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Christian Living

Set Free

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Set Free

Americans are typically familiar with freedom being built into the fabric of our country. We are free to go where we want, eat what we want, live where we want, say what we want, believe what we want, and worship where and how we want. The concept of freedom is an identifying marker of life in the US.

However, when we look at Scripture, we see that our human condition is that of slaves—slaves to sin, the law, death, and dark, spiritual forces. We sin because we are sinful; however, by the grace of God, there is freedom from sin. …

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Sacred Rebellion

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Sacred Rebellion

When we consider meals, we often think about the way they bring families together. As food is laid out, everyone gathers around the table, conversation flows, and families bond.

But traditionally, eating together has not been encouraged in India….

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Pumpkin, Sweet Tea, and the King's Fellowship

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Pumpkin, Sweet Tea, and the King's Fellowship

I have a lot of memories filled with mouth-watering foods and beverages. Pumpkin takes me back to a dining room table where my family gathered for Thanksgiving, finishing off the experience by eating pumpkin pie. Sweet tea always makes me think of my grandfather and the huge glasses of sweet tea that he had in his refrigerator—tea so sweet that my teeth would ache from the sweetness. Those memories now make my heart ache, longing to still have him here with me. 

However, I’ve realized that travel—especially international travel—changes the way I see the world around me, including the food I eat and the beverages I drink. …

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The Way Our Memories Taste

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The Way Our Memories Taste

She sets the fried plantains in front of me, and my mouth immediately begins to water. Fixated on the food, I forget about the unanswered question hanging in the air between us.

Realizing the food she has spent hours cooking is already captivating me, she laughs and says, “Did you hear me?”

She wants to know what meals are like in the US, and she is curious about the value Americans place on meals and eating in general…

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What the World Didn't Tell You About Guatemala

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What the World Didn't Tell You About Guatemala

If you visit someone’s home, you will most likely be welcomed in with warm hospitality, regardless of your social class. Drinks and food will be offered to you. In Guatemala, we rarely visit with people quickly; instead, we take our time to relationally engage with one another, placing a high value on quality time. Thus, if you go to someone’s home, make yourself comfortable and plan to sip your coffee slowly.  …

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The Holy Table

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The Holy Table

One of the dominant memories I have of childhood is our family dining room table. In and of itself, it was an unremarkable piece of furniture: dull, brown oval of oak perched on a nicked and scarred pedestal. I didn’t realize it then, but there was more to that table than wood, glue, and a few bolts…

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Welcome to the House Owned by God

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Welcome to the House Owned by God

In the New Testament, the name Emmanuel means ‘God with us.’ God desires to be with us—to be in relationship with us. Out of his desire for relationship, we understand the human craving for it, and in this, we see the very nature of God reflected. …

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From Table to Table

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From Table to Table

An estimated four million people now work remotely in the US. World Orphans is part of that growing statistic, with a decentralized ministry model, staff throughout the US, and team members across the globe. We have experienced many advantages of decentralization: lower overhead costs, access to a larger geographic area with minimal travel, and personal connections with local churches across the country. Decentralization provides many opportunities that are critically valuable to what we do. But being decentralized can make it very challenging to maintain community with peers. …

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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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A Baseball, a Jersey, and Belonging

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A Baseball, a Jersey, and Belonging

The city streets of Guatemala—with few green spaces and most of those infested with negative influences—are not a welcoming place for childhood play. Growing up in Guatemala can be a dangerous and lonely experience . . .

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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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The Entire Child: Wholistic Care at Home and Abroad

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The Entire Child: Wholistic Care at Home and Abroad

What does it mean to care for the "whole" child? What does that look like?  It seems counterintuitive in some ways. If we're caring for a child, we're caring for the whole child, right? Roof over her head. Shoes on his feet. Books for school. At World Orphans, we see a distinction between caring for a child and caring for the whole child. We use the term "wholistic" a lot, but what does that even mean?

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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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A Quiet & Grateful Soul

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A Quiet & Grateful Soul

In late September in Estes Park, Colorado, the morning air ushers in a crispness like the first bite of a Granny Smith apple. The mountaintops become a mixture of snow that refused to melt and the year’s first dusting, while the aspens have exchanged their leaves of green for gold and orange hues that sparkle when the light shines through them. Afternoons here feel like summer but taste like winter. And when the sun sets, we are all children again, staring into a star-covered sky and considering the universe in all its vast wonder. 

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Global Village: Filling the Gap

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Global Village: Filling the Gap

"I never loved you and everything is your fault. Don't expect anyone to love you if your own mother can't."

Those were the last words out of his mother's mouth before David was launched into the foster care system. It was a couple days after his 10th birthday and, to say the least, he'd had a difficult first decade.

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When Everything Is Terrible: Hope for Adoptive & Foster Parents

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When Everything Is Terrible: Hope for Adoptive & Foster Parents

World Orphans is not an adoption agency; however, we love the foster and adoptive families represented through our staff, donors, and communities. We rally behind your efforts to champion the cause of vulnerable and orphaned children. Sometimes it's hard though, isn't it? Sometimes it looks like this:

"I hate you. You're not even my real mom. You can't tell me what to do."

She wanted to pick up the explosive words that had seemingly shattered the fragile air into splintering shards of glass, but she couldn't. She'd welcomed him into their home over a year ago, with high hopes that they would be laughing, playing, and enjoying one another's company by now. But, they weren't.

When Jonathan wasn't throwing words like jujitsu knives at Elaine, he was lost in a meltdown with the crocodile tears, kicking, screaming – the whole deal. This had become the new "normal" for the Smith family and it was taking a toll on everyone.

Elaine and her husband, Jim, were not new to parenting. They had three older children that were – until Jonathan came into the house – doing relatively well. When Jim and Elaine announced their decision to adopt, their biological children were ecstatic about the prospect of having a younger brother or sister.

Jonathan, the six-year-old little boy with the messy mop of brown curls and the deep blue eyes, seemed to capture their hearts immediately. When the Smiths looked at the pictures from the adoption agency, they didn't see the brokenness in that sweet little face. He was a smart, handsome, and jovial little man and the Smiths looked forward to calling him "son".

It’s not you against this child. It’s you AND this child against this child’s history. It is not a personal attack on you.
— Dr. Karyn Purvis

Adoption wasn't what the Smiths thought it would be, though. The pictures didn't tell them about the lingering effects of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD), the Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD), or the Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD). Maybe the agency rattled off those things at one point in the process, but how difficult could those things be? The Smiths had friends whose children were diagnosed with ADD and assumed it would all work out just fine. After all, Jonathan would be their fourth child.

The Smiths had no idea how difficult it would be to parent Jonathan. Adoption is beautiful, but it's also messy.

What happens next? What happens when all the things your parents did with you don't work? What happens when the way you parented your other children only leads to more tantrums, crying, and shouting? What happens when you find yourself at the end of your rope?

For some of our children, their “histories” are known, at least in part. For many others, however, their “histories” are unknown, even though we know there is a high likelihood that their past involves some degree of harm, deprivation or loss. Whether it is abuse, neglect or some other known harm, or whether it is the likelihood of a difficult or stressful pregnancy, difficult labor or birth, early medical trauma or a ruptured attachment to an early caregiver, the impacts for our children can be significant. You’ve heard it said, “What you don’t know can’t hurt you.” Unfortunately, it is often what we don’t know (and may never know) that is in fact hurting our children, and therefore hurting us as well. As a result, adoptive and foster parents must be particularly insightful about the reality of their child’s history and the lingering effects it can have.
— Dr. Karyn Purvis

The Smiths' story is not uncommon. It's the story of many adoptive and foster families. It's the story of parents that truly care, but cannot seem to communicate with their new family member. It's the story that's being written over and over and over again, not only by adoptive families, but by foster and temporary placement families as well. What if the story could be different?

Mothers and fathers, allow us to introduce you to Empowered to Connect and the late Dr. Karyn Purvis. As Director of the TCU Institute of Child Development, Dr. Purvis focused the last decade of her life on researching and developing interventions for at-risk children. She co-authored The Connected Child with Dr. David Cross, and her wisdom has been ground-breaking for adoptive and foster families, social workers, and a variety of people working in childcare.

Empowered to Connect uses the Trust-Based Relational Intervention (TBRI)® model developed by Dr. Purvis. "TBRI® is an attachment-based, trauma-informed intervention that is designed to meet the complex needs of vulnerable children. TBRI® uses Empowering Principles to address physical needs, Connecting Principles for attachment needs, and Correcting Principles to disarm fear-based behaviors. While the intervention is based on years of attachment, sensory processing, and neuroscience research, the heartbeat of TBRI® is connection."

Connection. We all crave it and were created for it.

As relational beings we [...] have a deep need and desire to connect with those around us. One of the most important and meaningful human connections is undoubtedly between a parent and a child. -Dr. Karyn Purvis

Connecting isn't always easy, though, and we've found the TBRI and Empowered to Connect principles helpful in the Wholistic Care training we offer to our church partners across the globe. Families like the Smiths have found hope in these principles as well. Christian Alliance for Orphans (CAFO) President Jedd Medefind says Empowered to Connect "brings together some of the nation’s very best experts on what adopted children and their families experience, and how parents can forge deep and lasting bonds with their children, even in the face of great difficulty."

Education is important. Medical care is important. A bed. A family. A house. But, a home – a place for love, redemption and healing – that's really the goal.

It looks so simple on paper or on a screen, but in those difficult moments when the tears are flowing and the screaming is only getting louder, it's hard, isn't it? If you're fostering or you've adopted, we know the struggle you've felt, and we'd love to remind you that God's grace is abundant, his mercies are new every morning, and his love is endless.

Let's tackle one day at a time . . . until they all have HOMES.

Download the FREE full-length Empowered to Connect Study Guide.

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Grab Your Racing Shoes & First Aid Kit

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Grab Your Racing Shoes & First Aid Kit

The Race That Eats Its Young. It's a daunting tagline, isn't it? Doesn't it make you want to sign up for the race tomorrow? The Barkley Marathons is a gruesome, agony-filled race whose distance exceeds 100 miles and whose memories could scar you for a lifetime. Nestled in the hills of Tennessee, the race challenges runners not only with the distance, but the hills, trees, briars, and early-spring possibilities of rain, snow, sleet, or hail. The course time limit is 60 hours. 60 hours of crying, bleeding, hallucinating, hungering, thirsting . . . fun?

In the first 25 years of the race's existence, only ten people completed the course. Despite its grimacing tagline and its infamous reputation (or because of it), hundreds of runners apply for the race each year. Only 40 of those that apply are given formal invitations (which are written in the form of condolence letters). The race follows a looped course. Three laps, approximately 78 miles, is considered a "fun run", and the full five-lap course finishes out at 130 miles.

If you aren't yet sick to your stomach, each loop of the race has a 12,000 foot ascent and 12,000 foot descent, making the full course equivalent to climbing Mt. Everest twice.

Lazarus Lake, cofounder of the Barkley Marathons, says runners "just had a fallback mentality [in the race's early history] that the race was just the fun run and the hundred [full race] was impossible." Nobody completed the full race course until nearly ten years after the race was established. Lake went on to say, "Once someone finished, you knew it really could be done."

Did you catch that? Runners assumed the race was impossible until someone completed it.

Until They All Have Homes.

It's a daunting tagline isn't it? When you place the desire to see every orphaned child in a home up against the reality that there are 150 million orphaned children in the world, this tagline doesn't seem to pay homage to the situation at hand.

150,000,000.

  • If we multiplied the Texas population by five, that number would still fall short of the amount of orphaned children in the world.
  • The worldwide orphan population is larger than the entire population of Russia.
  • If all the orphans in the world were placed in a country of their own, they would have the ninth largest country in the world.

Seeking to house and nurture every orphaned child in the world might as well be the world's most difficult 130-mile race, right? We know the challenge to "defend the weak and the fatherless" (Psalm 82:3), yet we feel like we don't know where to begin sometimes.

Here's the thing. It's going to be impossible until we do it.

When runners run the first four laps of the Barkley Marathons, they typically run together. They partner up – the seasoned Barkley runners with the newbies – and they tackle the course together because they know they stand a better chance against the terrain and their own weaknesses when they choose to not go alone.

I cannot do this alone. You cannot do this alone. World Orphans cannot do this alone. We're holding on to the grace of God, asking you to join hands with us, and tackling the orphan crisis one mile at a time. We aren't taking the "fun run" option. We aren't assuming this is impossible. We're in this for the long haul.

We're going to ride out the briar-covered hills, the snow-packed trails, the rainy miles, the blistered feet, and the relentless exhaustion. Far more than bragging rights and race medals are at stake here.

150 million children deserve hope. It's not impossible for every orphaned child to have a home. It's just that nobody has done it . . .

yet.

Join us?

 

 

 

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Take My Hand & Let's Work Together

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Take My Hand & Let's Work Together

We like the notion of doing it all on our own, don't we? In a nation that celebrates self-starters, independence, and the "pull yourself up by your bootstraps" mentality, we've glorified individualized efforts and often missed out on the vast opportunities afforded by working together with one another. To be clear, individual work ethic is important and there is–of course–work that only you can do. However, are we missing the bigger picture when we do it all on our own and forget about the incredible network of people that God has made available to us? When we tackle it alone, are we accomplishing less instead of more?

3 For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. 4 For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, 5 so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. 6 Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; 7 if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; 8 the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness. Romans 12:3-8

 

We often look at verses like these, smile, think, "what a nice thought," and then go on with our day. The idea of fully embracing our community of believers and engaging with them in authentic ways is a beautiful concept, but we often fail to pursue it.

What would it look like to embrace our role as the Body of Christ? What would it look like if we brought our different personalities, gifts, talents, strengths, and backgrounds together and used them for good? The global church has an extravagant amount of talent, wisdom, and resources when we work together.

153 million orphaned children need us to work together to find solutions to the orphan crisis, and the solution is rooted in relationship, partnership, and the firm belief that the Body of Christ is a beautiful, powerful force. We need to hold hands on this one. The future of orphaned and vulnerable children is dependent on the global church working together . . .

Until they all have homes.

Watch our newest video to learn how we can work together for orphaned and vulnerable children.

Find out how your church can get involved in Church Partnership.

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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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