housing, education, and medical care. By partnering with Masresha, the church is able to ensure that Meron remains in a loving family environment, while receiving all the important things she needs to grow spiritually, mentally, emotionally, and physically.
A Journey Trip team recently visited Masresha in her home, where she welcomed them with freshly-baked bread and piping hot coffee. At the end of the visit, Masresha didn’t ask for anything for herself. Instead, she simply requested that the team pray for her daughter. Meron is now eight years old, and she is filled with all the spunk and big dreams of any other 8-year-old. She dreams specifically of opening her own hair salon one day.
Masresha loves people. Her home often smells like baking bread and freshly-roasted coffee. She would prefer walking the miles it takes under the Ethiopian sun to visit her friends over sitting at home alone. When asked if she most enjoyed days spent visiting friends or days spent visiting Meron, her eyes lit up. “Nothing compares to spending time at home with Meron,” she said with a smile.
Throughout her life’s journey, the odds have seemingly not been in Masresha’s favor, but she has been a survivor. She has fallen many times, yet she has repeatedly gotten back on her feet. While her life is not perfect, and Masresha and Meron live quite humbly, they have remained together. Their bond is strong. The Home Based Care program has given Masresha the opportunity to hold tightly to her gift from God, Meron.
"Though He slay me, yet I will hope in Him.” - Job 13:15
Recently, the Christian band, Shane & Shane released a song called “Though You Slay Me”. It’s a beautiful expression of trusting and praising God through times of difficulty and suffering. The lyrics borrow straight from Scripture, and predominantly from the book of Job. This is the song that came to mind when I heard Camila’s story. It’s a story of suffering, but also redemption.
“The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.” - Job 1:21
Camila is a young, 30-year-old mother. Before the accident that changed her life, she lived in Costa Rica with her husband and four boys. Her husband was abusive, both physically and sexually. She eventually escaped the abuse and returned to her homeland of Nicaragua with her children, but caring for all of them on her own was difficult.
In 2012, she visited a free clinic provided by a medical mission team. The clinic was held in an old two-story building. While Camila and 34 other people waited on the second floor to see the doctor, the building suddenly collapsed. Camila suffered an injury to her spinal cord, paralyzing her from the waist down. She was the only victim in the accident to suffer permanent damage.
While she was in the hospital recovering, her husband learned what had happened to her. He used that opportunity to kidnap her two older sons and take them back with him to Costa Rica. When she discovered what her husband had done, Camila fell into a deep depression. She grieved over the sons she would likely never see again.
As for Camila’s two younger sons (ages five and three), since she could not care for them, they were taken to her family members. Sadly, Camila’s family wanted nothing to do with her or the two young boys. The boys were neglected and mistreated. They were forced to beg on the streets for food and money, and they developed a fear of adults.
Camila, lying paralyzed in a hospital bed, separated from her sons, and abandoned by her family, wished to God that she would die. For two months, she hardly ate any food. Most of her hair fell out, and she became very thin and malnourished. “But,” she says, “the Lord kept me alive.”
In 2013, a lady from a nearby church heard Camila’s story and shared it with a prayer group. One of the ladies present that day was a woman named Adriana. After hearing about Camila, Adriana went to visit her in the hospital. They developed a friendship, and Adriana would visit regularly, pray with her, and bring her food. She even provided Camila with a wheelchair, enabling her to finally get out of the hospital bed. Having someone care for her and encourage her spiritually helped Camila tremendously.
When Camila was finally discharged from the hospital, she went to stay with her family in a small community outside the city of Matagalpa. It didn’t take long for problems to arise again. Her family was negligent, refusing to provide her with proper care, and she eventually became sick with infection. Adriana received word that Camila was very sick. With Adriana’s help, Camila returned to the hospital, where she was hospitalized for over a year.
When she was finally discharged, this time, Adriana knew Camila should not return to her family again. Adriana and her daughter, Daniella, a young woman in her 20s, decided to take Camila into their own home in order to care for her properly.
In November of 2014, as a surprise for Camila’s birthday, Daniella went to the home of Camila’s family and brought her two young sons to visit. In the two years since the accident, Camila had only been able to see her boys a few short times. She was overjoyed to see her children! This visit lifted her spirits, and her health improved. When Daniella saw that the children’s visit improved Camila’s health, she asked for permission to have Camila’s children move into her home. Camila now reflects back to those times, “My own family rejected me, but Adriana and Daniella have now become like family to me and my sons.”
The 2012 accident broke more than Camila’s spine. It broke her heart. She still has not seen her two older sons since her husband took them to Costa Rica, and she still suffers physically from her injuries. But healing is now taking place. The family that neglected her has been replaced by one that loves and cares for her deeply. Her two young sons are now enrolled in school. They’ve also grown healthier and happier, no longer fearing adults. Camila previously suffered from loneliness and despair, but now, she has a support group of friends who pray for her and encourage her. She still faces many challenges, but she knows that God is with her.
“For he wounds, but he also binds up; he injures, but his hands also heal.” - Job 5:18
Author Dawn Ray serves alongside her husband, Billy Ray, World Orphans Middle East Director.
When ISIS invaded Iraq in the summer of 2014, the people group that suffered more than any other were the Yazidis. Yazidis were thought to be devil worshippers; therefore, Imams told ISIS soldiers that they could abuse Yazidis because “they are sub-human.” Yazidis fled in mass by whatever means they had–many on foot–into the Kurdistan region of Iraq. Some made their way into the mountainous regions along the Iran/Iraq border, where our projects amongst the Kurds have been since 2009.
In the fall of 2014, we came upon a large group of Yazidis living in unfinished buildings nestled at the base of a mountain. We decided to do a medical clinic to help with their needs and get to know them. While at the medical clinic, I found myself talking with the teen girls and began to realize God’s heart and my own love for these people.
Later, in the winter of that year, we were able to provide kerosene to heat their makeshift shelters, and we spent time continuing to get to know them. Now, nearly two years later, we’ve provided homes for each of these families, education for over 100 of their children, and we know their names, their faces, and their stories.
While we’ve focused on providing education for the children, many Yazidis do not always let the girls attend our school. That made me think, “what can stop me from going to them?” The girls’ eagerness for knowledge stirred me to action.
I remember one of the girls kept asking me to teach her English. Of course I wanted to teach them, but as a homeschooling mom and host to many guests, I didn’t feel like I had the time to commit. Instead, I would periodically visit the camp and enjoy talking with the girls.
With a desire to get to know the people living in the camps nearby, I knew I couldn’t spend time with everyone. This spring, I decided to devote one afternoon per week to teaching English to the teen girls at Akoyan Camp.
They were so excited. Seeing their enthusiasm to learn made me want to give them this opportunity even more. During one of these afternoon lessons, a girl came in and turned the TV on while some of us were studying English in the other corner of the room. The girls that were studying were so upset. They turned the TV off and shooed everyone out of the room that didn’t want to learn English!
Talking with some of the girls made me realize that there are few Yazidi girls with more than an elementary education. These girls want to learn, want to read, and some even dream about attending university one day. However, they said they most likely wouldn’t be going to school, even if they were back in their homes. The effects of these lessons are changing the conversation, though. During our lessons, there are always several mothers of little ones who slide into the room to listen. Some even look over the shoulders of the teenagers, as they watch and listen to them read. I can tell they want to learn, too!
When I leave the camp each week, my heart breaks thinking of how different my life and my kids lives would be if we never owned a book. Lately, I have been collecting some books in Arabic for them to read. I have also been collecting books in English from our library at the community center for them to practice reading. I feel like a mobile library some days! My favorite part of our time is when I have the older girls read to the younger girls. Maybe one day some of these girls will want to teach and empower other girls for their futures!
When I think about all the possibilities that the gift of learning to read opens up to a person, it makes me thankful that we are involved in offering education to so many of these children who are caught in a difficult position. What a blessing to be able to offer the opportunity to continue learning in the midst of being displaced.
I have shared the story of Joseph with several girls here who find themselves in a place that is foreign, having lost much, but we see how God can use it as a time for them to learn other skills and things that they would have never had a chance to learn otherwise. I hope to see an increase in the literacy rate among the Yazidi girls/women, while visiting with them reminds them that they are not forgotten.
They begged me and the other two women who serve with me, to come more often. I have a little more time in the summer, so I couldn’t resist them, and said I would come two times a week for now. It is over 100 degrees here now, and we sweat a lot. Seemingly unaffected by the heat, they are eager to practice reading, learn new words, write sentences, and sing songs.
It may just be a little thing I have to offer them, but we pray before we go each week that the Lord would multiply the work we do, just as He did with the loaves and fishes.
The smile vanishes from Kevin’s face as he asks the pastor, “Did she just give me her baby?”
Zone 18 in Guatemala City, Guatemala, has the highest population density in the city and maintains one of the highest violent crime rates in Latin America. The region is filled with slums and has become a place for criminal organizations and gangs to hide. Fear governs the people and finding a job is greatly hindered because of the zone’s negative reputation.
For decades, the tunnel vision of American missions in regards to serving the “least of these” has often led to us unintentionally identifying ourselves as the “most of these.” Our good intentions to bring people out of relief and into development have often buried those same people in a deeper need for relief.
By Lindsay Allen | Project Manager: Americas
Cindy* is a 17-year-old girl with severe cerebral palsy. She cannot walk or talk, and caring for her requires almost constant attention. Her mother, Valeria*, is unable to work because she must stay home to take care of Cindy full time. The meager wage Cindy’s stepfather brings home as a farmer is the family’s only source of income.
Last year, Valeria fell ill and had to be hospitalized. She received a terrifying diagnosis—cancer. As a mother, her fears were not for herself, but for her daughter. Who would care for her? The answer to this question is exactly as God intended it to be: the church.
A group of volunteers from nearby Central Baptist Church accepted the responsibility to help take care of Cindy while her mother was in the hospital. One woman in particular, Diana*, became Cindy’s primary caregiver. Diana’s service to Valeria and Cindy is a direct result of the training she received through Tesoros De Dios, the World Orphans ministry partner in Managua. This ministry focuses on training and encouraging churches to reach out and care for families with disabled children. Culturally, disabilities are seen as a curse for some grave sin. But these churches are pushing back against the cultural norm, armed with the biblical truth that all children are created and loved by God.
Every day Diana would go to Cindy’s home and care for her in a beautiful display of Christ’s sacrificial love. She fed her, bathed her, clothed her, helped her go to the bathroom, sang to her, and eventually developed a genuine friendship with Cindy. She cared for and loved Cindy, whom many considered to be a curse, as she would her own daughter.
While Valeria was in the hospital, Diana and the other believers at Central Baptist were faithfully praying for her and visiting her. After a couple months in the hospital, her health began to improve! The doctors declared that the cancer had left her! She was able to return home and now goes to the hospital only for occasional checkups to ensure the cancer has not returned. Praise the Lord! Diana still frequently visits her dear friends, Valeria and Cindy, and she helps out whenever she is needed.
Diana speaks of Cindy with deep love and respect, not as a tiresome burden. She believes that “even though Cindy cannot speak, that does not mean she can’t understand. Spend some time with her, and you’ll see how she lights up when she hears a certain song and dances along in her wheelchair!”
When we consider Diana—how she spent weeks devoted all day every day to lovingly and tenderly caring for Cindy, and how she took on such a big commitment without asking for anything in return–we see something remarkable. In Diana we see what the church should be. Caregivers. Servants. Friends. Prayer warriors. This is not just the calling placed on Diana’s life but on the life of every believer. We are to pour ourselves out as a living sacrifice in service to others.
Diana’s counter-cultural willingness to serve is humbling. She took on the responsibility of caring for a child with severe special needs, an act of service which demanded time, effort, and attention. In contrast, many of us feel too busy to sacrifice one hour per week to serve in the church nursery, teach a youth Sunday School class, or visit someone in the hospital, much less become someone’s caregiver. Even though our story and our service may look very different from Diana’s, we should be looking for ways to serve others right here in our own communities. Neighbors. Classmates. Coworkers. Who can we serve today?
By Tacy Layne | Writer/Editor In Chatsworth, South Africa, you’ll find a battle raging. Stories won’t saturate CNN or FOX News, and images from the war won’t inundate your social media accounts.
It’s a quiet war.
It’s waged behind closed doors, in the depths of the night, and in the pulsating blood of individual residents. Death is fighting life. Good is fighting evil. Darkness is fighting light.
In 1950, while apartheid reigned in South Africa, the Group Areas Act–a law which separated all ethnic groups–was passed. This law forcibly uprooted Indians from areas such as Mayville, Cato Manor, and Clairwood, and relocated them to Chatsworth. Chatsworth was officially opened in 1964 and was intentionally established as a barrier between the designated “white residential areas” and the township of Umlazi. Today Chatsworth is home to a variety of people from different ethnic backgrounds, though the township remains predominantly Indian.
South Africa has made substantial strides in desegregation and economic growth since the days of apartheid, but the country wrestles with a darkness, an evil underneath the surface–a war.
According to UNAIDS Gap Report 2014, over 19% of the adult population of South Africa has HIV. The stigmas that are often associated with HIV/AIDS continue to affect those living in South Africa, as HIV patients are ostracized from family and friends, and routinely denied medical care or education.
When stigmas and prejudices persist, long-standing misinformation and lies flourish, leaving many to believe old mysticisms, such as the notion that sex with a virgin will cure an HIV-infected person. Beliefs like these, with deep, ugly roots continue to tear apart communities, towns, and countries, while robbing young women, children, and even babies–yes, babies–of their innocence.
Thus, young women, children, and babies are being condemned to a painful life marred by the effects of HIV. Many will never have romantic relationships or families of their own, as they will now forever be viewed as unworthy and not enough.
In the depths of this brokenness, Christian Life Center is offering safety, care, and the promise of hope. The campus includes homes that house six to eight children at a time, a church, a bakery, and a sewing facility. At the center, children are cared for wholistically (spiritually, physically, emotionally, mentally), and often taught a new trade, such as baking or sewing.
Zama came to Christian Life Center as a teenage girl with an HIV diagnosis. Like many of the children within the community, her story is filled with brokenness, but instead of facing homelessness or a life of prostitution, she has found a place of shelter within this community.
By societal standards, Zama has nothing left to offer this world. She cannot have children, and the disease has taken a substantial toll on her young body. Society says she isnot enough.
But, at Christian Life Center, she is told a different story. She has found a home, a purpose, and a family. Having aged out of the program, Zama now serves alongside the staff at the center. Despite her disease, Zama has a sweet demeanor, and she works hard to help care for other orphaned children living on the campus.
Here she is told that she is enough. She may have scars and she may come from a broken past, but she has not been turned away, and she is not the object of degradation and shame.
Christian Life Center exists to not only rescue and rehabilitate children, but to tell these children a different story about themselves. They are more than their pasts, their diseases, their weaknesses, or their inabilities.
The war will wage on in South Africa, yet as the silent bullets fly, the men, women, and church of Christian Life Center will stand to fight for the good. They stand to tell orphaned children a new story of hope and a future in Christ. They stand to tell women like Zama that they are enough.
By Jeremy Resmer | Senior Director of Projects“There is freedom waiting for you, On the breezes of the sky, And you ask "What if I fall?" Oh but my darling, What if you fly?” ― Erin Hanson
Over the last twelve months, we’ve witnessed a major shift in the families of our Ethiopia Home Based Care Program.
Since we trained our church partners on starting and facilitating self-managed savings groups, we have seen over 150 people, mostly single mothers, begin saving for the first time in their lives. While it’s critical that they now have a safety net and funds available in case of an emergency or unexpected life event, something even more important is happening.
These women are realizing their own potential and transforming the way they think and speak about themselves.
Dignity. Value. Confidence.
Where there was hopelessness, today there is hope.
These women meet together over traditional Ethiopian coffee to share about life: family, faith, business, joys, sorrows, successes, struggles, fears.
Not only do these women save together and grow in their understanding of basic principles of financial stewardship, but they also encourage one another in every other aspect of life. It’s true that iron sharpens iron. The entire group is better off together.
As we continue to learn from the families that we serve, we gain new insight into their daily lives. Emotional, physical, spiritual, social, and financial health are closely connected. We realize that economic opportunities, like the ability to start or grow a small business, can strengthen families and dramatically improve the quality of life.
Working with our local church partners, we’ve developed other empowerment initiatives, including literacy and microloan programs for the women in the savings groups. The goal is to empower the church with effective platforms, training, and ongoing support. This will enable churches to provide vulnerable families with opportunities to use their creativity and resourcefulness to generate sustainable incomes, while also enabling them to contribute to their communities.
Our microloan program will begin this year and be available to the caregivers in the savings program. Using the knowledge and relationships they have developed in the savings group, members are encouraged to apply for a small loan of 500 Ethiopian Birr to start or expand a business. The loan will be paid back over 10 months at 50 Birr per month with zero interest. At the end of 10 months, each client that successfully pays back her loan will have the opportunity to reapply for another loan up to 1,000 Birr. The second loan will be paid back over 20 months at 50 Birr per month.
The loan program is entrenched in relationships and will include ongoing training, encouragement, and accountability with our clients. The plan is to start small and stay small. Our desire is to make a significant impact in a few communities. We are going into this with eyes wide open, aware of the inherent risks and challenges such a program presents.
The fact is, some clients will struggle for one reason or another and not pay back their loans. It’s a fact we must face. However–more importantly–many more will be empowered to hope, to grow their businesses, and to sustain and strengthen their families.
If you talk to many microfinance organizations working in developing countries, they will tell you that you can’t loan money to the poorest of the poor successfully. I’m not talking about the top 10% of the economically poor, but the bottom 10%–those with no income, assets, or security of any kind. But if no one is willing to invest in these people, they will remain in hopeless desperation.
Microfinance isn’t a silver bullet to alleviate poverty; however, when incorporated into a long-term wholistic program of economic empowerment, it can be a very effective tool.
We know the mountain is tall but we came here to climb.
By Kevin Squires | Senior Director of Church Partnerships My two sons (ages 11 and seven) recently asked me if they could download a song from iTunes that’s “not on the Christian radio stations”. I almost spit my drink across the room! It wasn’t because we, as a family, are opposed to music that doesn’t shout Jesus in often-random places throughout the song. The shock came from the fact that my two hoodlums had a joint meeting in their conference room (bedroom) to discuss who was going to ask Mom and Dad if they could “change the course of time” by adding a little secular music into their life.
The slightly-above-decent parent that I am followed up their brave ask with a simple question, “What song is it?”
My oldest son looked at the floor and mumbled, “Stressed Out by Twenty One Pilots.” The slightly-below-cool parent that I am had never heard of them. So, I donned my CIA badge of parenthood, opened my laptop, and began stalking these group of pilots. I found the song quite catchy, like something I would have listened to when I cared about being cool . . . like way back in the 90s. I was struck by some of these lyrics:
Wish we could turn back time, to the good ol' days, When our momma sang us to sleep but now we're stressed out. Wish we could turn back time, to the good ol' days, When our momma sang us to sleep but now we're stressed out.
We used to play pretend, give each other different names, We would build a rocket ship and then we'd fly it far away, Used to dream of outer space but now they're laughing at our face, Saying, "Wake up, you need to make money."
My sons were quite ecstatic to hear that I approved their song choice. They took off running to their conference roo- uh, I mean . . . bedroom to download their new favorite song. Meanwhile, I quietly sneaked off to my home office to listen to the song again, and again, and admittedly, again–you know–strictly for research purposes for a well-educated parent.
The song got me thinking about the good ol’ days. It’s not that these days aren’t good, but I have to admit, life gets hard as we grow older. I’m tired, but reminded that the apostle Paul tells us in 2 Thessalonians 3:13 to “not grow weary in doing good.” I hear you, Paul, but I must confess that the thought of doing good makes me weary sometimes.
I’ve worked in full time ministry for 17 years. I would like to say that I’m always godly, that I always see the best in people, and that I don’t get frustrated with my own lack of perfection. But, I’m often embarrassed by some of my mistakes, and I realize that some of my moral failures brought me and my loved ones some added stress through the years. I wish, sometimes, that we could “turn back time/to the good ol’ days.”
Fortunately, yet sometimes painstakingly, God doesn’t allow that. Instead, he uses the bumps in our road to show us His amazing grace.
Grace. Seems like it’s vanishing these days . . . not just in how little we extend it to others, or how rarely we extend it to ourselves, but also in how much we ignore the free buffet of grace given to us by God. Unfortunately, all too often, grace is hard to find in the church. Agendas and self-promotion battle their way to the forefront, often leaving what Christ called “The Way” behind. Churches, made up of sinners, fall and fall hard. And when we fall, we get hurt. And as the saying goes, “hurt people hurt people”.
In many ways, listening to “Stressed Out” by those pilot guys reminded me that you can’t just turn back time to the good ol’ days. You have to eventually find the grace in today.
Here are the five ways I went from stressed out to finding grace:
- I am nothing; He is everything. And that is more than okay with me!
- Success is measured in Kingdom gains, not personal gains. Success in life is not success if it harms the Body of Christ.
- When the going gets tough, the tough realize they are not alone. Christ didn’t give us the human capacity to deal with the toughness of life on our own. But, through the divine capacity of His Spirit, He is able to see us through it.
- In a day and age that stresses the importance of leadership, Christ is primarily looking for followership. He is doing something great in the world, so quit trying to always blaze trails, and learn to follow Him. The journey is always worth it!
- Prayer guides your journey. Corrie Ten Boom once asked, “Is prayer your steering wheel or your spare tire?” Prayer won’t just get you out of ruts; it will also help you avoid them.
By Lindsay Allen | Project Manager: Americas The day she walked into the church to share her testimony, Jalene* was wearing all black from head to toe–black top, black skirt, and a black scarf. This is the traditional clothing for Ethiopians who are mourning the death of someone they loved. Months and years after a loss, family members often continue wearing full black. It speaks to the depths of their grief without demanding words.
Jalene’s testimony begins with her marriage to Menas*. Like Ruth of the Old Testament, she left her family and all she knew to marry into his family. Together, they moved far away from her home in rural Ethiopia to the city of Addis Ababa. The city was unfamiliar in every way, including the language spoken there. Still, Jalene loved Menas, and he was a good husband.
A beloved member of the church, Menas served as an elder. He worked in construction, cracking rocks used for building. And he was the kind of man that used his skills generously, bringing 300 rocks for the construction of a new church hall and laying the foundation for free. Jalene and Menas were happily married and gave birth to a little girl, whom they named Desta*.
Five years later, everything changed. While at work, a boulder fell on Menas, and he died instantly. Jalene was heartbroken, and five-year-old Desta was fatherless. In spite of her great pain and grief, Menas’ family rejected her, claiming that she was bad luck and had brought this death upon their family. The people who were supposed to help care for this young widow and her child wanted nothing to do with her. They kicked her out of her own home.
Jalene had no work experience. Menas had always been the sole provider for their family. Suddenly, she was a widow, a single mother, and homeless. She didn’t know what to do. Her hope was fading away, and she began to question God.
Why did her husband—a good man—die? Is this what happens when someone faithfully serves the Lord?
Thankfully, this is when the local church stepped in to care for Jalene and Desta. The Addisalem Berhane Wongel Church accepted this family into their Home Based Care program with World Orphans. Through the church, she is able to receive support for her family. They have shelter and food, and little Desta is able to attend school. Jalene has also found a job and is providing income in addition to what she receives from the program. This allows her to save and plan for the future.
As she tells her story, tears flow down her cheeks. They are tears of mixed emotions—of great grief and great gratitude. She will never stop missing her beloved husband, and she will continue wearing black as a sign of that grief. But now she has regained her hope! She and her child are being cared for and loved. As she walked away from the church that day after sharing her testimony, she looked up to the sky, smiled, and thanked God.
*Names changed to protect identity
By Tacy Layne | Writer/Editor The Race That Eats Its Young.
It's a daunting tagline, isn't it? Doesn't it make you want to sign up for the race tomorrow? The Barkley Marathons is a gruesome, agony-filled race whose distance exceeds 100 miles and whose memories could scar you for a lifetime. Nestled in the hills of Tennessee, the race challenges runners not only with the distance, but the hills, trees, briars, and early-spring possibilities of rain, snow, sleet, or hail. The course time limit is 60 hours. 60 hours of crying, bleeding, hallucinating, hungering, thirsting . . . fun?
In the first 25 years of the race's existence, only ten people completed the course. Despite its grimacing tagline and its infamous reputation (or because of it), hundreds of runners apply for the race each year. Only 40 of those that apply are given formal invitations (which are written in the form of condolence letters). The race follows a looped course. Three laps, approximately 78 miles, is considered a "fun run", and the full five-lap course finishes out at 130 miles.
If you aren't yet sick to your stomach, each loop of the race has a 12,000 foot ascent and 12,000 foot descent, making the full course equivalent to climbing Mt. Everest twice.
Lazarus Lake, cofounder of the Barkley Marathons, says runners "just had a fallback mentality [in the race's early history] that the race was just the fun run and the hundred [full race] was impossible." Nobody completed the full race course until nearly ten years after the race was established. Lake went on to say, "Once someone finished, you knew it really could be done." Did you catch that? Runners assumed the race was impossible until someone completed it.
Until They All Have Homes.
It's a daunting tagline isn't it? When you place the desire to see every orphaned child in a home up against the reality that there are 153 million orphaned children in the world, this tagline doesn't seem to pay homage to the situation at hand.
- 153,000,000. If we multiplied the Texas population by five, that number would still fall short of the amount of orphaned children in the world.
- The worldwide orphan population is larger than the entire population of Russia.
- If all the orphans in the world were placed in a country of their own, they would have the ninth largest country in the world.
Seeking to house and nurture every orphaned child in the world might as well be the world's most difficult 130-mile race, right? We know the challenge to "defend the weak and the fatherless" (Psalm 82:3), yet we feel like we don't know where to begin sometimes.
Here's the thing. It's going to be impossible until we do it.
When runners run the first four laps of the Barkley Marathons, they typically run together. They partner up – the seasoned Barkley runners with the newbies – and they tackle the course together because they know they stand a better chance against the terrain and their own weaknesses when they choose to not go alone.
I cannot do this alone. You cannot do this alone. World Orphans cannot do this alone. We're holding on to the grace of God, asking you to join hands with us, and tackling the orphan crisis one mile at a time. We aren't taking the "fun run" option. We aren't assuming this is impossible. We're in this for the long haul.
We're going to ride out the briar-covered hills, the snow-packed trails, the rainy miles, the blistered feet, and the relentless exhaustion. Far more than bragging rights and race medals are at stake here.
153 million children deserve hope. It's not impossible for every orphaned child to have a home. It's just that nobody has done it . . .
By Lindsay Allen | Project Manager: Americas World Orphans currently has more than 40 projects in 12 countries around the world. Naturally, the varying cultures, expectations, and regulations shape the way our projects are developed and maintained. Even within one country’s borders, no two projects look identical. Navigating the cultural norms, customs, and appropriate practices in so many varying communities certainly has its challenges. But, it also brings a beautiful diversity to our ministry. Whether it’s a refugee camp in Iraq, Home Based Care in Haiti, a residential children’s home in India, or economic empowerment programs in Ethiopia, we are constantly exploring the best ways to care for orphans and preserve families.
One of our more unique partnerships is an organization in Nicaragua named Tesoros de Dios, meaning ‘God’s Treasures’. This ministry works specifically with children and families that are suffering from the effects of physical and mental disabilities. The facility offers a variety of therapies for children and provides support groups for caregivers. Here, children receive needed treatment to help them meet their potential, and parents are educated on how to provide care for their special needs child.
Tesoros de Dios also does outreach to local churches and schools, providing Biblical teaching about our responsibility to care for these children whom society too often casts aside. Much of the training focuses on inclusivity and education for both churches and schools, as they learn how to engage and care for these families well.
I want to share the story of Mateo* with you. Mateo was born with a seizure disorder and began visiting Tesoros de Dios at 3 years old. He had poor muscle tone and could not walk on his own. Now, after 3 years of therapy, he is able to walk and run! Mateo’s mother was also concerned about his hearing and delayed speech abilities. A speech therapist began working with Mateo and his family to determine what issues he is facing and create a plan to improve his speech. Mateo’s mother was encouraged by the speech therapist as she learned practical ways to assist her son.
Every year, the children are treated to a water park visit. It is the only time Mateo ever goes to the pool. He has so much fun playing in the water! During his last visit to the pool, one staff member was able to work with him on water therapy treatment. They practiced walking and balancing, and he had a blast!
Sadly, in most societies throughout the world, families are shunned by their own communities when they have children born with disabilities. These communities are convinced that the disability is a curse or punishment for the parents’ sins. Worse yet, these children are vulnerable to abandonment, neglect, or murder.
We are so thankful for the work God is doing in Nicaragua through Tesoros de Dios. At Tesoros de Dios, hope is triumphing in children whose lives initially seemed hopeless. Mateo and others like him truly are “treasures of God”. It is encouraging to see the church stepping up to its responsibility to love and protect these precious children.
By Tacy Layne | Writer/Editor Soran, Iraq is tucked into the Zagros Mountains of Northern Iraq, where springtime is brilliantly green and winters are harsh and thick with snow. The terrain is majestic and fierce.
When the Ray family moved to the Iraqi Kurdistan region, they didn’t know what God had in mind for them, but they heard the call to go, and listened. After building relationships in the area, the family was approached in 2009 by Mayor Krmamji Dargali, who asked the Rays to establish a community center that would minister to widows in the region through education and job skills training, enabling them to continue supporting their children.
The community center was affectionately and prophetically named: “The Refuge Community Center”. Oh, the beautiful things God had in store. Billy and Dawn Ray, along with their three boys, in partnership with Tim and Sarah Buxton and their three children, began to establish roots in Iraqi Kurdistan.
Then, in 2014, everything began to change.
ISIS wreaked havoc across Iraq, targeting religious and ethnic minorities in what has now been justly declared a genocidal campaign. As a result, millions of desperate Iraqi families were suddenly on the move, seeking refuge. As a peaceful safe haven in the midst of violence, many turned to the region of Northern Iraq. Thus, in a matter of days, the community center was repurposed to not only serve widows and orphans of the region, but to create space for Yazidi and Shabak families fleeing ISIS.
In August 2015, The Refuge Initiative was officially established.
The efforts of the Buxtons and Rays have been tremendously blessed and multiplied, as the Refuge Initiative now includes five self-governed micro-camps that wholistically care for the needs of approximately 700 people through the provision of adequate housing with running water and indoor plumbing, trauma counseling, access to food, and education. For the children in this region, education is vital.
"With guns, you can kill terrorists. With education, you can kill terrorism." -Malala Yousafzai
In a country where political and economic stability will continue to remain a distant dream, the children grow further behind in their education with every passing day they miss school. For many of these youth, the long-awaited day of returning home will not change their educational circumstances, as the Iraqi government will not allow children to miss such large quantities of time in the classroom. These youth run the risk of never receiving a formal education again, yet at TRI, the children have a much more hopeful story.
English, math, music, and art classes have been held in the community center, but the space is proving to be too small for the more than 100 children currently receiving an education. In an effort to remain focused on wholistically caring for refugee and IDP families, ground has been broken for a school.
This school, an answer to many prayers, will be 16,000 square feet and two stories high. A gym will be located on the ground floor, with nine classrooms upstairs. The facility will make both the teaching and the learning process far more accessible to the educators and students, as space will no longer be a daily issue.
By focusing on education for these families, we remind them that they weren’t always refugees, and they won’t always be refugees. We remind them that they have a hope and a future, and the circumstances they currently face will not determine the rest of their lives. Children that would be at risk of forced child labor or human trafficking within the confines of a large, bustling macro-camp are instead receiving some dose of normalcy in their lives as they go to to school each day to learn, to dream, and to grow.
"For we are God's masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago." – Ephesians 2:10
As they continue to follow God’s leading, the Rays and Buxtons come face-to-face with the good that God planned for their families so long ago, the good that they could never have planned for themselves, and the good which has provided refuge for so many families. In the soil of devastation and brokenness, goodness and hope are blossoming.
We’re excited about the work God is doing through TRI in Northern Iraq. As we educate the future leaders of Iraq, establish Christ’s deep hope in the hearts of refugees, and continue to celebrate God’s providence in the midst of devastation, we want to invite you to join us. We’re seeking 538 additional sponsors for TRI and would love for you to be a part of this.
Tacy Layne | Writer/Editor “We have to do something.” Months of researching, being pummeled by images, and endless news stories led the mother-daughter duo, Sheryl Russell and Brittany Turco, to make this statement regarding the refugee crisis.
They were sitting in a warm, familiar place on that December day: Sheryl’s kitchen. After 30 years of cooking and baking, the kitchen had seen many wedding cakes, mouth-watering cookies, and cinnamon rolls.
Cinnamon rolls have been a Christmas staple in the Turco and Russell homes, as the ladies have passed out the homemade pastries to family, friends, and neighbors for the last several years. This past year, however, they took a different approach.
What if a cinnamon roll could bring awareness? What if indulging in a delicacy could somehow raise funds for refugees in Syria and Iraq? What if hours baking in a kitchen could translate to over $1,000 for refugees?
Sheryl watched the news stories pour in, saw the faces of mothers, fathers, and children as they journeyed to safety, and came face-to-face with the realization that those who traveled for miles were the fortunate ones . . . because they escaped. When that realization set in for Sheryl and her daughter, Brittany, they did what they do best. They baked.
Brittany and Sheryl established Rolls for Refugees with the goal of raising $1,000 to support three organizations that serve refugees in either Syria or Iraq. Brittany quickly set up a website to take orders online, and in just four weeks Rolls for Refugees went from a kitchen table conversation to a profitable $1,400 fundraiser.
World Orphans project, The Refuge Initiative, was one of the three organizations that received not only the financial, but the awareness-driven support of Brittany and Sheryl. The Refuge Initiative operates out of Iraq, a country ravaged by the destruction and heartbreak brought on by ISIS. This project uses self-governed micro-camps to provide wholistic care and equip refugees with pathways back to independence, including education, vocational training, and job creation.
While the funds Brittany and Sheryl raised certainly made an impact on the lives of refugees, they were most excited about the opportunity to raise awareness, not only for the refugees, but for the organizations whose ministries focus on serving refugees. Family and friends were excited to have an easy, tangible (and delicious) way to get involved.
Brittany and Sheryl, like us at World Orphans, believe that God has blessed us with gifts and talents, and he breaks our hearts for specific people and circumstances. Why? Because we have something to offer. Whether it’s baking or running or offering up our finances, we have a role to play in caring for widows, orphans, and refugees . . . until they all have homes.
What do you have to offer? Learn more about the ways in which your gifts and passions can impact the ministries of World Orphans by visiting us at www.worldorphans.org/rescueteams
By Lindsay Allen | Project Manager: Americas “Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength. Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.” -- Isaiah 40:28-31
In these verses and several times throughout Scripture, we are told to wait for the Lord. That command seems so simple, and yet we struggle to obey it every day. Our human nature compels us to try to control every aspect of our lives—our finances, our health, our futures. We may say we desire God’s blessing and His will for our lives, but are we willing to wait for Him to reveal it to us? Are we willing to endure trials and heartache as we wait for the Lord?
Tigsit is a widow living in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, with her three children. Her name in Amharic means ‘patience’, and her testimony shows us what it means to patiently wait upon the Lord despite hardships and challenges.
In 2001, Tigsit and her husband, Mulugeta, were living in Eastern Ethiopia when she became very ill. For three months, she lay in a hospital bed, and no one knew what was wrong. Finally, the doctors determined she had both tuberculosis and HIV, but nothing helped, and she continued to become increasingly sick. Four more months passed, and it became clear that she would die in that hospital bed. So, her husband and father began preparing for her funeral.
A group of Christians from the local church came to the hospital one day to visit and pray with the sick patients. One man of God prophesied that Tigsit would be healed in one month. One month later, after eight long months of illness, she was suddenly healed! Tigsit’s father had been worshiping a witch for years, but after her healing, he, Tigsit, and Mulugeta all gave their lives to Christ immediately.
Tigsit and Mulugeta then moved to Addis Ababa, joined a church where they began to learn about Jesus and His Word, and they were eventually baptized. Sadly, Mulugeta’s family rejected them because of their faith in Christ. Still, they proclaimed the Gospel proudly.
Not long after moving to Addis Ababa, Tigsit gave birth to a son. Their family continued to grow through the birth of a daughter in 2005 and another daughter in 2010. Mulugeta worked as a tailor, and Tigsit made some extra money washing clothes. Together, they worked hard to provide for their family.
Then, on August 1, 2014, Mulugeta was walking home from work when he suddenly fell down and died. The cause of death is still unknown. And just like that, the story changes. The same God who had miraculously healed Tigsit in 2001 had suddenly—abruptly—taken her husband home to heaven.
Tigsit, a widow suddenly grieving the loss of her husband, had to bear the full burden of caring for her three children alone. She sold many of their possessions, worked multiple jobs, and still found herself struggling to feed her family and pay rent.
That is when waiting on the Lord is not so easy—when the children are hungry, when you can barely keep a roof over their heads, and when the pain of losing someone you love seems like a physical weight you can’t lift—and yet, in spite of the financial strain, Tigsit faithfully gave her tithe to the church, trusting in the Lord and waiting upon Him. She knew firsthand the power of God, and her faith could not be shaken. She knew she was passing through the valley of the shadow of death, but she did not fear, for she knew her Shepherd was with her.
Then, when she needed it most, assistance came from her local church and the World Orphans program. She joyfully received small, needed items like soaps and cooking oil. But, more importantly, her three children, who were all HIV+, could receive the medication needed for them to stay healthy, and they were able to attend a good school.
Tigsit has now joined a savings group through the church, which enables her to save money each month. She feels empowered to provide for her family, making sure her children are never hungry and can receive a high-quality education. Tigsit is also delighted to report that her youngest daughter of five, after taking medication consistently, is now HIV free!
Those who know Tigsit say that she claims the name of Jesus in almost every statement. She is full of joy and radiates the love of Christ. How beautiful it is to see this woman, who has suffered so much, proclaiming the Lord’s faithfulness. May we take Tigsit’s story to heart, and pray over the areas in our lives where we must only wait for the Lord, and He will renew our strength.
By Jeremy Resmer | Senior Director of Projects How can we help empower women?
Before we attempt to address such an important topic facing many secular and Christian organizations, let’s dig deeper and ask more questions:
Which women? In which country? Single or married? Do they have children? How many? Do any of the children have special needs? Do the women have a formal education? Through what level? Do they have a job or informal small business? Do they have any health problems? Do any of the children have health problems? The list goes on and on . . .
Bear with me as I go on a tangent.
From my experience working with many American churches, we are often quick to oversimplify problems and offer solutions. We tend to start new organizations, manage them from afar, and let outsiders make key decisions. Yes, I too am guilty as charged.
We tend to be slow to listen and learn. Seldom have I seen missionaries or teams spend several months and years living in a country, building relationships, visiting locally-run organizations, and seeking local input before starting a “project” or organization. One would assume this would be the norm. However, when we move intentionally and in ways appropriate to the local culture, people back home have a funny way of asking, “What are you waiting for?”
Let’s face it; we want a quick fix and think we can do it better on our own. We believe that we can take a solution or a model that worked in one community and apply it to every country. We tend to underestimate the challenges and costs of working cross-culturally and overcompensate by cutting corners. I’ve seen this play out over and over again by well-intentioned churches, ministries, and NGOs led by smart people with huge hearts.
Unfortunately, they were guided by their own visions and emotions rather than appropriate research and cultural considerations. This is a recipe for disaster. It often leads to bigger projects, bigger budgets, and bigger mistakes. This approach causes fractured relationships and damaged reputations, and these costs are far greater than money.
The same principles that apply to working in new countries also apply to specific communities and subsets of the population. The objectives may differ, but the questions we ask and the process we follow is very similar.
Let’s revisit our questions and get a little more specific.
How can we help empower women in Jinja, Uganda? While this is still quite broad, let’s dive in anyway to see if we can make some progress.
We’ve spent the last five years facilitating Church Partnership in Jinja. The initial vision for the partnership included inspiring and equipping the local church to care for a small number of orphaned and abandoned children, while exploring sustainable, long-term solutions to funding the work.
If you’ve ever been involved in these types of partnerships before, you know that nothing comes easy and it takes time to develop relationships and trust. Undoubtedly, you will face cultural miscues and things lost in translation. In other words, expect to make mistakes. Hopefully, you will minimize and learn from them.
Here we are, several years into the partnership, and the church partners have witnessed struggles and joys and everything in between. The work has evolved from merely creating a sustainable form of orphan care to finding local solutions to preserve, strengthen, and empower vulnerable families, particularly single mothers.
Over the course of time, and after ongoing meetings, phone calls, emails and trips, the church partners have learned a great deal about the local culture, the people, and the issues the local people face. Over and over again, they have been reminded of the importance of empowering women—spiritually, physically, emotionally, mentally, and socially. None of these are more important than the others. All aspects are overlapping each other.
Just two months ago, the church started a food distribution and visitation ministry. People in the community helped the church identify fifteen families that are highly vulnerable and in desperate situations. Members of the church visited these families to learn more and introduce themselves.
Rose*, a single mother of three, told her excruciating story. One of Rose’s children has a severe disability that requires her to be present with the child at all times. Her husband, who worked and provided for the family, considered the child a curse and would not accept the child as his own, so he left.
Rose, who couldn’t leave her child’s side, was unable to work, could no longer provide for the family, and could no longer pay rent. She and her children moved to a tiny parcel of property. They had no home and used an old tarp to provide covering from the rain. The other children didn’t receive much attention from Rose and they seldom had anything to eat. To make matters worse, the family was isolated from the community because having a child with special needs is often viewed as a curse or repayment for past sins.
Truly in despair, Rose and her family experienced physical, emotional, social, economic and spiritual pain. They had nowhere to turn.
Community of Faith Church has a desire to serve the community and is meeting these families in their brokenness and affliction, physically and spiritually. Rose and her family are now receiving food regularly, along with prayer and support. The church is working with her to find ways to come alongside her to provide proper care for her child and discuss ways to earn an income. These stories are all too common and long-term solutions are not often immediate.
After months of planning and prayer, the church is preparing to open The Greater Love Center for Women’s Ministries. The center will be a refuge for women from all backgrounds and faiths to share their stories, and receive counseling, encouragement, and emotional support.
The center will start with specialized programs for women who have experienced trauma and help them heal from their past. Over time, it will gradually develop economic empowerment programs, including savings groups, financial stewardship training, small business training, and possibly microloans.
Through the church and the relationships it has developed with the community and families with special needs, the center is also praying and researching ways to empower other local churches, particularly women’s ministries. The church hopes to see other churches visiting families with special needs, providing basic education and training, offering resources, and helping to initiate support groups for the women.
How do we empower women in Jinja, Uganda?
It looks different in each community. The church seeks women out and meets them right where they are. We listen to their stories and show compassion for their pain. We gather small groups of like-minded women together to encourage, pray for, and support each other through similar struggles in life. By working together with the people we serve, we identify needs within the community and find appropriate solutions to the problems we face while learning that our healing, restoration, and identity are all found in Christ.
*Name changed to protect identity
By Tacy Layne | Writer/Editor Isn’t it remarkable how the world can change in just a few hours? One short flight from Ft. Lauderdale will take you to Port-au-Prince, Haiti, and suddenly everything has changed. Most notably, unless you’re fluent in Creole, you cannot understand anything that’s being said around you.
Within a few hours though, you’ve settled into the normalcy of not being able to understand those around you. So, when English words in a recognizable American song burst through the Haitian air in a tiny peach-walled room with rough-cut pew benches, your heart stops for a moment.
Savior, He can move the mountains, My God is mighty to save, He is mighty to save.
Forever, Author of Salvation, He rose and conquered the grave, Jesus conquered the grave.
You’re surrounded by the beautiful faces of orphaned children exclaiming the might of their Savior. But, you need to know more before you can appreciate the sacredness of these heartfelt words.
After the Haiti earthquake of 2010, a local Haitian pastor received a phone call from one of his congregation members. The individual said, "Pastor, I think you're going to want to come down to the church. You won't believe what we're seeing down here." When he arrived, the pastor was greeted by 370 orphaned children. In an effort to find homes for the children quickly, he began calling other pastors in the area to seek their assistance. In the meantime, the children slept in tents outside the church. Since that shocking and seemingly hopeless day in 2010, all 370 children are either in local homes or they're one of the children now living under the care of the pastor.
But, the story doesn’t end there. Last year, the pastor became ill. Fevered, growing increasingly thin every day and having no strength, he’d lie on the floor of the building that the orphans call “home” – his home – and he’d wait to die. The children were heartbroken for this man who had become a father-figure to them. Day and night, they would surround him, pouring out prayers and tears on his behalf. They believed the mighty Savior who sheltered them in the chaos of the earthquake could heal him.
God healed the pastor.
In a hot church in Haiti on a December afternoon, orphaned children proclaim “Mighty to Save” with confidence and joy, and a smile comes to life on their pastor’s face. When it comes to hope, it doesn’t matter what language you speak.