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.
Viewing entries in
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.
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 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 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 Jeremy Resmer | Senior Director of Projects
I’ve heard it said by leaders and members in the church, “Our church focuses on evangelism and discipleship.” Or swap out evangelism and discipleship with other words like ministry, outreach, fellowship, worship, prayer, fasting, community, relationship, service, and teaching to name a few.
My position at World Orphans allows me to travel to several Majority countries and meet with pastors and leaders about orphan care and the church. As a result, I have tremendous appreciation for the gifts, passions, resourcefulness, creativity, and diversity within the church globally. Of course, like when reading a thought-provoking book, I get excited when I hear stories of monumental faith, supernatural healing, and intervention by the Holy Spirit. Each time I return home, like clockwork, I begin to pray for God to show up in my own life just like in Uganda, or Haiti, or Nicaragua, or like he did for my friend down the street. In fact, God is with us always during the miracles and monotony. And in my prayer for God to show up, I am constantly reminded of the early church.
The Early Church Teaches Us In Acts 2:42-47 we read that believers were committed to evangelism, fellowship, discipleship, worship, and ministry. All of these characteristics defined the early church, not simply one or two. Of course it was and still should be defined by all of these because it is a living, breathing organism made up of people from all walks of life with unique experiences and perspectives fused with diverse strengths, passions, and resources.
And yet, many times our churches are strong in one, two, or maybe even three areas. Without a system and structure to be intentional and balance the five purposes, as Rick Warren states, your church will tend to overemphasize the purpose that best expresses the gifts and passions of its pastor. This is all too common at churches everywhere. It’s not limited by geography or denomination.
For me, this is where my faith collides with my livelihood. James 1:27 can only happen when faith meets works. To care for orphans and widows requires action. The Word is alive and inspires, no it compels us to get up from the bench and insert ourselves into the game, to serve others and be compassionate. I’ve often asked myself, “How is it that pure, undefiled religion goes hand-in-hand with orphans and widows?” and “Does what I do really matter?”
Without God, we are all orphans - each without a parent. Without Jesus, we are all widows - each without a leader. We were created to be in fellowship with God, to glorify him and be his ambassadors. And only the church, through the power of the gospel, has the ability and the mandate to connect both spiritual and physical orphans and widows to God.
What Can We Do? So how do we do it? How does the church engage in fellowship, worship, evangelism, discipleship, and ministry concurrently while caring for the spiritual and physical needs of orphans and widows?
One way is through a church-led visitation ministry that supports and strengthens fragile families, single mothers, and orphaned and abandoned children. It is a family-based outreach that provides wholistic care for children in a home environment. After the earthquake in Haiti and several meetings with pastors, church leaders, and caregivers, World Orphans, in conjunction with the local churches, developed Home Based Care (HBC) to address the unique needs of orphaned and vulnerable children living with extended family and neighbors. Since then, HBC has been contextualized and embraced by churches in Kenya, Ethiopia, and Guatemala.
Here’s how it works:
- The pastor casts the vision and selects a committee of 4-5 volunteer members
- The committee receives training and creates a strategy and plan to minister to the most vulnerable families in the community
- The committee meets with the families, learns more about them and their current situation; additional research is conducted, and families are invited to participate in the program
- The Home Based Care committee visits each family twice per month, builds relationships and provides ongoing encouragement, support, and prayer
Included in the program is access to food, education, counseling, and home visitation by HBC committee members and discipleship by the local church.
The feedback by the church, the children, and the community has been nothing short of amazing!
“Home Based Care helps marginalized people find their identity.” – Ethiopia
“I didn’t know why the church was helping us. Surely, they must have made a mistake. We didn’t deserve to be helped. We didn’t even attend church. But I am so thankful and I give praise to God because he has saved me and my family and for the first time, we have hope for a better future.” – Haiti
Home Based Care Works! Here are some tangible ways HBC combines evangelism, fellowship, discipleship, worship, and ministry.
- Family-based care preserves and stabilizes existing families.
- Children and families are selected based on the greatest need. 80% of beneficiaries are outside the church (Muslim, Orthodox and unbelievers) and 20% are from inside the church. We are reaching children and caregivers with the gospel.
- Visits are based on relationship and partnership with struggling families.
- Home visits are done by volunteers from the local church and utilize resources inside the community. The program can be cost-effective and scalable.
- Treats orphaned children, widows, and other marginalized people with dignity and respect.
- Strengthens the capacity of existing immediate and extended families. Transformation of the families is observable and often includes a renewed identity in Christ.
- Elevates the role of the local church and empowers believers.
- Provides encouragement, sharing of the gospel and prayer for one another.
- Connects the family to the local church to be part of community events, children’s activities, worship, Sunday school, and ongoing discipleship.
- Builds confidence and inspires more people in the church to get involved and provide leadership in the community.
- Establishes a network of churches and church plants that share information, resources, and best practices.
In all my travels, I have yet to learn of another ministry within the church that is more effective at simultaneously building relationships, sharing the gospel, and inspiring people to get involved in meeting the needs of the community. I’m totally convinced Home Based Care plays an important role in the livelihood and growth of our church partners.
“And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.” May it be so.
After reading more about home based care, what thoughts do you have?
By Kathy Davis | Director of Wholistic Care
I am honored to be on staff with World Orphans as the Director of Wholistic Care as well as a member of River Oaks Community Church (ROCC) in Maryville, TN. ROCC partners together with Fountain of Hope Church (FOH) in Nairobi, Kenya where 24 orphaned and vulnerable children are being cared for spiritually, physically, emotionally, and mentally in the context of family and through church partnership.
Precious Emily is part of a loving family now. I will never forget the first time I met her. She was painfully shy, withdrawn and fearful. It was clear that the damaging affects of horrid physical abuse and grave neglect had impacted her ability to make simple eye contact, connect with others or feel safe.
Children who have escaped this degree of trauma are deeply needful of special attention, patient love, and persistent care. The trauma inflicted upon Emily caused deep wounds that seemed irreversible and impenetrable. No child should have to experience such hardship, yet this is the plight of millions of children around the world. It causes me to cry out, “But, God!” And I’m reminded that God’s eye is certainly upon them.
Psalm 10:17 - O Lord, you hear the desire of the afflicted; you will strengthen their heart; you will incline your ear.
World Orphans is committed to the needs and care of orphans through the church and to the wholistic care of children in families. It has been the love of FOH and their joyful partnership with ROCC that has actedto penetrate and crack through the devastating effects of abandonment and trauma. The love of Christ through the church has opened wide the door for children like Emily to belong to a family and experience the beautiful care of a spiritual mother and father along with others who participate in Emily’s continued healing and restoration.
I am preparing to lead another team from ROCC back to FOH where together, we will worship, pray, share meals, proclaim the Gospel, host a medical camp for the community, visit orphans and widows in their distress, and deepen the bonds of our friendship together. This is ROCC’s 5th partnership trip with FOH and there is great anticipation as we prepare our hearts to serve the community alongside each other in July.
One of the first faces I will look for when I to return to Kenya is Emily's. Caring for children like Emily is not simply pointing her 'towards heaven' but witnessing year after year, ‘heaven coming down' to her through the love of the church and the bond of family. This is a profound and miraculous act of God’s grace.
Colossians 1:18-20 - And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.
World Orphans wholistic care of orphaned and vulnerable children is rooted in the reality that lasting transformation for the deepest physical and spiritual needs are found in the hope of Jesus. It was in the sacrificial and lovingactof Jesus' death upon the cross and God’s power that raised Him from the dead that inaugurated forgiveness of sin and the hope of lasting restoration for those who believe. The Gospel was a historical event of Christ's death and resurrection and this redeeming love continues to act upon the plight of precious children like Emily.
Emily’s needs are being met physically. She doesn’t miss a day without eating and is receiving the nutrition she needs to grow. Emily is maturing in her relationship with Jesus and spends regular time in prayer. She attends a small private school where there is provision of tutoring and the extra help she needs to progress academically. Emily is receiving emotional attention and counseling in an effort to help her process her past and find healing for her broken heart.
Wholistic care enacted through the church is when eyes meet eyes, hands meet hands, wounded hearts heal, and trust is established through the context of loving relationship. Wholistic care is when the body of Christacts to serve vulnerable children spiritually, physically, emotionally, and mentally.
It is in the act of loving someone and reaching into a broken heart that I see the face of God.
How do you see the face of God in your life? What are you then compelled to do as a responsive action of love and faith? We'd love to hear your thoughts.
By Kevin Squires | Senior Director of Church Partnerships
America was taken aback in recent weeks by the sound of an orphan’s cry. Davion Only, a 15-year old boy in Florida’s foster care system, put on his finest clothes, went to church, stood on stage, and cried out for a family. I keep replaying his words in my head. “I’ll take anyone,” he said. “Old or young, dad or mom, black, white, purple. I don’t care.” He wasn’t looking to be rescued from foster care; he simply wanted what so many of us take for granted… he wanted a family. So, he desperately cried out for someone, in his own words, “to love me until I die.”
No doubt this story will continue to captivate America. At the time of this post, over 10,000 requests to adopt Davion have come into the main offices in Florida. Thanks to talk shows, news stations, and bloggers everywhere, Davion’s cry for someone to love me until I die will not only get him adopted, it will most certainly get thousands of others adopted as well. In many ways, Davion has become the face of the orphan crisis in America, where over 100,000 children currently “live” in foster care. But it’s his voice, his nervous and trembling voice, that has become the cry of over 150 million orphans worldwide. In many ways, his “Love Me Until I Die” speech was his version of “I Have A Dream,” a dream and a quest to be loved by a family.
So, that begs the question… with so many children around the world on a similar quest, what will it take to get these kids into loving families, especially when adoption is not an option?
For hundreds of years, orphanages have monopolized the global orphan care industry. With great intentions, limited options, and a growing orphan crisis, many churches, governments, and NGOs plunged into the business of running orphanages in hopes of saving as many children as possible. While we in America were desperately trying to keep up with the Joneses, those in the Majority World were frantically trying to keep up with the ever increasing issues of human trafficking, sex trade, disease, starvation, and a plethora of other causes that were leading to a growing crisis of orphaned and vulnerable children.
Amidst all the chaos, many of us have come to realize that simple band-aid solutions were prescribed at a time when complex wounds were gushing at an alarming rate. Somewhere down the line, without even meaning to, we replaced families with institutions. Meanwhile, orphans like Davion are crying out for families, not caretakers. They want homes, not buildings. They want to be loved until they die, not loved until they age out.
In hearing those cries, World Orphans is continuing to fight to keep children out of orphanages and in loving and caring families. We are currently searching for American churches to partner with churches in Haiti, Ethiopia, Kenya, Cambodia, and Guatemala to care for orphaned and vulnerable children through our family-based care model. These church partnerships provide education, food, medical care, and counseling to a growing number of families who are caring for children in need. By inspiring, equipping, and mobilizing local churches throughout the world, these children are able to remain in their communities.
Are you ready to join the fight? Engage your church in conversation today about partnering with World Orphans. For more information, go to our website at www.worldorphans.org or contact me at email@example.com.
By Jesse Blaine | Cambodia
World Orphans is excited to share with you the release of a new video ‘Why Not a Family?’ presented by Uniting For Children. Uniting For Children is a movement whose purpose is to “expand the conversation about the best ways to care for orphaned and vulnerable children.”
The full version of the video can be viewed here: http://unitingforchildren.org/video/
The continuing prevalence of institutional care for children around the world, especially among the poor, is a great challenge for our generation . Despite a reduction in the number of orphans in Cambodia, the number of orphanages increased by an estimated 65% between 2005-2008 . Let me repeat that in question form....how does less orphans = more orphanages?
The increase has continued since then. Orphanages are predominantly supported by foreign donors and to exist they need to keep bringing in children. Three out of four children living in orphanages in Cambodia are not orphans, they still have at least one living parent . Many children in institutional environments experience developmental delay and irreversible psychological damage due to a lack of consistent caregiver input, inadequate stimulation, lack of rehabilitation and poor nutrition. Institutionalization isolates children from their families and communities and places them at an increased risk of neglect, social isolation and abuse . Orphanages and shelters are a poor long-term solution and should only be a temporary and last resort.
The good news is that there is a better way and it works.
Family-based care involves keeping children with their own relatives (kinship care) or in loving substitute families (foster care). At World Orphans, we are excited to walk alongside churches as they provide home based and family based care for children.
 Uniting For Children 2013 www.unitingforchildren.org  A Study of Attitudes Toward Residential Care in Cambodia, 2011  Alternative Care Report, Ministry of Social Affairs, Veterans and Youth Rehabilitation, 2008  WHO, 2012 Early Childhood Development and Disability: A discussion paper
We love to see how our church-to-church partners in the U.S. are sharing their vision and work with the members of their church. Below is a post from Kathy Davis about River Oaks Community Church "A Night of Hope". A Night of Hope
On August 8th, River Oaks Community Church celebrated their second annual 'Night of Hope' coffee house. Complete with the aroma of freshly brewed coffee and delicious desserts, the body gathered together to see pictures and hear stories about our most recent Church to Church trip to Fountain of Hope in Kenya. This was a tender family night of worship and sharing. We heard from those who went to Nairobi about all that the Lord is doing through the ministries of our church partner. We are blessed to partner with Fountain of Hope as we seek to plead the cause of the orphan, strengthen the local indigenous church, and impact the community side by side for the sake of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Lindsey, a team member, shares about Fountain of Hope's Saturday Feeding Program. Fountain of Hope opens their gates every Saturday to the hungry children living in the surrounding slums.
A father introuduces his daughter to the orphaned children through our team picture.
We talked about the significance of prayer in our partnership.
The purpose of the evening was to rejoice at what God is doing through our Church to Church partnership and deepen the body's commitment in our work with Fountain of Hope.
"Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth."
Fountain of Hope Church in Nairobi, Kenya recently opened a small medical clinic and tailoring school on the church property. The tailoring school has six sewing machines which will be used to teach women basic tailoring skills so that they can help provide income for their families.
The clinic and school are just another example of the church being active in their community and showing the love of Christ by caring for physical needs.
By Kathy Davis | Holistic Care Lead
One of the primary ways that World Orphans cares for the plight of the widow and orphan is through our Church-to-Church partnerships.
River Oaks Community Church in Tennessee just returned from Nairobi, Kenya having spent 9 days serving alongside our church partner, Fountain of Hope. One of the most meaningful ways that we participate together during our trips is to help host and sponsor a 2-day free medical camp for the surrounding slum areas. This year we prayed for and treated over 400 people.
When Fountain of Hope opens their gates to the slum community for medical care, they are also opening the gateway to hearts that are desperate and longing for hope. Many are crushed under the yoke of oppression and poverty, struggling to work out how they might survive another day.
This time last year we prayed for a young woman named Jesente. I remember her well. She brought several small children with her and came in deeply discouraged. Her circumstances had resulted in a downward spiral where she was ready to end her life. She was literally about to collapse under the yoke of oppression and potential suicide. This memory stands out to me because she kept dragging her finger across her throat, saying “I’m done; I just want to die”.
We prayed for her, treated her medical condition and I noticed that she continued to stay around as we ministered to others. She asked me to take her picture and her beautiful face was etched on my heart as I returned home. I would not know what her future held, but I was assured of the greatness and mercy of God to bring help and hope to this dear young woman.
Half way through the first day of medical camp this year, Jesente returned through the gates of Fountain of Hope. She recognized me from last year, ran across the room, threw her arms around my neck, and exclaimed ‘I’m alive, I’m alive; because of your prayers for me last year, I’m alive’!!! We sat down with her and inquired about how she was doing.
Although her circumstances still remain difficult, this would be the year that she would believe and surrender her heart to Jesus Christ, receiving His free gift of salvation. God’s mercy and kindness led Jesente back to Fountain of Hope’s medical camp, where this time, she would find eternal healing for her soul through the finished work of Jesus Christ.
What an inexpressible joy to partner with Fountain of Hope and participate alongside the meaningful ways that they are living out the Gospel of Christ and serving the community in their deepest places of need.
2 Cor. 1:8-11
"For we do not want you to become ignorant, brothers, of the affliction we have experienced. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again. You also must help us by prayer, so that many will give thanks on our behalf for the blessing granted us through the prayers of many."
Last week, World Orphans holistic care team travelled to Kenya where pastors from projects in Uganda and Nairobi gathered to learn more about emotional care for children. The holistic-care team, which focuses on helping caretakers meet the emotional, physical, spiritual and mental needs of children, spent the last few months developing emotional care materials under the guidance of WOs resident counselor, Erin Musick.
The materials were designed to help pastors and houseparents learn how to better communicate with children on an emotional level.
"The workshop wrapped up SO well. Everyone was really encouraged, said they learned so much. They said they wished the training had been 5 days and asked when we were coming back," Kate Borders, director of holistic care, wrote from Kenya.
"And in addition to being helpful to their work with children, the participants have been sharing personal stories about how the information is helpful and encouraging to them personally as well. Everyone is really enjoying time together, it's very personal...people are enjoying learning, sharing, praying, encouraging one another."
This week, the team is traveling to actual project sites to answer individualized questions and help the caregivers begin to implement their new emotional care skills.
Please pray for these caregivers and children as they pursue deeper relationships.
To find out more about World Orphans care model, check out this information about our solution, the continuum of care.
By Randy Phillips
The Church… isn’t she beautiful! Earlier this year I visited one of our church partners in Juja, Kenya with a team from Northpoint Church in Austin.
As our team arrived we soon found ourselves drenched in the beauty and fragrance of the Church loving, caring and empowering their city.
Day 1 we began to organize games and sports that would allow us to easily interact with the kids and be able to pour out love, attention and a bit of craziness that all kids need.
The church we were visiting was Fountain of Life, Juja lead by Pastor James and his precious wife Teresa. We quickly realized this place was the local hot spot of the city for kids.
As we shared the message of Jesus through games, dance and fun, we were lost in the reality that something special was happening among us, God was up to something.
Most of these kids were orphaned due to poverty or HIV Aids, yet nothing but smiles and dancing. One big party and everybody seemed to be invited.
Fountain of Life Church had beautifully engaged these kids with love, compassion and the desire to see these precious kids placed in a family.
As we looked around we saw something else that was beautiful, open doors to the church, open doors to the kids home and little kids with baggy pants and dirty feet, dancing from a balcony just beyond the fenced wall at the back of the property. So much life, so much hope, so much love… the Church… isn’t she beautiful!
After traveling to Africa with World Orphans this summer, Alisha Bowker said she will be changed forever. "There are a number of stories I could share, each that had an impact on our team and myself, but a specific day will easily stay with me for the rest of my life," she said.
During the 11-day trip, the group visited children's homes in both Ethiopia and Kenya, but the day that deeply affected Alisha was when the group walked the streets of the the Mathare Slums in Kenya.
"Being my first trip I did not really know what to expect, aside from the simple fact that this is one of the largest slums in Kenya-home to well over 500,000 people. As we began our journey deep into the slums I was met with speechlessness," Alisha wrote after the trip. "I cannot even begin to describe to you the horrific conditions these individuals are living in."
Alisha described the living conditions for men, women and especially children as "a place so dirty, crowded, unsanitary, chaotic and forgotten that no human should ever have to call that home and yet hundreds of thousands do."
While visiting the slum, the group met with four families.
"I had the privilege to sit in peoples homes and listen to them tell their stories, I witnessed families being torn apart by disease and realized how important good health is to the survival of a family in the slums. I heard a woman tell of her difficult decision each month to choose between paying rent to keep a roof over her family's head, or paying the school fees in order to invest in her children’s futures," wrote Alisha.
"As we walked to each new home the local children would run up chanting their hellos and hoping for a smile, a photo or simply a touch. It took all that I had to not break down into tears; there was such innocence in the simplicity of their requests."
But in the midst of the devastation, Alisha still saw hope. Through World Orphans, the local church is able minister to families in the slums by helping them care for the children they have. And many children in the Fountain of Life children's home in Nairobi, Kenya are rescued directly from the slums.
Other programs, like vocational training, give teenagers and adults the opportunity to rise out of their circumstances and care for their families.
"We then headed back to the church and had the opportunity to speak to a group of teenage mothers who are part of a new ministry the church is starting. The women will be learning skills in jewelry making and sewing, with the intent to sell their products to gain financial support and stability," Alisha wrote.
"I was made aware that for many of these women this new ministry is their second chance…Their moment to get back on their feet despite past mistakes that left them in such a low and forgotten places."
The vocational training program in Nairobi and the Fountain of Life children's home are only two outreach projects out of hundreds around the globe that World Orphans has made possible.
In March 2007 our team was in Nairobi, Kenya visiting several projects. During that trip our leaders went out into the Mathare slums with Fountain of Life, one of our church partners, on their home visits. It was there that we first met Mary. Last week our in country director let us know that Grandma Mary Wanini passed away. She leaves behind her 8 year old granddaughter, Eunice.
"Mary was a kind and gentle woman, with much love and hospitality for anyone who met her," said Mark Gumm, regional director of advocacy who met Mary on several occasions.
Mary and Eunice serve as a good example of World Orphans model of Continuum of Care. Over the last 3 years Pastor Gideon's church has been engaged with Mary and Eunice during their regular home visits, ensuring their basic needs are met and that Eunice is able to go to school. Now that Mary has passed away the church is able to make sure that Eunice is being cared for by her Aunt.
Pastor Gideon also reports that through the generosity of church members and others, Mary's funeral expenses have been covered.
While we mourn the loss of Mary we rejoice knowing she is with her Savior and that Eunice has not been orphaned but is being cared for by her Aunt and by the church.
We kicked off our new C2C partnership with Fountain of Hope last week by providing a coffee house at River Oaks Community Church in Maryville, Tenn. It was a delightful and special evening!As people entered into our time together, they came through and experienced a typical home visit in the slums of Kicheko in Nairobi, Kenya.
It was family night at River Oaks, complete with children sitting on blankets on the floor, small groups seated together, and the aroma of freshly brewed coffee filling the air.
This was a great opportunity for the team who went over in July to share more specifically about the individual children of FOH as well as unpack the specific logistics of how
the partnership will unfold between our two churches over the next five years.
We ended with suggested ways of contributing to this great cause by as simple an idea as one less pumpkin spice latte from Starbucks a week. We realize that the smallest sacrifice will grant school fees and basic care for one of the children.
Most importantly, we prayed, asking that by the power of the Holy Spirit, we would be gripped by God to consider the rescue of the orphan as we do this one child, one church, and one community at a time through our new partnership with FOH.
After sending a group to a WO home in Kenya, River Oaks Community Church in Maryville, Tenn. is taking their support a step further. Since their partnership with Fountain of Hope church in Nairobi, Kenya is relatively new, the church is hosting an entire evening dedicated to educating the congregation about the partnership and raising funds to support the project.
"Join us in hearing about our new partnership/relationship with Fountain of Hope in Nairobi, Kenya this Sunday night. It's going to be a sweet time in the Lord! 'Disciple making is not about a program or an event but about a relationship'-Radical-David Platt," wrote Kathy Davis, River Oaks member and WO staffer.
The evening will have a coffee-house feel and will include interactive exhibits about slum-life in Africa and stories about the summer trip to Kenya.
"Team 1:27 of River Oaks invites you to A Night of Hope. Join us as we see & hear amazing stories of 16 kids in Kenya. Enjoy coffee & dessert with us & be given the opportunity to share hope & love. Dessert & coffee served at 5:30pm with the time of sharing at 6:00pm," according to a public facebook invite.
A Night of Hope
Time: 5:30 p.m.
Location: 1220 Brown School Rd, Maryville, TN
After taking a World Orphans trip to Kenya, WO supporter Abby said she was struck by "the harsh reality" of poverty and abandonment. On her blog, she wrote:
"Boys will be boys. Amidst the garbage heap surrounding & engulfing this slum, these four boys are being boys.
They are little hams posing for the camera as a mzungu snaps their picture.
But the harsh reality is that these boys are not in school. It was a regular school day, but yet as we walked through the slums it was common to see school age children running around.
The harsh reality is seeing toddlers dig through these trash heaps. The harsh reality is that cattle also dig and eat from the garage and later are killed for dinner.
The harsh reality is behind the patched together metal walls people brew homemade liquors thinking that is how God is providing income (It isn't, trust me). The harsh reality is parents (both moms and dads) are abandoning their children.
As a result of that abandonment, children are vulnerable. Girls as young as 11 find themselves taken advantage of and often become pregnant or a slave to prostitution."
But in the midst of the devastation, Abby saw hope in a World Orphans home.
"The truth is we can make a difference. Western churches can make a difference. How? By partnering (or having a relationship with) an indigenous church across the globe.
Indigenous churches around the world are caring for orphans in slum & impoverished communities, often with little to no resources.
They are providing home based care to keep kids united with families, providing small family like homes for the most vulnerable children, providing feeding programs, providing care, support, and micro finance loans to widows and families whom are HIV+.
How it works is pretty simple. The organization, World Orphans, facilitates relationships between Western churches and indigenous churches.
Western churches provide financial support for orphan homes or home based care (via World Orphans) with the goal to become self-sustaining, thus eliminating an atmosphere of dependence on the Western Church. The Western Church also visits the church partner, serving alongside them in ministry. Both are mutually edified.
From my own personal experience I can say that I came away from these trips encouraged to be more involved in my own community (future blog post answering the question "Well what about the poor here in the US?). I learned so much about sacrificial living from the people that I served with in Kenya.
There is hope. We can't do everything, but we can do something. Multiply people & churches doing *something* breaks the orphan cycle, the number of orphans decrease, communities, churches, and lives are changed. And you just might find yourself changed in the process.
You have one life. Do something."
Though this WO home in Kenya is fully funded, there are a number of children's homes around the world that still need financial support.
On Tuesday, August 17th, nearly a dozen women gathered in their friends home for a Silpada Jewelry show with representative Kym Erickson. What made this show unique was that Erickson donated her profits to World Orphans.
About a dozen women gathered in the home of Tara Webb in Grand Rapids, Mich. As part of Erickson's presentation World Orphans Advocate Randy Phillips was able to talk about his recent trip to Kenya and share the story of one family he met on his journey that especially touched his life.
The guests then had time to peruse the jewelry and place orders through Erickson. Not only was it a fun night but approximately $200 was raised and one of the guests signed up to host her own fundraiser party. The hostess can choose which World Orphans project she wants her party funds to go toward.
"It gives me a purpose to be able to help those who have so little when we here have so much," said Erickson. "I'm bringing joy to women here in America by making them look pretty and feel good about themselves while enjoying a night out from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. With a small purchase of jewelry they can help out with medication, education, and food for a family."
Host Tara Webb, Randy Phillips, Jen Phillips and Silpada Rep Kym Erickson stand in front of the jewelry display at Tara's home.
Erickson is a great example of how advocates can use their existing business and/or hobbies to support the orphan and the widow.