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The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

By Kathy Davis | Director of Wholistic Care

lt's the most wonderful time of the year. With the kids jingle belling, And everyone telling you, “Be of good cheer,” It's the most wonderful time of the year. It's the hap-happiest season of all.

Is it really?

Well, maybe for some people.

12.23.15The shopping malls are filled. Christmas trees are decorated. The scent of evergreen fills the air. Parties are being hosted. Gifts are being purchased. Wishes are being fulfilled. Christmastime has certainly arrived.

Under the veneer of the “hap-happiest season of all”, while we are all encouraged to be of good cheer, the raw condition of worldwide human suffering, poverty, abandonment, and pain marks the reality of more than half our world. At least 71% of humanity lives on less than $10 per day.

Several years ago, during November and December, I traveled to two impoverished regions of the world. Upon my return in December, I struggled through buying gifts, eating delicacies, and “being of good cheer”. I had looked into the eyes of precious, shoeless children whose daily delicacy was rice or beans. Serving in the ministry of World Orphans has awakened me to the reality that out of 2.2 billion children in the world, 1 billion live in poverty.

For the 1.9 billion children from the developing world, there are:

  • 640 million without adequate shelter (1 in 3)
  • 400 million with no access to safe water (1 in 5)
  • 270 million with no access to health services (1 in 7)
  • 121 million children worldwide with no education

Children are not only suffering due to a lack of these essentials. Children are dying.

  • 6 million died in 2003 before they reached the age of 5
  • 4 million die each year from lack of access to safe drinking water and adequate sanitation.

How was I, in this new, stark awareness of worldwide need, to fulfill the Christmas wishes of my own extravagantly fed and well-clothed children whose minds cannot wrap around the word “without”? How was I to live in my own traditions here while knowing what is going on there?

My heart was broken. My eyes were opened.

I don’t have all the answers as I live within this tension. I don’t believe that I am to celebrate Christ in Christmas, yet withhold precious gifts from my children. What I do know is that I cannot turn a deaf ear or blind eye to the world around me.

The same Incarnate Christ who took on flesh, was born in a humble stable, and was familiar with grief, is also intentionally attuned to those in need, yet has granted me rich blessing. I have been blessed to hear the cries, see the physical need and witness the grave suffering of the marginalized. This has compelled me to not only pray for their needs, but to intentionally engage and act on their behalf…

… to feed the poor, care for the widow, and plead the cause of the orphan.

Two weeks ago, I experienced the great joy of hosting the gifted songwriter and musician, Aaron Boyd with Bluetree. We facilitated two evenings of Worship and Justice to bring people together to worship God and plead the cause of the orphan. Attendees were granted the opportunity to engage and give. Aaron, taking the cause to heart, will be releasing a new album in April with the intention of donating all proceeds to those in need. One of the new songs that we had a sneak peak into says:

In all of our questions, There will be an answer. In all our trials, You remain. Even in the valley, Hope is rising and peace - It has a name - Christ the Lord, Who stays the same.

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12.23.15_RY7A5327As we prepare to celebrate Christ the babe, born on Christmas day, please join me in considering that even though “all is [not] calm and all is [not] bright” in our world, Christ the Savior IS born and through HIS coming and dying, there IS forgiveness of sin and HOPE for us all.

“Behold, the virgin shall be with child and shall bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel, God with us” (Matthew 1:23).

As World Orphans continues to empower the global church to care for orphans, would you prayerfully consider how you might engage in 2016?

 

For statistics, see: http://www.globalissues.org/article/26/poverty-facts-and-stats#src2

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Orphan Care in the Church’s Infancy

By David Martin | Communications Specialist “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” (James 1:17).

“By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35).

We know these verses well, and often invoke them when discussing the church’s role in caring for the fatherless. From the brief records we have, it certainly seems that the early church truly took these commands to heart, gaining for themselves a reputation as those who cared for the least of these.

Falsehood is not found among them; and they love one another; and from widows they do not turn away their esteem; and they deliver the orphan from him who treats him harshly. And he who has, gives to him who has not, without boasting. And when they see a stranger, they take him in to their homes and rejoice over him as a very brother (Apology of Aristides the Philosopher 15, c. A.D. 125).

And those who are well off and are willing to do so give as much as each desires, and the money thus collected is deposited with the bishop, who takes care of the orphans and widows, and those who are in straits through sickness or any other cause, and those in prison, and our visitors from other parts—in short, he looks after all who are in need (Justin Martyr, 1 Apology 67, A.D. 100-165).

The Writings and Practices of Early Church Fathers

Early church fathers had much to say about caring for orphans and widows as a regular part of the church’s praxis. David Nowell describes well the culture we find in the earliest centuries of the church.

In the growing Christian movement, the Church fathers consistently and conspicuously called upon followers of Christ to be faithful to Scripture’s demand that we care for the orphan. Virtually every early writing on Christian conduct stressed the importance of caring for children without parents. Eusebius, the Apostolic Constitutions, Lactantius, Ignatius, Polycarp, Justin Martyr…the list goes on and on, but every one of them called on the early church to care for orphans. One writer goes so far as to say that the orphan had only three possibilities in life: death, slavery, or Christian adoption (David Z. Nowell, Dirty Faith: Bringing the Love of Christ to the Least of These).

Below are a few passages that illustrate the sentiment carried by these founders of the church:

Now note well those who hold heretical opinions about the grace of Jesus Christ that came to us; note how contrary they are to the mind of God. They have no concern for love, none for the widow, none for the orphan, none for the oppressed, none for the prisoner or the one released, none for the hungry or thirsty (Ignatius, Smyrnaeans 6.2, A.D. 110).

The presbyters, for their part, must be compassionate, merciful to all, turning back those who have gone astray, visiting all the sick, not neglecting a widow, orphan, or poor person, but always aiming at what is honorable in the sight of God and of people (Polycarp, Philippians 6.1, c. A.D. 110).

It is the way of persecutors of the good, of those who hate truth, love a lie, do not know the reward of righteousness, do not adhere to what is good or to righteous judgment, who ignore the widow and the orphan…have no mercy for the poor, do not work on behalf of the oppressed, are reckless with slander, do not know the one who made them, are murderers of children…who turn away from someone in need…utterly sinful (Epistle of Barnabas 20.2, c. A.D. 100–130).

Other descriptive passages from early texts describe some of what this looked like in practice:

Perhaps the earliest textual evidence we have of an organized system specifically dedicated to the care of orphans comes form a passage of Hermas, in which their religious education is explicitly stressed… Many Biblical scholars believe that [James 1:27] assigns the task of caring for orphans to the deacons of the early Church. However, in light of other passages in Hermas it is obvious that caring for orphans was seen by the author as work generally pleasing to God and an ethical duty for all Christians (Hübner and Ratzan, Growing Up Fatherless in Antiquity).

A third century document known as the Didascalia Apostolorum lays out the criteria for selecting a presbyter. One of the requirements in this list is that the candidate has been known as ‘a father to the orphans’ (3.2). This document then goes on to describe a suitable candidate for the bishopric as one who has been ‘a lover of toil, a lover of widows, a lover of orphans’ (3.2) (Aloisi, Orphan Care, Adoption, and the Church).

When we first meet the mention of the adoption and bringing up of foundlings, this work appears not as a novelty, but as one long practiced. It is true that the heathen also used to take care of exposed children, but for the purposes of bringing them up as gladiators or prostitutes, or to use them in their own service…. Christians brought up the children whom they took charge of for the Lord, and for a respectable and industrious life (G. Uhlhorn, Christian Charity in the Ancient Church, p. 186).

All of this illustrates the reality of care for the orphan and the marginalized has been a central part of the church’s fundamental makeup from the very beginning, as it continues to be. Once again, David Nowell summarizes beautifully: “Orphan care is our (the church’s) identity — and has been for two thousand years.”

And we at World Orphans say a hearty “amen.”

 

SOURCES:

  • David Z Nowell, Dirty Faith: Bringing the Love of Christ to the Least of These
  • Hübner and Ratzan, Growing Up Fatherless in Antiquity
  • John Aloisi, Orphan Care, Adoption, and the Church: Historical Reflections and Contemporary Challenges
  • Uhlhorn, Christian Charity in the Ancient Church

 

 

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What God Has for Me is for Him

By Nicole Leeper | Office Manager

There is a saying that goes around a portion of the charismatic church in America: "What God has for me, is for me!"

It's just one more way that people take the blessings of God, and make it all about themselves. A few years ago, I tweeted, "What God has for me, is for Him." I didn't realize at the time, the doors it would open for conversation and how a little phrase would be such a convicting point for some people. Furthermore, I didn't even fully grasp God's plan for His blessings...His plan for the nations.

I'm currently enrolled in Perspectives (a course examining perspectives on global outreach and mission) as well as part of BSF (Bible Study Fellowship), studying Genesis. In both of these classes over the last two weeks, I have learned about God's purpose in blessing us to be a blessing to the nations, for the glory of God. It's something that I always knew of God, but I had never seen it laid out from the beginning of scripture, to the end. In the Old Testament, God looked to bless Israel, but the purpose was not just for them, but for them to reach the nations. In Genesis 12:2-3 God says to Abraham,

“I will make you into a great nation,

    and I will bless you;

I will make your name great,

    and you will be a blessing.

I will bless those who bless you,

    and whoever curses you I will curse;

and all peoples on earth

    will be blessed through you.”

In the New Testament, God uses His church to reach the nations. Matthew 28:19-20 says,

"Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

In Revelation we see God's picture before the throne,

"After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb."

I for one, eagerly long for the day that we stand before the throne of God, looking around at the beautiful picture of the nations before the Lamb.

"Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus." 

Check out this video - God’s heart for the nations, from Genesis to Revelation:

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In the Days to Come

By Alan Hunt |  Vice-President

 

‘He says, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”
— Psalm 46:10

This simple command and promise gives me comfort as I start 2013 and my sixth year with the ministry of World Orphans. For certain we will each experience many different things in the coming year, but for me, knowing that God is still on His throne, still in charge, still has a plan and a purpose is comforting. My purpose is to align myself with Him and trust in Him completely, every moment, regardless of the circumstances in the coming days.

Sounds simple doesn’t it?  Why then is it, at times, so difficult? Like you, I can point my finger to numerous issues that will lead into lengthy conversations about politics, religion, the economy, leadership, the media, violent gaming, pornography, gun control, and on and on. Tune into the talk shows to hear mostly mindless chatter and opinions about such matters that do little to resolve these very serious issues.

The ultimate truth is that we live in a world that is battered by sin. Oops, I said the word that no one likes to talk about. An old Sunday school teacher of mine would say “I just crossed the line from preaching to meddling!” We can try to ignore sin, and we do, but we all see it on display, and to some degree, personally experience it on a daily basis.

The good news is that God provided a solution for our sin. My sin, your sin, the sin of the world, and the solution is His son, Jesus. When Jesus died on the cross he paid the penalty for all the sin of the world. God created us and loves us so much that he provided a way for our sin to be forgiven through Jesus Christ. All we have to do is accept this truth and place our trust in the work that Jesus accomplished on the cross. When we do so, we align ourselves with God’s perfect plan for life now and for eternity. This is the gospel.

The gospel is what drives the ministry of World Orphans and everything we do. As we enter our twentieth year our mission and vision remains the same:

“World Orphans is committed to rescuing orphaned and abandoned children, strengthening the local church, and impacting communities with the Gospel of Jesus Christ through church-based, family-focused programs.

We seek to equip, inspire, and mobilize the church to care for orphaned and vulnerable children.”

God’s word is clear:

 “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this:

to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself

from being polluted by the world.

James 1:27

Thank you for being part of this ministry, as we continue to serve orphans and vulnerable children around the world. May God bless you in the coming days and may His perfect plan give you comfort.

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Certifiably Nuts

By Alan Hunt | Vice President of Advocacy

As the most senior member of the World Orphans staff, I am extended special grace and a certain amount of leeway regarding my musings about my coworkers…at least that is my expectation. So assuming that anyone cares what I think, I will attempt to launch forth a diatribe of observations about my coworkers that will likely cause shock and awe amongst them as well as our readership. Will this be the proverbial “Tell All” blog? More likely it will be a “Tell a Little” blog.

Incredible as this may sound, I am convinced that I work with a bunch of folks who are certifiably nuts. I don’t mean the “do something nutty occasionally” type, but the “100% nutty all the time” variety. How else can you explain the irrational life decisions that permeate our organization? Please allow me to explain by listing some examples:

  • A college graduate with graphic/web design skills decides to work for us for a small hourly wage.
  • A small business owner shuts down his business, joins our staff as a volunteer, raises support for a small salary, gets married, has a child, then moves his family to East Asia where he does not speak the language.
  • The senior pastor of a good-sized church that he started resigns his secure position with a good salary and benefits to raise support for his salary, and now writes blogs and leads small mission teams into third world countries.
  • Three different corporate executives leave lucrative careers and salaries to work twice as hard for more hours a week for a fraction of the salary they are capable of earning.
  • Two different single ladies leave their families, communities of friends, and lucrative jobs to move across the United States, living very simply, so they can be part of our Colorado team.
  • A young husband and his wife have their first child and immediately start the process of adopting two more!
  • A corporate CFO works three jobs so he can work part time for us at a fraction of his normal wage.

And the list goes on and on….these people are NUTS! Nuts for the Lord and nuts for the children we serve. And it is my great pleasure to serve along side of each of them. Blessed are the nutty.

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This Night...

By Kate Borders

This night as I sink tired, yet comfortably into bed I am overwhelmed by all those whose place of rest is so uncomfortable.

This night some sleep too hot, so hot it takes your breath away...others are too cold. Some too dry, their bodies and land parched for clean refreshing water.  Others are too wet.  The rain soaks their roof and walls and floors and bed, it takes away their comfort and threatens their safety.  Yet their exhaustion drives them to sleep, but I imagine it's a fitful sleep.  Sound sleep interrupted by questions of safety and what will fill the children's empty bellies.

So this night, overwhelmed with gratefulness for my safe and comfortable bed, I am reminded of my need for mercy.  Why I enjoy the safety and comfort I do not know.

I am also overwhelmed with gratefulness that my acceptance with Creator God is based not on my work or my righteousness, but on the perfect righteousness of Christ and His perfect, saving, redeeming sacrifice.

So while I rest in being a child of the Most High God by faith in Jesus Christ, I am reminded of His words that to whom much is given, much will be required.

So this night I find myself sinking into my safe comfortable bed begging that He will allow me to be spent that those who are hurting may know His redemption, not only in their hearts but in their lives.

Lord Jesus, have mercy.

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In the Margins

By Jeremy Resmer | Projects Manager

Increasingly, we hear stories about marginalization and social exclusion that result from physical, material, and social disadvantages of individuals, people groups, and sometimes, entire communities. The alienation and disenfranchisement is often caused or influenced by factors such as gender, education, religion, politics, economics, appearance, sexual orientation, personal habits, the list goes on.

The word “marginalize” means to relegate to the fringes, out of the mainstream; make to seem unimportant, to place in a position of lower importance, influence, or power. But what does that really look like?

In the Old Testament, the “orphan” and “fatherless” are mentioned 41 times, often in association with widows and aliens because of their vulnerability and oppression. These three classes of people were virtually powerless in ancient society. Orphaned children were particularly vulnerable as they lacked protection, provision, and parental love which included direction and discipline. While orphans could work, they were not allowed to inherit property or learn a skill as an apprentice unless they were adopted.

War, famine, natural disaster, disease, and trafficking have destroyed businesses, broken apart families, and insured that enormous numbers of orphans continue to exist today. Current estimates suggest there are 153 million orphans globally! These children are marginalized every day by a lack of shelter and protection, food, education, employment, and basic health services. Forget tomorrow, they lack hope for today…and food. They are especially susceptible to living on the streets, prostitution, trafficking, and HIV/AIDS. Their lives are compounding the cycles of brokenness.

Now is the time for the poor church, the wealthy church, the small church, the mega church, and, most importantly, the local church to actually follow Jesus to the hard places in the community and throughout the world and seek out marginalized people where the gospel rubber hits the earthly road. To visit places like the slums, ghettos, refugee camps, jails, mental institutions, hospitals, orphanages, and bars, and listen to the cries and the stories of the voiceless (without judgment). To feel compassion and share our own broken experiences, losses, and hope in Christ.

Easier said than done, I know. However, it is the very thing that God commands us to do time and again. Jesus’ ministry revolved around visiting the poor, outcast, and lonely. Surely there is no better reason to seek out and visit those in need than the attitude and action of Jesus Christ.

I wonder how many people would truly experience Jesus and be drawn to Him if more Christians intentionally lived and worked in the margins and did as Proverbs 31:8-9 says, “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.”

“God so loved the world” – how dare we say we identify with Him in that love if we don't go there…if we don't choose the margins?

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On Understanding Orphan Statistics

See below for link to original article authored by Christian Alliance for Orphans (CAFO). World Orphans proudly partners with Christian Alliance for Orphans, as they seek to answer the call to care by inspiring and equipping the church and the world to act.

This recently published communication provides updated statistics and foundation, as well as insightful explanation for approaching orphan care with competing priorities and sometimes complicating issues.

Their philosophy closely aligns with ours, and they have done well to describe both the big picture and practical ways to approach orphan care, even as an individual, with the last bullet point:

Number of caring adults it takes to make a life-long difference for an orphan:  1

We think you'll want to read further [click image below]...

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Acting Your Age

A few days ago I posted on Facebook that, “After three hours of mountain biking this morning my legs and back are toast”. One of my good friends commented that I should, “Act my age and grow soft and lazy like the rest of us”. The comment was a humorous compliment considering the fact that I am sixty one years old and I am still able to aggressively ride mountain bicycles with a group of men, some who are half my age or less, and I smugly accepted my friends comment as such. I have been a cycling nut for many years and I ride the way I do by choice. There have been a few crashes over the years such as this one a few years ago, but I still love the sport.

That is more than enough about me. Maybe I’ll share some more about my love for cycling some other time.

The Facebook comment got me to thinking about “acting your age”.  As a loving parent I used the admonition to “act your age” when my son misbehaved. My parents used the same admonition with my brother and myself when we were growing up. It was a reprimand intended to remind us to use the manners and behavior standards that we had been taught. If the admonition was ignored the result was punishment. Our punishments included the loss of television or play time, the withholding of ice cream or candy treats, the occasional grounding and on rare occasions a spanking if justified by defiant and repeated misbehavior. For me “acting my age” has always been a freedom of choice. Now imagine with me the concept of “acting your age” from the perspective of a child whose freedom to do so has been completely and sometimes violently stripped away. This child finds themselves in circumstances they did not choose. They have no freedom of choice. How would you or your child respond to life such as these?

The child soldier who is forced to kill his own family loses the right to “act their age”. If they disobey the resulting punishment is repeated beatings, starvation, or death.

The prostituted child sold into sex slavery and forced to service twenty or more “clients” a day does not have the freedom to “act their age”. When they are used up, diseased, or no longer desirable they are discarded like unwanted trash.

The nine year old child caring for younger siblings because a parent died from HIV-AIDS loses the right to “act their own age”. Can you imagine the responsibility of parenting a child while still a child yourself?

The child living in extreme poverty, unable to attend school due to lack of tuition, and forced to beg on the streets in order to survive where they often end up huffing glue to ease the pains of hunger can no longer “act their age”.

These are just a few examples of orphans and vulnerable children that are denied the privilege of “acting their age”. There are many others. Unless we rescue them from the circumstances that deprive them of the choice to “act their age”, if they survive, they will likely become adults who have more children who will be exposed to the same deprivations and atrocities as their parents and the generational cycle of abuse and neglect will repeat itself.

As a staff member of World Orphans I believe that this cycle can be and must be broken. Join us as we work globally to give orphans and vulnerable children the opportunity and choice to “act their age”.

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Who Cares for Orphans?

By Phyllis M. LaBranche | MSW Ethiopia Country Director

Who cares for orphans?

If not the church, than who? The government? The UN? Surely these great organizations have resources and a stake in the welfare of children. But who feeds and clothes and loves the orphans that live among us? The hospitals? The schools? No. It is the church. The church is the representation of GOD on earth and must, I say, MUST do the work of caring for orphans in our communities.

Jesus said, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of Heaven belongs to such as these.” (Matthew 19:14)

In developed countries, governmental social services provide the framework to care for, provide, and protect all children in need. Many people who work in these agencies are Christians driven by a passion is to serve orphans and others who need support. And it is of no wonder that these agencies are filled with Christians; every modern governmental program can find their roots in the church. Before the department of health and human services existed, it was the church that cared for and protected children. It was the church that fed the poor, the outcast, and the downtrodden. Today, laws to protect the unprotected and public social services to meet and fund those needs of the needy.

However, in the developing world, no such agencies exist or if they do, they have yet to develop effective programs. Therefore, the Church must rise up and fill the need to care for, provide, and protect the children. Church-based orphan care provides community-based social services. Thus, by empowering the local church to do the work of caring for orphans and doing it well for the individual child, we are aiding in the development of that whole country.

WORLD ORPHANS does just that. We empower local churches to rescue and care for orphans in their communities by connecting western churches in the developed world to local churches in the developing world. If the church can bring change to their country, surely together we can change the world. Together we will make a difference.

Rescue an orphan, change the world.

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Farewell Bob Roosen, WO co-founder

BobRoosen Today, the co-founder of World Orphans, Bob Roosen, peacefully passed into eternity. It's hard to summarize a life so well lived, so I won't even attempt it here. Bob has changed - and continues to change - many thousands of lives, both now and forever. Thousands of former orphans now have homes and families because of his tireless work and dedication to this most precious of causes. Many other thousands have found hope in the Father to the Fatherless due to the nature and structure of the work we do - rescuing and caring for orphans through local indigenous churches that win the love of their communities in the process.

When I took over the helm of World Orphans in 2006, after a wonderful two year partnership with my former ministry, I was well aware that I was building upon a foundation that was originally set by the Master Builder, but also upon a solid structure erected by Bob and his deep love of vulnerable children and the Church. While just about everybody else was trying to be a lone ranger - building and doing their own thing - Bob and a handful of other pioneers tapped the potential of churches (individual congregations) around the world to step in and simply rescue the children in their immediate neighborhoods. He did this without fanfare and without any desire for credit. Bob wanted the churches themselves to rightly receive that credit. World Orphans has held this as a core value ever since.

Before I heard of Bob's passing today, I was out on a catamaran in the strait between Maui and Lanai. As I looked at Maui, the Valley Isle, I actually imaged Bob scaling one its peaks. Bob was an avid hiker/climber and defeated many 14ers in his time. Upon returning to my hotel and hearing the news, I felt as if I'd received a soft affirmation earlier in the trade winds - that this fine man of God was indeed ascending another peak . . . where the view and reward are oh so good.

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