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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In a perfect world—a world we dream about frequently—these words would never have to be uttered. Children would have homes, healthy families, and environments within which to thrive.
Tacy: When did you move to Guatemala?
Chris: October 2015.
Tacy: What prompted you and your wife to pursue that in the first place? Where did the heart for Guatemala come from?
Chris: Lauren and I both began attending Colorado State University. I started as a freshman. She was a sophomore when she transferred to CSU. We started dating halfway through my sophomore year.
After we graduated, Lauren and I got married in 2012, and missions had been an ongoing conversation. I remember approaching my pastor shortly after we were married and saying, "I'm really unhappy with my job." He asked us to do a couple StrengthsFinder tests and things like that to get a better idea of who were as a couple and who we were as individuals, and I sat on that for about a year. Lauren and I continued praying about it, continued thinking about it, and we started to have this idea that we didn't want to live on our provision anymore. We weren't really giving back a whole lot, but we were coasting through life, and we felt like we needed to start praying, "How can we live lives that are more dependent on your provision, God?"
We started doing that, and we decided to quit our jobs. Right before we quit, our pastor came up to us and said, "How do you feel about moving to Tanzania?" And we said, "Well, we don't know. I guess we'll think about that." (laughs)
Tacy: (laughs) That's a hard thing to answer on the fly.
Chris: Yes. So, we were like, "Well we don't really know what to do with this. It sounds cool. We'll think about it." And that was probably a few weeks before we decided to take a four month road trip across the United States.
Tacy: Oh, fun. I didn't know you guys did that.
Chris: Yeah. We wanted time to pray, to think . . . both of us really feel God's presence when we're in nature. It's away from the hustle and bustle of daily life. And I think it was a tangible way for us to get the experience of just how well God can provide.
We'd spent the better part of our marriage planning for this trip. We'd saved quite a bit of money. We had our route planned out. We had our vehicles stocked. We had all the gear we thought we could possibly need, but two weeks into the trip, we lost our engine . . . We spent probably half our savings just trying to get back on the road, so I think the Lord really used that moment to kind of put us at a crossroads and say, "Are you really willing to pursue me? Are you really willing to follow me . . . even if it doesn't look like your plans are going to come into fruition?"
And at that point—when we were getting our engine fixed—we were thinking, "It might just be better to turn around and go home. We've lost so much money. We really don't know if it'll be worth it to keep going." After praying and talking with friends and family, we felt like the Lord wanted us to continue. So, we kept going, and about two months into our trip, we were both feeling kind of like, "Wow. This is awful."
Chris: We were tired, hungry, cold all the time. We had still been relying on our own provisions, our own plans, and our own savings to get through. We traveled to Alaska and came back down the West Coast, and we had mechanical problem after mechanical problem. We almost ran out of money. But we got back to the US, and everything just changed. The Lord had let us wander through the wilderness for awhile, and then he said, "Now, for the last two months, I'm going to let you see what it's like to live on my provision." And he started providing money for us from friends and relatives, places to stay, and random people would give us food. We were put up for the night in several places. We were given jobs picking pears for a week, and that earned us a bunch of money to get home. One family put us up in their Airbnb for free, fed us three meals a day, and invited us to their church and small group. It was really just eye opening. We saw what we could accomplish, which was really just depressing. And we saw what God can do if we just let go a little bit. So after that, we came home ready to figure out how we could get into missions, whether Tanzania or another avenue. During our time praying about Tanzania, we realized it wasn't a good fit . . . obviously . . . that's why we're not there.
Tacy: Right. (laughs)
Chris: Scott Vair goes to our church, and right before we left, we had started to have conversations with him and our pastor. When we got back, we continued having more regular meetings with Scott and Pastor Paul, and they really challenged us to start exploring opportunities in our community as well as internationally. We started serving a refugee family from Kurdistan here in Denver, and I think that really opened up our eyes to what it's like to be in a different country. When you're not from that culture, and you don't know the language very well, food is different, the way people drive, the way people talk, the way people interact . . . everything is just bizarre and strange and uncomfortable. I think that really set the stage for us to go to Guatemala in some ways. We knew kind of what to expect, even though you never can totally prepare yourself.
From the time we got back from our trip to the time we left for Guatemala, that was about two years. During that time, Scott invited us to go to Ethiopia to check out the World Orphans model. What we saw in Ethiopia just blew our minds wide open . . . that you could do orphan care like that. I mean it just makes sense when you think about the role the church has in the biblical sense and globally how they should be caring for kids and families. It just made sense. We took a little trip to Guatemala in January 2015 to check it out . . . three days on the ground I think. We met some of the people we would be working with, and then we got back home and started fundraising. We left for Guatemala nine months later.
Tacy: Can you tell me a little bit about the work that World Orphans is doing in Guatemala from a program overview standpoint?
Chris: Lauren and I hold different, yet overlapping roles. When there's a team on the ground, we're both functioning somewhat as team leaders. She's the church partnership director for Guatemala. On a daily basis, she is communicating with churches in the US and churches in Guatemala to coordinate details and communication. She handles family profiles, ensuring that those are translated. She works a lot with Jenny, the psychologist, to actually delve into the family situations. And then she's also involved in pre-trip planning. She follows up with the teams after they've left—finances, discipleship training, debriefing. She's got a very multifaceted job in that sense. And when a team is on the ground, I join forces with her so that we're able to coordinate teams well, whether that's her going off to do something with some of the ladies from the church and I do stuff with the guys or just coordinating debriefings . . . it works better when we can work together.
When I'm not doing that, I work day in and day out with Pedro who is our new sub-coordinator for economic empowerment. He's my right hand man, and basically our objectives have been to start savings groups, to start a youth savings match program in 2018, and to do this sewing cooperative that's been going on for two months now, whereby we teach ladies from the community to sew, to run a business, and basic things like hygiene and childcare, education . . . the importance of things like that. All of this we do through an organization called Women's Partnership Market. We oversee the project, but Stephanie from Women's Partnership Market has been doing a fantastic job of handling it.
Tacy: So, are these savings groups being run through churches there in Guatemala?
Chris: Yes. That's the plan. We may be tweaking things going into the next year, but the idea was to start savings groups in each of our four churches in Zone 7. And then after we had those established, we would start a new cycle in Zone 7 and a new cycle in Zone 18, but we may be tweaking that a little bit. Right now, we have one savings group of seven people, and it's a combination of two churches in Zone 7.
Tacy: I know we rely heavily on local leadership to speak into our work regardless of the country we're working in. How does that play out for you? How do you benefit from working alongside local leadership that's already established?
Chris: When considering working alongside AMG, I think it's provided us with an incredibly varied and diverse network of individuals and organizations within Guatemala that we would not have access to otherwise. From a programmatic basis, that has been incredibly helpful.
Working with the churches—the Guatemalan churches—their expertise within their own communities has been invaluable. I mean, these are areas that we wouldn't be able to go into at all because if you're not a known member of the community you may be targeted either as a resource for extortion or something worse. So having those relationships and connections allows us to actually do work. Even the different departments within our team offer different skill sets and advantages. Our psychologists—their resources, their abilities, their training in Guatemala, their community experience, and the AMG team of psychologists that they're plugged into—has just been an incredible resource for us . . . probably the best resource that we have.
Tacy: That's awesome. So, in what ways does that come into play? What are the psychologists doing?
Chris: They work with all of our families. Jenny and Auri are the two psychologists that are directly associated with World Orphans, and each of them handles cases with children and families. So, this could include mom and dad or the entire family. They work with them to help them process things in the past and things that they are going through day-to-day. Some is trauma, but a lot of it is simply dealing with waking up every day in these situations. Maybe last night you heard a lot of gunfire; how do you process that type of thing? Having that resource has been huge. I don't have the rapport with them or the respect in this area to do that, but—going through Jenny or Auri–I can get a feel for what's best for the community and even say, "Can you ask these community members what would be best for them?" This allows us to structure our programs to best fit the needs of the families. That's their role—to support those families in that way, but they've also provided me with the means to get these programs launched. They've connected me to the participants. All the ladies from the sewing program that are working with Stephanie right now are ladies from the local community that were referred to us by the psychologists—ladies that they handpicked and said, "I think this woman would really benefit from this based on the work we've done with her." So with their help, we're really able to cater our programs to what the community needs.
Tacy: So, what's it been like to live in Guatemala? Is living in Guatemala different from what you anticipated or is it kind of what you expected?
Chris: Ummm . . . it's not as different as I thought it was going to be in some respect. There is so much "Americanization" that's gone on. If you were to visit, you'd see Starbucks, KFC, Pizza Hut, Papa John's . . . lots of name-brand clothing from the US. Cars from Germany, the US, Japan . . . it doesn't look that different in some respects, depending on what area of the city you are in.
There are two things that have been very difficult for us. Finding community—I think that's partially because missionaries are often so busy with their work that it's hard to connect, and other times, those missionaries . . . the only thing you have in common with them is that they're missionaries, so all you end up doing is talking about your work and ministries, and it never feels like you get to build a real relationship. And then there is the language barrier. While we speak Spanish well, to go deep with somebody . . . or even to have this conversation where I can be sort of frank and vulnerable . . . to have this conversation with someone in Spanish right now is not attainable for me, or it's very difficult. So, that's hampered some of our relationship building. It's not stopped us, but it makes the relationships feel a little less deep in some respects.
The other thing that's been difficult . . . and this is just cultural . . . When you talk to Guatemalans, they're a very non-confrontational society, and I wouldn't say that most people in the US love confrontation, but we tend to value more direct responses. So, when you ask a question, you tend to get a direct answer unless it's personal, and then they may beat around the bush. In Guatemala, you never really know what the person is thinking. I'll ask a question like, "Would this be good for you?" and the assumption is, "If you're asking, you must think it's good for me, so I think it's good for me."
Tacy: And that's hard when you're planning out programs and processes.
Chris: Exactly. So, you plan out your program based on their response because you think you got a direct answer . . . (laughs) . . . and they're thinking, "I'm not going to show up for this because it's not really what I want, but I think that's what he wants." So, then you get everything set up and nobody comes. (laughs)
Chris: There's just a difference there.
Tacy: Earlier you mentioned going to Ethiopia with World Orphans. It sounds like when you went to Ethiopia, your perception of caring for orphans and vulnerable families was really turned on it's head. How has your perception of orphan care and partnering with vulnerable families changed since living in Guatemala? Does it look different than you thought it would? Do you feel like you value things that perhaps you didn't before?
Chris: Ethiopia really transformed the way I viewed church care—the way we are to care for families, and I think Guatemala has taken that to a whole new level. The churches here have been so effective in caring for their communities. And because of AMG's many years of experience with these churches, there's been this recognition that dignity is of the utmost importance when dealing with these families, and I think that's something I've really internalized. I think I believed it before, but now I've seen just how powerful maintaining their dignity can be and how detrimental it can be when that dignity is removed. I really love the way our psychologist, AMG, and our team protects the families. We've been really overprotective of our families, and I think it's helped me check my ego. Everything is done through the church to the point where I have very little involvement with the actual families. We want to show them that they have value to Jesus, and we're not going to parade them around or show them off like some prized animal.
Tacy: We talked a little bit about the challenges that you've faced while working in Guatemala—the cultural differences, the obstacles that you've had to overcome. What would you say you've enjoyed the most about working in Guatemala?
Chris: There's been a lot. I think, as difficult as relationships have been on a personal level, . . . we're really blessed to work with nine different churches in Guatemala, which means that we have connections with different pastors around the city, different committee members, different families, different kids. It provides this plethora of relationships and really has enriched us. There have been a few churches that we've really connected deeply with—their committee members, pastors, families.
When I was leaving Guatemala to go back to the states temporarily, I felt this weight. Even though it was temporary . . . just the outpouring of love on behalf of the church blew me away. In our context, we didn't realize how close these people were to us. We didn't realize that they had grown to consider us part of their family . . . the things they did for us, the prayers they sent our way . . . it was just mind-blowing. I realized we have become part of these families, and they've become part of ours. That's why I felt so sad leaving, knowing I was going home to family, but I was also leaving part of my family, too.
This may sound like a cliché answer, but the people of Guatemala have really stolen my heart, and I think they've stolen Lauren's, too. The battles they fight every day are things that I'll never ever experience. For example, Pedro. He comes from a small farming village in the mountains of Guatemala—the things that he's had to overcome in his life to get to where he's at . . . it's built such strength of character and perseverance and this rock-solid faith in God. You know, I get shaken pretty easily when things aren't going my way or I feel like I'm out of control, but Pedro pushes through it. I know he gets upset, too, but the reality is that his faith has really strengthened mine.
Tacy: I think for me—as someone who works behind my desk most days—this really shows me that the World Orphans vision comes into fruition. We talk a lot about how it's all about relationships, but at the end of the day, it's one thing to say that, and it's another thing for that to be the reality. It's very affirming to me to hear that it is the reality. It really is all about relationships.
Chris: And I think we have such an advantage in some ways. When churches come down from the US, they get this mountain-high experience, but they don't even understand the kind of encouragement they've left behind with the church here in Guatemala. They leave on a high note thinking, "We've done good for them, and we feel encouraged by them." But, we feel it even more because on our end we get the constant feedback from the pastor. We have ladies in the community saying, "When are they coming back? I can't wait to reconnect with them. When are they coming back? Are they bringing their kids? Are their kids going to be married?" They just become so welded together.
Tacy: How neat to see the ripple effects of Church Partnership.
Tacy: How do you see World Orphans efforts growing, changing, and expanding in Guatemala in the coming years?
Chris: I think that World Orphans is going in many directions right now in Guatemala, and I think all of them are good. I think . . . with the international team members we've added recently . . . we have the increased capacity to be able to handle it. We've got a lot of change coming down our pipeline. We added four new churches in May, and Sam is really excited about adding a bunch more in 2018, which is good. That growth is positive, and it's a natural consequence of doing things well. I think a lot of our growth right now is happening in Zone 18 because things are going so well. We've learned so much from Zone 7, that we started off on such a good foot in Zone 18. The pastors are very connected and they're talking to each other. The ones in the program are talking to others, telling them how great it is that they're able to work with these families now. So, you have additional pastors saying, "I want to do that, too." The economic empowerment—there's still a lot of things that need to happen; it's still very much a fledgling program. There have definitely been growing pains with that.
Tacy: So, for people that want to get involved through prayer . . . Can you give them some prayer points?
Chris: I touched on some of the programs we're trying to get launched in the next year. One that we're very passionate about is this youth savings match program. It's going to kind of partner with AMG in a way that allows kids—as they're learning about savings, investing, small business, etc.—to have a practical means of applying this to their lives . . . through a savings program that will be operated through AMG and a match program that will match dollar-for-dollar what they've saved to allow them to further their education, start a business, etc. That will start hopefully in 2018. It's been a slow process to get this going, and we need the Lord's guidance in this. That's something people could pray for for sure.
The savings groups—we really need to rely on the Lord for progress in these, for his timing. We really do feel like this goes alongside wholistic care and is—in many ways—the last step for families to start achieving independence financially and to begin transitioning families in order to help others. This program still needs some tweaking, and I need prayer for wisdom as I help guide this process. Pedro and I could both use prayer for encouragement, and reliance on the Lord.
A praise would be the way that this cooperative has been going with this sewing group. People can definitely see God's hand at work in this. Even though it's being run by a secular business development group out of Denver, they very much have principles in line with ours, though they are missing the spiritual piece. It's been amazing to see that even in the absence of that part of their curriculum, the women have started their own Bible study, and God is blessing them. I hope that God continues to bless them. The hunger that they have to learn how to sew and to start their own businesses . . . it's captivating. To see how so far they have been so committed, continuing to come back every single week . . . that's provided a spark of hope for us.
I would ask the people also pray for Lauren, as she'll be managing her responsibilities while also caring for our newborn baby. She's already been such a good mother. I'm just praying for wisdom for her as she navigates this new season.
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."
At World Orphans, we talk a lot about orphan care, but you may have noticed that we don't talk about orphanages. Instead, you may frequently hear the words "church partnership" or "family-based care".
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.
Those that are fierce are sometimes thought to be unloving. Those that are strong are often believed to not be gentle. Those that are brave are sometimes thought to be unkind. But this–of course–is not always true.
Yeshiwork's story is the stuff of sensationalized media, yet it's all true. As a child solider, she barely survived a battle along the border of Somalia–a battle which killed 75 people. She became a child bride at ten years old and stood by his side for 55 years . . . until he left her. To this day, she doesn't know if her husband is alive or not, as he could not be located after a flood.
Yeshiwork has suffered much, yet has overcome.
She is a tall, fierce woman. She is strong. She is brave. Yet, she is also loving, gentle, and kind, as evidenced by the little boy who has so clearly stolen her heart.
Moses walks into the room, weighed down by the heavy backpack on his tiny shoulders. He looks shyly at the guests in the room, yet marches over to Yeshiwork, and climbs onto her lap to plant a kiss on her cheek. A sparkle can be seen in her otherwise serious eyes.
She prays for him, believing he will be a leader. Though she loves him, she is not given to nonsense. Yeshiwork expects him to be disciplined in his studies and to attend the after-school programs at school in addition to his regular schooling. Without her, Moses' life could have looked so different . . . if his life had come to be at all.
Yeshiwork is Moses' grandmother, and without her desperate plea for his life to be spared, Moses would have been aborted. Conceived through rape, Moses was a sign of shame. Tradition dictated that, once he was born, he would be an outcast and he would forever be reminded of the pain that brought him into the world. One week after he his birth, Moses' mother left him in Yeshiwork's care. Out of humiliation, his grandfather left.
Yeshiwork had nothing but a tiny, defenseless infant. She was a warrior for him before he was even born, and yet that was only the beginning.
Believing it was important to "give him a life," Yeshiwork has loved him like her own son. Through the World Orphans Home Based Care program, a local church has partnered with Yeshiwork, enabling her to care for him well. The church's partnership helps to ensure that Moses is being provided for physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.
Home Based Care enables Moses to grow up under the loving care of the woman who fought for him. Without the local church, Yeshiwork would most likely have been forced to surrender Moses at an orphanage, unable to provide for his needs as a single elderly woman.
Orphan care, at its roots, should always be about strengthening families, both the families that have welcome orphaned children into their homes and those families whose children are vulnerable to abandonment. Through Home Based Care, families are strengthened through the local church with support, educational resources, and provisions for the child's education, food, and medical needs as is necessary. We know that children thrive when they are in families, and we seek to see those families stay together rather than be torn apart by poverty.
Yeshiwork has fiercely and selflessly loved Moses, a boy previously destined to be an outcast. It is a privilege, as the global church, to stand in her corner and celebrate Moses' precious life.
When words may fail, simple things like concrete pillars and plaques can speak loudly.
When new mother, Dayna Mager, poured out the broken pieces of her heart on social media, the masses responded. Her story quickly went viral. Dayna attended a worship conference, where a missionary spoke about visiting an orphanage while in Uganda. The orphanage, filled to the brim with 100 babies, was eerily silent. She was crushed when she learned that the babies are conditioned to stop crying. A small staff against 100 babies that become hungry, tired, and dirty at varying times throughout the day is a tough scenario.
Dayna relays the missionary's story, "They stop crying when they realize no one is coming for them."
Dayna continues by sharing about the change in her maternal perspective, no longer frustrated or inconvenienced by the sound of her newborn baby's cry, but thankful for that cry. That cry means her child is learning that Mama will come when she's hungry, tired, dirty, or discomforted in any way.
Babies need to cry. We need them to cry. Crying means proper development is taking place.
Stories like these offer a glimpse into why we approach orphan care in the way that we do.
Our Home Based Care Program (HBC) is a family-based program that both addresses and prevents the rise of the orphan population by caring for children in a home environment. Administered through our Church Partnership model, World Orphans partners US churches with international churches that wholistically care for orphaned and vulnerable children. These children are being raised by single mothers, extended family, neighbors, friends, or church members.
The goal of the program is to equip, inspire, and mobilize the local church to build relationships with at-risk families in their communities. Relationships grow through frequently visiting these families in their homes to offer prayer, Gospel training, counseling, and overall encouragement. To empower this wholistic approach to orphan care, World Orphans and US churches connect relationally with international churches to provide Gospel-focused training and funding. The funding for the HBC Program ensures that these children are being cared for wholistically.
Wholistic Care meets:
- Physical Needs – Protection, shelter, food, nutrition, access to clean drinking water, and medical care.
- Mental Needs – Access to, and support of, education and vocational training.
- Emotional Needs – Ongoing care through counseling and home visits.
- Spiritual Needs – Discipleship towards a relationship with Christ, transformation, and a restored image of dignity and true identity in Jesus Christ.
A child who has faced tremendous loss needs to know that his cries will be heard. A baby who has experienced tragedies untold needs to know she will be answered.
Orphan care will never be an ideal, flawless, beautiful operation because the very word "orphan" speaks to the loss, neglect, or abandonment that a child has faced. Though it will never be perfect, we should be pursuing excellence.
Let's create and support environments where a baby's cry is answered by loving arms. While we do this, let's continue hoping, praying, and dreaming of the day they all have homes.
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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.
Well, we're about two weeks into those resolutions. The holiday festivities have ceased. It's back to work and back to reality. The decorations have been stashed until next year (hopefully). As we dive into 2016, though, we'd be amiss to not rejoice in the challenges we faced, lessons we learned, and victories we celebrated over the course of the last year. Without further adieu, we invite you to reminisce with us as we look back on ten of our favorite blog posts from the last year:
- Jeremy gave us the opportunity to travel to Ethiopia, where we saw women empowered and children being given the gift of hope.
- We stepped back in time with David, as we learned about the heart of the early church for children who have been orphaned.
- Kathy ushered us through the doors of secondary schools in Kenya, where we met children who are not merely surviving, but thriving!
- We discovered what's different about a trip with World Orphans.
- Kevin taught us practical ways to deal with conflict.
- We considered the beauty in the brokenness as we reflected on the Haiti earthquake of 2010 and the hope that springs anew there.
- Why a home rather than an orphanage? We looked at that question.
- With loud shouts of joy, songs of praise, and tears of happiness, we took a closer look into Iraq and saw God moving in powerful ways.
- As Matthew guided us through the process, we considered what it means to love each other well, to abide in Christ, and to be the kind of father that magnifies our Heavenly Father.
- We learned more about the orphan crisis and we considered what the church's role should be in caring for those that have been orphaned.
God is working in powerful ways across the globe, and we are thankful for the privilege to be his hands and feet as we equip, inspire, and mobilize the church to care for orphaned and vulnerable children. Let's press on...
...until they all have homes.
By Bailey Kalvelage | C2C Mobilization Director Isn’t it true - “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35)? If this is the case, the giver in fact becomes the receiver - of joy, contentment, wisdom, and much more. Join me to peek into the lives of five US churches most often viewed as the givers. In this blog we’ll see how they have, in fact, become receivers.
Ladies and gentlemen, put your hands together for five fabulous US churches from Maryland, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma, and Tennessee. These faithful followers of Christ have partnered with World Orphans to lovingly care for orphaned and vulnerable children. With a combined 24-years of partnership experience, these churches will share how World Orphans short-term mission trips have impacted their own hearts and communities.
Our interviewees include…
- Suzanne of Lakewood Christian Church (McAlester, OK): Co-leader of their 5-year-old partnership with Eglise de Dieu D’Andullan of Haiti.
- Bethel Korean Presbyterian (Ellicott, MD): 3-year-old partnership with Eglise Baptiste Bellevue Salem of Haiti.
- George of Temple Baptist Church (Hattiesburg, MS) – Leader of their 5-year-old partnership with Eglise de Dieu de la Bible of Haiti.
- Kim of Calvary Chapel of Troy (Troy, MO): Leader of their 5-year-old partnership with United Community Methodist Church of Uganda.
- Kathy of River Oaks Community Church (Maryville, TN): Leader of their 6-year-old partnership with Fountain of Hope of Kenya.
We asked our panel of all-stars to describe the impact that World Orphans short-term mission trips, within their partnerships, have had on both the goers, as well as their church.
Four major themes emerged…
DYNAMIC IMPACT #1: Deeper Understanding | One can be rich in spirit, regardless of material possessions and circumstances.
“I think on an overall level, our eyes have been opened to what it looks like to live for Christ in a different culture. We have seen families, with little worldly goods, live a life of love and community in Christ… Personally, I have learned so much from my Haitian friends. God used a woman to show me that while her day-to-day life may look different than mine, we are both mothers just trying to do the best for our kids in the best way we know how… I've seen sacrificial love lived out, I've seen hospitality done well, and I've seen faith, hope and love lived out well" (Suzanne of Lakewood).
“The Haiti trips have given me a greater understanding of God's people, and have shown me what truly loving others is supposed to be like. I've seen how God works in the lives of people who have close to nothing, yet have so much joy. This has changed the way I view circumstances in my life. I always remind myself that no matter what I go through, God is with me and He is enough" (Danielle of Lakewood).
“[I have been impacted by] the home based care visits. I thought we would be a blessing, but I came away so blessed by them and their strong HOPE in Christ in the midst of such poverty...” (River Oaks Team Member).
DYNAMIC IMPACT #2: Lives Transformed Eternally
“Once a person chooses to obey God's calling to go, God starts His transforming work with that member. Obedience and submission lead to transformation” (Kim of Calvary Troy).
“[The trips have] made eternal differences in the lives of our students. Some have focused their career paths to social work, ministry, language, medicine, or civil engineering as a result of these trips” (George of Temple).
“It's made me more aware of other needs in the world. I am more thankful for what I have and have an increased desire to be a better steward of what God has blessed me with” (Brett of Lakewood).
“Tracey, who has been our team nurse for the past 3 years, never felt led to evangelize at our medical clinics. However, this year she felt called to spend time in prayer with some of her patients… She and her husband spent one whole day at the medical clinic praying and sharing the gospel with those waiting to be seen. They led several people to Christ, including a few Muslims” (Calvary Troy Team Member).
“Gene has been transformed from a germophobe who highly valued his comfort zone into a man who totally trusts God in all circumstances” (Calvary Troy Team Member).
DYNAMIC IMPACT #3: Hearts Stirred to Love and Action
“[The trips have fostered] increased motivation to act on behalf of vulnerable children - both here and there - by the significance and beauty of hands-on ministry” (Kathy of River Oaks).
“Fred has been transformed from a borderline racist to a man who wants to live in Africa. He now considers our church partners his brothers and can't wait to see them again soon” (Calvary Troy Team Member).
“Our ministry has helped encourage other members of our church to think and move outside the four walls of the church building” (Kim of Calvary Troy).
“The teams often return with a deeper sense of perspective regarding 'what matters most', increased faith in the God, increased passion for the fatherless, increased willingness to serve those in need, and an increased willingness to give” (Kathy of River Oaks).
DYNAMIC IMPACT #4: Authentic Partnership Within the Body of Christ
“Every year a team goes [to Haiti], it is really the whole church that is sending us. Even just in fundraising, we would not have been able to raise all the funds we needed without the support of our church in donations and helping with fundraising events. Every year we go, we add new people that are interested in going to Haiti. We also hold monthly prayer meetings to pray for the children and to get updates on status” (Leader of Bethel Korean Presbyterian).
“Short-term mission trips don't have to be about projects or about entertaining the visiting church or making us feel good about what we're "doing". Visiting your partner church is about people. It's about developing a relationship, loving and encouraging one another, glorifying God together. … We have connected with people in another country who were once strangers to us, but who are now our family. We miss each other throughout the year. We pray for each other. And when we see each other again, it's like a family reunion” (Suzanne of Lakewood).
World Orphans is blessed to serve alongside these rock-star church partners! We are encouraged to hear how Christ pursues and transforms willing hearts among those who have traveled on a partnership trip. We praise the Lord who has taken our simple act of visiting each other on short-term mission trips and created moments that will impact lives for all eternity. He enables us to love well, give selflessly, and receive humbly.
If you are interested in joining one of our dynamic trips, check out JOURNEY!
If you want to learn more about how your church, too, can partner in international orphan care, check out WO PARTNERSHIPS.
What a joy it is to serve together with brothers and sisters around the world to care for children!
By Scott Vair | President At the end of 2013, World Orphans sharpened its vision and mission statements to more accurately reflect the ministry we believed God created us to be. The change in language didn’t as much represent a change in direction as it did an attempt to put language to who we already were and have always been.
Our Vision: To empower the church to care for orphans - until they all have homes!
Our Mission: We equip, inspire, and mobilize the church to care for orphans and vulnerable children. Churches engaged. Children restored. Communities transformed by the Gospel of Christ.
Recently, I hosted Pastor Kanukolanu Sudhakar from Hyderabad, India for a few days. Pastor Sudhakar is a long-time partner of World Orphans and over the years has become a good friend. We enjoyed catching up about family, ministry, and the highlights of both Bethel Gospel Church and World Orphans.
During our time together, Pastor Sudhakar recounted the story of when he met World Orphans founder, Bob Roosen, over a decade ago. Sudhakar had been invited by a friend to meet Bob at his home in Colorado Springs. Bob gave him a tour of the World Orphans office (located in his home at the time) and showed him many photographs of orphan care projects World Orphans had started over the years, in over 50 countries. The pictures were of churches, and homes, and children.
Bob then expressed great sympathy about a story he had heard of a tragedy in India at a school. Evidently there had been a fire at the school and many children had perished. As he talked about this with Sudhakar, he wept, overcome with sadness at the loss of such innocent life. Bob was an extraordinarily compassionate man.
The meeting had a tremendous impact on Sudhakar. Pastor is part of the Acts 29 Network and has a passion for church planting. He is a tremendous leader, and is committed to seeing a church planted in every village in his state. And yet, he and his church were not caring for the orphans in their community. He explained that he was shaken by the fact that a man living halfway around the world – whom had never even been to India – cared more about the children in Hyderabad than he did.
Sudhakar was inspired.
From that day on, he became committed to caring for vulnerable children in his midst. He formed a partnership with World Orphans through Bob that has withstood the test of time. Today, his church cares for 200 orphans at 12 locations.
Sudhakar also explained that I too have inspired him. In 2010, after several conversations about sustainability, he started a farm offsetting the cost of caring for children by producing their own eggs, milk, and rice. Additionally, a few years ago I had the opportunity to preach in his church. I spoke of the beauty of adoption – our adoption into God’s family - the permanency and security we receive as co-heirs with Christ sealed by the Spirit. Sudhakar explained as a result, they started to rethink their commitment to the children for whom they are caring, that their commitment does not end when the children reach a certain age. These children are part of their church family, permanent parts of their family. They have since implemented vocational and life skill training projects for children in their care.
As President of World Orphans, I am grateful for our founder Bob Roosen. I am grateful he cared so passionately about the church, the orphan, and the expansion of the Gospel. I am grateful for all the churches and pastors he equipped, inspired, and mobilized to care for orphans and vulnerable children. I am sure there were times Bob saw the fruits of his efforts quickly, but even when he didn’t, seeds were planted.
Bob Roosen has an amazing legacy. He has inspired thousands. I am grateful his inspiration continues today through our vision to empower the church to care for orphans - until they all have homes!
By Matthew Hanks | Project Manager: Africa
Longing for More
In the midst of all the political talk and opining on Facebook about the Syrian refugee crisis, and as it relates to the recent Paris attacks, I’ve been thinking about how people wind up in lands other than the ones in which their genetics are tied. For example, what were the circumstances surrounding my Scottish great grandfather who brought his young family to the US? Or my Venezuelan sister-in-law, living in central Texas, and ethnically part French? This will no doubt be an ongoing thought of my Ethiopian born son growing up in Monument, CO … especially when he reads in the bible of his people’s ancestral connection to King David and God’s ‘Chosen People’ through the Queen of Sheba. For all of us, something different incites our need for an exodus, but at some level, I believe, there is a thread in all of us that is the same. As a follower of Christ, these thoughts lead me Hebrews 11:13-16:
All these people died still believing what God had promised them. They did not receive what was promised, but they saw it all from a distance and welcomed it. They agreed that they were foreigners and nomads here on earth. Obviously people who say such things are looking forward to a country they can call their own. If they had longed for the country they came from, they could have gone back. But they were looking for a better place, a heavenly homeland. That is why God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them (NLT).
We all desire a better country. It is written in our code. Whether we are aware of the longings or not, we are all looking for a heavenly city (see Philippians 3:20).
Two Cultures Connect
There are over 1 million ethnic Indians in South Africa. Brought there first as slaves by Dutch settlers in the late 1600’s, then as indentured servants in the 1800’s, the Indian population is a hodgepodge of culture that comprises South Africa. Yet, this people group has somehow stayed very homogenous and maintained many of the cultural practices, traditions, and religions of their homeland.
Earlier this month I took five ethnic Georgian’s (the state, not the country) along with a couple of cultural nomads to Durban, South Africa, where World Orphans partners with a church who’s congregational make up is almost 100% Indian. I don’t think there could have been two other cultures on this planet that share the same language but are more different from one another. Yet after spending two weeks with together, much to my surprise, Georgia peaches and Indian curry go quite well together.
Two Cultures Serve One Another
The Christian Life Center (CLC) is a vibrant and thriving church community strategically planted among the poor to minister to the people of the Zulu tribe in that region along with their own Hindu relatives. As a church, with a great force of volunteers, they take care of 20-orphaned children from the surrounding communities. Most of these children are Zulu children who were orphaned by HIV/AIDS. One of the world’s largest concentrations of “AIDS Orphans” is in this part of South Africa, propagated by the traditional Zulu practice of polygamy. The children live in four family-style houses and are cared for by “Nannies” who are typically widowed grandmothers or “Go-Go’s”. The church is led by Pastors Siva and Roni Moodley, who shepherd the church with great care, love, and do a wonderful job equipping the church members for ministry (see Ephesians 4:11-12). They also did an amazing job equipping us.
In addition to the Children’s Homes on the church property, there is a primary school, a bakery, a sewing/shoe making facility, and a coffee shop that the church uses to facilitate many types of conferences and events. During our time there we were given opportunity to serve and participate in all of these ministries. CLC has a great relationship with some of the poorest of the poor from the Zulu tribe who are out in the “Mountains” where they are doing amazing work bringing the love of Christ to them through medical clinics, delivering Operation Christmas Child shoe boxes, food supplies, and visiting them in their homes. They’ve also set up 'fair trade’ markets for the beaded craftwork that many in this community create to support their families. They have been given a piece of land and have a great vision to begin caring for orphaned and vulnerable children directly through building a daycare center that will also function for church services and other ministry use. Let’s pray the Lord helps them fulfill this vision.
One of the most meaningful ministry activities they provided for us was the organizing and facilitating of a 3-day “Grieving Retreat” for 44-orphaned children. There were eight of us from the States and we had 59 consecutive hours to fill for these children.
It’s still shocking to me how much a child can forever mark a soul in just 59 hours. I am forever grateful to CLC for the gift of ministry they gave us. And, I will never look at Ephesians 4:11-12 the same:
Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ (NLT).
Now That We’re Home…
Since returning I’ve pondered how different my faith community would look if we all lived on mission looking for every opportunity to help others ‘do his work’. What if the majority of our serving was to help others serve? Discovering the blessing in this will radically advance the Kingdom and could bring a much needed transformation to our churches. Often when we return from short-term mission trips we feel like we’ve found that ‘better country’ and that ministry can only be found ‘over there’. However, the reality is that God’s mission field for you, for me, will always be the space between our two feet. This space is that better country. And in times like this, be prepared for the harvest to come to you!
“Now may the God of peace… equip you with everything good that you may do his will…” (Hebrews 13:21-22, ESV).
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
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
by Kevin Squires, Senior Director of Church Partnerships In recent months, it has been hard to watch television or scroll through social media feeds without noticing a surge in brokenness, hate, and heaviness. Long-standing wars on race, religion, socio-economics, gender, and sexuality are finding new battlegrounds, where online crusaders feel entitled to use an arsenal of no more than 140 characters to attack their opponents without ever having a meaningful conversation.
It often seems that each tweet gives birth to a new “expert.” Each “expert” comes equipped with armies of followers numbering in the hundreds, thousands, and in some case, millions. While news stations continually supply the arrows of agenda to these so-called experts, the war continues… seemingly, a war with no end.
It is important to note as Christians that before we conclude that we are always the victims or, dare I say, innocent in this war, we should first heed the words of the Apostle Paul, who cautioned the Philippians that, “…some preach Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from good will. The latter do it out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. The former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition” (Phil. 1:15-17).
It is perhaps even more important to note that many Christians spend just as much time, if not more, slandering one another as they do reaching out to a lost and broken world. This type of assault is what I’d like to address here. In a world where it is commonplace to hurl darts at people who believe differently, with quick strokes on our keyboard, shouldn’t Christians strive to rise above the status quo? Wouldn’t the world have a better chance of seeing Christ’s love if they were able to get a glimpse of how we, as Christians, love one another?
As I have traveled the world over the last 20 years, I have spent time training pastors, caring for orphaned and vulnerable children, and facilitating church partnerships between churches from very different cultures. I have seen the Beautiful Church, preaching Christ from the heart of goodwill and shining its light for all to see. In turn, I have seen the Ugly Church, preaching Christ from envy, rivalry, and selfish ambition, constantly blending in to an already darkened world of conflict and hate. In retrospect, and to be completely honest, I confess to have played a starring role in both types of churches.
It has led me to wonder… As Christians, how can we better equip, inspire, and mobilize the Beautiful Church, while refusing to empower the Ugly one? How can we navigate through the complexities of our disagreements, disputes, and doctrinal differences between one another while still being “the salt of the earth” and “a city on a hill” (Matt. 5:13-16)?
To begin the conversation, here are five lessons (inspired by Mary Lederleitner’s book, Cross-Cultural Partnerships) that I have recently learned in dealing with cross-cultural conflicts. Perhaps these might help you navigate through some difficult disagreements with a fellow believer:
- Intentionally focus on what you have in common by finding any signs of encouragement.
“So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind” (Phil. 2:1-2).
Differences often jump out first, so, just as Paul suggests, you might have to dig deep to find ‘any’ ounce of encouragement. But when you find it, stake your flag in it and declare that ounce common ground for the Kingdom of God. Churches split, families split, organizations split, and racial and ethnic groups split, often from the simplest of things. The ones that survive, thrive on unity. They agree on the core truths, the importance of love, and they are successfully able to distinguish the sharp difference between unity and uniformity.
- Humbly elevate the significance of others above your own interests.
“Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others” (Phil. 2:3-4).
Control freaks, BEWARE! It’s time to relinquish it. When we approach conflict with Spirit-led humility, the Lord regains control of the mess we created for ourselves. As people, we love to measure outcomes, but as godly people, we value the journey. Lederleitner says, “Sometimes outcome-based goals might be met, but the overall toll on the Kingdom of God is worse than before the partnership began because of harsh words, hurt feelings, and lingering resentment and bitterness. It takes humility to look past our own needs and recognize the needs of others. It takes humility to realize we are not the center of the universe and our goals are not the most important ones on the planet.”
- Cast away your right to power and embrace the rewards of obedience.
“Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who though He was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made Himself nothing, taking the form of the servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on the cross. Therefore, God has highly exalted Him and bestowed on Him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth, and every tongue confess that Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Phil. 2:5-11).
Power can light a fire to anything, but relinquishing our right to power can distinguish most flames. Christ had every right to come to earth on a chariot, but he came in a manger. He had every right to speak with the roaring sound of thunder, but He often spoke in a still, small voice. He had every right to leave earth without death, but instead said, “not my will but yours be done,” and then embraced the cross. He simply obeyed the Father and His service was rewarded. Are you willing to set aside the outcome to trust God through the journey? Are you willing to let go and let God?
- Letting go doesn’t mean you won’t have to work at it.
“Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure” (Phil. 2:12-13).
Working through disagreements isn’t always easy, but it isn’t supposed to be lonely either. Sure it takes work, but the work is in partnership with the gospel. As a matter of fact, it’s important to understand that our desire to work out our salvation and to find peace and unity actually comes from God. If resolution were left to us, we would always end up right, whether we were right or not. Rather, it’s God’s grace and love that will see both parties through to the end.
- There’s a reason you were called into this conflict.
“Do all things without grumbling or questioning, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you will shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain. Even if I am poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrificial offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all. Likewise you also should be glad and rejoice with me” (Phil. 2:14-18).
Everything comes full circle. How can we better equip, inspire, and mobilize the Beautiful Church, while refusing to empower the Ugly one? How can we navigate through the complexities of our disagreements, disputes, and doctrinal differences between one another while still being “the salt of the earth” and “a city on a hill?”
The answers are found when we understand our role. God has long placed Christians at the front of the stage in terms of conflict. Christ was constantly in the spotlight of conflict because it was there that He was able to “shine as a light in the world.” He didn’t grumble. He didn’t question. He didn’t respond as someone from a crooked and twisted generation. Rather, He held fast to the word of life. He extended grace. He leaned on the Father.
And, in the end, He rejoiced and invited us to rejoice with Him.
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.
I 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.
As 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).
Clearly, 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.
Enjoy "meeting" the children from FOH and seeing a few photos from previous years trips...
By Bailey Kalvelage | C2C Mobilization Director Setting out to serve in a culture completely different from your own can be quite daunting. If the weight of this task doesn’t set in prior to leaving, it will when you start to pack: Pants or skirts? Long sleeve or short? I can’t help but smile thinking of a team member I traveled with a few years ago – he brought a suitcase so large I literally could have physically traveled in it! Options were clearly a priority, and I can’t say I blamed him as the granola bars he packed certainly came in handy.
What does it mean to be culturally relevant?
Culture: “The behaviors and beliefs characteristic of a particular social, ethnic, or age group” or “the sum total of ways of living built up by a group of human beings and transmitted from one generation to another.” 
Relevant: “Bearing upon or connected with the matter in hand; pertinent.” 
So, to be culturally relevant in short-term missions, we must act in accordance with (in a way appropriate to) the behaviors and beliefs characteristic of the people group we are serving.
But how do we do this? How can we be culturally relevant on a short-term mission trip?
Study the culture and people you will encounter. Doing so will enable you to learn much, before you even leave your house. Researching topics like the history of the country or city, the do’s and don’ts of clothing and conversation, traditional food and greetings, or types of things that might offend are all worth your time. Understand and anticipate these topics, and you will be sure to act, speak, pack, and love well.
For instance, “In Benin (Nigeria), they snap fingers before shaking hands as greetings, and say Nde Ewo (hello).”  There are so many fun ways, outside of shaking hands, with which people greet another! And while knowing how to say “hello” is fun, this and other pertinent cultural facts will also communicate respect and love for those you intend to serve.
- Rely on your friends!
Build a solid relationship with a partner indigenous to the culture at-hand so your team is prepared for successful cultural relativity. When you cultivate open communication with someone who lives in the community year-round, you can give them permission to speak honestly with you about do’s and don’ts as you serve together. This way, even if you get it wrong, you’ll be able to correct your future behavior and will be one step closer to people being able to receive your message and acts of love without interference.
For example, a team member from a World Orphans US church partner wore shirts that exposed tattoos on his arms without knowing what it communicated to those he was serving. Although in Nicaragua the tattoos themselves were not offensive, they did communicate disrespect. All was not lost though! Because the US church has a healthy relationship with the Nicaraguan church pastor, he was able to communicate the cultural faux-pas; as a result, the team member was better informed and able to be culturally appropriate.
- Be humble and flexible!
It doesn’t matter how many indigenous friends you have if you are not willing to take a back seat and follow their lead. James 1:19 says, “…everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak…” Choose to be a student of the culture before and especially during your trip. This will open your eyes to appropriate mannerisms and speech throughout your trip. Remember, much of what you communicate will not come out of your mouth!
Also, if your short-term trip is to a culture very different from your own, you may be met with feelings of being out of control, which can be very scary and tiring. To help ensure you remain culturally relevant even when uncomfortable, resolve to stay flexible throughout your trip. Be willing to try new cuisine or change plans at a moment’s notice and you will be much more ready to relate culturally and minister with a full and loving heart.
There is value in returning to the same location time, after time, after time. Whether you are a team member or leader, choosing to serve alongside the same partners and in the same community, year after year, will help you become an expert student of the culture and therefore further the impact of your short-term mission.
This kind of focused connection is what World Orphans partnership is all about. By choosing to partner long-term, yearly trips become the building blocks to stronger relationships and more effective ministry. As a result, partners are well equipped to care for children and their communities, plus teams are equipped to be culturally relevant, helping to further the Gospel, not squash it - yet another benefit of church partnership.
No matter where you choose to serve and receive, being culturally relevant is key to effectiveness on a short-term mission.
This list is by no means exhaustive. We’d love to hear from you - how do you think we can work to be culturally relevant on short-term mission trips?
by Amie Martin | Journey Trip Mobilization Director Being the new Journey Trip Mobilization Director for World Orphans, I am given the wonderful opportunity to hear testimonies from all over the world. It is exciting to hear all God has done in people’s lives, and all He continues to do as they take the next step and go on a World Orphans Journey Trip. They will see firsthand how orphans are impacted around the world by partnering churches together for the glory of God. One of the beauties of being part of this process is journeying with them as they discover what the Lord will do through the seed of a Journey Trip.
What is a Journey Trip? Journey Trips, a ministry of World Orphans, exists to encourage, educate, and empower individuals to be lifelong orphan advocates, in response to God's command in Isaiah 1:17 to defend the oppressed and to take up the cause of the fatherless. Journey Trips are designed within World Orphans ongoing Church Partnerships to educate both individuals, and the church, to care for orphans.
Going will certainly change your life! Though you will see, hear, feel, and encounter the brokenness God sees every day, I think going will change your life because you will experience the joy of being included in God’s work. Everyone can benefit from a short-term mission trip in the context of long-term partnership.
Listen to how the lives of three Journey Trip members were changed by Christ after going on a trip. This is what the LORD showed them.
1) A Changed Worldview
“Well for one it opened my eyes to the fact that what I stress over is really just a First World problem. There are so many things out there that we make such a big deal about. Having gone to Haiti just makes me want to say, “Really? We are going to complain about that?” It just gave me a better worldview outside of myself, including the things that I find comfortable. I have wrestled with why we have so much and others have so little.” - Wendy Booth
2) Evaluating the Use of Time & Resources
"God allowed us to minister in Haiti so we'd get over ourselves. For me that was a huge part of it. I am so much more intentional about what I say, what I spend, and am intentionally giving every moment of every day into His hands to be His vessel - whether it is going to the gas station or sitting with someone who's dying -if it matters to Jesus it must matter to me.” - Toni Holtzman
3) Building Long-Term Relationships
“The trip made me realize how much our attempts to "help" and "minister" to the least of these really just hurts them more or barely scratches the surface of the problem. So many factors have to be accounted for when attempting to help a refugee, homeless person, single mother, etc. We are so tempted to put a band aid on the issue but aren't willing to get dirty and scrape the wound out. I've been challenged since returning home to dig deeper into those "dirty" relationships by taking time to get to know the person and the heart of the issue before giving them a handout and leaving them where they started.” - Lilly Deacon
I know each of these ladies personally as they were a part of my Journey team to Haiti in 2014. They are now fully engaged in ministry and partnering for the sake of the orphan … for the sake of the Gospel! How beautiful that Lilly is able to witness the need for ongoing relationship when ministering to others, that Toni is able to consider each moment as it matters to Jesus, and that Wendy is re-evaluating things of this world in light of eternity. A Journey Trip may be one of the first steps in your journey regarding where God wants to take your life in advocating on behalf of orphans. He has so much to teach you about His heart for them. Join us!
Check out our 2015 Journey Trips: https://www.journey117.org/trips/. Registration is happening now!
By Lindsay Allen | Project Manager - Americas I recently read an article stating that a Gallup poll had been conducted to discover the world’s happiest (and saddest) countries. You might be surprised to learn that Guatemala actually ranked 4th in the world for happiest people! In fact, for the first time in Gallup’s 10 year history of doing the poll, all of the top 10 happiest countries are in Latin America. When I read that article, I remember thinking how excited I am to be visiting the world’s 4th happiest country, and what that culture might look like. The US landed at 15th on the list, by the way.
Knowing that Guatemala and other Central American countries suffer from a great deal of poverty, I was curious if maybe there were just pockets of really happy (and wealthy) people in an otherwise impoverished nation skewing the results. Today, my first day in Guatemala, I learned that the results were not skewed at all. This IS a culture of joyous, smiling people, but they are not relegated to the wealthy neighborhoods or the nicest schools. No, theirs is a joy that delights in one another and not in one’s possessions. (Which might partially explain why the US, a far wealthier and healthier country sits at #15.)
Now I have seen beautiful relationships and pure joy in each of the countries and cultures I’ve visited. So in that regard, Guatemala is not unique. But what IS unique (from my perspective) is how quickly and easily these relationships are built. I typically feel like there is a barrier of trust between locals and American visitors (and rightfully so in some cases). It usually takes some time to overcome that hurdle of trust before a relationship even becomes a possibility. From my one day’s worth of visiting in Guatemala, they seem to be a culture much more open to cross-cultural relations. I’ve also loved seeing so many people, of all ages, assist and encourage one another and show humility to one another in everyday, mundane activities.
When you are aware of the hardships many Guatemalans face, their joy becomes even more beautiful. Our first stop this morning was at the city dump. Chad, our ministry partner director here, said that this is the largest dump in Central America and maybe even South America. Thousands upon thousands of people “make a living” from the dump. Whether it’s driving trucks, digging through garbage for recyclables, or panning in raw sewage for valuable items, many people rely on the dump for survival.
It’s difficult seeing (and smelling) this place and imagining what life is like for these people. Chad shared a testimony of one man who used to work in the dump, who said, “When I was working and living there, I felt like I was garbage.” It’s easy to see why. Thousands of families live in a village right next to the dump, many of which have homes perched on a cliffside overlooking it, where they are in danger of mudslides. This is where almost all of the kids in the school we visited (run by our partner, AMG) live, and the majority of their parents work in the dump.
We also learned about the outrageous amount of violence that occurs in Guatemala City. Here, 94% of violent crimes go unprosecuted. And of the remaining 6% that do get investigated and possibly go to trial, many criminals can bribe their way out of jail. That’s how broken the system is. Gangs and organized crime are the main culprits of the violence. Chad said he sees dead bodies almost monthly. That’s a chilling thing to think about. This crime and violence is in large part due to the civil war that tore apart Guatemala for years.
In spite of all we learned this morning about Guatemala’s tumultuous history and the sobering realty of life in the city dump, our afternoon was spent learning about all the GOOD that AMG and World Orphans is doing together in the community, and we even got to spend some time laughing and playing with kids.
I really enjoyed getting to know more about AMG and how they impact the community. They have a wonderful staff that I’m very excited to have the privilege of working alongside. On our team, there are a couple US pastors who are considered partnering with one of our Guatemalan churches. We were able to share a bit with them about what partnership looks like and how it works. Please be in prayer that the Lord leads US churches to partner with our Guatemalan churches!
While we were meeting, the band members on our team (for the two bands Bluetree and the Informants) did a radio interview. Afterwards, the PLAN was for us to grab a quick fast food dinner, then the bus would pick up a few families that were waiting at the AMG headquarters, and we would all meet at Sender De La Cruz, the church where Bluetree would be performing a concert, and also serve pizza to the families.
Well…things never go according to plan on mission trips. Our quick fast food dinner turned into an hour and a half because they struggled to get 33 orders right (and who can blame them?). So we were running late. And then one of the band guys discovered their laptop with their tracks was back at the guesthouse. And Rachel (another AMG worker who was guiding along with Chad) had to leave to pick up pizzas. And some of us still didn’t have our food. And then they overcharged us. And the bus left with the band and their team members, but got lost and the driver wouldn’t answer his phone. And so they couldn’t pick up the families. So we crammed like 15 children into our van that seats 7, along with all the pizzas. And we got to the church about an hour late. And my goodness it was like everything that could go wrong was!
But in spite of all of the craziness and the errors and the messed up plans, God knows what He is doing. We still had a great concert and time of worship. The church was packed. And I loved hearing everyone singing along to the worship songs, each person in their own language. It was beautiful.