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More Than Enough

By Darci Irwin | Director of Rescue Teams

The beat of steel drums and playful children kept me awake during my first night in Haiti a few weeks ago. Yet even if the world had been quiet, the noise in my head would have alerted me as I processed all the first day sights, smells, and sounds in Port-au-Prince. I laid there with my head on a soft pillow, feeling the gentle breeze of an oscillating fan, and pondered how 75% of the people on that very soil lived on less than $2 that day. Being the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere due to overpopulation, deforestation, soil erosion, hurricanes, earthquakes and pollution, two-thirds of the people are under or unemployed, and I frantically searched for hope. As I drifted to sleep amidst the drumbeats and my approximately one million thoughts, I prayed, “God, show me what you’re already doing. I know you’re here.”

I am new to the World Orphans team, having officially joined the staff on January 2 this year, so my heart is a sponge and my eyes are wide. My learning curve is steep, yet it hasn’t taken long to realize that while my intentions to help are rooted in beauty, my steps can be misguided if I am not aware of my own poverty.

Before leaving for Haiti people asked me, “How will your heart be able to take it?” I didn’t know for sure, but I believed my life was preparing me for this trip. Actively I pushed away the voice of doubt that sneered, “What do you think you’re doing? You’re not ready. Do you think one week will actually do any good? You know the people will feel exploited by you anyway, so don’t even go,” and instead, listened to the Voice that said, “You’re enough. What you know right now is enough. The love you will bring is enough. And what you’ll be shown is also enough.”

The following six days included painful images. Yes, what we saw shocked our senses. Yes, layers of concrete and rubble outline the country. Yes, many children are rootless and unschooled, meandering the streets during the day. Yes, 300,000 people remain in the tent city district since the earthquake, an area that is horrifyingly unsafe and unsanitary. Yes, many dogs are wandering and sickly. And my heart reminded me, “This is not the way things were meant. We were created for something more.”

I soon noticed my choices: a choice to collapse within myself in despair, or a choice to mine for beauty; a choice to ignore my own pain narrative and elevate myself, or enter the pain I saw by acknowledging my own; a choice to sarcastically doubt that any work matters, or believe in the promise of ultimate healing. I chose beauty. I chose empathy. I chose hope. Recognizing my own levels of poverty allows my heart to resonate with others in their pain, because when we recognize that none of us live as things were meant, and that we were all created for something more, we can meet each other in true relationship.

And that’s what I experienced in Haiti. Despite all our differences, I experienced true relationship: the kind that gives - when you look at a desperate woman in the eyes, who is trying to give you her child, and communicate you are with her, for her, and hoping on her behalf when she’s lost hope for herself; and the kind that receives - where after church on Sunday an elderly woman makes her way to you and says, “I feel like you are my friend and I am praying strength over your life.”

Each moment felt like more than enough.

When I returned, some said, “Oh, didn’t you just want to take them all home?” While my spirit wishes for an end to all destruction and poverty, my inclination wasn’t to bring people with me but rather to help instill dignity, purpose, hope, healing, and motivation to the lives of the Haitians who have felt beaten down for far too long, to help bring beauty to their current situation and empower them to work towards the redemption that is possible this side of heaven. I want to join in what God is already doing in Haiti, helping bring rescue because I’ve been rescued. I’m realizing the key is walking and dreaming together.

Now that I’m home, I still hear the beat of those steel drums and the laughter of children, and they motivate me to joyfully and rhythmically speak on behalf of my new friends, for the shalom I long for all of us to experience.

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How Can One Week Change Your Life?

By Emily Hilburn | Mobilization Coordinator, Journey 117

Tonight I can’t seem to get our Haiti team out of my mind. True, I hadn’t met most of our team in person until we met up in Miami to fly into Haiti (and half of them I didn’t meet until I got to Haiti). True, we only spent a week together. True, I haven’t seen any of them in person since I said goodbye in the Miami airport in October.  But, they impacted my heart forever, and here is why.

This was probably the most diverse group of people I have ever taken overseas. OK, scratch that. This was the most diverse group I have ever taken anywhere! The ages ranged from 24 to 62. We came from California, Oklahoma, Missouri, Colorado, Kentucky, Tennessee, Texas, Washington D.C., and even three from Canada! We were male and female, married and single, teachers, photographers, mothers, pharmacists, government representatives, truck drivers, and advocates. From the world’s eyes, there was nothing to bring these people together. But God knew better. God began working in each of these people’s hearts at different points and in different ways to draw them to the plight of the orphan. He then worked in different ways to bring them to our ministry, Journey117/World Orphans, and gave them a desire to know more about their role in orphan advocacy.

Yes, we only spent one week in Haiti, but God used that one week! The lives of these people are still being written. God is still working in their hearts and showing them the unique way He has called them to be a voice for those who have no voice. I can’t tell you what will happen with this team, even three months later. But I can tell you one thing:  As different as their lives were before this trip, that is how different the callings will be on each of their lives afterwards. The trip was a catalyst, a point in time for us to get away from our world and seek to hear the heartbeat of God more clearly. The trip doesn’t change our lives, God does. And I can’t wait to see how He continues to change the lives of these 12 people. I know He changed my life by allowing me to spend a week with them in Haiti.

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Stop Playing in the Mud

By Nate Livesay | Director of Advocacy

Almost exactly one year ago, I started a journey that would change the course of my life. I traveled to Ethiopia on a Journey 117 trip, and God revealed a life-altering truth to me: I need to stop wasting my life making mud pies. You read that right; I spent two weeks in Africa, and the most important lesson I learned was that I needed to stop playing in the mud.

C.S. Lewis once wrote:

“It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”

God revealed that this was me, and I was floored. This was 100% news to me. You see, I considered myself the opposite of virtually everything is this statement. I am passionate, not half-hearted. I am intelligent, not ignorant. And I certainly am not the kind of guy who turns down time at the beach to play in the mud. Most importantly, I certainly was not too easily pleased by anything.

The problem was, I had been viewing my life and the world around me through my eyes only without ever pausing to consider what God saw when He looked at those same things. In the New Testament, Jesus makes it pretty clear that His Kingdom runs counter to the way that this world works. On the 9th floor of the Zebra Grill in downtown Addis Ababa, God opened my eyes to see the world in the way He saw it. I looked out the window and He broke my heart for what breaks His. When He did this, everything changed. All of the sudden I realized that I was consumed with my success and my selfish ambitions, and I was missing out on the life that He had planned for me.

So I stepped out in faith and began the process of joining the staff here at World Orphans. The past year has been a time of learning to see people as God sees them and learning to follow where God leads even when you can only see the next step and not the final destination. Honestly, it has been a time where I have been coming up with more questions than answers. Scriptures that I have read and heard over and over again are beginning to come to life in new ways, and I am still sorting out what it looks like to live my life as a true follower of Jesus.

Do I know what He wants me to do with the rest of my life? Not a chance, but I do know this – I am beginning to be able to imagine what His offer of a holiday at the sea might look like, and I will never go back to wasting my life playing in the mud again.

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Yet I Will Rejoice.

By Emily Hilburn | J117 Coordinator

"Though the fig tree should not blossom And there be no fruit on the vines, Though the yield of the olive should fail And the fields produce no food, Though the flock should be cut off from the fold And there be no cattle in the stalls, Yet I will exult in the LORD, I will rejoice in the God of my salvation." - Habakkuk 3:17

I know this might not be the typical verse you would expect to see on a blog about caring for orphans around the world, but hang with me on this for a second. I’ve read this verse multiple times and my first response was to my current circumstances. I looked at the major thing in my life that I’m trusting God for that He has chosen to wait to provide and said, “Thank you Lord for the reminder that even though I need this, it’s a necessity, and it’s not here yet, I will praise you.” A very normal and good response. But then I got to thinking a little bit more. I began thinking about the recent trip I made to Haiti with one of our Journey117 teams. I remembered seeing where people live, what they eat (if they eat), and most of all, I remembered worshiping with them on Sunday. They get up early enough to be at church at 6:30am! They worship for 3 hours! Their hearts and faces shine with the love they have for their Savior and King! And I was brought to my knees with the meaning of this verse for the Haitians with whom we were blessed to worship.

It might read something more like this:

Though the mango tree should not blossom And there be no rice in my tent, Though the yield of the maize should fail And the fields produce no food, Though the goats should be cut off from the tribe And there be no pigs in the pen, Though my house is currently a USAID tarp and four small tree trunks, Yet I will exult in the LORD, I will rejoice in the God of my salvation.

This church loves their Lord. They exalt Him in a beautiful way. They care for the orphans and vulnerable children in their community, and they were doing it way before we ever showed up on the scene. We were blessed to be invited to come alongside them that Sunday and worship with them, serve these children with them, and hear their stories.

Habakkuk looked around and saw not only physical devastation to his country, but spiritual devastation. He cried out to the Lord and asked why He was allowing this to happen. But he didn’t stop there. He chose to praise God in the midst of it all. He knew his help, his salvation, came from the Lord. These people know this too, and they know it to a deeper degree than I think I ever will. They care for the orphans and vulnerable children in their communities at a cost to themselves. They see God provide for these children through the means He has given them as church members. But then, He continues to provide through church partners who desire to serve as well.

We all serve a God who is the ultimate provider, and watching the way He has provided for these children who are so near and dear to His heart has been humbling. To even be a small part of that provision is awe-inspiring. Today I remember my Haitian brothers and sisters and their love for the Lord. I see their faces “rejoicing in the God of their salvation.”

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World Orphans - Serve in Iraq this Summer!

“Learn to do right! Seek justice, encourage the oppressed. Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow.” Isaiah 1:17

This verse, penned in Hebrew Scripture as early as 740 BC, speaks to God’s heart for the orphan and commands us as believers to take action on their behalf. The charge wasn’t given to government authorities, non-profits or celebrities….it was spoken to the CHURCH, to believers of the faith. These commands still ring true today as we see these statements repeated over and over in the Old and New Testaments. These commands are the heartbeat and foundation of a program we call Journey 117, a ministry of World Orphans that seeks to empower and equip believers to live out this calling in their own lives.

Now, in light of this truth, we are delighted to present an opportunity for believers to get on board with World Orphans this summer, an opportunity to incorporate all of these things into one trip...to seek justice and encourage the oppressed, to defend the orphan and care for widows, to learn to do right. We are organizing a Journey team to serve in Iraq, in the Kurdistan region, to assist our in-country staff who are working to care for orphans and widows. World Orphans is building a community center called “The Refuge” that will be used to host events for people in this region, most of whom are displaced, having migrated north to escape the war-torn regions in other areas of Iraq. “The Refuge” is being built in the center of the Freedom Martyrs’ Village, a housing area established by the Kurdistan Regional Government to provide a safe haven for widows and orphans who lost their families in the war. Since adoption is prohibited and “outsiders” are not allowed to care for orphans, this facility will provide opportunity for our staff and teams to serve a desperate, hurting community with grace and love.

Would you consider joining our Journey 117 team this summer to help serve orphans and widows in Iraq? Our team will use “The Refuge” community center to relationally engage children in the community through VBS-style activities, sports and recreational games, arts and crafts, and music and drama, to name a few. We are praying that God brings a variety of people to join this team, those with unique gifts and abilities, to help us provide a well-rounded outreach program. The team will also visit nearby orphanages to gain a better understanding of the realities for the fatherless in this country.

We are excited about what God is doing in the hearts and lives of people in Iraq and how He is equipping World Orphans to serve these people in their distress! What a beautiful picture of His love and grace. We invite you to join us as we extend His love and grace to the people in the Freedom Martyrs’ Village and serve "the least of these."

If you would like to apply for this team or wish to contact us with questions, please visit www.journey117.org.

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Wrap your arms around a child today by Emily Hilburn - Mobilization Coordinator, J117/World Orphans

Eddie is a small boy in a government orphanage in Uganda.  Eddie isn’t his real name.  I haven’t changed his name for protection reasons, I’ve given him a name because no one knew his name.  Eddie walked up to me the moment I walked through the gates that morning.  His petite, dark features were beautiful and yet he never once smiled.  He took my hand and from that moment he had my heart as well.  When I asked the caretakers his name, they said they didn’t know.  When I asked the other children, they didn’t know either.  I asked him and he wouldn’t speak a word.  I eventually called him Eddie because he stands back and watches others interact, the same way my Pappa used to.  No one knew Eddie’s story, no one knew why he was there except that he seemed to have no where else to go.  He was one of too many, He was lost in the crowd and it would probably not be noticed if he was there or not.

Dorcas has been abandoned by her mother.  She’s three years old and you can’t explain to her why her mother left, she just knows she’s gone.  She attached herself to one of our short term team members and when we left, it was a very tearful goodbye.  But Dorcas’ story differs from Eddie’s.  Dorcas has a name that people know.  She isn’t lost in the crowd because she has a church family that loves her, that cares for her.  They provide for her, not only physically but spiritually and emotionally.  They love her and call her by name.  They notice when she is having a particularly difficult time and they comfort her.  She is still an orphan, but she is an orphan who has been adopted into a family of faith.

See the difference when the body of Christ steps in and fulfills their calling?  An orphan has a name, she is loved, cared for and pointed towards a God who loves her infinitely more than anyone here on earth ever could.  What a difference from the life Eddie will have.  Yes, Eddie will have a roof over his head and yes, Eddie will eat some of the time.  But what will happen to Eddie as a result of being lost in the crowd?  My heart aches when I see his face.  He not only represents so many orphans in this world who are not told that they are valued by an ever-present God, but he is an individual child I long to wrap my arms around and tell this truth until I know he understands.  I can’t wrap my arms around every orphan in this world, but the church can.  Will you wrap your arms around a child today?

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“Check One… Check Two… Can You Hear Me Now!”

By Kevin Squires | State Director of Advocacy - West Virginia

Arguably over the last 20 years, the opportunities for short-term missions have continued to spike in popularity. Only recently have we stopped to examine the effects of it all. Ministry experts continually sound off on the positives and negatives of Americans traveling abroad with the idea of “saving the world.” Questions arise from both angles… Couldn’t the money that was raised to go on the trip be used more efficiently in the hands of experts? On the other side of the spectrum… Isn’t there an unexplainable value to being surrounded by extreme poverty and seeing it for yourself? Recently, I unexpectedly found myself in the middle of this story…

I was speaking at a conference for teenagers in West Virginia about our call to connect social justice to the gospel of Jesus Christ. Shortly after the conference, I received a message from a conference administrator telling me that one of his students believed God was calling her to donate money to World Orphans. It turns out, this 18-year-old girl had worked at a daycare center all summer to raise money to go on a mission trip to Honduras with her church. After hearing stories about the atrocities of human trafficking, she felt the need to sacrifice her trip in order to fund a World Orphans camp in Moldova that helps to prevent the trafficking of young children. That day, she humbly cast her trip to the side and wrote a check to World Orphans for $1,000. Check One.

As the days went by she felt a divine sense of peace about her decision. Although it was an anonymous gift at the time, word quickly spread about this teenage girl who was willing to obey God by NOT going on a mission trip! People in her community were stirred to see such selflessness and obedience to Christ. One person, from out of nowhere, was so inspired that she too wrote a check… a check for $1,000 to cover the cost of sending the young girl to Honduras. Check Two.

We often find ourselves debating about the best ways to expand the Kingdom of God. No doubt, those debates are important. However, let’s not forget that the best way to expand God’s Kingdom is through simple obedience to His call, the type of obedience we saw in this 18-year-old girl. Did she face a dilemma? Absolutely. But, she faced it with ears that hear, and eyes that see. She faced it with knees on the ground and hands held high in the air. May God forgive us for being so busy and preoccupied with work and ministry, that we have sometimes failed to hear His call to obedience, better yet answer it. What will be your answer to His call tomorrow when He boldly asks, “Can you hear Me now?”

Rescue a Child. Change the World.

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A Call to Action, Help Care for Widows and Orphans

By Lori Resmer | Team Coordinator of Journey 117

America is one of the richest countries in the world….and one of the most obese. Seems as though excess isn’t necessarily a good thing. But not only is our country consumed with material goods, food, wealth and assets, we are wrapped up in our love of SELF. Unfortunately, the Church has allowed itself to reflect the American culture of our day and has forsaken the perspectives that God has called us to maintain as believers. We have taken Christianity and turned it into a self-improvement program instead of living as we were instructed: to take up our cross and follow Christ. That to me doesn’t sound like self-help; it sounds more like self-denial.

Todd Phillips quotes in his study Get Uncomfortable that “many churches in the U.S. today, especially the larger they get, become like country clubs rather than spiritual hospitals. Over time we become more concerned about our needs more than the needs of others.” But if we are truly reading the Word of God and not putting feet to the truths embedded within, we are like the man in James 1:23-24 who, after reading God’s Word and remains passive, is like a man who looks at himself in a mirror and then walks away, immediately forgetting what he looks like. Have we, as the American church, forgotten who we are?

We refuse to educate ourselves on the more than 2,000 verses in Scripture about God’s heart for the poor, the needy, the widow and the orphan. We tend to feed on the passages that reference God’s blessings…..His provision for us if we have enough faith, His mercies that are new for us each morning, His peace for us in hard times, etc.  We give little time to the passages that speak of self-denial and sacrifice for the good of others for the sake of the Gospel. Ironically, the truest form of joy and peace come from offering our bodies as sacrifices for the advancement of God’s kingdom. Maybe that’s why so many of us are depressed, stressed out, lonely and discontented. Maybe it’s time we stop focusing on ourselves and start devouring God’s word to see what it says about His heart for the world:

John 10:37   -  Jesus lived out his life doing what God does. John 13:37–   If we serve the way Christ did, we will be blessed if we do those things. Jeremiah 22:16-  Defending the cause of the poor is what it means to know the Lord. James 1:22-  We should do what God’s word says. Titus 1:16-   To know God means to do His will.

Do you see this truth coming full circle? If we really want to know God and be blessed, we should do what Christ did….what God desires….by defending the cause of the poor.

This doesn’t say to separate yourselves from the poor. It says to defend the causes of the poor. To do this means we would have to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with them and share in their misery. To do this means we would need to visit and rescue the orphan. To do this means we should care for the widow. To do this means we need to clothe and feed the hungry. To do this means we should stand up against injustices around us. This is what it means to know the heart of God. Matter of fact, when we do these things, it’s as though we have done them to Christ himself (Matt. 25:40).

Let’s allow God to remove the scales from our eyes to see the world they way HE sees it. Let’s relinquish our selfishness and indulgences and serve God with abandonment! What is God asking you to release to allow His kingdom to come “here on earth as it is in Heaven”?  Let’s open our arms to the poor and extend our hands to the needy expecting God to fill us, in return, with an unparalleled joy!

Learn to do right!  Seek justice, encourage the oppressed. Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow. - Isaiah 1:17

World Orphans offers opportunities to serve widows and orphans in a variety of ways. One way is though Journey 117, which consists of trips for individuals and small groups.

To find out more about how you can get involved with World Orphans or Journey 117, click here.

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