In an open air church sanctuary in Haiti, she walks over to me with a twinkle in her eye, seemingly holding in giggles. Taking both of my hands in hers, she positions each of her hands directly underneath mine. Before I know what she is doing, she swiftly pulls one hand from underneath mine, and gently smacks the top of my hand while erupting in a deep belly laugh. I begin laughing too, surprised by the quiet girl with braids in her hair. Though we cannot speak each other’s language, we spend the next five minutes taking turns trying to catch each other off guard with a swift movement of the hand. Her friends start to push her aside, eager to prove their own skills in the game, and the laughter starts to spread from one child to the next.
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Earlier this year, a group of people from Morey Community Church of Michigan visited their church partner, Iglesia Nueva Vida Alfa y Omega, in Guatemala for the first time. Congregants from each church tripped over one another's languages and laughed through the initial awkward interactions.
And thus, Frimose began the hard work of parenting a grief-stricken 8-year-old girl.
"An architect." Her boldness and creativity caught me off guard. It was the sixth classroom of the day in which we'd asked the students, "What do you want to be when you grow up?" Her response surprised me because it was one I hadn't heard yet.
The teenage students were packed into a tiny classroom, and though their language was unfamiliar, the stares, giggles, and whispering felt very similar to the way a US classroom would feel brimming with teenagers.
The heat, the language barrier, and the mental exhaustion of the day was making us run close to empty, but we mustered up more energy for this new group. We began, as we had with other classes, by asking the expectant faces about their plans for the future. We heard dreams and plans bounce off the walls: teacher, doctor, nurse.
Esther* claimed she wanted to be an architect.
We began to talk to the students about the importance of not only choosing a career to pursue, but the importance of choosing their words carefully. We discussed how they talk to their friends, to their parents, to God, and to themselves. Recognizing the lies imbedded in the saying, "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me," we told them how hurtful words can be. But, of course, they already knew this.
When we finished talking to the class, we offered to take questions. Esther's hand immediately shot up and she whispered for what felt like 30 minutes to our translator, Davidson. In reality, it was probably less than two minutes, but have you ever stood in front of a classroom full of teenagers? They stare at you.
Davidson turned to face our group—me, Mike, DeAhna, and Shydonna—and he relayed the story of a broken-hearted girl who so confidently announced her desire to be an architect, yet deep down was considering being a criminologist. She'd confided in someone she loved about her dreams, but that person told her she couldn't be a criminologist, and Esther wanted to know what to do and where to go from here.
Shydonna in Haiti
What Esther didn't know is that our team was blessed to have the brilliance and heart of Shydonna Tossie, director and owner of Ampersand School in Longwood, Florida. Shydonna is an educator, motivator, and big dreamer, but most importantly, Shydonna's love for children cannot be exaggerated.
Shydonna communicated many things to Esther that day, as she encouraged her to continue pursuing her desire to be a criminologist, but the most important things she conveyed to this heavy-hearted young woman were hope, love, and confidence. The conversation ended in tearful prayers and the kind of hug that must have made the angels sing.
Esther's school was attached to the local church, and following that final conversation in the classroom, we went into the church auditorium with our group. It wasn't long before a backpack-bearing girl with an orange gingham top and navy skirt made her way into the auditorium. Her eyes raced around the room before she quickly located Shydonna. Esther, seemingly forgetting the language barrier, sat down next to Shydonna to rest her head on Shydonna's shoulder. Words weren't important anymore. Esther needed hope, love, and the knowledge that someone had confidence in her. She'd found that in Shydonna, and that was enough.
This is the kind of impact Shydonna makes every single day at Ampersand School, where she frequently whispers in the ears of young learners, "Somebody is waiting for you to be great." Isn't it fascinating how some messages need to be communicated regardless of the culture? Isn't it amazing to think that children everywhere are dreaming big and waiting for us to encourage them to fly? What Shydonna knows and what you and I may fail to remember is that education isn't just about education. When children learn and dream, they're setting a pathway for their future.
If you were to ask her, Shydonna would tell you she wasn't always this inspiring to those around her. As a college student feeling the weight of the world, she stood at a Christian youth conference in a sea of depression. Tears were staining Shydonna's face when a strange woman approached her and said:
"What you're going through right now isn't even about you. Somebody is going to come behind you who needs to know that you survived. That person needs you to get through this because they need to know they can survive, too."
15 years later, Shydonna holds those words tightly in her hand, carrying them with her every day, knowing that this woman—whose name she'll never know—changed her life.
Arguably Shydonna may have done the same thing for Esther. Words of wisdom. A prayer. A hug at the perfect time. Children around the world need to know that we're waiting for them to be great. Orphaned and vulnerable children especially need to know that the world is waiting for them to be great. Though their circumstances understandably may seem insurmountable, we need 153 million orphaned children to know that we're waiting for them.
Shydonna and Esther
At World Orphans, we talk a lot about wholistically caring for orphaned and vulnerable children, ensuring their physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual needs are all being addressed, but orphan care at the end of the day isn't really about orphan care at all.
We aren't caring for orphans. We're pouring into future doctors, teachers, and nurses. We're empowering architects, engineers, and mothers. We're investing in fathers, mechanics, and entrepreneurs. When you look into the eyes of a child, you are looking into the future of that community, town, and country. The child's circumstances may have rendered him or her orphaned, but that is not the child's permanent identity.
The second we start believing that orphan care is merely about orphan care, we've forgotten the potential that lies in those beautiful brains, the passion that burns in those big hearts, and the dreams that soar higher than the clouds. These boys and girls . . . they're going to be great.
*Name changed to protect identity.
By Lori Harry | Guest Blog | Haiti Trip Team Member "WHY DO YOU LOVE ME SO MUCH?" I can't get these words out of my mind. This question was posed to me by Resien, a beautiful Haitian woman, and her question is one I can easily ask God.
When I went on my last trip to Haiti, I took printed photos from my previous trip with the hope that I would see some of the same people again. I'm sure many of these Haitians had never seen themselves in a printed picture. Faces quickly lit up as my simple gifts were passed around for friends and neighbors to see.
On our first day at the church, I briefly saw one of the ladies I'd met previously and I remembered I had a photo of her and her children. I was busy organizing something, and before I could give her the photo, she was gone. Each day, I looked for her again, but she never came back to the church.
On our last day, I asked the pastor if he would take me to her. As we walked down the path between the dwellings, she was sitting in an open space with a few other women. Our whole team, surrounded by all the Haitian kids that were following us, approached the group of women, and I handed her the photo. We both found ourselves smiling during this brief conversation. As she motioned me toward her home, a one-room concrete structure, she said, "WHY DO YOU LOVE ME SO MUCH?" I easily answered, "Because Jesus does!" and I gave her a hug. But as I have been sharing this highlight of my trip since I've been home, the deep meaning of her question has pierced my heart.
I am a "doer" - always busy, always on the go, and always seeking more to do. It's no different on the mission field. Even though the culture is more slow-paced and not organized in ways that are customary to me, I often feel like I can do more . . . building projects, programs, street clean-up, teaching, etc. . . . But, World Orphans focuses on relationships. Trips with World Orphans focus on encouraging families and staff, spending time with the people in the community, and praying for God's touch in their lives.
The way this lady felt because I chose to love her mirrors the way we should feel knowing how much God loves us. It is often difficult for me to accept that I am special in God's eyes, and my friend, Resien, not only reminded me of God's love for me, but also reminded me of the importance of relationship. If for nothing else, I know that God took me to Haiti for that one moment!
Well, we're about two weeks into those resolutions. The holiday festivities have ceased. It's back to work and back to reality. The decorations have been stashed until next year (hopefully). As we dive into 2016, though, we'd be amiss to not rejoice in the challenges we faced, lessons we learned, and victories we celebrated over the course of the last year. Without further adieu, we invite you to reminisce with us as we look back on ten of our favorite blog posts from the last year:
- Jeremy gave us the opportunity to travel to Ethiopia, where we saw women empowered and children being given the gift of hope.
- We stepped back in time with David, as we learned about the heart of the early church for children who have been orphaned.
- Kathy ushered us through the doors of secondary schools in Kenya, where we met children who are not merely surviving, but thriving!
- We discovered what's different about a trip with World Orphans.
- Kevin taught us practical ways to deal with conflict.
- We considered the beauty in the brokenness as we reflected on the Haiti earthquake of 2010 and the hope that springs anew there.
- Why a home rather than an orphanage? We looked at that question.
- With loud shouts of joy, songs of praise, and tears of happiness, we took a closer look into Iraq and saw God moving in powerful ways.
- As Matthew guided us through the process, we considered what it means to love each other well, to abide in Christ, and to be the kind of father that magnifies our Heavenly Father.
- We learned more about the orphan crisis and we considered what the church's role should be in caring for those that have been orphaned.
God is working in powerful ways across the globe, and we are thankful for the privilege to be his hands and feet as we equip, inspire, and mobilize the church to care for orphaned and vulnerable children. Let's press on...
...until they all have homes.
By Amy S. | Journey Trip Member & Guest Blogger Our first Journey Trip of 2015 just returned from Haiti, and as the team leader I am thrilled to become acquainted with the hearts of my team members. When God lays something on a person’s heart it is our desire to respond to the leading no matter the cost. – Amie Martin, Journey Trips Mobilization Director.
Hello, my name is Amy, and I recently joined World Orphans for their Journey mission to Haiti in early August.
I never thought I would be a person to go on a mission trip, let alone a mission trip out of the country. I always thought there were plenty of other Christians out there to “fill the gap”, “make the sacrifice”, ”go the extra mile”.
I was pretty content in my small, quiet life … that is until God spoke to me. No, it wasn’t a “burning bush” experience, as I probably would have been paralyzed with fear and missed His message. No, it was more like He put a desire in my heart to do something more with my small, quiet life. You see, I am an “empty nester” now, and it has been a long time since I have been around younger children, but I have always loved caring for and nurturing them.
I knew scripture had specific instructions to the church regarding orphans and widows, so that is what I sought out when I decided to look for a place to serve. So using the Internet I searched “mission trips” which kicked me to a site that all I had to do was type where, what specifically do I want to do, and how long. Up popped World Orphans!
When I first applied to World Orphans the trip was set for May and it was to be a dental focus. I thought, “Great!” I work in the dental field and Haiti in May would be perfect! This must be confirmation that I am to “do this”. So, I invited my friend to consider joining me on this endeavor. She was all for it, applied, and was accepted to the team also. Fantastic! Now I had someone to share this experience with me! Then the trip was moved to August … Haiti in August? Then the dental focus was to be put on hold until possibly 2016. Then my friend backed out for her own personal reasons. What about the confirmation?
But, I knew I really was meant to go - because none of that mattered, the month, the focus, and not having a friend to go along with me. All that mattered was that I was to follow through on the desire to serve. I had so many obstacles in my way to distract me. My mother suddenly passed away weeks ago, my first grandchild was born, and an abundance of other distractions to get in my way for making this trip the experience of a lifetime.
It is my hope and prayer to stay focused on the path while remembering: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13).
I’ve been home for one week already since my incredible trip to Delmas, Port au Prince, Haiti! I’ve been sorting through many feelings as I reflect upon the week with my teammates, World Orphans staff, and Christ followers of Haiti.
Before we departed for Haiti, my team leader Amie asked if I would recruit a “prayer warrior.” I would keep in contact with this person throughout the week with updates on our trip and prayer requests while we were on-field. I gave the name of one of my very best friends, Renee, whom I knew would be up to the task, since my previous “go to warrior” was now with the Lord and cheering me on. It is because of those prayers that I have felt God’s strength and sustaining grace that gave me one of the most wonderful and fulfilling experiences of my life.
The smiling faces of the children and people of Pastor Carlos’s church and community is a memory I will cherish the rest of my life. The prayer requests broke our hearts as our interpreter Davidson translated. We realized that the requested prayers were no different than the ones we lift up here in America, to be “faithful and be kept in the Lord Jesus and in the Church”. Only their difficulties are compounded with the inability to provide food or water on a daily basis.
I learned that World Orphans supports 20 children through Pastor Carlos’s church and we were able to visit a few homes in a “tent city” one afternoon. As we walked on the hillside through the community of makeshift, two-room tarp homes, people were smiling and greeting us with joy and acknowledgment. There was special hospitality shown towards Pastor Carlos, as he is known for his dedication and commitment to them. I also witnessed children playing and smiling, as well as mothers reading their Bibles and praising God. It was quite profound!
Yes, the country of Haiti is the poorest in the Western Hemisphere; we saw the evidence of that everywhere we looked. But when you look past that, God is moving in the individual lives of each Christian there! That is their Hope, that “He who began a good work in you will be faithful to work it to completion…” (Philippians 1:6).
That is my Hope also.
God Bless, Amy
We at World Orphans rejoice in the work Amy was able to experience during her time in Haiti. She is one of hundreds of individuals whose life has been influenced by the incredible brothers and sisters with whom we partner in Haiti. Amy, thank you for your willingness to courageously journey with us, and as you beautifully stated, we also believe that “He who began a good work in you will be faithful to work it to completion.”
We invite you to take a step to becoming a lifelong orphan advocate by joining us on a Journey Trip! Click this link for more information.
A guest blog, by Simeon. You are invited to lean into some thoughts, feelings, and ideas from Simeon, one of our Journey Trip team members, currently in Haiti. We are thankful for his vulnerability and willingness to allow us to post his blog. We hope it inspires you today in your own journey of active faith.
My journey to signing up for this Journey Trip mission follows from the intersection of two simultaneous stories of how God has been working in my life:
Getting Comfortable with Serving
I like logistics. In almost everything I do, I like organizing, planning, and running the show from safely out of the spotlight, behind the scenes. This includes the ministries I’ve served in as well, such as audio-visuals at church and the secretary and treasurer in the university fellowship. Last summer, I declined to join the VSET missions team from our church, and instead, I decided to support the team financially instead.
I told myself that it was a better use of my resources: I had a summer job, and if I didn’t have to take a week off, I could give that money to someone else who can do missions better! Quite logical. It’s a similar reason to why I’ve chosen to serve in behind-the-scenes roles as well: there are others who are “better” at public speaking, and more sociable and charismatic.
But this was also an excuse. Serving behind-the-scenes is very comfortable. I’ve gotten rather experienced at it. And the problem is that I’ve started trusting myself that I can handle these jobs. It feels like I no longer need to trust in Him to do the tasks needed for the comfortable behind-the-scenes jobs. It was clear, this wasn’t good enough.
Passing On the Torch
At our church, the AV team had stayed relatively constant in the last 4–5 years. But in those years, I also had the chance to see high schoolers graduate and leave for university, young adults beginning to start families and have children. As people enter into brand new stages of life, the roles they serve in their ministries inevitably change. And so I thought about the AV team, “Who’s going to do this after we’re gone?” The current team members have been serving for several years, and we have not had any new recruits. I realized then the importance of actively training and mentoring the next generation as being a core part of every ministry, which is just as important, if not more than the tasks of the ministry itself.
At the same time, I had the amazing opportunity to teach children’s Sunday school at my church for grades 5-6. I love the children, and it’s the best feeling to see them get excited and be interested in learning about Christ. It was then that I came to realize the truth of the statement “the future rests with the children”. These same children are the ones who will grow up to be older siblings for the younger ones. It will be them who step up to lead the high school and university fellowships, who will be a light to their communities at their school, and in their workplaces. It will be them who will grow up to serve as department chairs and board members in the church. At that point, I wanted very much for every child to experience God for themselves in the personal way that changes them to the core of their being, so that they too, would want that for others.
When my pastor asked me this summer to join the missions trip, I voiced my objections that I didn’t want to be on the front lines; he challenged me to try being uncomfortable for once. Almost everything about this trip is scary, and travelling to a foreign country might not be the worst of it. I’m scared of saying the wrong things; I’m scared to ask my peers, friends, and family for money; I’m scared writing this blog post. But I also realized that there is an entire group of children who also need to experience God in that personal way. They too, have the future of their churches, families, and perhaps their country resting on them as well.
I realized that God has been preparing me all this time to reach out to the families in Haiti, and although it’s scary, He invites me to find my comfort through faith in Him. And that’s more than comfort enough.
How is God inviting you to stretch in faith?
by Amie Martin | Journey Trip Mobilization Director Being the new Journey Trip Mobilization Director for World Orphans, I am given the wonderful opportunity to hear testimonies from all over the world. It is exciting to hear all God has done in people’s lives, and all He continues to do as they take the next step and go on a World Orphans Journey Trip. They will see firsthand how orphans are impacted around the world by partnering churches together for the glory of God. One of the beauties of being part of this process is journeying with them as they discover what the Lord will do through the seed of a Journey Trip.
What is a Journey Trip? Journey Trips, a ministry of World Orphans, exists to encourage, educate, and empower individuals to be lifelong orphan advocates, in response to God's command in Isaiah 1:17 to defend the oppressed and to take up the cause of the fatherless. Journey Trips are designed within World Orphans ongoing Church Partnerships to educate both individuals, and the church, to care for orphans.
Going will certainly change your life! Though you will see, hear, feel, and encounter the brokenness God sees every day, I think going will change your life because you will experience the joy of being included in God’s work. Everyone can benefit from a short-term mission trip in the context of long-term partnership.
Listen to how the lives of three Journey Trip members were changed by Christ after going on a trip. This is what the LORD showed them.
1) A Changed Worldview
“Well for one it opened my eyes to the fact that what I stress over is really just a First World problem. There are so many things out there that we make such a big deal about. Having gone to Haiti just makes me want to say, “Really? We are going to complain about that?” It just gave me a better worldview outside of myself, including the things that I find comfortable. I have wrestled with why we have so much and others have so little.” - Wendy Booth
2) Evaluating the Use of Time & Resources
"God allowed us to minister in Haiti so we'd get over ourselves. For me that was a huge part of it. I am so much more intentional about what I say, what I spend, and am intentionally giving every moment of every day into His hands to be His vessel - whether it is going to the gas station or sitting with someone who's dying -if it matters to Jesus it must matter to me.” - Toni Holtzman
3) Building Long-Term Relationships
“The trip made me realize how much our attempts to "help" and "minister" to the least of these really just hurts them more or barely scratches the surface of the problem. So many factors have to be accounted for when attempting to help a refugee, homeless person, single mother, etc. We are so tempted to put a band aid on the issue but aren't willing to get dirty and scrape the wound out. I've been challenged since returning home to dig deeper into those "dirty" relationships by taking time to get to know the person and the heart of the issue before giving them a handout and leaving them where they started.” - Lilly Deacon
I know each of these ladies personally as they were a part of my Journey team to Haiti in 2014. They are now fully engaged in ministry and partnering for the sake of the orphan … for the sake of the Gospel! How beautiful that Lilly is able to witness the need for ongoing relationship when ministering to others, that Toni is able to consider each moment as it matters to Jesus, and that Wendy is re-evaluating things of this world in light of eternity. A Journey Trip may be one of the first steps in your journey regarding where God wants to take your life in advocating on behalf of orphans. He has so much to teach you about His heart for them. Join us!
Check out our 2015 Journey Trips: https://www.journey117.org/trips/. Registration is happening now!
By Kathy Davis | Director of Wholistic Care
The New Year is upon us. Truly there is something refreshing about new beginnings and turning over a new leaf. For many of us, the beginning of this year will mark a season of healthier eating, regular exercise, or finishing a task that has long been left undone. Perhaps it's time to get our finances in order or organize a messy closet. Whatever the goal, there is something refreshing about bringing order to chaos and beginning again.
For our friends in Port-au-Price Haiti, this new year marks the five-year anniversary (1/12/15) of a catastrophic earthquake that, in an instant, crushed the lives of over 300,000 people. They continue to begin again as wives were left without husbands, bodies were trapped under the weight of concrete rubble, and children were wandering the streets without their parents in a state of sheer terror. It was chaos. Haitians will never forget where they were on that dark day. Their grief is still heartbreaking as they reflect back on so much loss, all the while striving to rebuild.
“The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit” (Psalm 34:18).
In recent weeks, I have had the humbling privilege to weep with a friend who was diagnosed with cancer and pray for one who despaired of her own life in order that she might be free from pain. Certainly, there will be a day when pain and suffering will be no more but today is not that day. Until then, may the church engage and bring the hope of the Gospel to bear on the desperate cry of so many in our world.
“And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, "Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them, and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away." And He who sits on the throne said, "Behold, I am making all things new." (Revelation 21:3-5, emphasis mine)
Catastrophes, hardship, and suffering provide ongoing opportunities for the church to draw near and wholistically (spiritually, physically, emotionally, and mentally) embrace the plight of broken and hurting people. Whether in Haiti or in our own local churches, right in front of us are opportunities to show up and bring comfort, care and compassion to those in pain. Jesus, who was acquainted with grief, demonstrated great love, not just by the healing he brought but through the compassionate tears he shed.
People mattered to Jesus and he could often be found with the suffering outcast. I have found that the hope of Jesus is most intimately known, not when things are going well, but as the hearts of people are moved to enter into each others stories of suffering and pain.
"To be alive is to be broken. And to be broken is to stand in need of grace." - Brennan Manning
As World Orphans anticipates another year of empowering the church to wholistically care for orphaned and vulnerable children, there is much work to be done. The relational reach of global church partnership is certainly resulting in the provision of food, the privilege of education and the blessing of emotional care for many children who have come from hard places. Because we believe what the scripture says about the church, the orphan and the expansion of the Gospel, we hold before one another, Jesus. He came, not only to save, but also to restore and heal. May we seek to do the same.
“Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near” (Hebrews 10:24-25).
Over the next year, I will spend time blogging about the wholistic transformational impact we are observing in the lives of children who are a part of our family focused programs. I look forward to journeying with you, for in the face of so much need, whether here or across the globe, “to be broken is to stand in need of grace.”
“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me” (2 Corinthians 12:9).
To whom will you show compassion today? And, just as important, how will you receive the compassionate love of Jesus for your own, beautiful soul?
By Kathy Davis | Director of Wholistic Care
It's Christmastime The Christmas season is upon us. Glistening lights and decorated trees adorn my small and cozy town. The scents of fresh pine and apple cider cause my senses to connect with the warmth of family and the love we share. The ringing of the Salvation Army bell at the local grocery store compels me to remember those who are hungry as I purchase another round of groceries. Evenings are filled with crowded shopping malls, Christmas parties, and gift exchanges. Anticipation, joy, and wonder sparkle in the eyes of young children. Christmas is ‘in the air’ and is most beautifully shared with one another in the context of family and friends.
In contrast, I just returned from Haiti where the Christmas season is marked by continued poverty and hardship. Nearly 80% of Haitians are poor, living on less than 2 dollars a day. Half of the children under five years old are malnourished and 50% of children are not enrolled in school. The streets in Port-au-Prince this December are packed with people who awaken each day to the reality of mere survival. Instead of children attending school, they are found on the streets wiping the windshields of cars with the hope of eating one meal that day. The reality is hard, the need is great, and the desperation is palatable.
World Orphans Response Because of the great need, World Orphans is committed to partnership and exists because we believe what Scripture says about the church, the orphan, and the expansion of the Gospel. Following the earthquake of 2010, churches were identified and mobilized to engage through partnership and expand their reach into the lives of orphaned and vulnerable children. We have found the fragrance of ministry focused on the Gospel is HOPE and the person of hope is JESUS. This hope came at great cost. Jesus, the One who was born in a lowly stable and with humble means would be the Hope for mankind and the Savior of the world.
“She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins" (Matthew 1:21).
The incarnate Christ provided salvation for those who would believe and made His home with the poor, needy, and vulnerable. Children matter to Jesus and his exhortation to us is to:
“Allow the children to come to me, for the kingdom of God belongs to them” (Matthew 19:14).
A child's transformation is part of a spiritual adventure that is empowered and guided by the Holy Spirit as churches engage through the grace of Christ. The fruit of partnership is the loving and wholistic (spiritual, physical, emotional, and mental) care of children, extended through a willing body of believers. What a joy to see the global church actively participating in the rescue and care of orphaned and vulnerable children who are being transformed through the pursuit of love and family.
“You shall give to him freely, and your heart shall not be grudging when you give to him, because for this the Lord your God will bless you in all your work and in all that you undertake. For there will never cease to be poor in the land. Therefore I command you, ‘you shall open wide your hand to your brother, to the needy and to the poor, in your land'” (Deuteronomy 15:10-11).
Orphaned and vulnerable children suffer from the effects of poverty and abandonment, and the devastating outcome of these issues leave children exposed, exploited, vulnerable, and in deep need of protection. The ministry of the church to care for the families and children is both grueling and glorious. The exhilaration of precious brothers and sisters who began this program almost five years ago have become exhausted by the depth of ongoing care that is necessary for their continued development, yet they continue to give.
A Wonderful Announcement and Partnership I am pleased to share that this Christmas season marks the beautiful beginning and gift of a collaborative effort between World Orphans and Bethany Christian Services. Together, we have entered into partnership with the goal of empowering the church and deepening the scope of care to the families and children within our OVC (Orphaned and Vulnerable Child) program. This collaboration has come at a great time!
Bethany provides a wealth of resources in the areas of clinical emotional care and family preservation.
"Across the globe, many circumstances conspire to fragment families — poverty, illness, violence, catastrophes. At Bethany Global, we believe that families can weather these challenges with the right support. Our innovative family preservation programs target the underlying causes of family disintegration, strengthening families so that they’re better able to protect their children. Understanding the cultural influences on a community and family is essential to providing support.” - Bethany Global
This collaborative effort reminds me of the profound and biblical quote that "no man is an island", written by the great English poet, John Donne. May I also add "no organization is an island"? We are clearly 'better together'.
No man is an island, Entire of itself, Every man is a piece of the continent, A part of the main. (John Donne)
“Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many” (1 Corinthians 12:12-13).
I am delighted to announce that World Orphans, in collaboration with Bethany Christian Services, has hired a Haitian Social Worker to come alongside the church and further equip those caring for children. Recently, World Orphans and Bethany Global spent a week in Haiti training our new Social Worker in the areas of Child Protection, Physical/Sexual Abuse, Trauma Care, Attachment, Child Development, and Assessment. We also spent a day hosting and facilitating an open forum and needs assessment with the Pastors and OVC Committees for our 14 churches in the OVC Program.
World Orphans Social Worker, Cassandre Mathieu, will be responsible to:
- Support the ongoing work of the church to care for emotional issues like physical and sexual abuse.
- Provide specialized training and empower OVC (orphaned and vulnerable child) committees.
- Train OVC committees to perform assessments and ongoing evaluation for all the children in the program
- Develop monthly trainings on wholistic care topics with each church partner.
- Set measurable benchmarks for development and care.
Meetings and planning are underway as we assimilate the feedback from the Pastors and OVC Committees. Equipping and training in the areas of physical/sexual abuse, trauma care, child protection, biblical parenting, pastoral encouragement, and family connection are all on the docket for 2015.
My heart is deeply impacted by the many regions of our world that are impoverished and oppressed. Christmas may look no different than any other time of year. Hopelessness and affliction may likely be the drink on their table and a portion of rice as their meal for the day.
So as I sit in the comfort of my living room, enjoying a hot cup of coffee and remembering my dear friends in Haiti who are ‘spending themselves’ for the sake of needful children, I am overwhelmed with emotion and even further compelled to loosen my grip on the things of this world. The Kingdom of God is at hand and the reward of caring for orphans is eternal.
O Come, O Come, Immanuel. Our God is with us and we are indeed, better together.
You Too Can Get Involved! Would you join me in seeing the church further mobilized to care for orphaned and vulnerable children this year? Click here to see how you can become involved.
As we celebrate the birth of Christ this year, would you join us through becoming a Rescue Partner to the least of these?
By Jeremy Resmer | Senior Director of Projects
If you pay close attention, you’ll see poverty everywhere you look. If you don’t, it could be that you’re only viewing poverty through an economic lens. While material poverty is only part of the story, it seems to be the most observable and difficult to hide (especially in developing countries). It’s a leading cause of family breakdown that often results in separation of family members and placement of children in orphanages, among other issues.
When we carefully consider the best interests of a child, there is no greater need than to be in a loving family. Truly, a loving family is more important than shelter, food, education, medical care, and so on. Yet these things are also needed, and children trust family - usually mom and dad - to provide these basic financial resources in order to experience shelter, adequate food, clothing, medical care, and attend school.
There are a lot of organizations involved in various forms of family preservation. Some are doing incredible work and making a real impact. It’s unbelievable how big our hearts are to give financially and to go and serve. To be sure, we must continue and do more. But it’s time that we utilize our brains as much as our hearts.
While I believe real transformation comes through Jesus Christ, we need to bring more than Bibles and fish to our brothers and sisters in need. We must bring fishing poles too. You see, the church (individuals and collectively) is responsible for meeting the spiritual and, at times, physical needs of its people. The church has a critical role to play in family preservation.
To preserve is to exist. To empower is to advance. And until we develop and implement local solutions that go from preserving and stabilizing families to empowering and strengthening families, we will continue to bang our heads against the wall trying to reduce poverty and, ultimately, keep families together. If the root cause of our problems is sin, then poverty is one of its most effective weapons. In the same way that we can’t take on sin without Jesus Christ, we can’t take on economic poverty without relationship. Through relationships with local leaders and the people themselves, we create conversation. Through conversation, we include the very people who understand the problems and, more importantly, the solutions. As our relationships deepen and trust builds, we begin imagining a better world and casting vision together. Until we can imagine a world we desire to see, we will never be able to develop a plan to get there.
Here’s where I’m going with this. Now is the time for individuals, churches, NGOs, and governments to put aside our agendas for the greater good. We talk about it but it seldom happens. Every single one of us has unique personalities, skills, knowledge, and resources, but none of us can do everything. Instead, we do a little bit on our own when, in reality, we can be far better and accomplish much more by working together.
World Orphans strength is to partner international churches with US churches to encourage each other and work together to serve vulnerable families. In addition, we are effective at equipping and mobilizing churches to care for orphaned and abandoned children. We hope both churches inspire each other and serve their communities around them more effectively and compassionately as a result of that partnership. We play a role in family preservation, whereas other organizations excel in the areas of vocational education, business training, apprenticeships, and microloans. Every day we work with the MOST vulnerable families in the communities where we work. We do our best to encourage them, pray for them, share scripture, and meet physical needs, but without fishing poles we can’t teach them to fish.
What’s encouraging is there are many individuals and organizations out there with fishing poles that could teach marketable trades to single mothers and youth so they can provide for themselves and their families without becoming vulnerable to prostitution, drugs, labor exploitation, and all sorts of other dangerous activities. Yes, helping to pay for school fees, medical expenses, food, clothing, and housing, when appropriate and led by local leaders is essential, but family empowerment initiatives that improve the economic outcomes of parents and children including skills training, leadership development, financial stewardship, business training accompanied by access to credit, and apprenticeships are equally important. It’s not an either/or but a both/and. Can you imagine the impact we could realize if we put aside our own biases and agendas and actually witnessed NGOs working with other NGOs working with churches working with governments?
This dream is happening! Two organizations World Orphans is currently partnering with are AMG Guatemala and Bethany Christian Services in Haiti. Next week’s blog is dedicated to sharing about our new partnership with BCS. Through these partnerships, children are restored and communities transformed by the Gospel. Won’t you join us?
By Bailey Kalvelage | Director of Mobilization
Who doesn’t like to come to the end of a year, look back, and count all the blessings of the past 12 months? It’s no wonder that all the way back in 1863 President Lincoln established an official day of national "Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens". In light of the turkey eating and celebrating of last week, I’d like to celebrate with you a few lives that our beneficent Father has transformed through World Orphans partnerships in 2014.
Below are World Orphans top 5 favorite child stories of 2014! These stories are a result of God’s work through World Orphans vision and effort to empower the church to care for orphans – until they all have homes.
Church Partnership: Eglise Baptiste Par la Foi (Haiti) and Harvest Presbyterian Church (Maryland)
"Last year there was a new girl in the Orphaned and Vulnerable Child (OVC) program. Her name is Olivia* and she was five years old. When we first met Olivia she was quiet and didn’t interact much with the other kids...it was very apparent to everyone that she had gone through much trauma in her short life. She didn’t smile, and had trouble trusting people.
One year later, though, it almost seems like she is a different person. She is interacting with the other kids, smiling and as much as we can tell, is happy. One year in the program under the care and supervision of the church was absolutely life changing (she is one of the kids who lives in the Pastor’s house).
But that isn’t the most amazing thing. This year there is another new girl in the program. She, like Olivia the year before, acts and is even treated like an outcast due to a physical disability. Olivia, instead of poking fun of her like the other kids, takes care of her and even defends her whenever she can. Olivia’s experience as an outsider and outcast didn’t leave her jaded or bitter. Because she was shown the grace and love that allowed her to experience healing, she is now empowered to show compassion and empathy to someone who is hurting. At such a young age she is demonstrating the love of Jesus."
– Written by Pastor Walter of Harvest Presbyterian Church
Church Partnership: Father’s Divine Love Ministries (Uganda) and First Baptist Church of Siloam Springs (Arkansas)
“One story [from the trip] that was powerful involves a young man named Akello* who has lived 18 years with a club foot. His mother, Helen, is a mama and a church leader. Through connections with a nurse [at the guesthouse where we stay when we visit], we were able to get Akello enrolled in a program that will allow him to have surgery to correct his foot at no cost to his family or the ministry. They are waiting until a break in the school semester, but he should have the surgery before the end of this year!”
– Written by Scott Vair, President of World Orphans
3. SIZANI: ABUSED BUT NOW RESTORED!
Church Partnership: Christian Life Centre (South Africa) and Castle Oaks Church (Colorado) and Families Outreach (Arkansas)
“Christian Life Centre in Chatsworth, South Africa, cares for children that are extremely sick with HIV, and for those that have been orphaned, abused, and neglected. Two-year-old Sizani* is one of those children. Sizani was recently brought to Christian Life Centre by government social workers with bruises, disfiguring scars, a perforated eardrum, and a swollen eye due to abuse. She is now receiving much needed medical treatment, love, and affection as the restoration of this precious child begins. We are grateful for Pastor Siva Moodley and the staff at Christian Life Centre, for their unwavering love for the abused, neglected, and orphaned children of South Africa.”
– Written by Scott Vair, President of World Orphans
Church Partnership: Eglise Baptiste Bellevue Salem (Haiti) and Bethel Korean Presbyterian Church (Maryland)
“One memorable story was of one of the Orphaned and Vulnerable Child (OVC) kids named Edgard*. The very first time we met him, he came off as a bit of a trouble-maker and constantly wanted all the attention, but this time around we could definitely see growth. The people that had seen him just last year noticed how much he grew physically in just under a year. Another member of our group told us a story later of how after we had finished up our craft time, she saw him stay by himself and pick up all the trash left in the room, even with no one watching. It was great to see his growth: physically, socially, and spiritually.”
– Writteny by Jimmy Choi of Bethel Korean Presbyterian Church
Church Partnership: Mission Eglise El-Shaddai (Haiti) and Daybreak Church (California)
“Meet Elsie*. She is 14. She has a lot of responsibility in the home in helping care for her younger siblings and often has to stay home while her older brothers have much more freedom to go out and play sports. She’s usually really shy and withdrawn, but she opened up to a couple of us about her frustration. We invited her to spend the evening at the guesthouse with us, and her caregivers gave their permission. We ate junk food, played twister, and just enjoyed celebrating life and laughter together. It was a really special time for Elsie and for our team. “
– Written by Kindra French of Daybreak Church
I know I said top 5, but I have to share just one more!
Church Partnership: Eglise Baptiste Par la Foi (Haiti) and Harvest Presbyterian Church (Maryland)
“One of the biggest ministries of the church is a yearly missions trip the kids and the church members take to the countryside. They go with the intent of sharing the gospel with the unchurched. It was during the trip this year that they “adopted” a young girl with disabilities into the program. Her name is Lyne*, she is twelve and she has a degenerative eyes disorder that has left her virtually blind. She was left on the side of the road and Pastor Gaston’s daughter and husband felt compelled to take her home.”
– Written by Pastor Walter of Harvest Presbyterian Church
I hope you’ve enjoyed these profound accounts of God transforming the lives of children through His church. These stories would not be possible without World Orphans partners: Church Partners, Rescue Partners and Rescue Teams. If these stories have inspired you to get involved in advocating for the orphan, you’ve come to the right place.
Please click on the link below or email the corresponding address to get in touch with World Orphans and learn more about advocating for orphans today. We can’t wait to hear from you!
*Child names and pictures changed for the protection of children in our programs.
By Kathy Davis | Director of Wholistic Care
The question is often asked of children, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” I remember my well-meaning grandfather asking me this question, hoping I would dream big, work hard, and achieve everything I ever desired. I pondered various opportunities like becoming a nurse so I could take care of sick people or a flight attendant to serve others while seeing the world. I wanted to make him proud. I wanted to ‘become’ somebody. Individual success was marked by the professional path I would choose and how hard I would work to ‘become all I could be’.
Success that is marked by what ‘I might become’ has at times taken me down a path of discouragement and disillusionment where the fundamental question of my identity and purpose go unanswered. Understanding God’s story and His intent for my life has been paramount in addressing the fundamental questions about why my life was purposed and what it is to become.
“I, Yahweh, have called you for a righteous purpose, and I will hold you by your hand. I will keep you and appoint you to be a covenant for the people and a light to the nations” (Is. 42:6).
World Orphans addresses the fundamental question of its mission and purpose with the Biblical view that we believe what Scripture says about the church, the orphan, and the expansion of the Gospel. I’m honored to share a recent example with you.
Wholistic Care (a function of World Orphans Projects and Church Partnerships) just returned from hosting their first Haiti Orphaned and Vulnerable Child (OVC) Caregiver Training for more than 270 precious men and women who have graciously welcomed vulnerable children into their homes and hearts.
Wholistic care for children (spiritual, physical, emotional and mental) recognizes that mankind has value, dignity, and purpose because we are created in the image of God, and for God. We learn from scripture that we all begin on the same playing field. There is no distinction between nations, races, education, or economic status. There is no one who is righteous, no one who does good, and we are all in need of forgiveness that we do not deserve and that we cannot earn.
World Orphans President and adoptive father, Scott Vair, began our training together by encouraging the caregivers with the biblical view of orphans and adoption. Scripture teaches that we are brought into God’s family through the blood of Jesus Christ, resulting in forgiveness of sin, spiritual adoption, and eternal inheritance. Scott taught that we do not love in an effort to earn God’s favor but we love others because God first loved us. The outflow of our love pours from the love that has graciously been poured into our hearts. Following this message, six caregivers responded and accepted the gift of salvation and invitation to become a part of God’s family! This tender moment still brings tears to my eyes. It was a joy to welcome six new sisters into the family of God.
“But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ” (Eph. 2:13).
The caregivers willingness to provide for orphaned and vulnerable children in the context of family is a beautiful metaphor of God’s gift of salvation through Jesus Christ.
"In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose…” (Eph. 1:3-7).
The practical components of this training bridged the divide of cultures and degrees of suffering because the righteous acts of Jesus specifically address the heart of human suffering and need. The degrees of suffering from nation to nation are marked by great contrast, yet the hope for every heart remains the same since hope’s remedy is not marked by status, nationality, or degree of hardship; rather, our boast is in the Lord who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption.
“Consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” It is from Him that you are in Christ Jesus, who became God-given wisdom for us--our righteousness, sanctification, and redemption” (1 Cor. 1:30).
The OVC Caregiver Training included:
- Identity in Christ - The Biblical View of Orphans and Adoption - My Hope (a children's workbook designed to help caregivers shepherd the hearts of their children, work through difficult places, and find healing and hope through Christ) - The Biblical Premise for Child Protection - Physical and Sexual Abuse Awareness and Detection - Grace-filled Instruction and Discipline - The Significance of Oral Hygiene
Willing caregivers who have taken children into their homes are greatly commended. These men and women are engaging in the hard work of daily tending to the hearts and needs of defenseless children who were far from protective love and care, but are now brought near.
“It is not that we are competent in ourselves to consider anything as coming from ourselves, but our competence is from God” (2 Cor. 3:5).
What an absolute joy to participate in bringing the ultimate hope of Jesus and practical encouragement to the work they are doing through the living word of God. I, along with my beloved brothers and sisters in Haiti, are continuing to discover what it means to be created for a righteous purpose.
Understanding that Jesus became sin so that I might become the righteousness of God continually informs my identity and purpose as a woman of God and compels me to live in light of this reality. Jesus, who knew no sin, bore our (my) sins that we (I) might become the righteousness of God.
For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor. 5:21).
My purpose and identity did not result in becoming a nurse or flight attendant (although I have great respect for both of these professions). I am continually deepening in my understanding that my ability to become anything rests solely in the righteous One who ‘became’ for me what I could not earn and did not deserve. I have been created, formed, redeemed, and named.
“But now thus says the LORD, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine” (Is. 43:1).
My boast is the Lord and the grace He continually gives to those who believe. I am so grateful for the caregivers in Haiti who are strategically placed by God to bring children into their families and care for their needs.
Truly, they have been created for ‘a righteous purpose’ and this love reflects the heart of our Father in Heaven.
“But I count my life of no value to myself, so that I may finish my course and the ministry I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of God's grace" (Acts 20:24).
And now you!
What are your thoughts?
How do you answer the question, “What is my purpose?”
By Bailey Kalvelage | Director of Mobilization
To be honest, I’m not a big fan of blogging. While reading blogs can be fun, I’ve never been one for thinking that people actually want to know what I think or about my life. So, naturally, when it’s my turn to blog I feel both a sense of privilege, to tell the stories of our trips, but also a sense of dread, in the vulnerability that is blogging.
This blog is particularly personal for what follows is the story of my very first trip to Haiti and my first trip with World Orphans while being on staff: my thoughts, feelings, and simply what I saw. I run the risk that you might not care, which I totally get, but in a world where I’m constantly reading how unnecessary and harmful short-term mission trips are, for once I feel compelled to tell my story. Because my trip was beautiful…
A little background: I traveled to Haiti and teamed up with my co-worker, Kevin (top-notch teacher, discipler extraordinaire), and a group of young adults (also top-notch) that formed a team from Temple Baptist Church of Mississippi, to serve alongside Pastor Thony of Eglise de Dieu de la Bible. My goal was to experience one of our teams, church partnerships, and trips in action, so that World Orphans can continue to guide and improve how we send short-term teams.
During our first day at Pastor Thony’s church, the leaders of this partnership met in 95-degree heat, underneath an overhead tarp held up by a few wobbly posts (watch your head!), and kids running around everywhere. I watched as these leaders laughed, cried, and shared their hearts. The US church listened as Pastor Thony shared the joys and struggles of the past year, including a 2,000 person revival, the need for a bigger building so that more people can be discipled, the pain of having to abstain from visiting the sick, and hurting for lack of resources.
As I listened, I realized that I was the only one not crying. Now before you think too much about that, let me explain: All of the sudden, I realized that in front of me was the bond of partnership that had been cultivated and deepened over YEARS of ministering together. It hit me that these churches are one in the Lord, so much so that they share each other’s joys and sorrows, laughter and tears.
What started as a partnership aimed at helping 20 kids has turned into so much more! Now, the gospel is impacting hundreds of kids, families, and their entire community. Medical care is being given to those that may have never seen a doctor in their life. Spiritual discipleship is happening in the church, restoring hope. And yes, kids are being fed, educated, and loved in families!
“Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ” (Gal. 6:2). Yes, what I saw was this in action: a beautiful partnership.
Sitting inside a concrete building with a tin roof, this particular Sunday was unlike most for me. Shoulder to shoulder, and sweat-bead to sweat-bead with my new friends from Mississippi, we were the guests of honor at Eglise de Dieu de la Bible, or easier said, Pastor Thony's church.
As I sat swaying to words I didn’t understand, two kept being repeated over and over, “Merci Savior! Merci Savior!” (Or thank you Savior!) My mind raced as I retraced the ride to the church: houses made of tin, concrete and cardboard, no clean or running water, people drinking water from tiny plastic pouches with no relief from 95 degree heat. Yet nevertheless, “Merci Savior!”
As the service continued, we straightened a little as the pastor began the offering, which was followed by a community offering. Many team members didn’t hesitate to reach into their bags for a shiny new bill. The physical need around us was not hard to see and feel.
As I looked up, though, my eyes instantly swelled with tears. Slowly, bent over with a slow gait, a woman in her 60’s, wrinkled yet in her best Sunday dress, walked to the front and dropped money in the basket. Her love for her community was palpable in this moment. “This is the woman of Mark 12:41-44,” I thought. “Am I willing to give, to the point of not having what I need for myself, for the needs of others? For the Gospel?”
Micah 6:6-8 says, “With what shall I come before the Lord and bow down before the exalted God? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings,with calves a year old?Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousand rivers of olive oil?Shall I offer my firstborn for my transgression,the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humblywith your God.”
Thank you beautiful woman of God for being a testimony to us of how to love selflessly; thank you for teaching us how to act justly and love mercy and walk humbly with our God.
I have to admit that coming into the trip I was a bit skeptical. First of all, anyone who knows me can easily see that I look like I’m 13-years-old. So, hanging out with 17-20-year-olds has never been my preference; and second of all, I’ve read the criticisms of short-term missions and was crossing my fingers, hoping I wasn’t joining a team that would be perpetuating the problem.
My fears could not have been more misplaced. The plan for the week, done at the request of Pastor Thony, continued to unfold: three days of hosting a medical clinic, fun in the sun for kids to play and learn Bible stories, and English classes. And needless to say, I quickly became wrapped up in the warmth, love, and passion of these young adults. I quickly saw that in this trip God’s beautiful plan was at work.
As I listened to my new young friends talk in their distinctive southern draw and watched them serve, I learned that many had been to Haiti two, three, even four times because they love the Haitian people and want to be part of sharing God’s love with them. I met a young man planning to study business and was eager to learn about Haitian economics to determine whether starting a business in Haiti to support its stability and livelihood might be a good, helpful thing to do. I met three young women that spent a month just living with and learning from our friends in Haiti about their culture and how God is at work in their lives. And as I started putting all of these puzzle pieces together, I began to understand that there is a greater plan than just being part of a one week short-term mission to Haiti.
God’s beautiful plan is at work. God’s plan was at work as Pastor Thony opened the doors of his church to welcome his community in for professional care, prayer and medicine, and His plan is at work now as Pastor Thony continues to disciple his church long after we have returned home. God’s plan is at work in these beautiful young people as they continue to learn and grow into full adulthood with careers, friends, and communities within their reach. And God’s plan is at work as this partnership continues to seek Him in caring for children, their communities, and each other.
“Then the Lord spoke to Jonah a second time: ‘Get up and go to the great city of Nineveh, and deliver the message I have given you’… The people of Nineveh believed God’s message, and from the greatest to the least, they declared a fast and put on burlap to show their sorrow” (Jonah 3: 1-2, 5).
Sometimes God’s plan unfolds quickly and sometimes it takes years, but after watching the bonds of this partnership in action, I’m confident that God’s beautiful plan is active and the Gospel is alive in hearts and minds as a result of the Holy Spirit’s work through this unified toiling.
So, if I could put it in a rather large nutshell, this would be it: this was my beautiful trip. World Orphans continues to book airline tickets for and assist teams just like this one to go and see their friends across the world. Please join me in praying for our World Orphans partnerships and their 2014 visits with one another. Please pray we will be unified in the Gospel, laying ourselves down for the cause of Christ and for the encouragement of our brothers and sisters in Haiti, India, Ethiopia, Kenya, and beyond.
We'd love to hear from you!
Do you have a story to share from a short-term trip that’s impacted you?
How do you see beauty in your life right now?
By Kevin Squires | Senior Director of Church Partnerships
Scandal – a circumstance that causes or ought to cause disgrace or outrage
Americans love scandals. Newspapers, magazines, cable television – they all profit off scandalous behavior. When they can’t find a scandal to report on, they often create them just to get a headline. Shamefully however, it’s safe to say they have their finger on the pulse of who we are as Americans, realizing the only way to jolt our apathy and comfort is by electrocuting our senses with a little shock-and-awe.
Fortunately, scandals don’t always end up badly. Some scandals kick start greatness. The scandalous death of Christ ushered in salvation to a dying world and kick started a church movement that continues to change the world today. Whether good or bad, there is one thing scandals have in common…they are eye-opening!
Last week, I found myself in the midst of a scandal smack dab in the middle of Port-au-Prince, Haiti. As the Senior Director of Church Partnerships for World Orphans, I lead mission trips to impoverished countries all throughout the world. Scandals are prevalent in countries like these as the effects of extreme poverty, crime syndicates, corrupt governments, and misappropriated funds frequently pepper the Majority World. But this scandal was like none I had ever seen before. This scandal had more to do about me, and what lived inside of me, than the act itself.
To help set the stage, I was leading a mission team to visit one of our church partners in Haiti. We were attending the early morning church service and had just finished the praise and worship time. As we prepared for offering, the baskets began to pass up and down each row, as hands dropped in coin after coin and bill after bill. This was a poor church, where approximately 70% of the congregation didn’t have steady jobs. Weekly offerings barely reach $50 at churches of this size (approx. 200 people). The pastors work full-time jobs away from the pulpit to provide what they can for their families. The offerings simply go towards operational expenses, but primarily to care for the poorest of the poor in their community. Well… that’s usually how it goes. But this day was different.
Now, I don’t speak Haitian Creole worth a lick, but having traveled extensively throughout the world, I have become pretty good at reading body language. As the pastor was bathing the offering in prayer, I began picking up on something that was quite alarming. I glanced over at our Haitian Country Director, a local Haitian himself, and a picture of his face told a thousand words. He was staring at me…eyes wide open… jaw-dropped…and was simply shaking his head. Although the pastor’s words escaped me, the message of his prayer was loud and clear…he was giving the entire offering to our team as an appreciation for us traveling so far to serve alongside his church!
Quickly, I relayed the message to the rest of my team as tears began flooding out from the streams of naked humility. Since our hearts were fixed on caring for the needs of the poor not the other way around, no one wanted to accept such a gift, but the gift had already been delivered. With pride guarding our emotional doors, receiving an offering from the poor was like taking a punch to the gut!
Throughout the rest of the week, the church extended more love by rallying together to feed us meal after meal. I humbly appreciated every bite of food and drop of water, but in the back of my mind, each bite and each drop was a constant reminder that the hungry was feeding the full…the thirsty was bringing water to those who had plenty to drink…and that the poor had graciously tithed to the rich.
That was a week ago. I’m home now, sitting in my comfortable chair, looking out my window at the sunny landscape surrounding my Florida home. The story has continued to grow in my mind, not because of the act itself, rather because I simply cannot imagine doing what was done for me while I was in Haiti. The cheerful and giving heart of that Haitian pastor rivaled how Abraham cared for his three guests and how Mary anointed Jesus’ feet with costly perfume. Meanwhile, in my reality, I often take out my calculator to figure out exactly how much “I’m obligated” to give to my church each week. This conviction that I feel today spotlights a scandal that I didn’t even know lived inside of me – my scandal of giving.
Highlighting the scandal of giving in the American church, John and Sylvia Ronsvalle (The State of Christian Giving) report that the richer Christians become in America, the less we give in proportion to our income. Recent reports estimate that American evangelical Christians give only 4.27% of our income, or about two-fifths of our tithe. Shamefully, in 2002, George Barna discovered that only 9% of American evangelicals tithe.
Over the past week, I buried my thoughts and myself in my personal scandal of giving. Why the sharp discrepancy and disconnect from one culture to the next in terms of giving? Why does the poor in one country often give so much while the rich in another country give so little? Does one culture preach tithing better than the other? Or is it simpler than that? Perhaps the solution to the scandal of giving rests in our journey to become a cheerful giver, someone willing to cheerfully give above and beyond…even when it doesn’t make any sense!
In 2 Corinthians 9:6-7, the Apostle Paul ushers in the point… “The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work. As it is written, ‘He has distributed freely, he has given to the poor; his righteousness endures forever.”
Reflecting on my time in Haiti, the one thing that wasn’t lost in the balancing act of my pride and appreciation of receiving the offering from the poor…of receiving the meals from the hungry…of receiving the water from the thirsty…was the cheerful heart of those who gave. Their smiles and joy, deeply rooted in a cheerful heart, escaped no one!
The beautiful thing is, not only could we not escape the joy, but I also realized that the cheerful giving is downright contagious! At the end of the week, I watched my team present an offering to the church that far surpassed anything I could have ever imagined giving…all of which was rooted in the heart of some very cheerful givers.
Going forward, my challenge at hand rests in how I choose to sow. Fortunately, I’m not forced to make that choice alone! God set His Spirit on a course destined to dwell in the hearts of those who call upon His name. The Spirit of Christ can bring joy and cheer to the hardest of hearts and the stingiest of givers…and thankfully can turn anyone into a cheerful giver!
By Nate Livesay | Director of Advocacy
You were created with a purpose and a plan – you are not just the result of random circumstances and people. God created you with intentionality and the sum of your gifts and experiences has shaped and refined you, leaving you with a unique opportunity to impact the world in a way that only you can.
Of course not everything that has happened in your life is positive, but the Bible tells us that even in the midst of difficult people or devastating circumstances God is working everything for the good of those that love him. In the midst of dealing with these people or situations it is hard for us to believe this truth but I know I can look back and see how God used the difficult people and challenging times in my life to prepare me for what he had next.
So with this thought the question to always have on our mind is this: Am I using all that I am to make the name of God known? Am I using my gifts, talents, opportunities, treasure, time, and talent as if it all belongs to God or am I using those things to pursue my comfort, my safety, my security, and my desires while sprinkling a little Jesus on it by giving him leftovers?
In Paul’s letter to Timothy he gives him this advice:
17 Teach those who are rich in this world not to be proud and not to trust in their money, which is so unreliable. Their trust should be in God, who richly gives us all we need for our enjoyment. 18 Tell them to use their money to do good. They should be rich in good works and generous to those in need, always being ready to share with others. 19 By doing this they will be storing up their treasure as a good foundation for the future so that they may experience true life. (I Timothy 6:17-19)
In the rest of this post I want to look at his advice:
What does this look like? This looks like obedience to whatever God calls us to do. How many times do we have the opportunity to be obedient to the word of God but we don’t act because we convince ourselves that we just can’t afford to do that – that it wouldn’t be wise or prudent to give extravagantly because we need to make sure that we have enough to take care of ourselves if something unexpected happens. Do we believe it when the Bible tells us that God will provide all we truly need?
Use your money to do good.
We use our money for lots of things, but what priority do we place on using our money to do good? Do we even think about whether our use of money is doing good or doing evil? It is often a complicated question and I don’t have all of the answers, but how often do we think about the corporations and systems that our money supports when we spend it? Are we using our money to do good when we spend money on everyday low prices that support a corporation that treats their employees poorly? Are we using our money to do good when we buy a phone, a candy bar, a tomato, or a t-shirt that might have been produced by a slave or exploited worker? Are we using our money to do good when we spend 90% of it on what we need and we want while giving the last 10% to God when we live in a world where billions of people are living in extreme poverty?
What do you think of when you hear the word rich? To me it means having more than just enough – it means you have all you need and then some. Paul tells Timothy to encourage Christians to be rich in good works – not to do just enough to balance the scale, but do good works extravagantly. Do you know people like that? Do you live like that? Each time I go to Haiti and visit Pastor Carlos I am given a new example of what this looks like. He serves his church, his community, the children in the OVC program, and he places their good ahead of his own. Then when my teams show up he treats us the same way. He serves us who are there to serve him. Pastor Carlos is most certainly rich in good works, generous to those in need, and always ready to share.
So my challenge to you is this – examine your life and see if you are living out these commands. We are all in unique situations and places in life, so living this out will look very different over the course of your lifetime.
Are you stockpiling the gifts God has given you as your security or are you being obedient to His commands and trusting that he will continue to provide for you?
Are you using your money, and your time, your talents, and your influence only to create the life you have dreamed about or are you using it do good?
Are you using your unique gifts, experiences, and location to be comfortable or to be rich in good works?
Are you generous and ready to share all that God has given you or are you holding on to it tightly?
I would love to hear your stories about how you are living out 1 Timothy 6:17-19. Feel free to post a comment!
By Bailey Kalvelage | Director of Mobilization
We must go, live to feed the hungry Stand beside the broken We must go Stepping forward, keep us from just singing Move us into action We must go…*
Singing in church, these words began to resound in Jayne’s heart like never before. As her voice rang out, she realized that the Lord was speaking to her, calling her to Haiti. Long in the making was her desire to serve and love on children, to go on a trip just like this. And now as a young believer and 61 years old, right when she wasn’t expecting it, God spoke these words into action and Jayne knew, she “must go.”
As part of World Orphans Mobilization Team, teams from the US continue traveling to Haiti, Uganda, Kenya, and more, and I never get tired of hearing about God’s work. It’s truly amazing to watch our Father, who knows each of us intricately, choose specific people “for such a time as this” (Esther 4:14). It was such a joy for me to sit and visit with Jayne as she relayed her recent trip to Haiti as part of a church partnership team, and I’d like to share it with you. I hope that as you read you will see God’s mighty hand, and that when He calls you, you too will go.
Jesus, You have called us Freely we've received Now freely we will give…*
One of 12 women, Jayne’s team spent the first three days of their trip assisting the women of Eglise de la Bonne Nouvelle in holding their very first women’s conference! A rock-star team of Haitian women planned the entire event, including speakers and small group discussions on “Being a Woman of God” -- in the church, in ministry, and at home. With the hope of helping the church start and build their women’s ministry, Jayne excitedly told me that her team sought to, “Let them know that as women we’re equal; we share the same kinds of hardships,” regardless of our culture. Ladies from all walks of life were open to discussion, sharing stories and testimonies, talking about ideas of how to handle this or that, and just loving on each other. She saw God’s beautiful family at work: “God is so good and there’s so much we can do for each other if we just look and listen and pay attention to what’s around us.”
Her trip was not without it’s challenges. As many of you may have heard in the news, the Chikungunya Virus, which causes a fever and debilitating joint pain, headaches, joint swelling, and often a rash is currently prevalent in Haiti. This spread to a few team members, including Jayne. As Jayne shared her story, I anticipated an explanation of how painful this was, complaining about the pain she felt because she chose to go… but it never came. Instead I heard joy upon joy. Recently I’ve been thinking, “How is it that the joy of the Lord can be our strength” (Neh. 8:10)? I smile now as I realize how Jayne has given me a glimpse…
The remainder of the trip was spent visiting with kids and families in the church and orphan-vulnerable child (OVC) program. As Jayne depicted walking hand-in-hand with two smiling and vibrant new friends of hers, Lauren and Kinzie (two of the 20 children in the OVC program), she could see evidence of the 2010 earthquake everywhere, including hills and streets of tent homes and rubble. Devastation was evident. However, this isn’t what Jayne found herself noticing most. Instead it was the polite, laughing, happy children by her side. “Looking past the rubble and seeing the joy on the children’s faces and the beauty…” Jayne just kept thinking, “Jesus loves the little children, all the children of the world.”
As they continued to visit homes and give hygiene packages to families on behalf of Eglise de la Bonne Nouvelle, the moment that changed Jayne forever took place. She began to walk through what her team coined as “catacombs”, or narrow passageways of cinder block and cement. Jayne became extremely claustrophobic. Immediately, her small friend Lauren put her arm around the small of her back and guided her through the rest of the passageway. In this instant, Jayne realized, “Who’s saving whom? Who’s rescuing whom?” With tears in her eyes she told me, “It wasn’t about what good work we did, it’s about what I learned; look what I saw and felt! We’re all human and all need something. The body working together. Look at how much we can do!?”
I couldn’t help but think, “Yes! This team got it!” We’re no one’s heroes and we never will be. We don’t go to save or rescue anyone. As humans, our deepest need is for Christ and this is a hole that all the money, physical fitness, and even our most treasured relationships cannot fill. Jesus is the one that saves us from depravity, no matter the form it takes, and He is the one who makes us new, transforming us to live abundantly. Teams that travel from one culture to another must go in light of the Gospel, and as they do they recognize we are all equally helpless and finite before our loving Creator and in need of an all-powerful, all-knowing Savior. Oh yes! And equally loved!!
God of Justice, Savior to all Came to rescue the weak and the poor Chose to serve and not be served…*
I know first-hand that the Northridge team went well equipped with extremely talented, loving, humble women. And as they put down their own needs and desires throughout the trip, God used them in powerful ways to help empower His loved ones in Haiti to be the extending arms of the Haitian church to families in the community. And in turn, they too were loved, changed, empowered, and helped.
What a privilege to share in Jayne’s very first short-term mission trip! As we talked together, prayed together, and laughed together, Jayne left me with this: “I don’t want to feel sorry for them. I want to be part of what can I do to help the Haitians build [their country] back up and get them going again. Our church isn’t just saying here’s money go do something, but we’re bringing a team, working with their team, working together to build their own church to feel productive, proud, get back into growth, and now they know that there are other people that care and want to help.”
In her time there, Jayne didn’t just engage her hands and feet, but her heart. Since returning she’s been learning and diving into anything she can get her hands on about Haiti. She is brainstorming about how relationships formed throughout the trip can be built through letters and future visits. The two churches know that they are family. Praise the Lord!
To act justly everyday Loving mercy in every way Walking humbly before You God…*
Maybe you’re being called to knock on the door of your next-door neighbor’s home; maybe you’re being called to pray for the hurting and displaced in Iraq; maybe you wake up everyday and are called to love your family well. Whatever God calls you to, now and in the future, I pray you will always go in light of the Gospel with arms of love and humility.
Thank you for journeying with Jayne and me to Haiti and back by reading this blog! I trust you enjoyed the ride as much as I did. What about you: To what is the Lord calling you? How have you seen Him work when you’ve been willing to act on his calling, big or small?
“Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it” (Matthew 10:39).
By Nate Livesay | Church Partnership Director
Written on August 6, 2013, after Nate’s first trip to Haiti. Since then he’s been back three times, taking groups of people for their first eye-opening trip.
This is the third time I have started to write this post. I start and I stop and I delete what I have written or I sit down and stare at the blank screen. The truth is I don’t have the words. I simply cannot find the words to describe what is happening in my heart and my mind after spending the last week in Haiti.
I saw dirt and grime and rubble and despair. I saw a tent city for the first time – row after row after row of families so desperate for a place to live they have turned temporary shelters into a permanent residencies. I saw families living in tents right next to a burning dump. I saw unimaginably difficult lives – individuals and families scratching and clawing simply to survive. I saw children suffering from malnutrition and a lack of simple medical care that has caused common childhood ailments and injuries to turn from minor inconveniences into life altering events. I saw people so desperate for medical care that they were willing to sit inside a sweltering building all day without complaint just for the opportunity to see the doctor at our medical clinics. I saw desperation and suffering and pain, but that wasn’t all I saw.
I saw mothers and fathers devoting every bit of their passion and energy into finding a way to feed, clothe, house, and educate their children with the hopes to break free of this cycle of despair and live a better life. I saw a pastor so concerned about his community that he has started an orphanage next door to his church. I saw a pastor so dedicated to his congregation that he was willing to take on Voodoo priests in order to break the chains of darkness they are afflicting in his congregation. I saw a poor church in the midst of constructing a building to meet in that was still so giving they insisted on feeding lunch to a group of Americans who were there to serve them. I saw a beautiful blue sky, I saw a beautiful green landscape, a breathtakingly beautiful waterfall, and I saw radically generous people.
I also saw again the work of World Orphans up close. I saw Haitian churches partnered with Western churches impacting their community by caring for the orphaned and vulnerable children in their community. I saw mothers who were filled with joy and gratitude because they were a part of the Orphaned and Vulnerable Children (OVC) program at their church (now called Home-Based Care or HBC). I saw what a difference church partnership makes in Haiti because it provides the amazing Haitian Christians with the resources to help more people than they would otherwise be able to reach.
The need is still tremendous. Our HBC programs allow the church to place 20 children into families and provide food, education, and healthcare for them but the reality is that there are many more than 20 children in these communities that need help. The families that care for these 20 children also have many stark and urgent needs. In short, there is much more work that needs to be done.
And this is the part that really bothers me – I came home and I compared the generous spirit of the Haitian people who have little with the reluctance of the American Christian to give sacrificially and just can’t reconcile the two spirits. I came home and compared the very real and pressing needs of the Haitian people with the perceived needs of the American church and I just can’t reconcile the two mindsets. I’m stuck with these dueling images – one the one hand there is a Haitian church who meets outside in the absolutely sweltering heat under a tin roof and plastic tarp while they try to build a building who chooses to use their resources to provide a meal to me when I was hungry, and on the other hand there are countless American churches meeting in million dollar state-of-the-art buildings who choose not to feed those that are starving all over the world because they don’t have the resources. How do I reconcile these two images and say that both are obediently following Jesus?
I was speaking with our Haitian country director about how best to guide my team and he said something to me that struck me as very profound. He said that teams come with the idea that they are here to “change the world” but that shouldn’t be their goal. He told me that we should seek to serve and learn from the Haitian Christians – to do as much good as we can in the time we are in Haiti, but that our real goal should be to LIVE BETTER when we return home. We can make so much more impact on the world by living better for the rest of our lives than we can ever make in one week in another country. That is it – we shouldn’t aim to change the world – we should aim to live better. We should aim to be obedient to the call of Christ. We should aim to live and love more like Jesus wherever we are. We should learn to die to ourselves daily, to love others like He did, and to be radically generous with all that He has blessed us with.
This is what I saw in Haiti. I saw radically generous Christians obediently living like Christ in the midst of despair and difficult circumstances and I learned that I have much work to do to be as rich in Christ as they are.
By Jeremy Resmer | Senior Director of Projects
I’ve heard it said by leaders and members in the church, “Our church focuses on evangelism and discipleship.” Or swap out evangelism and discipleship with other words like ministry, outreach, fellowship, worship, prayer, fasting, community, relationship, service, and teaching to name a few.
My position at World Orphans allows me to travel to several Majority countries and meet with pastors and leaders about orphan care and the church. As a result, I have tremendous appreciation for the gifts, passions, resourcefulness, creativity, and diversity within the church globally. Of course, like when reading a thought-provoking book, I get excited when I hear stories of monumental faith, supernatural healing, and intervention by the Holy Spirit. Each time I return home, like clockwork, I begin to pray for God to show up in my own life just like in Uganda, or Haiti, or Nicaragua, or like he did for my friend down the street. In fact, God is with us always during the miracles and monotony. And in my prayer for God to show up, I am constantly reminded of the early church.
The Early Church Teaches Us In Acts 2:42-47 we read that believers were committed to evangelism, fellowship, discipleship, worship, and ministry. All of these characteristics defined the early church, not simply one or two. Of course it was and still should be defined by all of these because it is a living, breathing organism made up of people from all walks of life with unique experiences and perspectives fused with diverse strengths, passions, and resources.
And yet, many times our churches are strong in one, two, or maybe even three areas. Without a system and structure to be intentional and balance the five purposes, as Rick Warren states, your church will tend to overemphasize the purpose that best expresses the gifts and passions of its pastor. This is all too common at churches everywhere. It’s not limited by geography or denomination.
For me, this is where my faith collides with my livelihood. James 1:27 can only happen when faith meets works. To care for orphans and widows requires action. The Word is alive and inspires, no it compels us to get up from the bench and insert ourselves into the game, to serve others and be compassionate. I’ve often asked myself, “How is it that pure, undefiled religion goes hand-in-hand with orphans and widows?” and “Does what I do really matter?”
Without God, we are all orphans - each without a parent. Without Jesus, we are all widows - each without a leader. We were created to be in fellowship with God, to glorify him and be his ambassadors. And only the church, through the power of the gospel, has the ability and the mandate to connect both spiritual and physical orphans and widows to God.
What Can We Do? So how do we do it? How does the church engage in fellowship, worship, evangelism, discipleship, and ministry concurrently while caring for the spiritual and physical needs of orphans and widows?
One way is through a church-led visitation ministry that supports and strengthens fragile families, single mothers, and orphaned and abandoned children. It is a family-based outreach that provides wholistic care for children in a home environment. After the earthquake in Haiti and several meetings with pastors, church leaders, and caregivers, World Orphans, in conjunction with the local churches, developed Home Based Care (HBC) to address the unique needs of orphaned and vulnerable children living with extended family and neighbors. Since then, HBC has been contextualized and embraced by churches in Kenya, Ethiopia, and Guatemala.
Here’s how it works:
- The pastor casts the vision and selects a committee of 4-5 volunteer members
- The committee receives training and creates a strategy and plan to minister to the most vulnerable families in the community
- The committee meets with the families, learns more about them and their current situation; additional research is conducted, and families are invited to participate in the program
- The Home Based Care committee visits each family twice per month, builds relationships and provides ongoing encouragement, support, and prayer
Included in the program is access to food, education, counseling, and home visitation by HBC committee members and discipleship by the local church.
The feedback by the church, the children, and the community has been nothing short of amazing!
“Home Based Care helps marginalized people find their identity.” – Ethiopia
“I didn’t know why the church was helping us. Surely, they must have made a mistake. We didn’t deserve to be helped. We didn’t even attend church. But I am so thankful and I give praise to God because he has saved me and my family and for the first time, we have hope for a better future.” – Haiti
Home Based Care Works! Here are some tangible ways HBC combines evangelism, fellowship, discipleship, worship, and ministry.
- Family-based care preserves and stabilizes existing families.
- Children and families are selected based on the greatest need. 80% of beneficiaries are outside the church (Muslim, Orthodox and unbelievers) and 20% are from inside the church. We are reaching children and caregivers with the gospel.
- Visits are based on relationship and partnership with struggling families.
- Home visits are done by volunteers from the local church and utilize resources inside the community. The program can be cost-effective and scalable.
- Treats orphaned children, widows, and other marginalized people with dignity and respect.
- Strengthens the capacity of existing immediate and extended families. Transformation of the families is observable and often includes a renewed identity in Christ.
- Elevates the role of the local church and empowers believers.
- Provides encouragement, sharing of the gospel and prayer for one another.
- Connects the family to the local church to be part of community events, children’s activities, worship, Sunday school, and ongoing discipleship.
- Builds confidence and inspires more people in the church to get involved and provide leadership in the community.
- Establishes a network of churches and church plants that share information, resources, and best practices.
In all my travels, I have yet to learn of another ministry within the church that is more effective at simultaneously building relationships, sharing the gospel, and inspiring people to get involved in meeting the needs of the community. I’m totally convinced Home Based Care plays an important role in the livelihood and growth of our church partners.
“And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.” May it be so.
After reading more about home based care, what thoughts do you have?