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Growth in Guatemala: An Interview | Chris Turpaud

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Growth in Guatemala: An Interview | Chris Turpaud

Tacy: When did you move to Guatemala?

Chris: October 2015.

Tacy: What prompted you and your wife to pursue that in the first place? Where did the heart for Guatemala come from?

Lauren & Chris Turpaud on their wedding day 

Lauren & Chris Turpaud on their wedding day 

Chris: Lauren and I both began attending Colorado State University. I started as a freshman. She was a sophomore when she transferred to CSU. We started dating halfway through my sophomore year. 

After we graduated, Lauren and I got married in 2012, and missions had been an ongoing conversation. I remember approaching my pastor shortly after we were married and saying, "I'm really unhappy with my job." He asked us to do a couple StrengthsFinder tests and things like that to get a better idea of who were as a couple and who we were as individuals, and I sat on that for about a year. Lauren and I continued praying about it, continued thinking about it, and we started to have this idea that we didn't want to live on our provision anymore. We weren't really giving back a whole lot, but we were coasting through life, and we felt like we needed to start praying, "How can we live lives that are more dependent on your provision, God?"

We started doing that, and we decided to quit our jobs. Right before we quit, our pastor came up to us and said, "How do you feel about moving to Tanzania?" And we said, "Well, we don't know. I guess we'll think about that." (laughs)

Tacy: (laughs) That's a hard thing to answer on the fly.

Chris: Yes. So, we were like, "Well we don't really know what to do with this. It sounds cool. We'll think about it." And that was probably a few weeks before we decided to take a four month road trip across the United States.

Tacy: Oh, fun. I didn't know you guys did that. 

Chris: Yeah. We wanted time to pray, to think . . . both of us really feel God's presence when we're in nature. It's away from the hustle and bustle of daily life. And I think it was a tangible way for us to get the experience of just how well God can provide.

We'd spent the better part of our marriage planning for this trip. We'd saved quite a bit of money. We had our route planned out. We had our vehicles stocked. We had all the gear we thought we could possibly need, but two weeks into the trip, we lost our engine . . . We spent probably half our savings just trying to get back on the road, so I think the Lord really used that moment to kind of put us at a crossroads and say, "Are you really willing to pursue me? Are you really willing to follow me . . . even if it doesn't look like your plans are going to come into fruition?"

And at that point—when we were getting our engine fixed—we were thinking, "It might just be better to turn around and go home. We've lost so much money. We really don't know if it'll be worth it to keep going." After praying and talking with friends and family, we felt like the Lord wanted us to continue. So, we kept going, and about two months into our trip, we were both feeling kind of like, "Wow. This is awful." 

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Tacy: Really?

Chris: We were tired, hungry, cold all the time. We had still been relying on our own provisions, our own plans, and our own savings to get through. We traveled to Alaska and came back down the West Coast, and we had mechanical problem after mechanical problem. We almost ran out of money. But we got back to the US, and everything just changed. The Lord had let us wander through the wilderness for awhile, and then he said, "Now, for the last two months, I'm going to let you see what it's like to live on my provision." And he started providing money for us from friends and relatives, places to stay, and random people would give us food. We were put up for the night in several places. We were given jobs picking pears for a week, and that earned us a bunch of money to get home. One family put us up in their Airbnb for free, fed us three meals a day, and invited us to their church and small group. It was really just eye opening. We saw what we could accomplish, which was really just depressing. And we saw what God can do if we just let go a little bit. So after that, we came home ready to figure out how we could get into missions, whether Tanzania or another avenue. During our time praying about Tanzania, we realized it wasn't a good fit . . . obviously . . . that's why we're not there.

Tacy: Right. (laughs)

Chris: Scott Vair goes to our church, and right before we left, we had started to have conversations with him and our pastor. When we got back, we continued having more regular meetings with Scott and Pastor Paul, and they really challenged us to start exploring opportunities in our community as well as internationally. We started serving a refugee family from Kurdistan here in Denver, and I think that really opened up our eyes to what it's like to be in a different country. When you're not from that culture, and you don't know the language very well, food is different, the way people drive, the way people talk, the way people interact . . . everything is just bizarre and strange and uncomfortable. I think that really set the stage for us to go to Guatemala in some ways. We knew kind of what to expect, even though you never can totally prepare yourself.

From the time we got back from our trip to the time we left for Guatemala, that was about two years. During that time, Scott invited us to go to Ethiopia to check out the World Orphans model. What we saw in Ethiopia just blew our minds wide open . . . that you could do orphan care like that. I mean it just makes sense when you think about the role the church has in the biblical sense and globally how they should be caring for kids and families. It just made sense. We took a little trip to Guatemala in January 2015 to check it out . . . three days on the ground I think. We met some of the people we would be working with, and then we got back home and started fundraising. We left for Guatemala nine months later. 

Belginesh Tena and Lauren Turpaud in Ethiopia

Belginesh Tena and Lauren Turpaud in Ethiopia

Tacy: Can you tell me a little bit about the work that World Orphans is doing in Guatemala from a program overview standpoint? 

Chris: Lauren and I hold different, yet overlapping roles. When there's a team on the ground, we're both functioning somewhat as team leaders. She's the church partnership director for Guatemala. On a daily basis, she is communicating with churches in the US and churches in Guatemala to coordinate details and communication. She handles family profiles, ensuring that those are translated. She works a lot with Jenny, the psychologist, to actually delve into the family situations. And then she's also involved in pre-trip planning. She follows up with the teams after they've left—finances, discipleship training, debriefing. She's got a very multifaceted job in that sense. And when a team is on the ground, I join forces with her so that we're able to coordinate teams well, whether that's her going off to do something with some of the ladies from the church and I do stuff with the guys or just coordinating debriefings . . . it works better when we can work together. 

Chris and Lauren Turpaud with World Orphans Board of Directors

Chris and Lauren Turpaud with World Orphans Board of Directors

When I'm not doing that, I work day in and day out with Pedro who is our new sub-coordinator for economic empowerment. He's my right hand man, and basically our objectives have been to start savings groups, to start a youth savings match program in 2018, and to do this sewing cooperative that's been going on for two months now, whereby we teach ladies from the community to sew, to run a business, and basic things like hygiene and childcare, education . . . the importance of things like that. All of this we do through an organization called Women's Partnership Market. We oversee the project, but Stephanie from Women's Partnership Market has been doing a fantastic job of handling it. 

Tacy: So, are these savings groups being run through churches there in Guatemala?

Chris: Yes. That's the plan. We may be tweaking things going into the next year, but the idea was to start savings groups in each of our four churches in Zone 7. And then after we had those established, we would start a new cycle in Zone 7 and a new cycle in Zone 18, but we may be tweaking that a little bit. Right now, we have one savings group of seven people, and it's a combination of two churches in Zone 7. 

Tacy: I know we rely heavily on local leadership to speak into our work regardless of the country we're working in. How does that play out for you? How do you benefit from working alongside local leadership that's already established?

Chris: When considering working alongside AMG, I think it's provided us with an incredibly varied and diverse network of individuals and organizations within Guatemala that we would not have access to otherwise. From a programmatic basis, that has been incredibly helpful.

Working with the churches—the Guatemalan churches—their expertise within their own communities has been invaluable. I mean, these are areas that we wouldn't be able to go into at all because if you're not a known member of the community you may be targeted either as a resource for extortion or something worse. So having those relationships and connections allows us to actually do work. Even the different departments within our team offer different skill sets and advantages. Our psychologists—their resources, their abilities, their training in Guatemala, their community experience, and the AMG team of psychologists that they're plugged into—has just been an incredible resource for us . . . probably the best resource that we have.

Tacy: That's awesome. So, in what ways does that come into play? What are the psychologists doing?

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Chris: They work with all of our families. Jenny and Auri are the two psychologists that are directly associated with World Orphans, and each of them handles cases with children and families. So, this could include mom and dad or the entire family. They work with them to help them process things in the past and things that they are going through day-to-day. Some is trauma, but a lot of it is simply dealing with waking up every day in these situations. Maybe last night you heard a lot of gunfire; how do you process that type of thing? Having that resource has been huge. I don't have the rapport with them or the respect in this area to do that, but—going through Jenny or Auri–I can get a feel for what's best for the community and even say, "Can you ask these community members what would be best for them?" This allows us to structure our programs to best fit the needs of the families. That's their role—to support those families in that way, but they've also provided me with the means to get these programs launched. They've connected me to the participants. All the ladies from the sewing program that are working with Stephanie right now are ladies from the local community that were referred to us by the psychologists—ladies that they handpicked and said, "I think this woman would really benefit from this based on the work we've done with her." So with their help, we're really able to cater our programs to what the community needs. 

Tacy: So, what's it been like to live in Guatemala? Is living in Guatemala different from what you anticipated or is it kind of what you expected? 

Chris: Ummm . . . it's not as different as I thought it was going to be in some respect. There is so much "Americanization" that's gone on. If you were to visit, you'd see Starbucks, KFC, Pizza Hut, Papa John's . . . lots of name-brand clothing from the US. Cars from Germany, the US, Japan . . . it doesn't look that different in some respects, depending on what area of the city you are in.

There are two things that have been very difficult for us. Finding community—I think that's partially because missionaries are often so busy with their work that it's hard to connect, and other times, those missionaries . . . the only thing you have in common with them is that they're missionaries, so all you end up doing is talking about your work and ministries, and it never feels like you get to build a real relationship. And then there is the language barrier. While we speak Spanish well, to go deep with somebody . . . or even to have this conversation where I can be sort of frank and vulnerable . . . to have this conversation with someone in Spanish right now is not attainable for me, or it's very difficult. So, that's hampered some of our relationship building. It's not stopped us, but it makes the relationships feel a little less deep in some respects.

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The other thing that's been difficult . . . and this is just cultural . . . When you talk to Guatemalans, they're a very non-confrontational society, and I wouldn't say that most people in the US love confrontation, but we tend to value more direct responses. So, when you ask a question, you tend to get a direct answer unless it's personal, and then they may beat around the bush. In Guatemala,  you never really know what the person is thinking. I'll ask a question like, "Would this be good for you?" and the assumption is, "If you're asking, you must think it's good for me, so I think it's good for me." 

Tacy: And that's hard when you're planning out programs and processes.

Chris: Exactly. So, you plan out your program based on their response because you think you got a direct answer . . .  (laughs) . . .  and they're thinking, "I'm not going to show up for this because it's not really what I want, but I think that's what he wants." So, then you get everything set up and nobody comes. (laughs)

Tacy: (laughs)  

Chris: There's just a difference there.

Tacy: Earlier you mentioned going to Ethiopia with World Orphans. It sounds like when you went to Ethiopia, your perception of caring for orphans and vulnerable families was really turned on it's head. How has your perception of orphan care and partnering with vulnerable families changed since living in Guatemala? Does it look different than you thought it would? Do you feel like you value things that perhaps you didn't before?

Chris: Ethiopia really transformed the way I viewed church care—the way we are to care for families, and I think Guatemala has taken that to a whole new level. The churches here have been so effective in caring for their communities. And because of AMG's many years of experience with these churches, there's been this recognition that dignity is of the utmost importance when dealing with these families, and I think that's something I've really internalized. I think I believed it before, but now I've seen just how powerful maintaining their dignity can be and how detrimental it can be when that dignity is removed. I really love the way our psychologist, AMG, and our team protects the families. We've been really overprotective of our families, and I think it's helped me check my ego. Everything is done through the church to the point where I have very little involvement with the actual families. We want to show them that they have value to Jesus, and we're not going to parade them around or show them off like some prized animal. 

Tacy: We talked a little bit about the challenges that you've faced while working in Guatemala—the cultural differences, the obstacles that you've had to overcome. What would you say you've enjoyed the most about working in Guatemala? 

Chris: There's been a lot. I think, as difficult as relationships have been on a personal level, . . . we're really blessed to work with nine different churches in Guatemala, which means that we have connections with different pastors around the city, different committee members, different families, different kids. It provides this plethora of relationships and really has enriched us. There have been a few churches that we've really connected deeply with—their committee members, pastors, families.

Chris Turpaud with Iglesia Ministerios Gracia Y Verdad congregation members and their US church partner, Ainsworth Evangelical Free Church

Chris Turpaud with Iglesia Ministerios Gracia Y Verdad congregation members and their US church partner, Ainsworth Evangelical Free Church

When I was leaving Guatemala to go back to the states temporarily, I felt this weight. Even though it was temporary . . . just the outpouring of love on behalf of the church blew me away. In our context, we didn't realize how close these people were to us. We didn't realize that they had grown to consider us part of their family . . .  the things they did for us, the prayers they sent our way . . . it was just mind-blowing. I realized we have become part of these families, and they've become part of ours. That's why I felt so sad leaving, knowing I was going home to family, but I was also leaving part of my family, too.

This may sound like a cliché answer, but the people of Guatemala have really stolen my heart, and I think they've stolen Lauren's, too. The battles they fight every day are things that I'll never ever experience. For example, Pedro. He comes from a small farming village in the mountains of Guatemala—the things that he's had to overcome in his life to get to where he's at . . . it's built such strength of character and perseverance and this rock-solid faith in God. You know, I get shaken pretty easily when things aren't going my way or I feel like I'm out of control, but Pedro pushes through it. I know he gets upset, too, but the reality is that his faith has really strengthened mine. 

Tacy: I think for me—as someone who works behind my desk most days—this really shows me that the World Orphans vision comes into fruition. We talk a lot about how it's all about relationships, but at the end of the day, it's one thing to say that, and it's another thing for that to be the reality. It's very affirming to me to hear that it is the reality. It really is all about relationships. 

Chris & Lauren Turpaud with a US mission team

Chris & Lauren Turpaud with a US mission team

Chris: And I think we have such an advantage in some ways. When churches come down from the US, they get this mountain-high experience, but they don't even understand the kind of encouragement they've left behind with the church here in Guatemala. They leave on a high note thinking, "We've done good for them, and we feel encouraged by them." But, we feel it even more because on our end we get the constant feedback from the pastor. We have ladies in the community saying, "When are they coming back? I can't wait to reconnect with them. When are they coming back? Are they bringing their kids? Are their kids going to be married?" They just become so welded together.

Tacy: How neat to see the ripple effects of Church Partnership. 

Chris: Absolutely.

Tacy: How do you see World Orphans efforts growing, changing, and expanding in Guatemala in the coming years? 

Chris: I think that World Orphans is going in many directions right now in Guatemala, and I think all of them are good. I think . . .  with the international team members we've added recently . . .  we have the increased capacity to be able to handle it. We've got a lot of change coming down our pipeline. We added four new churches in May, and Sam is really excited about adding a bunch more in 2018, which is good. That growth is positive, and it's a natural consequence of doing things well. I think a lot of our growth right now is happening in Zone 18 because things are going so well. We've learned so much from Zone 7, that we started off on such a good foot in Zone 18. The pastors are very connected and they're talking to each other. The ones in the program are talking to others, telling them how great it is that they're able to work with these families now. So, you have additional pastors saying, "I want to do that, too."  The economic empowerment—there's still a lot of things that need to happen; it's still very much a fledgling program. There have definitely been growing pains with that. 

Tacy: So, for people that want to get involved through prayer . . . Can you give them some prayer points? 

Chris: I touched on some of the programs we're trying to get launched in the next  year. One that we're very passionate about is this youth savings match program. It's going to kind of partner with AMG in a way that allows kids—as they're learning about savings, investing, small business, etc.—to have a practical means of applying this to their lives . . . through a savings program that will be operated through AMG and a match program that will match dollar-for-dollar what they've saved to allow them to further their education, start a business, etc. That will start hopefully in 2018. It's been a slow process to get this going, and we need the Lord's guidance in this. That's something people could pray for for sure.

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The savings groups—we really need to rely on the Lord for progress in these, for his timing. We really do feel like this goes alongside wholistic care and is—in many ways—the last step for families to start achieving independence financially and to begin transitioning families in order to help others. This program still needs some tweaking, and I need prayer for wisdom as I help guide this process. Pedro and I could both use prayer for encouragement, and reliance on the Lord.

A praise would be the way that this cooperative has been going with this sewing group. People can definitely see God's hand at work in this. Even though it's being run by a secular business development group out of Denver, they very much have principles in line with ours, though they are missing the spiritual piece. It's been amazing to see that even in the absence of that part of their curriculum, the women have started their own Bible study, and God is blessing them. I hope that God continues to bless them. The hunger that they have to learn how to sew and to start their own businesses . . . it's captivating. To see how so far they have been so committed, continuing to come back every single week . . . that's provided a spark of hope for us.

I would ask the people also pray for Lauren, as she'll be managing her responsibilities while also caring for our newborn baby. She's already been such a good mother. I'm just praying for wisdom for her as she navigates this new season. 


Get Involved

  1. Pray
  2. Start a Campaign to support economic empowerment in Guatemala
  3. Donate by mailing a check or giving online with " Guatemala economic empowerment" on the memo line
  4. Talk to your church about becoming a church partner for a Guatemalan church
  5. Become a monthly supporter

 

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Economic Empowerment & Orphan Care

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Economic Empowerment & Orphan Care

Moses was a child conceived through rape and abandoned by his mother, but he is now in the care of his grandmother. Twins, Sarai and Andrea, were left orphaned when their mother was imprisoned and their father left them, but a neighbor took them in, welcoming them into her home. Rachel's father died in a sudden accident, but she has continued to be raised by her mother, Veronica. Adriana and Daniella care for Camila—a woman left paralyzed by an accident—and her two sons. 

Uganda Mother

The families receiving care through our partner churches have a variety of stories. Some children are being raised by biological mothers or fathers, while others have been welcomed into the homes of grandmothers, aunts, or friends. A commonality you will find among these stories (in addition to a child being orphaned or at risk for abandonment) is poverty or a severe lack of economic resources. Poverty is the leading cause of family disruption; therefore, it is impossible to talk about stabilizing families without also discussing the economic implications of such an effort. 

So, what does this imply about orphan care? Well, the term "orphan care" itself is perhaps somewhat confusing . . . at least the way we use it at World Orphans. Orphan care at World Orphans typically looks more like family care, as we believe a child's well-being directly hinges on the stability and physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health of the entire family. As churches partner with vulnerable families in their community, pastors and congregation members are not merely coming alongside a child, but they are standing alongside families in the midst of turmoil, heartbreak, and transition. 

Thus, our belief in and desire to see strong, stable families has shaped and informed our economic empowerment efforts over the years. Guided by knowledgeable and caring pastors around the world, we've been embarking on a journey that—while it may not be easy—has been filled with joy, hope, and profound dignity for our caregivers, mothers, and fathers. We believe that economic empowerment is building the capacity of the men and women in our programs to participate in, contribute to, and benefit from economic opportunities in ways that recognize the value of their contributions, respect their intrinsic dignity as image bearers of Christ, build stronger families, and improve the quality of life for all members of the family.

As we rely on local leadership to guide our efforts in this area, the reality of economic empowerment varies based on location.

Ethiopia

Economic empowerment initiatives were first launched in Ethiopia in June 2015, and began with savings groups—clusters of caregivers that met to discuss daily life, eat a meal together, and begin to save money. From those humble and simplistic beginnings, economic empowerment initiatives in Ethiopia have grown substantially.

  • Savings Groups: All of our caregivers from all seven of our churches are participating in savings groups that give them the ability to save money monthly despite their inability to access formal financial institutions as individuals. 
  • Micro-loans: Eligible caregivers received a 500 birr (approximately $25) micro-loan to start or expand their businesses, and plans are underway to implement a second phase of micro-loans this year.  
  • Literacy Program & Empowerment Packs: Packs of supplies for literacy, education, basic first aid/hygiene, feminine hygiene, and nutrition are distributed at training seminars provided to the churches and families involved in our program.  
ethiopia caregiver

Zeritu | Ethiopia

 

When she entered the program, Zeritu was desperate, hungry, and suicidal. She couldn't afford to put shoes on her children's feet. Now, she is teaching others in the program her secrets to entrepreneurial success and willingly giving up her spot in the program to provide space for another family to benefit from the same programs that allowed her to transform her life.

[Read more.] 

Ethiopia caregiver 1

Ehetinesh

 Ehetinesh is a widowed mother of seven children, and grandmother of three. Through the economic empowerment program, Ehetinesh has been able to craft and sell handmade jewelry—delicate pieces of art that she is eager to display and sell in her community. In addition to the jewelry, Ehetinesh also sells vegetables. This work allows her to provide for her children, despite previous economic struggles.

May 2017: A nutrition class was presented to Ethiopian caregivers.  After the class, the caregivers prepared a meal to eat together.

May 2017: A nutrition class was presented to Ethiopian caregivers.  After the class, the caregivers prepared a meal to eat together.

Spring 2017: Ethiopian caregivers from Addis Alem Berhane Wongel Baptist Church and Leku Keta Kale Heywet Church completed business training.

Spring 2017: Ethiopian caregivers from Addis Alem Berhane Wongel Baptist Church and Leku Keta Kale Heywet Church completed business training.

Guatemala

In 2017, economic empowerment initiatives were launched in Guatemala through partnership with local businesses, organizations, and the guiding wisdom of our local pastors. While our efforts in Guatemala are still in the early stages, it's already been a joy to see the confidence and joy that empowerment can bring to caregivers.

  • Savings Groups: We are in the process of hiring a Savings Group Coordinator to oversee the implementation of the Restore:Savings Curriculum developed and tested by the Chalmers Center with our savings groups.  
  • Youth Savings & Education: A matched youth savings program will be launched in 2018 in conjunction with the financial literacy education that is already part of the curriculum at the AMG school in Guatemala City.
  • Skills Training for Women: In collaboration with Women’s Partnership Marketplace, we are striving to implement a year-long curriculum to train women as artisans and business owners, equipping them in multiple areas from goal setting to the intricacies of being an entrepreneur.
  • Supporting Existing AMG Programs to Empower Women and Youth: We are investigating ways to provide support to AMG efforts to facilitate financial education, artisan and business training, and job placement for youth.

Yoselin* lives in a small, single-room rented home with her children. Her hard work and assistance from a local World Orphans church partner, Sendero de la Cruz, has allowed her to send her two oldest sons to boarding school. Through the boarding school, the boys not only receive an education, but they are receiving healthy food and learning practical information about basic hygiene. Yoselin's two young daughters are cared for daily through the church's nursery, allowing Yoselin to start a small business selling chips outside of schools. The family has begun to faithfully attend Sendero de la Cruz, and they have gotten involved in home groups and other ongoing church activities. 

Women's Partnership Market

These women are meeting together to create goals for their future at the Artisans Thrive training program in Guatemala City. Over the next couple months, these women will be investing time and energy to learn personal skills, gain understanding of how to start a business, and learn the process of bringing a product to market.

[Learn more.]

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Estefanny | Guatemala

20-year-old Estefanny (third from the left) is employed at Grønn, a socially-conscious start-up using recycled glass to create drinking glasses. The company owner, inspired by Estefanny's work ethic and determination, recently promoted her to director of production. In addition to working at Grønn, Estefanny is a caregiver in the Home Based Care program, a volunteer at Sonrisas (a church-based outreach program for children), and she is attending school to earn a business administration degree. 

Economic empowerment is changing the way we care for orphaned and vulnerable children, and it's building confidence in our caregivers, as they now have opportunities to pursue a better life for their families. While these efforts are young and we're only beginning to see the first beautiful fruits from these programs, we've already been captivated and inspired by the stories. Even more beautiful, in an effort to come alongside additional vulnerable families, we recently launched economic empowerment initiatives in Haiti and will update you as the program grows.

 

*Identity changed for protection

 

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When Love Is Fierce

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When Love Is Fierce

Those that are fierce are sometimes thought to be unloving. Those that are strong are often believed to not be gentle. Those that are brave are sometimes thought to be unkind. But this–of course–is not always true. 

Yeshiwork's story is the stuff of sensationalized media, yet it's all true. As a child solider, she barely survived a battle along the border of Somalia–a battle which killed 75 people. She became a child bride at ten years old and stood by his side for 55 years . . . until he left her. To this day, she doesn't know if her husband is alive or not, as he could not be located after a flood. 

Yeshiwork has suffered much, yet has overcome.

She is a tall, fierce woman. She is strong. She is brave. Yet, she is also loving, gentle, and kind, as evidenced by the little boy who has so clearly stolen her heart. 


Moses walks into the room, weighed down by the heavy backpack on his tiny shoulders. He looks shyly at the guests in the room, yet marches over to Yeshiwork, and climbs onto her lap to plant a kiss on her cheek. A sparkle can be seen in her otherwise serious eyes.

She prays for him, believing he will be a leader. Though she loves him, she is not given to nonsense. Yeshiwork expects him to be disciplined in his studies and to attend the after-school programs at school in addition to his regular schooling. Without her, Moses' life could have looked so different . . . if his life had come to be at all.

Yeshiwork is Moses' grandmother, and without her desperate plea for his life to be spared, Moses would have been aborted. Conceived through rape, Moses was a sign of shame. Tradition dictated that, once he was born, he would be an outcast and he would forever be reminded of the pain that brought him into the world. One week after he his birth, Moses' mother left him in Yeshiwork's care. Out of humiliation, his grandfather left.

June 2015: Yeshiwork and Moses with a Journey Trip team

June 2015: Yeshiwork and Moses with a Journey Trip team

Yeshiwork had nothing but a tiny, defenseless infant. She was a warrior for him before he was even born, and yet that was only the beginning.

Believing it was important to "give him a life," Yeshiwork has loved him like her own son. Through the World Orphans Home Based Care program, a local church has partnered with Yeshiwork, enabling her to care for him well. The church's partnership helps to ensure that Moses is being provided for physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. 

Home Based Care enables Moses to grow up under the loving care of the woman who fought for him. Without the local church, Yeshiwork would most likely have been forced to surrender Moses at an orphanage, unable to provide for his needs as a single elderly woman.  

Orphan care, at its roots, should always be about strengthening families, both the families that have welcome orphaned children into their homes and those families whose children are vulnerable to abandonment. Through Home Based Care, families are strengthened through the local church with support, educational resources, and provisions for the child's education, food, and medical needs as is necessary. We know that children thrive when they are in families, and we seek to see those families stay together rather than be torn apart by poverty. 

Yeshiwork has fiercely and selflessly loved Moses, a boy previously destined to be an outcast. It is a privilege, as the global church, to stand in her corner and celebrate Moses' precious life. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Just Normal

By Sheri Mellema | Church Partnership

When considering the meaning of the word “normal,” I think we would all agree that it has become a very subjective term. Given the numerous contexts of our world today, what is deemed normal for one person can vary wildly from what another person perceives as normal.  The dictionary actually defines normal as conforming to a standard; usual, typical, ordinary, customary, habitual, accustomed or expected.

Recently, several World Orphans staff members and myself had the privilege of participating in a webinar presented by Dr. George Grant.  Dr. Grant is a historian, author, and pastor who has dedicated much time and research to the study of orphan care throughout the ages. He eloquently described history’s record of orphan care as far back as the Roman Empire. Frankly, I was more than relieved when he finally commented on our century, and for the first time since he started speaking I recognized a name! He mentioned Amy Carmichael and her enormous contribution to orphan care in India! As I listened, my mind began to wonder why it is that effective orphan care has ebbed and flowed through time and how is it that we have come to this present generation in which literally millions of abandoned and vulnerable children have no place to call home.

These questions led me to the recollection of a documentary I had viewed on PBS called “From Jesus to Christ: The First Christians.” Some of the scholars spoke of the distinctive nature of Christianity in that its followers naturally cared for the marginalized members of society. Professor Elizabeth A. Clark from Duke University stated, “Of course there was no welfare system so to speak. In the ancient world, wealthy Romans had given money for programs such as feeding of children and so on. But even such programs that we know of didn’t compare in size and scope to what the churches were doing.” Likewise professor Helmut Koester from Harvard Divinity School concluded that, “Christianity really established a realm of mutual social support for the members that joined the church.  And I think that this has probably in the long run been an enormously important factor for the success of the Christian mission.”

So it would seem that the earliest followers of Jesus set themselves apart by caring for the needy, and in doing so created a legacy that has endured for more than two thousand years.  In fact, I think we could say that their lifestyle was compelling enough to outlast the countless Greek cults that vied for the loyalty of the very same people that Christianity was attracting.

This powerful realization leads back to the word normal. Could we not conclude that the early church embodied the care of orphans as part of their everyday normal lives? They provided for the “least of these” in a usual, typical, customary, habitual, and expected way. Dr. Grant puts it this way, “It’s tragic that in our churches orphan care is just one more issue among a myriad of other issues. When in fact this is just our life together. Part of what we have to do is normalize our care for one another. Instead of approaching orphan care as something that’s sort of extraordinary, we need to make it just ordinary, and the way we make it ordinary is to live it out and integrate it into the whole of the life of the church. Gospel life (should) make it just normal for us to care about the despised and rejected. We need to get to the place that orphan care is no longer a program, an initiative, a new emphasis, or a distinctive of a particular church. It is just the normal life of (every) church!”

Each and every one of us can offer our giftedness as we develop a community of covenantal living in caring for the parentless children of this world. Further, each and every church can become a compelling light in making orphan care just normal, even in the twenty-first century!

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Training session helps caregivers, pastors minister to children

By Kathy Davis | Holistic Care Lead

World Orphans partnered with Together for Adoption, Crisis Care Training Institute (CCTI), and three educators from Arlington, Texas to bring five days of Grace-Filled Holistic Care Training to 100 Orphan & Vulnerable Children (OVC) team members, pastors and teachers in Haiti.

It has been 16 months since the earthquake and the emotional ‘aftershocks’ continue. Just as recurrent rumblings and shaking immediately follow a large earthquake, the ongoing emotional tremors of many Haitians have resulted in shattered hearts that are still terrified to re-enter concrete buildings.

Caregivers are weary, children are orphaned and families are still reeling in the aftermath with fewer resources and ongoing grief. The foundation that was once under-foot is still on shaky ground in Port-Au-Prince.

Bridging the chasm between suffering and loss resulting from a natural disaster to the love of God can be challenging and is best understood in the context of Christ’s suffering all the way to cross.

The training first established the rock solid foundation of hope we have because adoption was not given to us apart from the Gospel of Jesus Christ. “Adoption is nothing less than the placement of sons in the Son,” explained Dan Cruver, author of Reclaiming Adoption.

The following days were spent unpacking the wonders of God’s grace through Christ in the areas of communication, trauma care and education. We emphasized that as ministers of God’s grace, our personal reliance and continued growth in the knowledge of grace is vital.

Emotional rebuilding and equipping of OVC team members, pastors, and teachers is essential to the ministry of World Orphans as we seek to care for the whole child - spiritually, physically, emotionally and mentally. Even when great loss is suffered during a trauma, there is no loss so great that it can separate us from the love of God.

Staff from CCTI guided the team members, pastors and teachers through a children’s book designed to help children work through the traumatic effects of the earthquake. They drew pictures of themselves and how they felt when the earthquake took place. Taking time to process their personal wounds helps them heal and gives them a greater ability to assist children in trusting God through recurrent fear and sorrow. There was a powerful time of prayer for each other in small groups.

The group was reminded that they are God’s workmanship, created for purpose. Practical suggestions for engaging the children and motivating them to learn were given. The OVC teachers spoke candidly about the daily difficulties they encounter in the classroom, as the children are reluctant to learn and slower to comprehend since the earthquake.

The rumbling continues, yet the time with the OVC team members, pastors and teachers reaffirmed that there is rebuilding taking place, on a solid foundation that will never be moved. The local church is alive and well in the OVC program.  World Orphans is grateful for the U.S. partners who continue to support the work of these churches.

“For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 3:11)

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A True Family-Care Model for Orphaned & Abandoned Children in China

Go to video on Vimeo.

China has one of the largest orphan populations in the world. Many of these children are abandoned due to physical disabilities, because of China's one-child policy, or simply because they are girls. Although the Christian church is not able to have a physical presence, our network partner is reaching out to these precious ones with the help of local house churches.

Watch our new video to see how World Orphans is helping provide biblical family care for 76 children at the Bejing Training Center - children who are not eligible for Chinese government assistance under their strict guidelines. Without the center, these children would be left to indifferent family members or forced to survive on their own.

The Training Center is located in a former school that has been renovated to form 10 apartment-style homes, a central eating area and the training areas. The children are divided into families of eight who live with carefully selected Christian house parents devoted to providing the physical, emotional, spiritual and mental care they need.

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