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Trip Stories

Sacred Laughter

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Sacred Laughter

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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Caring for Families Through Church Partnership

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Caring for Families Through Church Partnership

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.

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Why We Go

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Why We Go

Averaging 30 teams and 300 people each year, World Orphans sees the value in short-term mission trips. We send teams because we believe healthy relationships can be motivating, empowering, and life-giving.

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Your Kid Wants to Take a Mission Trip. Now What?

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Your Kid Wants to Take a Mission Trip. Now What?

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Your son just returned for fall break—a week off from his first semester at college. He tosses his duffel bag on the floor and walks into the kitchen, a grin spreading across the width of his face, "Mom, I want to go on a mission trip." 

Your mind alternates between sheer panic and overwhelming pride, "Okay. Let me discuss this with your father, do some research, and-"

He's not listening. The fact that you didn't say, "no," was deemed to be a "yes." He's already texted three friends, and he's halfway through an Instagram story about his upcoming mission trip to an unknown location. As he exits the kitchen, face submerged in his phone, you hear, "Thanks, Mom!"

Well, now what? Where do you even begin?

After you collect your family members for a heart-to-heart about this upcoming mission trip, discussing motives, desires, expected outcomes, etc., then it's time to determine an organization.

Picking an Organization

If you haven't done so recently, take a couple deep breaths.

The Standards of Excellence (SOE) in Short-Term Mission is an accrediting and resourcing body for those who send, receive, facilitate, and support short-term mission (STM) endeavors. When it comes to determining an organization to take a short-term trip with, SOE has created seven standards that can help guide your decision-making process.

  1. God-Centeredness:  An excellent short-term mission seeks first God’s glory and his kingdom.
  2. Empowering Partnerships:  An excellent short-term mission establishes healthy, interdependent, on-going relationships between sending and receiving partners.
  3. Mutual Design:  An excellent short-term mission collaboratively plans each specific outreach for the benefit of all participants.
  4. Comprehensive Administration:  An excellent short-term mission exhibits integrity through reliable set-up and thorough administration for all participants.
  5. Qualified Leadership:  An excellent short-term mission screens, trains, and develops capable leadership for all participants.
  6. Appropriate Training:  An excellent short-term mission prepares and equips all participants for the mutually designed outreach.
  7. Thorough Follow Through:  An excellent short-term mission assures evaluation, debriefing and appropriate follow-through for all participants.

For additional information, you can review the detailed online booklet that unpacks these standards.

World Orphans is an accredited SOE member; therefore, we meet the highest best practice standards established for short-term missions, showing our commitment to quality and excellence in STM. World Orphans offers two types of mission trips.*

 

Preparation

To get a better understanding of how to prepare your son or daughter for his or her trip, we invite you to learn from Sr. Director of Mobilization Kate Borders. Kate has served with World Orphans since 2009, and she is passionate about mobilizing teams with excellence. 

What can a parent do to help his/her child mentally, emotionally, and spiritually prepare for a mission trip? 

 Kate with children in Kenya 

Kate with children in Kenya 

Kate: Make time and space for preparation. Our culture is so fast paced. We want to be able to check a box that says, "we’ve prepared," but good preparation takes time. Whether it’s committing to team meetings or simply making time as a family to read books, think, talk, and pray, look at the preparation as part of the journey. There are a lot of really wonderful resources, but one of the most important things a parent can do is make plenty of time and space to read, study, talk, and pray. 

Are there specific things you would advise parents to avoid prior to their child leaving? 

Kate: Read and research plenty in advance. Choose one quality source for information, and then try not to exhaust yourself by reading too much. Travel is always risky, and international travel is even more risky. This is simply a fact. If your child wants to go on a mission trip, and you’re concerned about safety, read the State Department travel warnings right away and talk with the people leading the trip to decide—as a family–if you’re comfortable with the level of risk. At World Orphans, we work as hard as we can to minimize risk, but we know we can’t eliminate the risk. Get to know the organization your child wants to travel with to be sure you’re comfortable with their approach and make an informed and prayerful decision as a family. Then, stick to the decision.

Can you briefly describe the process that World Orphans walks trip participants through prior to departure?

Kate: We start with an application process in order to build a team. For Journey Trips, we personally interview each candidate and review their references. When our US church partners are putting their teams together for Church Partnership trips, we collect applications and encourage church leaders to be sure they feel confident about the composition of the team. Just because someone desires to go on a trip doesn’t mean they should go. We encourage team leaders to feel the freedom to say, "no," to an applicant if they are not a good fit for a team.

Once the team has been selected, training and preparation begin. Our Journey Trip teams have six pre-trip training sessions via conference call to go through the World Orphans Team Handbook. Our Church Partnership teams are often able to conduct their pre-field training in person. 

The goal in training and preparation is heart-level preparation, so our teams spend time with our international church partners from a posture of humility and learning. We desire trip preparation to be part of bigger-picture discipleship in a team member's life.

 Kate and her husband with a woman in Kenya 

Kate and her husband with a woman in Kenya 

Practically, a few of the key pieces are: trip insurance, STEP registration, ensuring team members understand emergency response protocol, ensuring everyone feels confident about packing, discussions on expectactions in transit, etc.  

If I'm a mother, and I've just told my child he can travel to Ethiopia—and perhaps all of that is suddenly hitting me—what would you say to me? Do you have any words of encouragement or assurance for the parent whose child is about to take his first STM? 

Kate: Coming from a biblical perspective, it’s about trust and control. I was 16 when I traveled internationally without my parents for the first time, and I was 19 the first time I went internationally to a place that was tagged "risky." Both times, I was probably pretty unaware of how significant it was for my parents to be so supportive of my desire to travel and see the church around the world. As I got older, I became increasingly grateful that my parents were supportive of my growing passion for missions. And now, as a parent myself, I realize the enormous step of trust it was for them to let me travel as a teenager and young adult (and then continue to be supportive as I became an adult and made decisions more independently). I know I will struggle with letting my children travel internationally if that's their desire (maybe I’ll just have to go with them!). I pray I will be wise, and I pray I won’t be fearful. I pray I will trust the Lord’s good plans for my children, even if that makes me nervous. So my encouragement would be to think about the big picture, make an informed decision that you’re comfortable with, and then look to your local community as you determine what it looks like to trust the Lord in the midst of being nervous, knowing that this may be the first of many letting-go experiences as your child grows.  

Welcome Home

 Amie in Ethiopia with Ehetinesh, a local mother

Amie in Ethiopia with Ehetinesh, a local mother

Welcoming your child home may feel almost as overwhelming as preparing them to go. To assist you with this, we invite you to take a couple minutes to learn from Mobilization Director Amie Martin. Amie has been on staff with World Orphans since 2014. In this role, she manages and oversees all details and logistics of casting vision for, planning, preparing, and implementing all World Orphans Church Partnership and Journey Trips.

A person returning from a mission trip certainly has a lot to process. What are some ways that parents can gracefully and intentionally engage with their children when they return from their trip?

Amie: I would say there are six really important things. First of all, listen. Really set aside intentional time to listen without having other distractions. Secondly, ask thoughtful questions to help your child process their experience, not just logistical questions about what they did, but, "In light of the Gospel, how are you feeling and thinking through what you experienced?" Ask, "What did God show you about who He is? What did God teach you about yourself and your role as a child of God?" Thirdly, look for ways to point them to Jesus for those hard places where they may be emotionally struggling. This is a huge opportunity to disciple your own child. Fourth, encourage them to get plugged in somewhere in the local community to help the hurting and vulnerable. Fifth, before they traveled with an organization, you probably checked out the organization to determine if they offered any pre-field training or debriefing that included a handbook or journal. Look for additional resources online to help them process the experience. Finally, if you feel like you are not equipped to help them process the experience, hook them up with a spiritual mentor at church or someone with a knowledgeable and passionate heart towards missions that can walk with them and help them process the experience.  One of the biggest weaknesses of short-term trips is a wasted experience, so strive to help them process it well.

 Amie with children in Ethiopia

Amie with children in Ethiopia

What surprising behaviors might parents witness from their recently-returned children?

Amie: They may cry or get angry at situations and circumstances that used to be normal. They may isolate themselves. They may try to make big changes in their personal life that seem out of the ordinary. Some may be really positive changes, though, and we certainly want to encourage that.

In addition to practical things parents should do, are there things parents should avoid?

Amie: Avoid minimizing the experience and their emotions. Listen to what they think God might be leading them to and where God might be calling them to serve. Support them and come behind them. Try to see this process as more than a mission trip experience, recognizing it can be an opportunity or jumping off point for deeper engagement with the Gospel and loving marginalized people.

What does World Orphans do to assist and process with those returning from a World Orphans STM?

Amie: We take time to debrief the team as a group and individually, continuing relationship with them through multiple venues, and encouraging them to have a mentor at their home church or someone they are in relationship with in an ongoing face-to-face way. We point them to next steps and other active ways to engage post-trip with hurting, marginalized people both locally and globally. We create social networks, where they can stay in touch with each other to process the experience and continue being encouraged by one another.

 Amie with a Journey Trip team

Amie with a Journey Trip team

If I'm a father whose daughter just returned from Haiti, and I'm struggling to connect with her or feeling overwhelmed by her changes in behavior, what words of encouragement could you offer me?

Amie: Breathe. Many trip-goers think that the only people who can relate to how they are feeling are the people that went with them. Be patient, be gracious, and be gentle. Pray for her, and point her to Scripture. Instead of pulling away from her, press in to the struggle and intentionally make a place and plan to help her process.

Resources

We know that it can be overwhelming—regardless of how you feel about missions—when your child wants to pursue a mission trip opportunity. We hope these resources—all recommendations from Kate and Amie—are an encouragement to you and your son or daughter. 

Books

Articles

World Orphans Resources

 

Questions?

We're eager to hear from you! Share your stories, other resources, and thoughts below. You may also comment below with your additional questions about mission trips or traveling internationally with World Orphans. 

 

*World Orphans does not allow minors to go on a Journey Trip without a parent. On Church Partnership trips, we recommend that at least one parent travel with a minor, but this is not a requirement. 

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Mission Trips: Worth It?

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Mission Trips: Worth It?

A few minutes later, Sherrí sat—amid the cacophony of dozens of children—face-to-face with Miranda, who began pulling the cloth from her hand, and Sherrí was deciding how to respond to that still voice saying, "Let go." 

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In Support of Laughter & S'mores

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In Support of Laughter & S'mores

Sometimes it's the roaring expanse of the ocean or the limitless heights of the mountains; however, sometimes it's the rhythmic cracking of a few logs in the fire and the laughter of a stranger-turned-friend.

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When Love Is Fierce

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When Love Is Fierce

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.

  June 2015: Yeshiwork and Moses with a Journey Trip team

June 2015: Yeshiwork and Moses with a Journey Trip team

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. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A Cup of Coffee, A Pair of Shoes

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A Cup of Coffee, A Pair of Shoes

She walked into Sharehouse Coffee looking for a caffeinated pick-me-up, but what she found instead was purpose, community, and a vision for the future. That sounds like a pretty good cup of coffee, right? Well, it wasn’t just the coffee (although that probably helped). 

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Caring for Orphans Isn't About Caring for Orphans

"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.

Every child deserves a champion, an adult who will never give up on them, who understands the power of connection, and insists that they become the best that they can possibly be.
— Rita Pierson

 

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.

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Why Do You Love Me So Much?

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.love2 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.

love1I 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!

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Responsible to Steward

By Scott Vair | President Last month I traveled to Guatemala, along with the rest of the World Orphans Board of Directors, to visit our projects and ministry partners. Over the last several years, we have developed an amazing partnership with AMG Guatemala, a Gospel and child-focused ministry located in Guatemala City with whom we have many shared values.

World Orphans Board of Directors with staff in Guatemala
World Orphans Board of Directors with staff in Guatemala

While at the main AMG Guatemala campus, we spent some time with their President, Brian Dennett. For the sake of our board members who hadn’t met Brian or heard the vision of AMG, he shared a bit about their decades of ministry in Guatemala, where they have largely focused on education and medical care.

“We did not start this ministry, but we have the privilege and responsibility to steward it well.”
— Brian Dennett, President AMG Guatemala

Brian explained that he and his staff are not the founders of AMG Guatemala, (nor am I and my staff the founders of World Orphans), but we both have, as Brian stated, the privilege and responsibility to steward the ministries well.

During my nine years at World Orphans, I have seen families pack up their belongings and move to foreign countries to help facilitate our ministry. I’ve seen incredibly talented people faithfully raise personal support from family and friends in order to lend their expertise to this ministry. I’ve seen thousands of donors sacrificially give, from change collected by children to tens of thousands of dollars donated by foundations, churches, and individuals who believe in what we are doing. As a result, thousands of orphaned children, vulnerable families, and refugees have received love and care from the local church.

What a privilege to be part of this.

What a responsibility to steward.

We have worked hard to do just that - to steward well, in a way that honors God and those who have sacrificed much to give, go, and pray for World Orphans.

It is one of the reasons we obtained and maintain our accreditation with the Evangelical Counsel for Financial Accountability (ECFA).

ECFA-Seal
ECFA-Seal

“ECFA enhances trust in Christ-centered churches and ministries by establishing and applying Seven Standards of Responsible Stewardship™ to accredited organizations.

Founded in 1979, ECFA provides accreditation to leading Christian nonprofit organizations that faithfully demonstrate compliance with established standards for financial accountability, transparency, fundraising, and board governance.

ECFA’s Seven Standards of Responsible Stewardship™, drawn from Scripture, are fundamental to operating with integrity.

The ECFA standards are infrequently changed, providing members a steady baseline for consistent application of the standards to members. The standards have been described as simple, but not simplistic. The brief statements included in the standards have significant implications for organizations that pledge to follow these standards. They are not standards that allow for grading on the curve. Rather, they are pass-fail standards. ECFA members must comply with all of the standards, all of the time.”

We take these standards seriously, and we are committed to following them. We trust that in doing so, we give confidence to our supporters that their gifts are being used well, and that we are an organization worthy of their time, talents, and treasures.

"For we are taking pains to do what is right, not only in the eyes of the Lord but also in the eyes of men."  2 Corinthians 8:21

It is a privilege to serve at World Orphans. We pray that our words, our actions, our thoughts, and our plans bring honor and glory to the Lord.

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South Africa with Journey Trips: A Guest Blog

HannahEBy Hannah Edington | Journey Trip Team Member Special thanks to Hannah for her willingness to share her words with all of us. May you be encouraged by her faithful, tender, available heart. And may we follow in her footsteps. (Previously seen on Hannah's blog on 9/8/15.)

 

In just over a month I will finally see the fruit of a process I began over a year ago.

I had been searching online for organizations that had mission trips going to Ethiopia. I was specifically looking for anything with a focus on orphans or economic development, as both of these are passions of mine and are things I hope to see as a part of my future.  I had begun an application with Journey Trips, a ministry of World Orphans, but for some reason or another, I never completed it. In December of last year I received an email, which was right around the time I felt a huge push and desire to get out, GO, and make some disciples!

A lot has changed since then. Not only am I not going to Ethiopia, but in a way, I am getting a second chance. When I was thirteen my family took a vacation to South Africa. We did a ton of amazing touristy things and had a blast and spent way too much money and I quietly prayed as we drove past the shanty towns, small huts made from tin, so I could ease my conscience. After all, praying puts it in God’s hands and He can do more than I could ever dream, so really I did the best thing possible…

But now I have to ask myself, what if this is God answering my prayers? What if He is saying, “Hannah, you prayed that they would be okay. That they would be looked after. That I would show them I love them. I will. I’m sending you.”

I want to cower in fear because who am I to do God’s work? How can I stare an orphaned child in the face and tell them I love them when a trip to Ulta costs me what they live on for a number of months? When I got a massage last night and they got to ignore hunger?

I don’t know what situations I will face. I don’t know if I am going to see children who are in clean clothes and receiving education but are fatherless and alone, or if I will see children who are struggling to survive in the most basic ways.

I’m tired of seeing sensationalized visions of poverty and I’m tired of the lies that it can’t really be as bad as the media shows us.

I’m going on this trip because people matter. Children matter. Orphans matter. I live in the conflict of “me” and feeling that I’m important and then loathing myself for thinking I am. The web of pride and the chase for humility (which, when false, is pretty much pride hiding behind self-deprecation) are all consuming when I let them be.

So I’m asking God to take me back to His heart. I’m asking Him to remind me of November 4th, 2013 on Orphan Sunday when my firm choice to never have children first began to waver. I’m asking Him to take me back to when I signed up to sponsor Ablavi in Togo who lives with her grandmother because her father died and her mother abandoned her. When I sponsored Tariku in Ethiopia who lives with his uncle after both parents passed away. I’m asking Him to take me back to when I read Kisses from Katie and my heart dropped to the pit of my stomach for her passion. When I heard about the suspended exit visas in the DRC and about little Ben dying before he ever made it home to his parents in the US and when I watched a woman in my church weep as the pastor shared about her wait for her son. I’m asking Him to take me back to Hosea 14 when He reminds me that it is in Him that the orphan finds mercy.

I’m going because God’s commands and our desires should always be united.

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Join us! If your heart beats similarly to Hannah's, consider joining us in 2016 on a Journey Trip to Ethiopia, Guatemala, or Haiti. Click this link for details and registration information. Or contact our Journey Trips Mobilization Director, Amie Martin, at amie@worldorphans.org.

 

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Amazed in Affliction

By Kathy Davis | Director of Wholistic Care The question is universal. When tragedy strikes and comfort seems a million miles away, where is hope found?

An Annual Trip Like No Other

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As a member of River Oaks Community Church (ROCC) in Maryville, TN, and a staff member with World Orphans, every summer I experience the joy of leading our annual partnership trip to Fountain of Hope Church (FOH) in Nairobi, Kenya.

I recently returned and much of our itinerary looked the same as in previous years. We visited widows and families in distress. We spent valuable time with the precious vulnerable children we have come to know and love, all of them being cared for through the ministry of the church. We facilitated and served in a church-based medical/dental clinic where over 500 impoverished people were physically treated and spiritually encouraged. Souls were saved. Teeth were extracted. We worshipped. We prayed. We laughed. We shared meals.

And, this year, we wept.

Previous to our arrival in Kenya, I received tragic news that a family member, who is part of FOH's Home Based Care (HBC) program, was severely injured in an automobile accident. His arm was severed at the shoulder, yet we were informed he was in stable condition. We were scheduled to visit and pray for him.

Profound Reflections from a 15-year-old Team Member

One of our team members, Ella Pearl, recounted this experience. She eloquently writes about our team’s most impactful moment together, the moment where sorrow’s sting intersected the beautiful hope of Jesus.

Ella Pearl Evans, our 15-year-old team member.

My name is Redeemed, and I have been born again. 

I believe in Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection, and have grown up in a strong Christian family and church body.

I believe the entire Bible is God’s Word, which as a result is inerrant and infallible. But that doesn’t mean I lack confusion or gain context in every verse. I am human. I make mistakes for which I’m forgiven through the blood of His Son, but this isn’t a story about my life or my accomplishments. It’s a story about what the Holy Spirit has worked in my heart to see, and He has given me the ability to write it down.

Every year since 2010, my church has held a youth event called Mission 1:27, a twenty-seven hour fast to raise money for the medical camp we help facilitate with our sister church in Kenya. Mission 1:27 was taken from the passage of scripture, James 1:27, “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.”  

Ella assisting her Dad during the dental clinic.

Previous to my trip, two of my closest friends traveled to visit with FOH for our annual partnership trip. Both were captured by their experience and exclaim, even to this day, of their desire to live there. I had never quite believed them until my dad and I felt led by the Holy Spirit to join this year’s 2015 partnership trip to our sister church. The team leader (a close family friend and World Orphans staff member) has asked my dad to come for years because of his heart for the vulnerable and his dental expertise. He had previously declined, but this would be the year that the Holy Spirit would say 'go'. I was very excited, for I had only been to Honduras on family mission trips, and yearned to meet our church family in Kenya. I would be my dad’s dental assistant yet again.

We had worshipped on Sunday, and now we stepped into Monday with a bit more rest than the days before. 

Our schedule had been to visit a dentist in Nairobi to discuss the equipment we would need for the clinic, eat a quick lunch, and then continue to visit some homes involved in FOH’s Home Base Care program. 

Terrible traffic, a late lunch, and general mishaps delayed us.

After lunch we were told that the father who had experienced a terrible accident had suddenly passed away leaving behind three children and a very sickly wife.

We were invited to visit and pray for the new widow (Veronica) and to attend the youngest daughter’s (Mercy) discovery of her father's death. I felt sorrow, but nothing compared to their grief at his loss.

We made it through a Holy Spirit filled afternoon visiting other families with the bluntness of poverty thrust in our faces and the power of Christ’s family encouraging our souls.

Due to all the delays, we weren’t able to make the trip to the grieving family until late in the evening. We were soon lost on the dark roads weaving through the community. Eventually a young boy was invited into our van, giving us directions with a proud, straight form. The widow greeted us outside with a melancholy countenance.

She led us into her faintly lit home, a stark contrast to the dark alley entrance.

A tiny living room with a middle aged woman and young girl met our foreign eyes. They stood, allowing us to squeeze our party of nine into a very small space. When we were settled, a quiet presence engulfed the warm air.

An Aunt turned to Mercy. Although she spoke in the complicated tongue of Swahili, we knew what she was saying.

We watched Mercy become orphaned in front of our eyes.

Praying for Mercy as she learned of her father's passing.

My dad rarely ever cries, but he and the rest of the team joined me in silent tears as we witnessed a ten-year-old girl’s heart shatter.

In the background Veronica’s close friend wept. 

Our team leader sat with the widow, for she had known this family ever since the partnership had started. Veronica’s head rested on the kind leader’s shoulder, and our leader spoke in a soft tone to the widow.

“We have informed our church of what happened, Veronica. They are all praying for you.”

Veronica opened her eyes, her raspy breath and weak body reflecting the pain inside.

“They are all aware?” Came her reply in a barely audible voice.

“Yes. They are all aware.”

Our team leader couldn’t see the widow’s face, and I don’t know if the rest of the team saw what I did. 

A picture of the Mboya family (Veronica is in blue; Mercy is in pink).

Veronica’s countenance, despite the grief-filled eyes and worn soul, changed. Relief flooded her face. This relief represented that someone knew, and was praying to an almighty God for her.

That feeling stemmed from the relationship sowed by many years of communion between our churches. I knew then that this wasn’t about going on a mission trip and changing the world. It wasn’t my proud American sacrifice for a good cause. The partnership was about the honorable privilege to pray and encourage a fellow believer in the midst of sorrow.

To be a part of the Body of Christ and obey his words no matter what the cost.

“...To visit the orphans and widows in their affliction…” Not to gain some shining medal or mark for my good sacrifice, but to sacrifice and gain nothing in return. And why didn’t this sink in before? I understood in part, but never knew until I experienced the context. Suddenly I had a face and life story. 

Could some of us be afraid to reveal God’s love and the awesomeness of His plan? 

Cannot we, those privileged with an abundance of wealth, give our love and prayers for those afflicted?

Can we defy the cultural barrier, the flames that could burn, and become a warrior of faith and brother to a brother? 

Or are we like the people of old, who turn on brother and sister for personal gain?

Visit the orphans and widows in their affliction, and keep oneself unstained from the world.

There is so much left to imagine.

I never could have thought of the ten-year-old girl weeping for her dead father would be witnessed by a fifteen-year-old American girl with her father beside her, alive and well.

And I never would have dreamed that American would be me.

I am blessed by the hand of the Holy Spirit to become a witness of affliction through a Church Partnership in the body of Christ.

Special thanks to: Fountain of Hope Church, World Orphans, and River Oaks Community Church. 

"Bwana asifiwe!" (Praise the Lord)

- Ella Pearl Evans

When Suffering Has A Name

The Christian response to suffering engages human emotion where Church Partnership brings us face-to-face with suffering and tragedy. It is an honor to hold one another in grief and weep compassionate tears in loss. Jesus, who suffered and is sovereign, is our greatest living example of compassion and hope.

World Orphans wholistic approach to ministry sees the orphans’ need for food and education and, most importantly, recognizes the power of the Gospel as the greatest help and hope, both in this age and the age to come … until they all have homes.

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Mental Miracles: 24 Kenyan Children are Defying Odds

by Kathy Davis | Director of Wholistic Care Reuniting! Wholistic educational impact! Quality family time! Are we there yet?

Summer is in full swing and in less than four weeks, River Oaks Community Church (ROCC) will embark on their 6th annual partnership trip to Fountain of Hope church (FOH) in Nairobi, Kenya. What began with willing hearts and a common goal to care for orphans and vulnerable children has become a significant friendship and family bond between two churches from across the globe. It is precisely what we hope every one of our partnerships become.

6.24.15_IMG_5555I have had the joy of participating with a team from ROCC, which happens to be my home church, every summer. Our short week together is a personal highlight and a deeply anticipated family reunion. The icing on the cake is found in the time we spend with our beloved brothers and sisters. Christ’s love, and willingness of the church, is impacting the development of precious children who began with a deep need of rescue, nurture, and care. I love my Kenya family. I love their love. And today, as I anticipate this trip, I can’t wait to see their faces.

So, you may be curious, “What is happening after six years of partnering with a church in Nairobi? What difference does church partnership actually make in the lives of orphaned and vulnerable children?” I'm so glad you asked!

FOH has been extending their arms and hearts to 24 vulnerable children, and their persistent love is making a difference. Any given day will likely include both laughter and tears, as caregivers seek to understand how to most effectively care for the ongoing needs of the children. The restorative development of orphaned and vulnerable children, through the church, is continually empowered by the Holy Spirit and the loving commitment they demonstrate every day.

One of the wholistic provisions of Church Partnership is education. FOH provides a loving and safe environment for the children to heal, grow, and learn. Precious young lives are continuing to be encouraged with the truth that their past does not have to determine their future. The remarkable result is that four children passed their primary exams last year and another eight have passed this year!

How significant is this? It is nothing short of miraculous! Half of the children have surpassed the statistical odds and have gained entrance into secondary school.

A little more background: the Kenyan education system is similar to what we have in the United States. The system is referred to as an 8-4-4 system of education. Primary school lasts for 8 years. Following primary school, there are 4 years of secondary school. Then, there may be 4 years of university for those who can afford it and have high enough grades. Sadly, enrollment drops dramatically after the primary level. Secondary schools, unfortunately, are not as well attended as primary schools, mostly due to the high cost of tuition and selective admissions process.

After primary school, children are required to take a national exam (Kenya Certificate of Primary Education) in order to progress to secondary school. Only those with high enough scores are admitted to the government’s secondary schools. These schools are boarding schools and the score of each child’s exam determines the selection of the school for each child.

6.24.15_509As a result, the children at FOH will often be found studying in the middle of the night as they realize how significant education is in regards to breaking the cycle of poverty.

You see, what is extraordinary is that all of the children who entered the program have come from heartbreaking circumstances. Some have experienced physical and sexual abuse. Most have suffered abandonment and neglect. Every single one of them has obstacles to overcome.

And this is where we come in. World Orphans wholistic approach to ministry seeks to care for the whole child (spiritually, physically, emotionally, and mentally) and the development of the 'whole' child is of great value, including a child's ability to learn.

2 Peter 1:3 – “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence.”

"Studies about early childhood development indicate that the brain develops in response to experiences with caregivers, family and the community, and that its development is directly linked to the quality and quantity of those experiences. The brain develops at an incredible pace during the early developmental stages of infancy and childhood. Meeting a child’s needs during these early stages creates emotional stability and security that is needed for healthy brain development. Repeated exposure to stressful events can affect the brain’s stress response, making it more reactive and less adaptive. The following are some of the possible effects of child abuse and neglect on a child’s mental health: Anxiety, depression, dissociation, concentrating, academic problems in school-aged children and adolescents, withdrawal and/or difficulty connecting with others" (Psychological Trauma and the Developing Brain, Stien and Kendall).

6.24.15_IMG_5512Clearly, it is no small victory that the first 12 children who have tested for the National Primary Exam have passed and gained entrance into secondary school.

Last year we spent a day traveling to all four of the children's secondary schools, hug their necks, and visit with them for a few minutes. This year we’ll do it again! I can’t wait to pile in a van, bring a picnic lunch, and trek across the countryside to celebrate the turning of a new page with the brothers and sisters I love.

 

My heart skips a beat as I ponder the descent into Nairobi and land into the loving embrace of the family we love and the partnership we share. Please pray for our trip, for FOH, ROCC, and for the amazing 24 children in Kenya.

#untiltheyallhavehomes

Enjoy "meeting" the children from FOH and seeing a few photos from previous years trips...

6.24.15_the FOH group

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He Became and I Become

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 becomesomebody. 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 becomehas 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.

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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.

None is righteous, no, not one
— Romans 3:10
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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.

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“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).

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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).

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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).

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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?

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Facing the Scandal of Giving

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.

7.25.14_photo2To 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!

7.25.14_photo2Throughout 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!

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The Whole Picture: Wholistic Care on Short-Term Mission Trips

By Kathy Davis | Director of Wholistic Care  

Summer is an exciting and busy time of year for the ministry of World Orphans. Short-term trips are being mobilized, itineraries are being planned, hearts are being prepared, and global church partners are anticipating another week of precious time wholistically serving the church, connecting with the children, and ministering to the needs of the community.

World Orphans short-term mission trips seek to strengthen church partnerships by enabling the US and international church to serve together in mutually beneficial relationships.

I was recently asked the question, “What does wholistic care have to do with short-term mission trips?” This is a really great question! In order to best understand the function of wholistic care across the scope of short-term trips and church partnerships, it is important to understand the foundation and begin with defining the meaning of the term.

‘Holism’, simply defined, emphasizes the importance of the whole and the interdependence of its parts.  The holistic concept in medical practice upholds that all aspects of people's needs, including psychological, physical, and social, should be taken into account and seen as a whole when considering treatment for the patient.

In an effort to combat any alternative and humanistic association with 'holistic practices', the Christian community has been moving to include the letter ‘w’ in the spelling of w-holistic care.  God is wholistic in that He is one God, made up of 3 persons – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. To best understand the functional approach of wholistic care in the lives of vulnerable children, it is imperative to understand the biblical premise:

“Hear O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is One” (Deuteronomy 6:4).

World Orphans approach to orphan care is wholistic in that we seek to care for the needs of the whole child (spiritually, physically, emotionally, and mentally) with the ultimate goal of bringing glory to God through physical and spiritual transformation.

“And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent.  For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of His cross” (Colossians 1:18-20).

Orphaned and vulnerable children have many needs. While it is important to address the child’s physical and educational needs, it is vital to remember the emotional impact that rejection, abandonment, and abuse will have on an orphan who is attempting to learn, heal, and attach in the context of family.

As a wholistic ministry, we take an approach to caring for children spiritually, physically, emotionally, and mentally through the grace of Jesus Christ. We recognize that true and lasting healing and transformation for the ‘whole being’ comes through the Gospel of Jesus Christ. This means that there is hope of full redemption for those who believe, no matter the circumstances. Even against the backdrop of hunger, disease, poverty, abandonment, abuse, injustice, and sin, there is real hope.

“We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all God’s people—the faith and love that spring from the hope stored up for you in heaven and about which you have already heard in the true message of the gospel” (Colossians 1:3-5).

The greatest example we have to look to for this approach to ministry is Jesus. Jesus, who is both fully God and fully man, grew mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually.

“And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man” (Luke 2:52).

  • Jesus grew in wisdom – Mentally
  • Jesus grew in stature – Physically
  • Jesus grew in favor with God – Spiritually
  • Jesus grew in favor with man – Emotionally (Socially)

So, how does this approach to ministry impact the way we serve together on short-term missions trips? Short-term itineraries will often include:

  • Hosting medical clinics for the community
  • Facilitating HisKids Sports with the children
  • Making home visits in the community
  • Discipleship Training for the local church
  • Sharing meals together

One of my favorite ways to wholistically minister alongside the International Church is through hosting medical clinics for the community. With a high rate of unemployment in the regions we serve, medical care is impossible for most to afford. Opening the gates to people who are in physical need provides a precious opportunity for the local church to have wholistic impact in their communities.

Just look at how this one aspect of short-term missions reaches people:

…The front door of the church becomes a place of registration and an open door for the physically and spiritually sick to enter.

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…The sanctuary becomes the room where sinners are welcome, emotional pain is shared, and the hope of the Gospel is offered.

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…The ministry team becomes the arms of Jesus and the offering of compassion to those who are in despair.

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…The church classrooms become examining rooms where illnesses are treated and medicine is offered.

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…The upbeat music outside on the grounds of the church becomes the joyful dance floor where children are playing and love is extended.

I am convinced of this reality – the hope of every heart, both physically and spiritually, is Jesus and the church is the agent of God’s grace to those in need. Short-term partnership trips provide exciting opportunities for the global church to glorify God, deepen the bonds of friendship, and wholistically care for those in need.

And when the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” But when he heard it, he said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners
— Matthew 9:11-13

 

Let’s talk! What are ways that you glorify God and encourage the church on your short-term missions trips? What are your thoughts about taking a wholistic approach to ministry?

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