I earnestly believe that God is working in Guatemala in an amazing way, and I am excited that I get to be part of his work. It’s a joy to nurture families to health, equipping them to be instruments of God grounded in the Bible—to show compassion, love, and protection to vulnerable children.
Viewing entries tagged
"I never loved you and everything is your fault. Don't expect anyone to love you if your own mother can't."
Those were the last words out of his mother's mouth before David was launched into the foster care system. It was a couple days after his 10th birthday and, to say the least, he'd had a difficult first decade.
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.
CONTACT THE AUTHOR
World Orphans is not an adoption agency; however, we love the foster and adoptive families represented through our staff, donors, and communities. We rally behind your efforts to champion the cause of vulnerable and orphaned children. Sometimes it's hard though, isn't it? Sometimes it looks like this:
"I hate you. You're not even my real mom. You can't tell me what to do."
She wanted to pick up the explosive words that had seemingly shattered the fragile air into splintering shards of glass, but she couldn't. She'd welcomed him into their home over a year ago, with high hopes that they would be laughing, playing, and enjoying one another's company by now. But, they weren't.
When Jonathan wasn't throwing words like jujitsu knives at Elaine, he was lost in a meltdown with the crocodile tears, kicking, screaming – the whole deal. This had become the new "normal" for the Smith family and it was taking a toll on everyone.
Elaine and her husband, Jim, were not new to parenting. They had three older children that were – until Jonathan came into the house – doing relatively well. When Jim and Elaine announced their decision to adopt, their biological children were ecstatic about the prospect of having a younger brother or sister.
Jonathan, the six-year-old little boy with the messy mop of brown curls and the deep blue eyes, seemed to capture their hearts immediately. When the Smiths looked at the pictures from the adoption agency, they didn't see the brokenness in that sweet little face. He was a smart, handsome, and jovial little man and the Smiths looked forward to calling him "son".
Adoption wasn't what the Smiths thought it would be, though. The pictures didn't tell them about the lingering effects of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD), the Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD), or the Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD). Maybe the agency rattled off those things at one point in the process, but how difficult could those things be? The Smiths had friends whose children were diagnosed with ADD and assumed it would all work out just fine. After all, Jonathan would be their fourth child.
The Smiths had no idea how difficult it would be to parent Jonathan. Adoption is beautiful, but it's also messy.
What happens next? What happens when all the things your parents did with you don't work? What happens when the way you parented your other children only leads to more tantrums, crying, and shouting? What happens when you find yourself at the end of your rope?
The Smiths' story is not uncommon. It's the story of many adoptive and foster families. It's the story of parents that truly care, but cannot seem to communicate with their new family member. It's the story that's being written over and over and over again, not only by adoptive families, but by foster and temporary placement families as well. What if the story could be different?
Mothers and fathers, allow us to introduce you to Empowered to Connect and the late Dr. Karyn Purvis. As Director of the TCU Institute of Child Development, Dr. Purvis focused the last decade of her life on researching and developing interventions for at-risk children. She co-authored The Connected Child with Dr. David Cross, and her wisdom has been ground-breaking for adoptive and foster families, social workers, and a variety of people working in childcare.
Empowered to Connect uses the Trust-Based Relational Intervention (TBRI)® model developed by Dr. Purvis. "TBRI® is an attachment-based, trauma-informed intervention that is designed to meet the complex needs of vulnerable children. TBRI® uses Empowering Principles to address physical needs, Connecting Principles for attachment needs, and Correcting Principles to disarm fear-based behaviors. While the intervention is based on years of attachment, sensory processing, and neuroscience research, the heartbeat of TBRI® is connection."
Connection. We all crave it and were created for it.
As relational beings we [...] have a deep need and desire to connect with those around us. One of the most important and meaningful human connections is undoubtedly between a parent and a child. -Dr. Karyn Purvis
Connecting isn't always easy, though, and we've found the TBRI and Empowered to Connect principles helpful in the Wholistic Care training we offer to our church partners across the globe. Families like the Smiths have found hope in these principles as well. Christian Alliance for Orphans (CAFO) President Jedd Medefind says Empowered to Connect "brings together some of the nation’s very best experts on what adopted children and their families experience, and how parents can forge deep and lasting bonds with their children, even in the face of great difficulty."
Education is important. Medical care is important. A bed. A family. A house. But, a home – a place for love, redemption and healing – that's really the goal.
It looks so simple on paper or on a screen, but in those difficult moments when the tears are flowing and the screaming is only getting louder, it's hard, isn't it? If you're fostering or you've adopted, we know the struggle you've felt, and we'd love to remind you that God's grace is abundant, his mercies are new every morning, and his love is endless.
Let's tackle one day at a time . . . until they all have HOMES.
by President Scott Vair & Assistant Middle East Director Tim Buxton
It has been almost two years since ISIS swept through the Nineveh plains in brutal fashion, taking control of Mosul, the second largest city in Iraq. For those who managed to escape to relative safety, the task of putting together the shattered pieces of their lives is often too much. The armies of ISIS are still in control of Mosul, and although the Peshmerga Kurdish Army, with the support of the US military and other Western allies, has retaken key territory in the region, the battle rages on. The possibility of these hundreds of thousands of Iraqi and Syrian families returning home anytime soon is an unrealistic dream.
One of the greatest casualties of the war with ISIS are the thousands of children robbed of their future, no longer able to go to school to simply learn how to read, write, or just have fun. Guns, grenades, and untold acts of merciless violence have stolen so much from these innocent children.
Realizing the importance of education, our team in Iraq began to dream and plan a response. What began in July of last year as a couple days per week of fun games, learning activities, and informal English classes for 130 Yazidi and Shabak children (ages 3-18), has now grown into a full-fledged school that meets five days per week.
Today, there are five teachers of mixed ethnic backgrounds and two social workers (who are Syrian refugees) that provide English, math, art, science, geography, music, and sport classes.
These classes are held in six classrooms on the ground floor of our community center, where there is also a library, a large multipurpose hall, and an outdoor soccer field used by the children on a daily basis. Students are transported to and from the school by bus and are given daily refreshments that include fruit, cookies, juice, and water.
If it weren’t for this school and other programs like it, these refugee children would be stuck in their camps, and likely be forced into child labor. Overcrowding and language barriers keep local schools from being an option for most refugee children. In some cases, the Iraqi and Syrian governments will not allow the students who miss more than two years of school to rejoin the classroom, forcing many students into the adult workforce prematurely. Without education many of these children will be left behind.
But, instead of losing all hope and missing out on their opportunity for an education, these children are now learning, growing, and dreaming in a caring environment. They are excited to come to school and their only complaint is that they cannot attend school more often. God has been gracious to give us this opportunity to make a difference in the lives of these precious children.
Unfortunately, our classrooms are busting at the seams. In just six months, the school has outgrown our community center. Without increased capacity, we will not be able to provide education for new children as we continue to expand our refugee ministry.
So, we are building a school!
Work is underway for the construction of a 16,000 square foot school that will have nine classrooms. The school will be built on a vacant area of land adjacent to our community center and soccer field. Not only will we be able to triple the size of our current student capacity, we will be able to provide more age-relevant education to the children, as we no longer have to combine multiple age groups into shared classes.
The community center will then be free to operate as an additional learning facility, providing various programs like trauma counseling, and sewing, cosmetic, computer, and trade classes.
We are grateful for all who have joined us on this journey to care for refugees and their children during these times. Would you consider joining us in prayer? Would you consider financially supporting this project as construction continues. It is both a daunting task and a wonderful opportunity, and we would be honored to have your support.
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.
"An architect." Her boldness and creativity caught me off guard. It was the sixth classroom of the day in which we'd asked the students, "What do you want to be when you grow up?" Her response surprised me because it was one I hadn't heard yet.
The teenage students were packed into a tiny classroom, and though their language was unfamiliar, the stares, giggles, and whispering felt very similar to the way a US classroom would feel brimming with teenagers.
The heat, the language barrier, and the mental exhaustion of the day was making us run close to empty, but we mustered up more energy for this new group. We began, as we had with other classes, by asking the expectant faces about their plans for the future. We heard dreams and plans bounce off the walls: teacher, doctor, nurse.
Esther* claimed she wanted to be an architect.
We began to talk to the students about the importance of not only choosing a career to pursue, but the importance of choosing their words carefully. We discussed how they talk to their friends, to their parents, to God, and to themselves. Recognizing the lies imbedded in the saying, "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me," we told them how hurtful words can be. But, of course, they already knew this.
When we finished talking to the class, we offered to take questions. Esther's hand immediately shot up and she whispered for what felt like 30 minutes to our translator, Davidson. In reality, it was probably less than two minutes, but have you ever stood in front of a classroom full of teenagers? They stare at you.
Davidson turned to face our group—me, Mike, DeAhna, and Shydonna—and he relayed the story of a broken-hearted girl who so confidently announced her desire to be an architect, yet deep down was considering being a criminologist. She'd confided in someone she loved about her dreams, but that person told her she couldn't be a criminologist, and Esther wanted to know what to do and where to go from here.
Shydonna in Haiti
What Esther didn't know is that our team was blessed to have the brilliance and heart of Shydonna Tossie, director and owner of Ampersand School in Longwood, Florida. Shydonna is an educator, motivator, and big dreamer, but most importantly, Shydonna's love for children cannot be exaggerated.
Shydonna communicated many things to Esther that day, as she encouraged her to continue pursuing her desire to be a criminologist, but the most important things she conveyed to this heavy-hearted young woman were hope, love, and confidence. The conversation ended in tearful prayers and the kind of hug that must have made the angels sing.
Esther's school was attached to the local church, and following that final conversation in the classroom, we went into the church auditorium with our group. It wasn't long before a backpack-bearing girl with an orange gingham top and navy skirt made her way into the auditorium. Her eyes raced around the room before she quickly located Shydonna. Esther, seemingly forgetting the language barrier, sat down next to Shydonna to rest her head on Shydonna's shoulder. Words weren't important anymore. Esther needed hope, love, and the knowledge that someone had confidence in her. She'd found that in Shydonna, and that was enough.
This is the kind of impact Shydonna makes every single day at Ampersand School, where she frequently whispers in the ears of young learners, "Somebody is waiting for you to be great." Isn't it fascinating how some messages need to be communicated regardless of the culture? Isn't it amazing to think that children everywhere are dreaming big and waiting for us to encourage them to fly? What Shydonna knows and what you and I may fail to remember is that education isn't just about education. When children learn and dream, they're setting a pathway for their future.
If you were to ask her, Shydonna would tell you she wasn't always this inspiring to those around her. As a college student feeling the weight of the world, she stood at a Christian youth conference in a sea of depression. Tears were staining Shydonna's face when a strange woman approached her and said:
"What you're going through right now isn't even about you. Somebody is going to come behind you who needs to know that you survived. That person needs you to get through this because they need to know they can survive, too."
15 years later, Shydonna holds those words tightly in her hand, carrying them with her every day, knowing that this woman—whose name she'll never know—changed her life.
Arguably Shydonna may have done the same thing for Esther. Words of wisdom. A prayer. A hug at the perfect time. Children around the world need to know that we're waiting for them to be great. Orphaned and vulnerable children especially need to know that the world is waiting for them to be great. Though their circumstances understandably may seem insurmountable, we need 153 million orphaned children to know that we're waiting for them.
Shydonna and Esther
At World Orphans, we talk a lot about wholistically caring for orphaned and vulnerable children, ensuring their physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual needs are all being addressed, but orphan care at the end of the day isn't really about orphan care at all.
We aren't caring for orphans. We're pouring into future doctors, teachers, and nurses. We're empowering architects, engineers, and mothers. We're investing in fathers, mechanics, and entrepreneurs. When you look into the eyes of a child, you are looking into the future of that community, town, and country. The child's circumstances may have rendered him or her orphaned, but that is not the child's permanent identity.
The second we start believing that orphan care is merely about orphan care, we've forgotten the potential that lies in those beautiful brains, the passion that burns in those big hearts, and the dreams that soar higher than the clouds. These boys and girls . . . they're going to be great.
*Name changed to protect identity.
Orphaned children haven't always been orphans. What happened?
By Becky Hoffman | Director of Rescue Teams Growing up. Leaving the nest. It is something most of us have done or will do. The time comes when we leave our parents behind and set out on our own. Free. Independent. Terrified. Some will attend college, while others join the workforce. Many will rent apartments or buy houses. Bills are now addressed to self, not parent or guardian. Though the process of entering adulthood is daunting, it is also exhilarating. Well, it should be.
Others experience a different story: aging out. An 18th birthday means it is time to go. You are out of the system. Out of the orphanage. Out on your own. Whether you are leaving foster care or an institutional orphanage, the process is abrupt and final. No one is required to care for you anymore. Your bed will be filled by another.
In an interview with Neal Conan on NPR, Dr. Mark Courtney, Research and Development Director of Partnerships for Our Children, describes the status of the former foster children he has been following into young adulthood. He says, “…less than half of them are employed at 23, very high rates of involvement with the criminal justice system, lots of struggling parents, rely on public assistance…”
Not a pretty picture. If that is what happens in the United States, imagine what it must be like for children in impoverished nations. The fear of being left to fend for oneself must plague the minds of many 17-year-old youths.
This does not have to be the case. In fact, it is not the case for the six young women in India who are cared for by the local church in partnership with World Orphans. These young women have a different story.
After losing their parents to tragedies, including accidents, abandonment, and illness, these women were brought into the loving home of a pastor’s daughter and son-in-law. There they grew up as sisters and formed a tight bond with each other and their guardians. Now, at 18, 19, and 20 years old, they have not “aged out". Instead, there has been a gradual, natural transition.
Each young woman attends university and they share an apartment above the church. After nursing school, Ujala comes home to help her new mother sew beautiful wedding gowns and sarees to sell. Aalia and Mahla have taken on many of the church’s administrative responsibilities. Each one has her role.
What is even more special is that Ujala, Mahla, Aalia, Heli, Prema, and Aahna* were recently baptized. Not only are they growing in independence, but in faith. They are truly blossoming.
None of this would have happened without the local church stepping up to care for the fatherless. It would not have happened without the US church providing finances for food, school fees, medical care, and other necessities. It would not have happened without three-fold partnership between these churches and World Orphans.
We love our church partners and praise God for all they are doing to show Christ’s love to orphans. We invite you and your church to jump in and be part of changing the story for orphans who otherwise would have aged out of the system.
*Names have been changed to protect privacy.
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 Kathy Davis | Director of Wholistic Care I just returned home from Wholistic Care Training for our church partners in Guatemala City. Following a full day of travel, I found myself pondering the tender moments in our week together. During my short drive home from the airport, I was reconnected with a friend who was in significant emotional pain. Attempting to see the road through my tears, I wept with her and breathed prayers that Jesus would be her hope and help.
My drive home was followed by a couple of hours with my oldest daughter, eating out of the same bowl of banana pudding and diving into anything I missed while I was away. Catch-up time with my precious adult daughters typically begins something like this … “So, my girl, how is your heart”? We processed through some of her struggles; shared some tears and then she paused and asked me, “So, Momma, how is YOUR heart, and what was the highlight of your time in Guatemala?” As I shared, she entered into the stories, landing both of us in another bucket of tears. As we considered the harsh reality of suffering against the sheer beauty of Christ’s redemptive work in hearts all over the world, how could we not weep?
World Orphans and AMG Guatemala Partner Together
I invite you to journey with me through an impactful few days in Guatemala City. World Orphans is honored to serve alongside the ministry of AMG Guatemala (Advancing the Mission of the Gospel). Together, we have the blessing of seeing the global church engage and care for the most needful families and children in their communities. The tireless pursuit and love of God, who came to us in our sin, is what moves us out of our comfort zones and into the lives of others. I often hear it said ‘the church has enough needs of its own’ but the Guatemalan church is busting through this paradigm.
The Reality in Guatemala
The sobering and tragic reality is that resources are limited and the need is great in that two thirds of the Guatemalan population live in poverty. Violence, drug trafficking, and sexual abuse are common and “In nine out of ten cases, the culprits are family members, and in eight out of ten cases, the abuse is committed in the minor’s house,” (IPS News Agency).
Adoption Is An Act of God
From the onset of our combined training, World Orphans President, Scott Vair, had all of the attendees roped in as he addressed the biblical view of spiritual adoption, saying, “Adoption is not an idea of man, but originally an act of God” (Eph. 1:4-5). The intentionality of God to reach mankind who is born into sin, provide forgiveness through His son, and adopt us into his family compels us to love those who are marginalized.
Scott passionately reminded us that ‘rightly motivated love is not based on how we feel.’ Rather, it is focused on Christ who suffered, willingly laying down His life, shedding His blood for our sins, and pouring His love into our hearts! Sacrificial love that is focused on the Gospel compels us to love because He first loved us (1John 4:19). Ministry that is motivated out of love is not an obligation. It is a privilege. It is a calling. It is an honor.
Every Story Matters
I have trained alongside Scott for years now. As an adoptive father and one who understands the significance of caring for vulnerable children, there is a specific and personal message he brings every time. It goes something like this:
Every time you hug a child, it matters. Every time you spend time with a child, it matters. Every time you tell a child you love him, it matters. What you are doing matters because children matter to God.
The simplicity, yet significance, of these words get me every time!
“But Jesus called them to Him, saying, “Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God” (Luke 18:16).
As I sat with my daughter, recounting the extravagant love of the church to engage suffering families with insurmountable needs, I kept coming back to the significance of what it requires to ‘enter in’ to the hardship of another. The struggles are real. The need is great. Time is short.
Whether rich or poor, young or old, every heart has a story to tell. World Orphans ministry partners generously donated 50 Jesus Storybook Bibles in Spanish, which we brought to Guatemala. Scott Vair had the privilege of communicating that every child’s story finds his/her identity and purpose in the greatest story ever told; God’s story.
Practical Tools-Real Hope
Hearing some of the painful situations that children walk through is utterly heart breaking. Children who live in the effects of abuse learn to bottle up their pain. They fade into the background. They suffer in silence. They hide. Taking time with children aids in unlocking a child’s story and helps to bring it into the light where genuine hope and help can be found.
I introduced a booklet entitled ‘My Hope’ in an effort to help children cultivate trust through verbal and non-verbal expression with their caregivers. In the context of loving relationship, trust is built and healing is likely to begin.
Saying NO to Sexual Abuse
I loved meeting and learning from AMG’s Psychologist, Jenny Barrios. Jenny had us all engaged as we were each given a red hand that says ‘NO’ and participated in learning a portion of what is masterfully being taught in AMG schools. AMG’s Child Protection and Restoration Program is teaching children to say NO, which is imperative because sexual abuse generally begins in children who are too young to understand appropriate versus inappropriate touch. With the use of a piece of yarn, children are taught that they have their own personal space that is not to be violated without permission. Educating children about the anatomy of their bodies and regions that are private is helping them to understand what is off limits. Teaching children to say NO is empowering them to obtain and use their voice.
Relationship Over Resources
You may ask, “How does one measure the developmental progress in the lives of children who come from extreme poverty, abuse, and neglect? How much is the church really able to do? What we do know is that care for the vulnerable will require relational engagement and specific attention.
The provision of wholistic care through global church partnership provides for some of the tangible needs of food, education, and spiritual discipleship. However, the measure of these tangibles may not result in their attending college or obtaining a lucrative career. Measurement is important and we must do everything we can, but I believe the heart of the matter is best expressed in the following way.
“The measure of success for children who have come from hard places is for a child to know that he is precious and loved” (Dr. Karyn Purvis).
I become more and more aware of the impact that is being evidenced in the context of family and loving relationship, one precious life at a time.
Wholistic Care Training in the countries we serve is rooted in ‘heart transformation’ made available through the death and life of Jesus Christ, which is continually empowered by the Holy Spirit.
So, to answer my daughter’s question, what was the highlight of this trip and how is my heart? My personal highlight was the tender blessing of holding a Guatemalan sister, who is serving children in her community, in my arms as she wept through a deep place of personal grief. It was an honor to ‘enter in’ to her pain. It was a privilege to weep with her. It was a blessing to tenderly remind her that God loves her, that He is good, and that He is binding up her broken heart … even now.
How is my heart? My heart is stirred by the vast opportunity that is right in front of me; wherever I am. Disappointment, struggle, sin, and hardship place every tongue and tribe on the same playing field. My heart is most present when the Spirit of God moves me to ‘enter in’ to the story of another as an adopted child of God, whether here or there.
“The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor” (Isaiah 61).
Though all is not well in this world, there is the bright Hope who is ever present. His name is Jesus. Families are being visited. Children at risk are being educated; but most significantly, hearts are being healed as the global church ‘moves out’ and ‘enters in’ to human suffering.
Jesus, Healer – be lifted up!
A couple of ministry friends who we were blessed to spend time with last week, say it well:
“World Orphans, and their partnership with AMG, has reinforced the principal of Biblical relational ministry. Seeing first hand the work and fruit of this model of mission in Guatemala City broke my heart and filled it, both at the same time. How spot on ... to come alongside, support, encourage, and build relationships through Church-to- Church partnerships that help local churches be Christ's hands and feet, a light in darkness to those in their communities with whom they will have a lasting relationship.” - Mike Yount
“Your wholistic care model works … is unique … scales … and is so full of humble and infectious servant leadership!” - Jared Faellaci
Questions to ponder:
- How is your heart?
- How might God be compelling you to ‘enter in’ to the heart of another and the ministry of World Orphans?
By Kathy Davis | Director of Wholistic Care
The question is often asked of children, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” I remember my well-meaning grandfather asking me this question, hoping I would dream big, work hard, and achieve everything I ever desired. I pondered various opportunities like becoming a nurse so I could take care of sick people or a flight attendant to serve others while seeing the world. I wanted to make him proud. I wanted to ‘become’ somebody. Individual success was marked by the professional path I would choose and how hard I would work to ‘become all I could be’.
Success that is marked by what ‘I might become’ has at times taken me down a path of discouragement and disillusionment where the fundamental question of my identity and purpose go unanswered. Understanding God’s story and His intent for my life has been paramount in addressing the fundamental questions about why my life was purposed and what it is to become.
“I, Yahweh, have called you for a righteous purpose, and I will hold you by your hand. I will keep you and appoint you to be a covenant for the people and a light to the nations” (Is. 42:6).
World Orphans addresses the fundamental question of its mission and purpose with the Biblical view that we believe what Scripture says about the church, the orphan, and the expansion of the Gospel. I’m honored to share a recent example with you.
Wholistic Care (a function of World Orphans Projects and Church Partnerships) just returned from hosting their first Haiti Orphaned and Vulnerable Child (OVC) Caregiver Training for more than 270 precious men and women who have graciously welcomed vulnerable children into their homes and hearts.
Wholistic care for children (spiritual, physical, emotional and mental) recognizes that mankind has value, dignity, and purpose because we are created in the image of God, and for God. We learn from scripture that we all begin on the same playing field. There is no distinction between nations, races, education, or economic status. There is no one who is righteous, no one who does good, and we are all in need of forgiveness that we do not deserve and that we cannot earn.
World Orphans President and adoptive father, Scott Vair, began our training together by encouraging the caregivers with the biblical view of orphans and adoption. Scripture teaches that we are brought into God’s family through the blood of Jesus Christ, resulting in forgiveness of sin, spiritual adoption, and eternal inheritance. Scott taught that we do not love in an effort to earn God’s favor but we love others because God first loved us. The outflow of our love pours from the love that has graciously been poured into our hearts. Following this message, six caregivers responded and accepted the gift of salvation and invitation to become a part of God’s family! This tender moment still brings tears to my eyes. It was a joy to welcome six new sisters into the family of God.
“But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ” (Eph. 2:13).
The caregivers willingness to provide for orphaned and vulnerable children in the context of family is a beautiful metaphor of God’s gift of salvation through Jesus Christ.
"In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose…” (Eph. 1:3-7).
The practical components of this training bridged the divide of cultures and degrees of suffering because the righteous acts of Jesus specifically address the heart of human suffering and need. The degrees of suffering from nation to nation are marked by great contrast, yet the hope for every heart remains the same since hope’s remedy is not marked by status, nationality, or degree of hardship; rather, our boast is in the Lord who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption.
“Consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” It is from Him that you are in Christ Jesus, who became God-given wisdom for us--our righteousness, sanctification, and redemption” (1 Cor. 1:30).
The OVC Caregiver Training included:
- Identity in Christ - The Biblical View of Orphans and Adoption - My Hope (a children's workbook designed to help caregivers shepherd the hearts of their children, work through difficult places, and find healing and hope through Christ) - The Biblical Premise for Child Protection - Physical and Sexual Abuse Awareness and Detection - Grace-filled Instruction and Discipline - The Significance of Oral Hygiene
Willing caregivers who have taken children into their homes are greatly commended. These men and women are engaging in the hard work of daily tending to the hearts and needs of defenseless children who were far from protective love and care, but are now brought near.
“It is not that we are competent in ourselves to consider anything as coming from ourselves, but our competence is from God” (2 Cor. 3:5).
What an absolute joy to participate in bringing the ultimate hope of Jesus and practical encouragement to the work they are doing through the living word of God. I, along with my beloved brothers and sisters in Haiti, are continuing to discover what it means to be created for a righteous purpose.
Understanding that Jesus became sin so that I might become the righteousness of God continually informs my identity and purpose as a woman of God and compels me to live in light of this reality. Jesus, who knew no sin, bore our (my) sins that we (I) might become the righteousness of God.
For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor. 5:21).
My purpose and identity did not result in becoming a nurse or flight attendant (although I have great respect for both of these professions). I am continually deepening in my understanding that my ability to become anything rests solely in the righteous One who ‘became’ for me what I could not earn and did not deserve. I have been created, formed, redeemed, and named.
“But now thus says the LORD, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine” (Is. 43:1).
My boast is the Lord and the grace He continually gives to those who believe. I am so grateful for the caregivers in Haiti who are strategically placed by God to bring children into their families and care for their needs.
Truly, they have been created for ‘a righteous purpose’ and this love reflects the heart of our Father in Heaven.
“But I count my life of no value to myself, so that I may finish my course and the ministry I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of God's grace" (Acts 20:24).
And now you!
What are your thoughts?
How do you answer the question, “What is my purpose?”
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.