What does it mean to care for the "whole" child? What does that look like? It seems counterintuitive in some ways. If we're caring for a child, we're caring for the whole child, right? Roof over her head. Shoes on his feet. Books for school. At World Orphans, we see a distinction between caring for a child and caring for the whole child. We use the term "wholistic" a lot, but what does that even mean?
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Home Based Care
Tacy: When did you move to Guatemala?
Chris: October 2015.
Tacy: What prompted you and your wife to pursue that in the first place? Where did the heart for Guatemala come from?
Chris: Lauren and I both began attending Colorado State University. I started as a freshman. She was a sophomore when she transferred to CSU. We started dating halfway through my sophomore year.
After we graduated, Lauren and I got married in 2012, and missions had been an ongoing conversation. I remember approaching my pastor shortly after we were married and saying, "I'm really unhappy with my job." He asked us to do a couple StrengthsFinder tests and things like that to get a better idea of who were as a couple and who we were as individuals, and I sat on that for about a year. Lauren and I continued praying about it, continued thinking about it, and we started to have this idea that we didn't want to live on our provision anymore. We weren't really giving back a whole lot, but we were coasting through life, and we felt like we needed to start praying, "How can we live lives that are more dependent on your provision, God?"
We started doing that, and we decided to quit our jobs. Right before we quit, our pastor came up to us and said, "How do you feel about moving to Tanzania?" And we said, "Well, we don't know. I guess we'll think about that." (laughs)
Tacy: (laughs) That's a hard thing to answer on the fly.
Chris: Yes. So, we were like, "Well we don't really know what to do with this. It sounds cool. We'll think about it." And that was probably a few weeks before we decided to take a four month road trip across the United States.
Tacy: Oh, fun. I didn't know you guys did that.
Chris: Yeah. We wanted time to pray, to think . . . both of us really feel God's presence when we're in nature. It's away from the hustle and bustle of daily life. And I think it was a tangible way for us to get the experience of just how well God can provide.
We'd spent the better part of our marriage planning for this trip. We'd saved quite a bit of money. We had our route planned out. We had our vehicles stocked. We had all the gear we thought we could possibly need, but two weeks into the trip, we lost our engine . . . We spent probably half our savings just trying to get back on the road, so I think the Lord really used that moment to kind of put us at a crossroads and say, "Are you really willing to pursue me? Are you really willing to follow me . . . even if it doesn't look like your plans are going to come into fruition?"
And at that point—when we were getting our engine fixed—we were thinking, "It might just be better to turn around and go home. We've lost so much money. We really don't know if it'll be worth it to keep going." After praying and talking with friends and family, we felt like the Lord wanted us to continue. So, we kept going, and about two months into our trip, we were both feeling kind of like, "Wow. This is awful."
Chris: We were tired, hungry, cold all the time. We had still been relying on our own provisions, our own plans, and our own savings to get through. We traveled to Alaska and came back down the West Coast, and we had mechanical problem after mechanical problem. We almost ran out of money. But we got back to the US, and everything just changed. The Lord had let us wander through the wilderness for awhile, and then he said, "Now, for the last two months, I'm going to let you see what it's like to live on my provision." And he started providing money for us from friends and relatives, places to stay, and random people would give us food. We were put up for the night in several places. We were given jobs picking pears for a week, and that earned us a bunch of money to get home. One family put us up in their Airbnb for free, fed us three meals a day, and invited us to their church and small group. It was really just eye opening. We saw what we could accomplish, which was really just depressing. And we saw what God can do if we just let go a little bit. So after that, we came home ready to figure out how we could get into missions, whether Tanzania or another avenue. During our time praying about Tanzania, we realized it wasn't a good fit . . . obviously . . . that's why we're not there.
Tacy: Right. (laughs)
Chris: Scott Vair goes to our church, and right before we left, we had started to have conversations with him and our pastor. When we got back, we continued having more regular meetings with Scott and Pastor Paul, and they really challenged us to start exploring opportunities in our community as well as internationally. We started serving a refugee family from Kurdistan here in Denver, and I think that really opened up our eyes to what it's like to be in a different country. When you're not from that culture, and you don't know the language very well, food is different, the way people drive, the way people talk, the way people interact . . . everything is just bizarre and strange and uncomfortable. I think that really set the stage for us to go to Guatemala in some ways. We knew kind of what to expect, even though you never can totally prepare yourself.
From the time we got back from our trip to the time we left for Guatemala, that was about two years. During that time, Scott invited us to go to Ethiopia to check out the World Orphans model. What we saw in Ethiopia just blew our minds wide open . . . that you could do orphan care like that. I mean it just makes sense when you think about the role the church has in the biblical sense and globally how they should be caring for kids and families. It just made sense. We took a little trip to Guatemala in January 2015 to check it out . . . three days on the ground I think. We met some of the people we would be working with, and then we got back home and started fundraising. We left for Guatemala nine months later.
Tacy: Can you tell me a little bit about the work that World Orphans is doing in Guatemala from a program overview standpoint?
Chris: Lauren and I hold different, yet overlapping roles. When there's a team on the ground, we're both functioning somewhat as team leaders. She's the church partnership director for Guatemala. On a daily basis, she is communicating with churches in the US and churches in Guatemala to coordinate details and communication. She handles family profiles, ensuring that those are translated. She works a lot with Jenny, the psychologist, to actually delve into the family situations. And then she's also involved in pre-trip planning. She follows up with the teams after they've left—finances, discipleship training, debriefing. She's got a very multifaceted job in that sense. And when a team is on the ground, I join forces with her so that we're able to coordinate teams well, whether that's her going off to do something with some of the ladies from the church and I do stuff with the guys or just coordinating debriefings . . . it works better when we can work together.
When I'm not doing that, I work day in and day out with Pedro who is our new sub-coordinator for economic empowerment. He's my right hand man, and basically our objectives have been to start savings groups, to start a youth savings match program in 2018, and to do this sewing cooperative that's been going on for two months now, whereby we teach ladies from the community to sew, to run a business, and basic things like hygiene and childcare, education . . . the importance of things like that. All of this we do through an organization called Women's Partnership Market. We oversee the project, but Stephanie from Women's Partnership Market has been doing a fantastic job of handling it.
Tacy: So, are these savings groups being run through churches there in Guatemala?
Chris: Yes. That's the plan. We may be tweaking things going into the next year, but the idea was to start savings groups in each of our four churches in Zone 7. And then after we had those established, we would start a new cycle in Zone 7 and a new cycle in Zone 18, but we may be tweaking that a little bit. Right now, we have one savings group of seven people, and it's a combination of two churches in Zone 7.
Tacy: I know we rely heavily on local leadership to speak into our work regardless of the country we're working in. How does that play out for you? How do you benefit from working alongside local leadership that's already established?
Chris: When considering working alongside AMG, I think it's provided us with an incredibly varied and diverse network of individuals and organizations within Guatemala that we would not have access to otherwise. From a programmatic basis, that has been incredibly helpful.
Working with the churches—the Guatemalan churches—their expertise within their own communities has been invaluable. I mean, these are areas that we wouldn't be able to go into at all because if you're not a known member of the community you may be targeted either as a resource for extortion or something worse. So having those relationships and connections allows us to actually do work. Even the different departments within our team offer different skill sets and advantages. Our psychologists—their resources, their abilities, their training in Guatemala, their community experience, and the AMG team of psychologists that they're plugged into—has just been an incredible resource for us . . . probably the best resource that we have.
Tacy: That's awesome. So, in what ways does that come into play? What are the psychologists doing?
Chris: They work with all of our families. Jenny and Auri are the two psychologists that are directly associated with World Orphans, and each of them handles cases with children and families. So, this could include mom and dad or the entire family. They work with them to help them process things in the past and things that they are going through day-to-day. Some is trauma, but a lot of it is simply dealing with waking up every day in these situations. Maybe last night you heard a lot of gunfire; how do you process that type of thing? Having that resource has been huge. I don't have the rapport with them or the respect in this area to do that, but—going through Jenny or Auri–I can get a feel for what's best for the community and even say, "Can you ask these community members what would be best for them?" This allows us to structure our programs to best fit the needs of the families. That's their role—to support those families in that way, but they've also provided me with the means to get these programs launched. They've connected me to the participants. All the ladies from the sewing program that are working with Stephanie right now are ladies from the local community that were referred to us by the psychologists—ladies that they handpicked and said, "I think this woman would really benefit from this based on the work we've done with her." So with their help, we're really able to cater our programs to what the community needs.
Tacy: So, what's it been like to live in Guatemala? Is living in Guatemala different from what you anticipated or is it kind of what you expected?
Chris: Ummm . . . it's not as different as I thought it was going to be in some respect. There is so much "Americanization" that's gone on. If you were to visit, you'd see Starbucks, KFC, Pizza Hut, Papa John's . . . lots of name-brand clothing from the US. Cars from Germany, the US, Japan . . . it doesn't look that different in some respects, depending on what area of the city you are in.
There are two things that have been very difficult for us. Finding community—I think that's partially because missionaries are often so busy with their work that it's hard to connect, and other times, those missionaries . . . the only thing you have in common with them is that they're missionaries, so all you end up doing is talking about your work and ministries, and it never feels like you get to build a real relationship. And then there is the language barrier. While we speak Spanish well, to go deep with somebody . . . or even to have this conversation where I can be sort of frank and vulnerable . . . to have this conversation with someone in Spanish right now is not attainable for me, or it's very difficult. So, that's hampered some of our relationship building. It's not stopped us, but it makes the relationships feel a little less deep in some respects.
The other thing that's been difficult . . . and this is just cultural . . . When you talk to Guatemalans, they're a very non-confrontational society, and I wouldn't say that most people in the US love confrontation, but we tend to value more direct responses. So, when you ask a question, you tend to get a direct answer unless it's personal, and then they may beat around the bush. In Guatemala, you never really know what the person is thinking. I'll ask a question like, "Would this be good for you?" and the assumption is, "If you're asking, you must think it's good for me, so I think it's good for me."
Tacy: And that's hard when you're planning out programs and processes.
Chris: Exactly. So, you plan out your program based on their response because you think you got a direct answer . . . (laughs) . . . and they're thinking, "I'm not going to show up for this because it's not really what I want, but I think that's what he wants." So, then you get everything set up and nobody comes. (laughs)
Chris: There's just a difference there.
Tacy: Earlier you mentioned going to Ethiopia with World Orphans. It sounds like when you went to Ethiopia, your perception of caring for orphans and vulnerable families was really turned on it's head. How has your perception of orphan care and partnering with vulnerable families changed since living in Guatemala? Does it look different than you thought it would? Do you feel like you value things that perhaps you didn't before?
Chris: Ethiopia really transformed the way I viewed church care—the way we are to care for families, and I think Guatemala has taken that to a whole new level. The churches here have been so effective in caring for their communities. And because of AMG's many years of experience with these churches, there's been this recognition that dignity is of the utmost importance when dealing with these families, and I think that's something I've really internalized. I think I believed it before, but now I've seen just how powerful maintaining their dignity can be and how detrimental it can be when that dignity is removed. I really love the way our psychologist, AMG, and our team protects the families. We've been really overprotective of our families, and I think it's helped me check my ego. Everything is done through the church to the point where I have very little involvement with the actual families. We want to show them that they have value to Jesus, and we're not going to parade them around or show them off like some prized animal.
Tacy: We talked a little bit about the challenges that you've faced while working in Guatemala—the cultural differences, the obstacles that you've had to overcome. What would you say you've enjoyed the most about working in Guatemala?
Chris: There's been a lot. I think, as difficult as relationships have been on a personal level, . . . we're really blessed to work with nine different churches in Guatemala, which means that we have connections with different pastors around the city, different committee members, different families, different kids. It provides this plethora of relationships and really has enriched us. There have been a few churches that we've really connected deeply with—their committee members, pastors, families.
When I was leaving Guatemala to go back to the states temporarily, I felt this weight. Even though it was temporary . . . just the outpouring of love on behalf of the church blew me away. In our context, we didn't realize how close these people were to us. We didn't realize that they had grown to consider us part of their family . . . the things they did for us, the prayers they sent our way . . . it was just mind-blowing. I realized we have become part of these families, and they've become part of ours. That's why I felt so sad leaving, knowing I was going home to family, but I was also leaving part of my family, too.
This may sound like a cliché answer, but the people of Guatemala have really stolen my heart, and I think they've stolen Lauren's, too. The battles they fight every day are things that I'll never ever experience. For example, Pedro. He comes from a small farming village in the mountains of Guatemala—the things that he's had to overcome in his life to get to where he's at . . . it's built such strength of character and perseverance and this rock-solid faith in God. You know, I get shaken pretty easily when things aren't going my way or I feel like I'm out of control, but Pedro pushes through it. I know he gets upset, too, but the reality is that his faith has really strengthened mine.
Tacy: I think for me—as someone who works behind my desk most days—this really shows me that the World Orphans vision comes into fruition. We talk a lot about how it's all about relationships, but at the end of the day, it's one thing to say that, and it's another thing for that to be the reality. It's very affirming to me to hear that it is the reality. It really is all about relationships.
Chris: And I think we have such an advantage in some ways. When churches come down from the US, they get this mountain-high experience, but they don't even understand the kind of encouragement they've left behind with the church here in Guatemala. They leave on a high note thinking, "We've done good for them, and we feel encouraged by them." But, we feel it even more because on our end we get the constant feedback from the pastor. We have ladies in the community saying, "When are they coming back? I can't wait to reconnect with them. When are they coming back? Are they bringing their kids? Are their kids going to be married?" They just become so welded together.
Tacy: How neat to see the ripple effects of Church Partnership.
Tacy: How do you see World Orphans efforts growing, changing, and expanding in Guatemala in the coming years?
Chris: I think that World Orphans is going in many directions right now in Guatemala, and I think all of them are good. I think . . . with the international team members we've added recently . . . we have the increased capacity to be able to handle it. We've got a lot of change coming down our pipeline. We added four new churches in May, and Sam is really excited about adding a bunch more in 2018, which is good. That growth is positive, and it's a natural consequence of doing things well. I think a lot of our growth right now is happening in Zone 18 because things are going so well. We've learned so much from Zone 7, that we started off on such a good foot in Zone 18. The pastors are very connected and they're talking to each other. The ones in the program are talking to others, telling them how great it is that they're able to work with these families now. So, you have additional pastors saying, "I want to do that, too." The economic empowerment—there's still a lot of things that need to happen; it's still very much a fledgling program. There have definitely been growing pains with that.
Tacy: So, for people that want to get involved through prayer . . . Can you give them some prayer points?
Chris: I touched on some of the programs we're trying to get launched in the next year. One that we're very passionate about is this youth savings match program. It's going to kind of partner with AMG in a way that allows kids—as they're learning about savings, investing, small business, etc.—to have a practical means of applying this to their lives . . . through a savings program that will be operated through AMG and a match program that will match dollar-for-dollar what they've saved to allow them to further their education, start a business, etc. That will start hopefully in 2018. It's been a slow process to get this going, and we need the Lord's guidance in this. That's something people could pray for for sure.
The savings groups—we really need to rely on the Lord for progress in these, for his timing. We really do feel like this goes alongside wholistic care and is—in many ways—the last step for families to start achieving independence financially and to begin transitioning families in order to help others. This program still needs some tweaking, and I need prayer for wisdom as I help guide this process. Pedro and I could both use prayer for encouragement, and reliance on the Lord.
A praise would be the way that this cooperative has been going with this sewing group. People can definitely see God's hand at work in this. Even though it's being run by a secular business development group out of Denver, they very much have principles in line with ours, though they are missing the spiritual piece. It's been amazing to see that even in the absence of that part of their curriculum, the women have started their own Bible study, and God is blessing them. I hope that God continues to bless them. The hunger that they have to learn how to sew and to start their own businesses . . . it's captivating. To see how so far they have been so committed, continuing to come back every single week . . . that's provided a spark of hope for us.
I would ask the people also pray for Lauren, as she'll be managing her responsibilities while also caring for our newborn baby. She's already been such a good mother. I'm just praying for wisdom for her as she navigates this new season.
Moses was a child conceived through rape and abandoned by his mother, but he is now in the care of his grandmother. Twins, Sarai and Andrea, were left orphaned when their mother was imprisoned and their father left them, but a neighbor took them in, welcoming them into her home. Rachel's father died in a sudden accident, but she has continued to be raised by her mother, Veronica. Adriana and Daniella care for Camila—a woman left paralyzed by an accident—and her two sons.
The families receiving care through our partner churches have a variety of stories. Some children are being raised by biological mothers or fathers, while others have been welcomed into the homes of grandmothers, aunts, or friends. A commonality you will find among these stories (in addition to a child being orphaned or at risk for abandonment) is poverty or a severe lack of economic resources. Poverty is the leading cause of family disruption; therefore, it is impossible to talk about stabilizing families without also discussing the economic implications of such an effort.
So, what does this imply about orphan care? Well, the term "orphan care" itself is perhaps somewhat confusing . . . at least the way we use it at World Orphans. Orphan care at World Orphans typically looks more like family care, as we believe a child's well-being directly hinges on the stability and physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health of the entire family. As churches partner with vulnerable families in their community, pastors and congregation members are not merely coming alongside a child, but they are standing alongside families in the midst of turmoil, heartbreak, and transition.
Thus, our belief in and desire to see strong, stable families has shaped and informed our economic empowerment efforts over the years. Guided by knowledgeable and caring pastors around the world, we've been embarking on a journey that—while it may not be easy—has been filled with joy, hope, and profound dignity for our caregivers, mothers, and fathers. We believe that economic empowerment is building the capacity of the men and women in our programs to participate in, contribute to, and benefit from economic opportunities in ways that recognize the value of their contributions, respect their intrinsic dignity as image bearers of Christ, build stronger families, and improve the quality of life for all members of the family.
As we rely on local leadership to guide our efforts in this area, the reality of economic empowerment varies based on location.
Economic empowerment initiatives were first launched in Ethiopia in June 2015, and began with savings groups—clusters of caregivers that met to discuss daily life, eat a meal together, and begin to save money. From those humble and simplistic beginnings, economic empowerment initiatives in Ethiopia have grown substantially.
- Savings Groups: All of our caregivers from all seven of our churches are participating in savings groups that give them the ability to save money monthly despite their inability to access formal financial institutions as individuals.
- Micro-loans: Eligible caregivers received a 500 birr (approximately $25) micro-loan to start or expand their businesses, and plans are underway to implement a second phase of micro-loans this year.
- Literacy Program & Empowerment Packs: Packs of supplies for literacy, education, basic first aid/hygiene, feminine hygiene, and nutrition are distributed at training seminars provided to the churches and families involved in our program.
Zeritu | Ethiopia
When she entered the program, Zeritu was desperate, hungry, and suicidal. She couldn't afford to put shoes on her children's feet. Now, she is teaching others in the program her secrets to entrepreneurial success and willingly giving up her spot in the program to provide space for another family to benefit from the same programs that allowed her to transform her life.
Ehetinesh is a widowed mother of seven children, and grandmother of three. Through the economic empowerment program, Ehetinesh has been able to craft and sell handmade jewelry—delicate pieces of art that she is eager to display and sell in her community. In addition to the jewelry, Ehetinesh also sells vegetables. This work allows her to provide for her children, despite previous economic struggles.
In 2017, economic empowerment initiatives were launched in Guatemala through partnership with local businesses, organizations, and the guiding wisdom of our local pastors. While our efforts in Guatemala are still in the early stages, it's already been a joy to see the confidence and joy that empowerment can bring to caregivers.
- Savings Groups: We are in the process of hiring a Savings Group Coordinator to oversee the implementation of the Restore:Savings Curriculum developed and tested by the Chalmers Center with our savings groups.
- Youth Savings & Education: A matched youth savings program will be launched in 2018 in conjunction with the financial literacy education that is already part of the curriculum at the AMG school in Guatemala City.
- Skills Training for Women: In collaboration with Women’s Partnership Marketplace, we are striving to implement a year-long curriculum to train women as artisans and business owners, equipping them in multiple areas from goal setting to the intricacies of being an entrepreneur.
- Supporting Existing AMG Programs to Empower Women and Youth: We are investigating ways to provide support to AMG efforts to facilitate financial education, artisan and business training, and job placement for youth.
Yoselin* lives in a small, single-room rented home with her children. Her hard work and assistance from a local World Orphans church partner, Sendero de la Cruz, has allowed her to send her two oldest sons to boarding school. Through the boarding school, the boys not only receive an education, but they are receiving healthy food and learning practical information about basic hygiene. Yoselin's two young daughters are cared for daily through the church's nursery, allowing Yoselin to start a small business selling chips outside of schools. The family has begun to faithfully attend Sendero de la Cruz, and they have gotten involved in home groups and other ongoing church activities.
Women's Partnership Market
These women are meeting together to create goals for their future at the Artisans Thrive training program in Guatemala City. Over the next couple months, these women will be investing time and energy to learn personal skills, gain understanding of how to start a business, and learn the process of bringing a product to market.
Estefanny | Guatemala
20-year-old Estefanny (third from the left) is employed at Grønn, a socially-conscious start-up using recycled glass to create drinking glasses. The company owner, inspired by Estefanny's work ethic and determination, recently promoted her to director of production. In addition to working at Grønn, Estefanny is a caregiver in the Home Based Care program, a volunteer at Sonrisas (a church-based outreach program for children), and she is attending school to earn a business administration degree.
Economic empowerment is changing the way we care for orphaned and vulnerable children, and it's building confidence in our caregivers, as they now have opportunities to pursue a better life for their families. While these efforts are young and we're only beginning to see the first beautiful fruits from these programs, we've already been captivated and inspired by the stories. Even more beautiful, in an effort to come alongside additional vulnerable families, we recently launched economic empowerment initiatives in Haiti and will update you as the program grows.
*Identity changed for protection
At World Orphans, we talk a lot about orphan care, but you may have noticed that we don't talk about orphanages. Instead, you may frequently hear the words "church partnership" or "family-based care".
Those that are fierce are sometimes thought to be unloving. Those that are strong are often believed to not be gentle. Those that are brave are sometimes thought to be unkind. But this–of course–is not always true.
Yeshiwork's story is the stuff of sensationalized media, yet it's all true. As a child solider, she barely survived a battle along the border of Somalia–a battle which killed 75 people. She became a child bride at ten years old and stood by his side for 55 years . . . until he left her. To this day, she doesn't know if her husband is alive or not, as he could not be located after a flood.
Yeshiwork has suffered much, yet has overcome.
She is a tall, fierce woman. She is strong. She is brave. Yet, she is also loving, gentle, and kind, as evidenced by the little boy who has so clearly stolen her heart.
Moses walks into the room, weighed down by the heavy backpack on his tiny shoulders. He looks shyly at the guests in the room, yet marches over to Yeshiwork, and climbs onto her lap to plant a kiss on her cheek. A sparkle can be seen in her otherwise serious eyes.
She prays for him, believing he will be a leader. Though she loves him, she is not given to nonsense. Yeshiwork expects him to be disciplined in his studies and to attend the after-school programs at school in addition to his regular schooling. Without her, Moses' life could have looked so different . . . if his life had come to be at all.
Yeshiwork is Moses' grandmother, and without her desperate plea for his life to be spared, Moses would have been aborted. Conceived through rape, Moses was a sign of shame. Tradition dictated that, once he was born, he would be an outcast and he would forever be reminded of the pain that brought him into the world. One week after he his birth, Moses' mother left him in Yeshiwork's care. Out of humiliation, his grandfather left.
Yeshiwork had nothing but a tiny, defenseless infant. She was a warrior for him before he was even born, and yet that was only the beginning.
Believing it was important to "give him a life," Yeshiwork has loved him like her own son. Through the World Orphans Home Based Care program, a local church has partnered with Yeshiwork, enabling her to care for him well. The church's partnership helps to ensure that Moses is being provided for physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.
Home Based Care enables Moses to grow up under the loving care of the woman who fought for him. Without the local church, Yeshiwork would most likely have been forced to surrender Moses at an orphanage, unable to provide for his needs as a single elderly woman.
Orphan care, at its roots, should always be about strengthening families, both the families that have welcome orphaned children into their homes and those families whose children are vulnerable to abandonment. Through Home Based Care, families are strengthened through the local church with support, educational resources, and provisions for the child's education, food, and medical needs as is necessary. We know that children thrive when they are in families, and we seek to see those families stay together rather than be torn apart by poverty.
Yeshiwork has fiercely and selflessly loved Moses, a boy previously destined to be an outcast. It is a privilege, as the global church, to stand in her corner and celebrate Moses' precious life.
And thus, Frimose began the hard work of parenting a grief-stricken 8-year-old girl.
When new mother, Dayna Mager, poured out the broken pieces of her heart on social media, the masses responded. Her story quickly went viral. Dayna attended a worship conference, where a missionary spoke about visiting an orphanage while in Uganda. The orphanage, filled to the brim with 100 babies, was eerily silent. She was crushed when she learned that the babies are conditioned to stop crying. A small staff against 100 babies that become hungry, tired, and dirty at varying times throughout the day is a tough scenario.
Dayna relays the missionary's story, "They stop crying when they realize no one is coming for them."
Dayna continues by sharing about the change in her maternal perspective, no longer frustrated or inconvenienced by the sound of her newborn baby's cry, but thankful for that cry. That cry means her child is learning that Mama will come when she's hungry, tired, dirty, or discomforted in any way.
Babies need to cry. We need them to cry. Crying means proper development is taking place.
Stories like these offer a glimpse into why we approach orphan care in the way that we do.
Our Home Based Care Program (HBC) is a family-based program that both addresses and prevents the rise of the orphan population by caring for children in a home environment. Administered through our Church Partnership model, World Orphans partners US churches with international churches that wholistically care for orphaned and vulnerable children. These children are being raised by single mothers, extended family, neighbors, friends, or church members.
The goal of the program is to equip, inspire, and mobilize the local church to build relationships with at-risk families in their communities. Relationships grow through frequently visiting these families in their homes to offer prayer, Gospel training, counseling, and overall encouragement. To empower this wholistic approach to orphan care, World Orphans and US churches connect relationally with international churches to provide Gospel-focused training and funding. The funding for the HBC Program ensures that these children are being cared for wholistically.
Wholistic Care meets:
- Physical Needs – Protection, shelter, food, nutrition, access to clean drinking water, and medical care.
- Mental Needs – Access to, and support of, education and vocational training.
- Emotional Needs – Ongoing care through counseling and home visits.
- Spiritual Needs – Discipleship towards a relationship with Christ, transformation, and a restored image of dignity and true identity in Jesus Christ.
A child who has faced tremendous loss needs to know that his cries will be heard. A baby who has experienced tragedies untold needs to know she will be answered.
Orphan care will never be an ideal, flawless, beautiful operation because the very word "orphan" speaks to the loss, neglect, or abandonment that a child has faced. Though it will never be perfect, we should be pursuing excellence.
Let's create and support environments where a baby's cry is answered by loving arms. While we do this, let's continue hoping, praying, and dreaming of the day they all have homes.
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By Becky Hoffman | Director of Rescue Teams Growing up. Leaving the nest. It is something most of us have done or will do. The time comes when we leave our parents behind and set out on our own. Free. Independent. Terrified. Some will attend college, while others join the workforce. Many will rent apartments or buy houses. Bills are now addressed to self, not parent or guardian. Though the process of entering adulthood is daunting, it is also exhilarating. Well, it should be.
Others experience a different story: aging out. An 18th birthday means it is time to go. You are out of the system. Out of the orphanage. Out on your own. Whether you are leaving foster care or an institutional orphanage, the process is abrupt and final. No one is required to care for you anymore. Your bed will be filled by another.
In an interview with Neal Conan on NPR, Dr. Mark Courtney, Research and Development Director of Partnerships for Our Children, describes the status of the former foster children he has been following into young adulthood. He says, “…less than half of them are employed at 23, very high rates of involvement with the criminal justice system, lots of struggling parents, rely on public assistance…”
Not a pretty picture. If that is what happens in the United States, imagine what it must be like for children in impoverished nations. The fear of being left to fend for oneself must plague the minds of many 17-year-old youths.
This does not have to be the case. In fact, it is not the case for the six young women in India who are cared for by the local church in partnership with World Orphans. These young women have a different story.
After losing their parents to tragedies, including accidents, abandonment, and illness, these women were brought into the loving home of a pastor’s daughter and son-in-law. There they grew up as sisters and formed a tight bond with each other and their guardians. Now, at 18, 19, and 20 years old, they have not “aged out". Instead, there has been a gradual, natural transition.
Each young woman attends university and they share an apartment above the church. After nursing school, Ujala comes home to help her new mother sew beautiful wedding gowns and sarees to sell. Aalia and Mahla have taken on many of the church’s administrative responsibilities. Each one has her role.
What is even more special is that Ujala, Mahla, Aalia, Heli, Prema, and Aahna* were recently baptized. Not only are they growing in independence, but in faith. They are truly blossoming.
None of this would have happened without the local church stepping up to care for the fatherless. It would not have happened without the US church providing finances for food, school fees, medical care, and other necessities. It would not have happened without three-fold partnership between these churches and World Orphans.
We love our church partners and praise God for all they are doing to show Christ’s love to orphans. We invite you and your church to jump in and be part of changing the story for orphans who otherwise would have aged out of the system.
*Names have been changed to protect privacy.
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 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 Scott Vair | President
The Story of Belnysh
In Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Belnysh lives in a corrugated metal house on the side of the street with her two boys, Dawit and Beniyam. As a widow, she’s struggled to provide them with the basics needed to survive - food, clothing, shelter, and education. Five years ago, Belynsh was so desperate that she took her youngest Beniyam (only four years old at the time) and left him at an orphanage, fearing she would not be able to provide for both of the boys.
Desperation, death, anguish, helplessness, hopelessness, extreme poverty – all culminating in a mother abandoning her child to an orphanage, hoping for a better life for him.
Avoiding this exact scenario is one of the primary goals of our Home Based Care (HBC) Program, as we seek to work with local churches to preserve families and keep children out of orphanages. Study after study points to the dangers, inadequacies, and developmental delays associated with institutional care. To put it bluntly: a child belongs in a family.
Two years later, Belynsh missed Beniyam, who was no longer recognizing her when she went to visit. Her family was broken, and she wanted him back. There had to be another way.
Fast forward to today. Belynsh has Beniyam back in her home, they are part of our Home Based Care Program at Lafto Kale Heywet Church, and Belynsh is running her own teashop. She works six days a week to earn enough money to keep the boys at home, with a little help from the HBC Program that provides some food, medical care, and education expenses for the boys.
The teashop was started through a small business loan Belynsh received through a savings plan as part of the HBC Program at the church. Through the encouragement of the HBC Coordinator, Belganesh, the Home Based Care participants started a savings program where they each put in the equivalent of about $1 a month. A few months ago, World Orphans staff members matched what had been saved so far, allowing the group to start issuing small business loans. Each loan is about $25 and is paid back over 10 months. So far, 8 of the 22 caregivers in the HBC Program have received such a loan.
While it doesn’t seem like much, a small loan like this was enough to help Belynsh start the teashop and begin to earn a living.
The Story of Pastor Siva
In Chatsworth, South Africa, World Orphans partner, Pastor Siva Moodley, has been caring for orphans through his church, Christian Life Centre, for over a decade. He too has a passion for seeing caregivers empowered to earn a living so they can take care of their children. In the past, they’ve taught widows how to make and sell jewelry. Today, they are in the final stages of completing a Training Center. This Training Center is a two-story building that will house a sewing project.
Most sewing projects I’ve seen over the years are designed to employ people. Women come to the project and work at sewing garments that the project then sells. The project is the employer.
The sewing project at Christian Life Centre has a different vision. They too will have women come to the project, they will be in community as they learn to sew, but the goal is to teach them a skill. Christian Life Centre will then network with factories to get them jobs at the end of a six-week training program. They will bring women in (many are widows), teach them to sew, find them a job, send them out, and bring in others. The cycle repeats. Women given skills and help so they can support and care for their families themselves.
This small business loan program in Ethiopia and sewing project in South Africa are both examples of what we call Family Empowerment. This form of empowerment, deeply rooted in the Gospel, not only invests in the family but also walks families through the ongoing process of providing physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual care for those they love. Each step is intentional. It’s dynamic. It demands mutual respect, economic accountability, and constant engagement in the local community. But the greatest part of it all, it transforms families and communities for generations to come!
Our goal is to see families empowered to raise their children physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. We believe this starts with, and is found in, the Gospel of Christ.
This past August, we conducted our first caregiver training in Haiti for the 200+ caregivers in our HBC Program. Caregivers were trained in child protection, oral hygiene, and biblical discipline – all undergirded by the Gospel and identity found in Christ. We believe the work of the Gospel is foundational. Our hope is only found in Him. The Gospel has much to say about all areas of life, including economic empowerment. When sewing projects and loan programs designed to empower caregivers are a function of the church, where community is established and the message of Christ is primary, real family transformation takes place.
When talking about economic empowerment, two of the more popular topics in missions today are “dependency” and “self-sustainability”.
These are indeed important topics, but also very complex issues that aren’t as easy as we’d like them to be. As Daniell Rickett points out in his must-read book, Building Strategic Relationships, there is both healthy and unhealthy dependency. Obviously we must be cautious to avoid unhealthy dependency (where the sole focus is on the exchange of money rather than on the complimentary contributions each party makes). But, we must also embrace healthy dependency (where each partner is willing give and receive, to teach and to learn, to lead and to follow).
We have several projects that have, over the years, spent considerable time, energy, and resources on “self-sustainability” projects – chickens, gardens, farms, bakeries, transportation companies, etc. – and these projects have generated some income. Yet even with the additional income generated, we continue to walk with these projects, continue our relationship, continue our partnership, and continue to provide funding. Partnership with these churches is more than the exchange of funds, it’s primarily about relationship; long-term genuine relationship working toward the accomplishment of the shared goal of caring for orphans. We can do so much more together than we could ever do on our own.
As we move into 2015, World Orphans is more committed than ever to see growth in our ministry in the area of Family Empowerment. These areas are where we believe we can have the most impact. We want to see more families like Belynsh and her boys stay together. We want to see more children stay with their parents and/or relatives - not sent to orphanages. We want to see more caregivers given opportunity to support their families with dignity, honor, and respect.
Do you share our passion for raising-up men and women through Family Empowerment? Do you know a business, foundation, or church that might want to get behind such an initiative? Are you able to help us see more women like Belynsh selling tea to support her children instead of resorting to sending them to an orphanage?
You can be part of empowering caregivers and families, and in the end, providing solutions and alternatives to some of the most difficult challenges in orphan care today. Supporting families to keep their children in their care. It’s a real-life solution. Family Empowerment.
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?
By Kathy Davis | Wholistic Care
Yesterday morning my middle daughter brought a cup of coffee into my office, nestled into the couch, and said “Momma, you’re sad.” “Well, maybe a little,” I replied. Later in the day, my youngest daughter passed off her favorite hoodie that I ‘borrow’ from her closet way too often and gave it to me.
This week marks the closing of a chapter and the opening of another in the life of our family. All three of our daughters are moving out of our home and into an apartment together. My mind is flooded with memories, and my heart is conflicted as I ponder all that has encompassed 25 years of parenting. After all, isn’t this what we have prepared them for? Two of them have graduated with a college degree and are employed with great jobs, and the third is in her second year of college. They are all followers of Jesus Christ and are held in the grip of His grace. What could be more important? I should be thrilled but now find myself gripped with the question, ‘was it enough?’ Are they really prepared?
I suppose it’s all of the little things. Who will notice on those difficult days when their hearts are heavy – that they probably just need a hug, encouraging word, or chocolate brownie? Who will remind them that are beautifully created on days that they don’t feel pretty? Who will encourage them to eat vegetables more regularly than donuts? Who will remind them that they matter and are dearly loved, come what may? Who will tell them over and over again that God’s promises are true, that the Kingdom of God is at hand, and that every day is filled with opportunity to be agents of His grace? Who will take seriously that their holiness is far more important than their happiness? Isn’t this what parents are for?
As the Director of Wholistic Care for World Orphans, I spend a lot of time thinking about the needs of children and the significance of belonging that is communicated through family. As my husband and I have invested in providing for the essential needs of our children (physically, emotionally, spiritually, and mentally), I am confounded by the immense opportunity that the church has to participate in seeing orphaned and vulnerable children cared for in the context of family.
World Orphans Home Based Care program is a beautiful illustration of how this is being accomplished through the church. We would love for your church to engage in this great work where churches are partnering together from across the globe, children are being restored, and communities are being transformed by the Gospel of Christ.
My home is quieter this morning. I am wearing my new hoodie, and I am considering that in all of the years I have strived to care for and ‘see’ my children, that they are now ‘seeing others,' to include the tender heart of their Momma. It is the close of a chapter but an ongoing reality that the best Father of all, Jesus, will continue to guide them, remind them, and will not let them go. Children are truly a heritage and a blessing from the Lord.
By Bailey Kalvelage | Mobilization
Reflecting seems to always be part of the festivities of a new year. Whether in the quiet of the morning or between errands, we tend to ponder the past year, retracing steps both large and small. I invite you to journey with me through a few testimonies from World Orphans 2013 partnership trips. Relationships were deepened, kids and families were cared for, and the Gospel was spread…
“One of the events we did was a sports outreach where we took four buses of people to a sports complex. The day ended with testimonies from some of our team and then Jairo Jr. (pastor’s son) gave an invitation to accept Christ. The first girl that came forward was Abigail. She is 8 years old. When she was born, her mom had her dedicated at Verbo Sur (church), but her mom died a couple of months later. Her dad later died, and her grandmother is raising her. Verbo Sur has stayed close to her with the Community Development Center and feeding programs, and she comes to church each Sunday. This is a great example of the church stepping in and helping to raise an orphan right in their community." – Partnership between Verbo Sur of Nicaragua and Gaylord E-Free of Michigan
“Every day at noon, Eglise de Dieu D’Andullan has intercessory prayer time. What an experience for our team: to take time each day to come together and pray! Oh, how we have things to learn from our Haitian friends! When I first walked into the church, prayer time was already in progress, and it took a little getting used to at first…most people were praying aloud, some quietly. Several were pacing up and down while calling upon Jesus, some kneeled and rocked, some reached their hands toward heaven, and one woman was kneeling and wailing. To me, it was an intimate picture of how we all come to the Lord in a very personal way. Without understanding their language, I could only see their love, their desire for the Lord, their relationship with Him…beautiful!” – Partnership between Eglise de Dieu D’Andullan of Haiti and Lakewood Christian Church of Oklahoma
“In the afternoon, our team came up to the front of a house with seven young men out back. One team member walked up and shook hands and introduced himself. He started telling them his story, ‘I know what it’s like to be a young man…I want you to know you can have courage and salvation and all the freedom I have in my life. You will still mess up but you know Jesus.’ One young man said, ‘I’m a Muslim, but I’d like to have that Jesus.’ He prayed and accepted Christ. The US team member has prayed for him since then.” – Partnership between Hope Home Care Cyegera of Rwanda and HOPE 221 of Tennessee
Whether it was hundreds of people being treated and prayed for at a medical clinic or a little boy sharing the victory at his choir concert with his US friends, God’s faithfulness has reverberated throughout trips in 2013. Each partnership has unique stories of salvation, worship, service, and love.
“All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had. With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all that there were no needy persons among them.” Acts 4:32-34a
In 2013, special churches in the US and around the world continued to join in partnership through World Orphans to care for children who are orphaned and vulnerable. This reflecting brings gratitude and great anticipation of what is to come in 2014!
By Kevin Squires | Senior Director of Church Partnerships
America was taken aback in recent weeks by the sound of an orphan’s cry. Davion Only, a 15-year old boy in Florida’s foster care system, put on his finest clothes, went to church, stood on stage, and cried out for a family. I keep replaying his words in my head. “I’ll take anyone,” he said. “Old or young, dad or mom, black, white, purple. I don’t care.” He wasn’t looking to be rescued from foster care; he simply wanted what so many of us take for granted… he wanted a family. So, he desperately cried out for someone, in his own words, “to love me until I die.”
No doubt this story will continue to captivate America. At the time of this post, over 10,000 requests to adopt Davion have come into the main offices in Florida. Thanks to talk shows, news stations, and bloggers everywhere, Davion’s cry for someone to love me until I die will not only get him adopted, it will most certainly get thousands of others adopted as well. In many ways, Davion has become the face of the orphan crisis in America, where over 100,000 children currently “live” in foster care. But it’s his voice, his nervous and trembling voice, that has become the cry of over 150 million orphans worldwide. In many ways, his “Love Me Until I Die” speech was his version of “I Have A Dream,” a dream and a quest to be loved by a family.
So, that begs the question… with so many children around the world on a similar quest, what will it take to get these kids into loving families, especially when adoption is not an option?
For hundreds of years, orphanages have monopolized the global orphan care industry. With great intentions, limited options, and a growing orphan crisis, many churches, governments, and NGOs plunged into the business of running orphanages in hopes of saving as many children as possible. While we in America were desperately trying to keep up with the Joneses, those in the Majority World were frantically trying to keep up with the ever increasing issues of human trafficking, sex trade, disease, starvation, and a plethora of other causes that were leading to a growing crisis of orphaned and vulnerable children.
Amidst all the chaos, many of us have come to realize that simple band-aid solutions were prescribed at a time when complex wounds were gushing at an alarming rate. Somewhere down the line, without even meaning to, we replaced families with institutions. Meanwhile, orphans like Davion are crying out for families, not caretakers. They want homes, not buildings. They want to be loved until they die, not loved until they age out.
In hearing those cries, World Orphans is continuing to fight to keep children out of orphanages and in loving and caring families. We are currently searching for American churches to partner with churches in Haiti, Ethiopia, Kenya, Cambodia, and Guatemala to care for orphaned and vulnerable children through our family-based care model. These church partnerships provide education, food, medical care, and counseling to a growing number of families who are caring for children in need. By inspiring, equipping, and mobilizing local churches throughout the world, these children are able to remain in their communities.
Are you ready to join the fight? Engage your church in conversation today about partnering with World Orphans. For more information, go to our website at www.worldorphans.org or contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Jesse Blaine | Cambodia
World Orphans is excited to share with you the release of a new video ‘Why Not a Family?’ presented by Uniting For Children. Uniting For Children is a movement whose purpose is to “expand the conversation about the best ways to care for orphaned and vulnerable children.”
The full version of the video can be viewed here: http://unitingforchildren.org/video/
The continuing prevalence of institutional care for children around the world, especially among the poor, is a great challenge for our generation . Despite a reduction in the number of orphans in Cambodia, the number of orphanages increased by an estimated 65% between 2005-2008 . Let me repeat that in question form....how does less orphans = more orphanages?
The increase has continued since then. Orphanages are predominantly supported by foreign donors and to exist they need to keep bringing in children. Three out of four children living in orphanages in Cambodia are not orphans, they still have at least one living parent . Many children in institutional environments experience developmental delay and irreversible psychological damage due to a lack of consistent caregiver input, inadequate stimulation, lack of rehabilitation and poor nutrition. Institutionalization isolates children from their families and communities and places them at an increased risk of neglect, social isolation and abuse . Orphanages and shelters are a poor long-term solution and should only be a temporary and last resort.
The good news is that there is a better way and it works.
Family-based care involves keeping children with their own relatives (kinship care) or in loving substitute families (foster care). At World Orphans, we are excited to walk alongside churches as they provide home based and family based care for children.
 Uniting For Children 2013 www.unitingforchildren.org  A Study of Attitudes Toward Residential Care in Cambodia, 2011  Alternative Care Report, Ministry of Social Affairs, Veterans and Youth Rehabilitation, 2008  WHO, 2012 Early Childhood Development and Disability: A discussion paper
By Matthew Hanks | Director of Advocacy
Have you ever had a strong yearning to help in a situation but have not known how? I live in Colorado Springs, and a several weeks back, some 500 not-too-distant neighbors of mine lost their homes. Watching the fire consume hundreds of acres of prime real estate, billions of dollars in terms of equity and, worse yet, immeasurable amounts of dreams and memories had me itching to respond with aid. But with each day that the fire roared on, the reality that I could do very little to help sank in. I felt powerless. The only thing I could do to truly assist in this tragedy was to pray.
At the same time of this event, my wife, Amelia, was being told she needed to have a stereotactic biopsy to rule out breast cancer. Again, wanting to do something to help, it was even more in my face that the only practical thing that I could do was pray.
Both of these situations brought on extreme feelings of helplessness. The fire brought on feelings of wanting to help others, but not being able to. The medical procedure, being more personal, brought on feelings of uncertainty and fear; feelings that fit a more typical definition of the word helplessness: unable to help oneself.
Looking back at these coinciding occurrences, I’m reminded of the story of Gideon, where the Lord cuts the Army’s ranks by 90% so that the people would not say, “my own hand has saved me.” Though the courageous army of fire fighters fought an amazing and honorable fight, it was ultimately the directional change of the wind and the subsequent rain that kept it from continuing its path of destruction. A community’s prayers were answered. Prayer again was victorious when Amelia showed up for her biopsy. The concerning mass, that was seen clear as day on the original ultrasound, was no longer there when the technician went looking for it. It had literally vanished! To God be all the glory.
The relationship between these two types of “feelings of helplessness” (1. Not being able to help oneself; 2. Not being able to help someone else) often comes to mind when I think about orphan care in the developing world. Obviously, the orphans and vulnerable children World Orphans serves would fall under the ‘unable to help oneself’ definition. We exist as a ministry primarily because of these helpless ‘little ones of His.’ The more exposure to them, their circumstances, stories, afflictions and pains, the more we feel that strong yearning to do something.
World Orphans also exists as a vehicle for you, the church in North America, to respond to that desire to help and to alleviate the feelings of helplessness as experienced in the case of the fire. It is our desire to ‘equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ’ (Eph 4:12-16). Serving the US church is also at the heart of what we do.
But there’s one more party in the equation of our orphan care model: the “saints” in the countries where the orphan pandemic is out of control. The feelings of helplessness that we in Colorado Springs experienced for those four days that the fire raged is what they live with daily when it comes to rescuing the orphans in their midst. Where prayer and God’s provision are one piece of our rescue plan, in the US we tend to trust more on things like fire departments and ultrasounds. The needs of our vulnerable are met by government subsidized housing, Medicaid, food subsidies, public schools, and the state run foster care system.
The churches in these developing nations know that if they do nothing, no one will. The tragedy here is that they, our brothers and sisters, often times don’t have the resources to take care of their own children, let alone someone else’s. The desire to help burns in them, yet they know all they can practically do is pray. They feel powerless to act.
“Do not withhold good from those who deserve it, when it is in your power to act.” -Proverbs 3:27
As I’ve raised support to fund the ministry that the Lord has put in my heart to do, I’m often reminded of how easy I have it compared to those in ministry in the majority world church. I live in a nation where there’s a Christian majority; where we are given a tax incentive to donate to ministry; where we have networks of family and friends with disposable income to rely on. Working in full-time ministry is a luxury that even the head pastors of most churches outside the US don’t have. Theologically, I’m sure their church bodies would love to meet the needs of their pastor… just like they’d surely love to take in all the orphans in their communities. They just can’t.
“So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.” -Gal 6:10
World Orphans is committed to rescuing orphaned & abandoned children, strengthening the local church, and impacting communities with the Gospel of Jesus Christ through church-based, family focused programs.
By Kate Borders | Senior Director Mobilization
Recently 11 World Orphans staff attended the Christian Alliance for Orphans, Summit IX.It was exciting to hear about what God is doing through His people around the world to care for orphaned and vulnerable children.
One of our big takeaways from the conference is that there are many different types of ministry, many different ways to go about caring for children, and there is not just one right way.
As a ministry, God has called World Orphans to partner with local churches to care for children, so our joyful responsibility is to be passionately committed to church-based ministry and care.
That being said, we consider it a privilege to work with others in orphan ministry to participate in discussion and writing about excellence in orphan care.We are all passionate about the Gospel and agree that God’s heart is for children to receive excellent love and care, so we’re going to work together to define what it means to excellently care for orphaned children across different ministries.
We are honored to partner with Phil Darke of Providence World Ministries by contributing a chapter to a book project that will discuss excellence in orphan care. For updates on the book project like these: "In pursuit of orphan excellence" and "In pursuit of orphan excellence-Part 2", keep an eye on the Providence Blog.
By Jeremy Resmer | Sr. Director-Projects
James 1:27 reveals God’s heart and desire for his people to look after orphans and widows. Throughout scripture, the church is called to respond with compassion to all sorts of needs. These include and are not limited to the needs of orphans, vulnerable children, and families. But how do we find ways to help without unintentionally hurting, while remembering that how we give and what we do matters? In addition to prayer and discernment, our strategies should include both good practice and biblical principles.
In his book, The Poor Will Be Glad, Peter Greer states, “The church is the best distribution system in the world.” In many countries, local churches are often best positioned to identify and minister to those in their communities who are in greatest need. Pastors, church members, and community members can work together to motivate and lead by establishing relationships, offering care and support, and mobilizing local resources.
In our home based care model of orphan ministry, we partner with the local church to support vulnerable families. The church has ownership of the program and provides leadership and guidance. Volunteer committees are recruited and trained to visit the most vulnerable families in the community, share scripture verses, build relationships by talking about life, and praying for one another. The interaction is two-way and encourages both the family and the visitor. Through relationship, cultural context, and leadership of local pastors, we ensure that our responses will appropriate and contribute to real and lasting change.
Efforts to support orphans and vulnerable children should incorporate the importance of family and a wholistic approach that addresses each aspect of the children’s well-being: physical, mental, emotional, social, and spiritual. Here are a few key principles and ideas to keep in mind when launching or supporting an orphan care ministry:
- Focus on the most vulnerable children – those in greatest need.
- Preserve, stabilize, and strengthen the capacity of families and communities to care for children – is it possible to help inspire and equip the local church with biblical teaching and practical training?
- Reduce stigma and discrimination of the orphaned children – focus instead on the whole family and all the biological and “adopted” children equally. Pastors and community leaders can downplay these social attitudes, bring dignity, and elevate self-worth to those in need.
- Increase the ability of caregivers and youth to generate income and support the family – it is estimated that 88% of the children in orphanages are not “true” orphans. Poverty is the leading cause of family separation and reason for placement of children in orphanages. Our church partners understand that families need basic financial resources to provide adequate food, housing, clothing, medical care, and to send children to school. Savings programs, microloans, and business, vocational, and stewardship training can help caregivers and youth provide for their families.
- Ensure access to health care, medicine, and home based care – adequate health care reduces the risk of family separation. Churches can initiate home based care programs to visit vulnerable families and offer emotional and spiritual support, encouragement, and monitor the wellbeing of the caregivers and children.
- Support schools and provide daycare and other services that ease the burden on caregivers – women, in particular, are often limited in their ability to generate income to support families if they do not have access to daycare. These services allow children the opportunity to learn and grow while allowing caregivers to work. This strengthens the family and protects children.
- Become a mentor – get involved in the lives of vulnerable children to model paternal care, teach them about good decision-making and build confidence
- Support the emotional needs of children – orphaned and vulnerable children need help coping with trauma: loss of a parent, separation from siblings, violence and sexual abuse. By demonstrating God’s love and care, the church supports the healing process. Counseling, support groups, and art programs also provide children with encouragement and support.
- Engage children in decisions that affect their lives – invite children to participate and allow them to bring valuable ideas, information, and viewpoints to decisions that will affect their lives. They will feel less fearful and a greater sense of ownership.
- Protect children from abuse and exploitation – the church can help caregivers better understand the needs of children. Pastors can promote the protection of children as a shared responsibility of the community. Children can be taught how to recognize and report abuse when it occurs.
This post was inspired by From Faith to Action: Strengthening Family and Community Care for Orphans and Vulnerable Children