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Practical Ways to Move Beyond the Heartbreak

One of the first times I can recall fighting with God was a real Jacob-wrestling-God kind of moment in a tiny village in Malawi, Africa, where views are spectacular and resort-like, but poverty is brutal and debilitating. Poverty shoves itself in your face and demands that you respond. Having grown up in a stable, comfortable home in the US, I had a lot to process. I had to wrestle through the confusion – Am I even on the same planet? – the anger –Why are children dying as a direct result of poverty? – the guilt –Why isn't this my story? Why have I been given so much?

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test vid 107

I was shocked by the world I was suddenly facing. 

Maybe that’s it. Poverty, orphans, widows and refugees–are we even shocked anymore? I catch myself frequently turning the TV off or scrolling quickly on Facebook or hiding the post or changing the station because . . . I don’t want my heart to break. I tell myself that it’s because I get it–I know what’s going on in the world and I know I’m supposed to do something about it. Don’t tell me the story. Don’t make me feel sad. I get it. Do I really, though?

Do you? Do we–in a society that promotes comfort above all–allow ourselves to feel heartbreak?

In some ways, I feel immuned. I’ve been on the mission trips. I’ve heard the stories. I’ve seen the pictures, but then, sometimes there’s that story or that picture or that moment I didn’t expect, and I feel real pain, and I’m surprised. Have we forgotten what it's like to empathetically hurt for one another? Are we afraid to hurt? Are we afraid to feel convicted?

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What would it look like if we started letting ourselves feel heartbroken? What would change if we, as Matt Maher so famously sings, let God “break our hearts for what breaks [His]”? What breaks God's heart?

God "defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the foreigners residing among you, giving them food and clothing."  Deuteronomy 10:18

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

"A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling." Psalm 68:5

"This is what the LORD says: Do what is just and right. Rescue from the hands of their oppressors those who have been robbed. Do no wrong or violence to the foreigner, the fatherless or the widow, and do not shed innocent blood in this place." Jeremiah 22:3

"The LORD watches over the foreigner and sustains the fatherless and the widow, but he frustrates the ways of the wicked." Psalm 146:9

"Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world." James 1:27

So, as we look at those who face poverty, orphaning, and every kind of human injustice, let us "weep with those who weep", but let us not merely sit in the heartbreak and the weeping. Let us use that heartbreak to spur us on to something more, something crazy . . .

. . . something we hadn’t previously considered. Adoption. Foster care. A mission trip. Creating that nonprofit. Pursuing that job. Taking that risk.

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Love isn't a word. Love is a verb. It often begins with empathetic heartbreak; however, it certainly doesn't end there.

Where can we start?

  1. Get educated. Learn about global injustices, how the church is addressing those injustices, and how we should be addressing those injustices in the future. Looking for some reading materials? Check these out:
    1. Revolution in World Missionsby K. P. Yohannan
    2. Generous Justice by Timothy Keller
    3. Love Doesby Bob Goff
    4. When Helping Hurtsby Steven Corbett and Brian Fikkert
    5. The Poor Will Be Gladby Peter Greer and Phil Smith
    6. Get involved locally. Find out what ministries your church or community organizations offer for the marginalized in your area, and get plugged in somewhere. If you choose to serve with a local nonprofit organization, be sure to do your research, verifying that money is being stewarded well. Consider helping with:
      1. After-school programs and programs catered towards underprivileged youth. (Your local schools should know what programs are currently available.)
      2. Tutoring and literacy training. (Find out if Literacy Volunteers of America works in your area.)
      3. Assist with job skills training and preparation in your area. (Learn more through Jobs for Life.)
      4. Minister to those in prison.
      5. Can't find a ministry that makes use of your gifts and abilities? Start your own.
      6. Get involved globally. You can get plugged in with a variety of international ministries. Remember, though, to always do your research on how donations are being used. World Orphans is dedicated to using resources well, as we grow projects in 12 different countries. Opportunities for involvement through World Orphans are abundant:
        1. Start a Rescue Team.
        2. Sponsor a refugee.
        3. Get your church involved through Church Partnership.
        4. Package family care kits.
        5. Take a trip.

Weep for a season. Allow your heart to break. Cry out to God. Then, . . .

MOVE.

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Do Something

By Nate Livesay | Church Partnership Director

Almost two and a half years ago I stood looking out over a slum in Ethiopia asking myself what could I possibly do about what I was seeing.  The problems created by cycles of generational poverty and institutionalized injustice are so massive and complicated that surely there was nothing a 34 year old basketball coach from South Carolina could do.  I wanted a neat and tidy answer, a quick solution, a grand gesture that would wipe away my tears and ease the guilt I felt because I had never opened my eyes to what was happening in the world outside of my nice, comfortable, Christian life.   I wanted to change the world.

Over the course of my two-week Journey 117 trip with World Orphans the question in my heart shifted from “what can I do about 153 million orphans” to “what does God want me to do with what he has given me?”  It was without a doubt a dangerous shift in my thinking.  If I felt responsible to change the world and be the solution for millions upon millions of children I would quickly become overwhelmed with the reality – overwhelmed that there is nothing I could do about all of those children and it would be reasonable to absolve myself of the responsibility to solve a problem of that scale.  But when the question shifted to an examination of the time, talent, treasure, and influence that I been entrusted with by God, there was no walking away without a lasting responsibility to obey God's call to use my blessings to be a blessing to others.  I still wasn't sure what I was supposed to do, but God impressed onto my heart that he was calling me to DO SOMETHING to serve his Kingdom and to use what he had given me to make the world a little closer to what he intended it.

I'd been a Christian for many years, but I had never really grasped the essence of the call to be a true follower of Christ.  I had embraced a nice comfortable Christian version of the American dream.  I heard the scriptures, but they never came alive in my life.  I'd never had a life verse because I'd never really heard what Jesus was saying to me about the way I should live my life.  After this trip, those scriptures I had heard time after time began to come alive and I began to embrace truly following Christ wherever he led, and now I do have a life verse.  It hangs in my living room and I have taught it to my children and it helps guide me in the way that I live my life.

Isaiah 1:17

Learn to do good.

Seek justice.

Help the oppressed.

Defend the cause of orphans.

Fight for the rights of widows.

Back to December of 2011 - returning to the United States smack in the middle of the materialistic excess of the Christmas season was difficult and I was still struggling to find what to do with all I had seen and learned in Ethiopia.

So what could I do?  I could join the staff at World Orphans - something I did about 6 months later.  But that was going to be a long process, so what could I do right now?  How could I live out Isaiah 1:17 from Sumter, South Carolina right away?

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Rescue-Teams-Logo3

Our trip leader and Senior Director of Church Partnerships suggested that I start a Rescue Team.  World Orphans Rescue Teams equip two or more people to support the ministry of World Orphans by doing what they already do with people in their sphere of influence.  So that's what I did.  I gathered up a group of friends in my living room in January of 2012.  We had a meeting and I told them about World Orphans and what I had seem in Ethiopia and what we could do to help.  We met again in February and the group was a little smaller.  In March the group was even a little bit smaller than that.  While it was beginning to get frustrating, we had begun to develop a small group of consistent monthly participants who bought into the vision of using what we have right here in Sumter to help those all over the world.

Snapshots of our first Benefit dinner
Snapshots of our first Benefit dinner

In the Summer of 2012 we hosted a yard sale and raised just under a $1,000 for World Orphans.  In the fall of 2012 we hosted A Hunger Meal and raised several hundred more dollars, but more importantly the size of our group almost doubled.  With this influx of enthusiasm and manpower we began to plan our most ambitious event - a Benefit Dinner and Silent Auction for April of 2013.  The Sumter World Orphans Rescue Team was starting to roll!  The April Benefit ended up raising almost $6,000 dollars to help fund a project in South Africa for several months.  In June of 2013 our Rescue Team hosted another yard sale and this time we raised three times as much as in 2012 - over $2,000 came in.  In October of 2013 several members of our Rescue Team accompanied me to Haiti on a Journey 117 trip that resulted in our home church embracing the mission of World Orphans by committing to become a church to church partner in Haiti.

As I sit here typing this blog we are less than two weeks away from another Sumter World Orphans Rescue Team Benefit Dinner and Silent Auction.  I am thrilled to tell you that our Rescue Team has recently partnered with an extraordinary church in Cambodia and the first $3,600 dollars we raise this April will go to fund that project for the next year.  The funds we raise over $3,600 will go towards Wholistic Care initiatives in Haiti - things like regular medical clinics and caregiver training seminars for all 14 of our partner churches in Haiti.

You can do this, too!

Every time I have asked what can I do, God has answered.  Are you willing to ask him what you can do?

So, what can you do?

You can start a rescue team.

You can ask your friends to join you.

You can give up your birthday.

You can host a garage sale.

You can throw a party or host a dinner.

You can run a race.

You can do something.  You can be obedient to use your time, talent, treasure, and influence however God leads you.

You only have one life to live.  You can do something because you can do all things through Christ who strengthens you.

For more information about the Sumter Rescue Team feel free to contact me at nate@worldorphans.  For more information about how to start your own Rescue Team click here or contact the World Orphans Senior Director of Advocacy, Alan Hunt (alanh@worldorphans.org).

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More Than Enough

By Darci Irwin | Director of Rescue Teams

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

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

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

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

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

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

Each moment felt like more than enough.

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

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

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How To Get Your Church Involved in Orphan Rescue.

."We want to do more to help orphans. How can we convince our church to get involved?" This is the most common thing people ask me when it comes to my role with World Orphans. I have been asked this by friends, strangers, and even church staff! Most of the time these people are adoptive parents who are passionate about rescuing vulnerable children. All of a sudden, they are reading the Bible with fresh eyes and God's heart for the orphan leaps off the pages. They wonder, "How is it I have never noticed this before?"

To answer their loaded question, I always put my pastor hat back on; it has only collected a tiny amount of dust. I then remember all the times people came to me wanting the church to do something else. Most of the time what they were really saying was, "Pastor, this is important to me...but I want you to lead this."

I empathize with church leaders, I really do. At the same time, pastors (and I include myself) need to hear the voices of the flock they tend. Some of those sheep might actually point out where the church is failing to reflect God's heart.

Here is what I do when I am approached with this question: I tell them, "Before you approach your pastor, I want you to gather your friends and family; especially those who share your heart for the orphan (this could be your adoption Facebook group, co-workers, other students on campus, etc.) Together you start a Rescue Team."

Maybe your group will:

  • Sign-up for a World Orphans short-term trip (Journey 117) to one of our projects around the world.
  • Raise money for a World Orphans project by running a Rescue Run, holding a neighborhood garage sale, starting a social network campaign, etc. Our OATs that have done this so far have all raised between $5,000 - $15,000!
  • Come up with your very own idea that will benefit orphans and vulnerable children!

After your OAT completes the study and decides on an action step, THEN you take your pastor out for coffee (you pick up the tab, we pastors like that) and share what your group is doing. Your pastor will be encouraged to hear about people in the church who are proactively putting legs to their faith and will want to encourage you and your OAT too. Be prepared to offer suggestions for how the church can take next steps in the orphan crisis, such as taking part in Orphan Sunday, inviting a World Orphans staff member to speak to the church and church leaders, sending your pastor to the Together for Adoption Pastors Conference, etc.

Here's the thing…we pastors love to get behind people in the church who take action.

We at World Orphans want your Orphan Advocacy Team to succeed, and we stand ready to help you in any way we can. But you have to make the first step and get signed up!

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