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Responsible to Steward

By Scott Vair | President Last month I traveled to Guatemala, along with the rest of the World Orphans Board of Directors, to visit our projects and ministry partners. Over the last several years, we have developed an amazing partnership with AMG Guatemala, a Gospel and child-focused ministry located in Guatemala City with whom we have many shared values.

World Orphans Board of Directors with staff in Guatemala
World Orphans Board of Directors with staff in Guatemala

While at the main AMG Guatemala campus, we spent some time with their President, Brian Dennett. For the sake of our board members who hadn’t met Brian or heard the vision of AMG, he shared a bit about their decades of ministry in Guatemala, where they have largely focused on education and medical care.

“We did not start this ministry, but we have the privilege and responsibility to steward it well.”
— Brian Dennett, President AMG Guatemala

Brian explained that he and his staff are not the founders of AMG Guatemala, (nor am I and my staff the founders of World Orphans), but we both have, as Brian stated, the privilege and responsibility to steward the ministries well.

During my nine years at World Orphans, I have seen families pack up their belongings and move to foreign countries to help facilitate our ministry. I’ve seen incredibly talented people faithfully raise personal support from family and friends in order to lend their expertise to this ministry. I’ve seen thousands of donors sacrificially give, from change collected by children to tens of thousands of dollars donated by foundations, churches, and individuals who believe in what we are doing. As a result, thousands of orphaned children, vulnerable families, and refugees have received love and care from the local church.

What a privilege to be part of this.

What a responsibility to steward.

We have worked hard to do just that - to steward well, in a way that honors God and those who have sacrificed much to give, go, and pray for World Orphans.

It is one of the reasons we obtained and maintain our accreditation with the Evangelical Counsel for Financial Accountability (ECFA).

ECFA-Seal
ECFA-Seal

“ECFA enhances trust in Christ-centered churches and ministries by establishing and applying Seven Standards of Responsible Stewardship™ to accredited organizations.

Founded in 1979, ECFA provides accreditation to leading Christian nonprofit organizations that faithfully demonstrate compliance with established standards for financial accountability, transparency, fundraising, and board governance.

ECFA’s Seven Standards of Responsible Stewardship™, drawn from Scripture, are fundamental to operating with integrity.

The ECFA standards are infrequently changed, providing members a steady baseline for consistent application of the standards to members. The standards have been described as simple, but not simplistic. The brief statements included in the standards have significant implications for organizations that pledge to follow these standards. They are not standards that allow for grading on the curve. Rather, they are pass-fail standards. ECFA members must comply with all of the standards, all of the time.”

We take these standards seriously, and we are committed to following them. We trust that in doing so, we give confidence to our supporters that their gifts are being used well, and that we are an organization worthy of their time, talents, and treasures.

"For we are taking pains to do what is right, not only in the eyes of the Lord but also in the eyes of men."  2 Corinthians 8:21

It is a privilege to serve at World Orphans. We pray that our words, our actions, our thoughts, and our plans bring honor and glory to the Lord.

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Aging Out

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.

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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.

 

Source: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=125729965

*Names have been changed to protect privacy.

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Looking Back : 10 Posts to Celebrate 2015

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:

  1. Jeremy gave us the opportunity to travel to Ethiopia, where we saw women empowered and children being given the gift of hope.
  2. We stepped back in time with David, as we learned about the heart of the early church for children who have been orphaned.
  3. Kathy ushered us through the doors of secondary schools in Kenya, where we met children who are not merely surviving, but thriving!
  4. We discovered what's different about a trip with World Orphans.
  5. Kevin taught us practical ways to deal with conflict.
  6. We considered the beauty in the brokenness as we reflected on the Haiti earthquake of 2010 and the hope that springs anew there.
  7. Why a home rather than an orphanage? We looked at that question.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.

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The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

By Kathy Davis | Director of Wholistic Care

lt's the most wonderful time of the year. With the kids jingle belling, And everyone telling you, “Be of good cheer,” It's the most wonderful time of the year. It's the hap-happiest season of all.

Is it really?

Well, maybe for some people.

12.23.15The shopping malls are filled. Christmas trees are decorated. The scent of evergreen fills the air. Parties are being hosted. Gifts are being purchased. Wishes are being fulfilled. Christmastime has certainly arrived.

Under the veneer of the “hap-happiest season of all”, while we are all encouraged to be of good cheer, the raw condition of worldwide human suffering, poverty, abandonment, and pain marks the reality of more than half our world. At least 71% of humanity lives on less than $10 per day.

Several years ago, during November and December, I traveled to two impoverished regions of the world. Upon my return in December, I struggled through buying gifts, eating delicacies, and “being of good cheer”. I had looked into the eyes of precious, shoeless children whose daily delicacy was rice or beans. Serving in the ministry of World Orphans has awakened me to the reality that out of 2.2 billion children in the world, 1 billion live in poverty.

For the 1.9 billion children from the developing world, there are:

  • 640 million without adequate shelter (1 in 3)
  • 400 million with no access to safe water (1 in 5)
  • 270 million with no access to health services (1 in 7)
  • 121 million children worldwide with no education

Children are not only suffering due to a lack of these essentials. Children are dying.

  • 6 million died in 2003 before they reached the age of 5
  • 4 million die each year from lack of access to safe drinking water and adequate sanitation.

How was I, in this new, stark awareness of worldwide need, to fulfill the Christmas wishes of my own extravagantly fed and well-clothed children whose minds cannot wrap around the word “without”? How was I to live in my own traditions here while knowing what is going on there?

My heart was broken. My eyes were opened.

I don’t have all the answers as I live within this tension. I don’t believe that I am to celebrate Christ in Christmas, yet withhold precious gifts from my children. What I do know is that I cannot turn a deaf ear or blind eye to the world around me.

The same Incarnate Christ who took on flesh, was born in a humble stable, and was familiar with grief, is also intentionally attuned to those in need, yet has granted me rich blessing. I have been blessed to hear the cries, see the physical need and witness the grave suffering of the marginalized. This has compelled me to not only pray for their needs, but to intentionally engage and act on their behalf…

… to feed the poor, care for the widow, and plead the cause of the orphan.

Two weeks ago, I experienced the great joy of hosting the gifted songwriter and musician, Aaron Boyd with Bluetree. We facilitated two evenings of Worship and Justice to bring people together to worship God and plead the cause of the orphan. Attendees were granted the opportunity to engage and give. Aaron, taking the cause to heart, will be releasing a new album in April with the intention of donating all proceeds to those in need. One of the new songs that we had a sneak peak into says:

In all of our questions, There will be an answer. In all our trials, You remain. Even in the valley, Hope is rising and peace - It has a name - Christ the Lord, Who stays the same.

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12.23.15_RY7A5327As we prepare to celebrate Christ the babe, born on Christmas day, please join me in considering that even though “all is [not] calm and all is [not] bright” in our world, Christ the Savior IS born and through HIS coming and dying, there IS forgiveness of sin and HOPE for us all.

“Behold, the virgin shall be with child and shall bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel, God with us” (Matthew 1:23).

As World Orphans continues to empower the global church to care for orphans, would you prayerfully consider how you might engage in 2016?

 

For statistics, see: http://www.globalissues.org/article/26/poverty-facts-and-stats#src2

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4 Themes of Dynamic Impact on Mission Trips

By Bailey Kalvelage | C2C Mobilization Director Isn’t it true - “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35)? If this is the case, the giver in fact becomes the receiver - of joy, contentment, wisdom, and much more. Join me to peek into the lives of five US churches most often viewed as the givers. In this blog we’ll see how they have, in fact, become receivers.

Ladies and gentlemen, put your hands together for five fabulous US churches from Maryland, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma, and Tennessee. These faithful followers of Christ have partnered with World Orphans to lovingly care for orphaned and vulnerable children. With a combined 24-years of partnership experience, these churches will share how World Orphans short-term mission trips have impacted their own hearts and communities.

Our interviewees include…

  1. Suzanne of Lakewood Christian Church (McAlester, OK): Co-leader of their 5-year-old partnership with Eglise de Dieu D’Andullan of Haiti.
  2. Bethel Korean Presbyterian (Ellicott, MD): 3-year-old partnership with Eglise Baptiste Bellevue Salem of Haiti.
  3. George of Temple Baptist Church (Hattiesburg, MS) – Leader of their 5-year-old partnership with Eglise de Dieu de la Bible of Haiti.
  4. Kim of Calvary Chapel of Troy (Troy, MO): Leader of their 5-year-old partnership with United Community Methodist Church of Uganda.
  5. Kathy of River Oaks Community Church (Maryville, TN): Leader of their 6-year-old partnership with Fountain of Hope of Kenya.

We asked our panel of all-stars to describe the impact that World Orphans short-term mission trips, within their partnerships, have had on both the goers, as well as their church.

Four major themes emerged…

DYNAMIC IMPACT #1: Deeper Understanding | One can be rich in spirit, regardless of material possessions and circumstances.

“I think on an overall level, our eyes have been opened to what it looks like to live for Christ in a different culture. We have seen families, with little worldly goods, live a life of love and community in Christ… Personally, I have learned so much from my Haitian friends. God used a woman to show me that while her day-to-day life may look different than mine, we are both mothers just trying to do the best for our kids in the best way we know how… I've seen sacrificial love lived out, I've seen hospitality done well, and I've seen faith, hope and love lived out well" (Suzanne of Lakewood).

“The Haiti trips have given me a greater understanding of God's people, and have shown me what truly loving others is supposed to be like. I've seen how God works in the lives of people who have close to nothing, yet have so much joy. This has changed the way I view circumstances in my life. I always remind myself that no matter what I go through, God is with me and He is enough" (Danielle of Lakewood). 

“[I have been impacted by] the home based care visits. I thought we would be a blessing, but I came away so blessed by them and their strong HOPE in Christ in the midst of such poverty...” (River Oaks Team Member).

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DYNAMIC IMPACT #2: Lives Transformed Eternally

Once a person chooses to obey God's calling to go, God starts His transforming work with that member. Obedience and submission lead to transformation” (Kim of Calvary Troy).

“[The trips have] made eternal differences in the lives of our students. Some have focused their career paths to social work, ministry, language, medicine, or civil engineering as a result of these trips” (George of Temple).

“It's made me more aware of other needs in the world. I am more thankful for what I have and have an increased desire to be a better steward of what God has blessed me with” (Brett of Lakewood).

“Tracey, who has been our team nurse for the past 3 years, never felt led to evangelize at our medical clinics. However, this year she felt called to spend time in prayer with some of her patients… She and her husband spent one whole day at the medical clinic praying and sharing the gospel with those waiting to be seen. They led several people to Christ, including a few Muslims” (Calvary Troy Team Member).

Gene has been transformed from a germophobe who highly valued his comfort zone into a man who totally trusts God in all circumstances” (Calvary Troy Team Member).

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DYNAMIC IMPACT #3: Hearts Stirred to Love and Action

“[The trips have fostered] increased motivation to act on behalf of vulnerable children - both here and there - by the significance and beauty of hands-on ministry” (Kathy of River Oaks).

“Fred has been transformed from a borderline racist to a man who wants to live in Africa. He now considers our church partners his brothers and can't wait to see them again soon” (Calvary Troy Team Member).

“Our ministry has helped encourage other members of our church to think and move outside the four walls of the church building” (Kim of Calvary Troy).

“The teams often return with a deeper sense of perspective regarding 'what matters most', increased faith in the God, increased passion for the fatherless, increased willingness to serve those in need, and an increased willingness to give” (Kathy of River Oaks).

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DYNAMIC IMPACT #4: Authentic Partnership Within the Body of Christ

Every year a team goes [to Haiti], it is really the whole church that is sending us. Even just in fundraising, we would not have been able to raise all the funds we needed without the support of our church in donations and helping with fundraising events. Every year we go, we add new people that are interested in going to Haiti. We also hold monthly prayer meetings to pray for the children and to get updates on status” (Leader of Bethel Korean Presbyterian).

“Short-term mission trips don't have to be about projects or about entertaining the visiting church or making us feel good about what we're "doing". Visiting your partner church is about people. It's about developing a relationship, loving and encouraging one another, glorifying God together. … We have connected with people in another country who were once strangers to us, but who are now our family. We miss each other throughout the year. We pray for each other. And when we see each other again, it's like a family reunion” (Suzanne of Lakewood).

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World Orphans is blessed to serve alongside these rock-star church partners! We are encouraged to hear how Christ pursues and transforms willing hearts among those who have traveled on a partnership trip. We praise the Lord who has taken our simple act of visiting each other on short-term mission trips and created moments that will impact lives for all eternity. He enables us to love well, give selflessly, and receive humbly.

If you are interested in joining one of our dynamic trips, check out JOURNEY!

If you want to learn more about how your church, too, can partner in international orphan care, check out WO PARTNERSHIPS.

What a joy it is to serve together with brothers and sisters around the world to care for children!

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Inspiring Others to Action

By Scott Vair | President At the end of 2013, World Orphans sharpened its vision and mission statements to more accurately reflect the ministry we believed God created us to be. The change in language didn’t as much represent a change in direction as it did an attempt to put language to who we already were and have always been.

Our Vision: To empower the church to care for orphans - until they all have homes!

Our Mission: We equip, inspire, and mobilize the church to care for orphans and vulnerable children. Churches engaged. Children restored. Communities transformed by the Gospel of Christ.

Recently, I hosted Pastor Kanukolanu Sudhakar from Hyderabad, India for a few days. Pastor Sudhakar is a long-time partner of World Orphans and over the years has become a good friend. We enjoyed catching up about family, ministry, and the highlights of both Bethel Gospel Church and World Orphans.

During our time together, Pastor Sudhakar recounted the story of when he met World Orphans founder, Bob Roosen, over a decade ago. Sudhakar had been invited by a friend to meet Bob at his home in Colorado Springs. Bob gave him a tour of the World Orphans office (located in his home at the time) and showed him many photographs of orphan care projects World Orphans had started over the years, in over 50 countries. The pictures were of churches, and homes, and children.

Bob then expressed great sympathy about a story he had heard of a tragedy in India at a school. Evidently there had been a fire at the school and many children had perished. As he talked about this with Sudhakar, he wept, overcome with sadness at the loss of such innocent life. Bob was an extraordinarily compassionate man.

The meeting had a tremendous impact on Sudhakar. Pastor is part of the Acts 29 Network and has a passion for church planting. He is a tremendous leader, and is committed to seeing a church planted in every village in his state. And yet, he and his church were not caring for the orphans in their community. He explained that he was shaken by the fact that a man living halfway around the world – whom had never even been to India – cared more about the children in Hyderabad than he did.

Sudhakar was inspired.

From that day on, he became committed to caring for vulnerable children in his midst. He formed a partnership with World Orphans through Bob that has withstood the test of time. Today, his church cares for 200 orphans at 12 locations.

Sudhakar also explained that I too have inspired him. In 2010, after several conversations about sustainability, he started a farm offsetting the cost of caring for children by producing their own eggs, milk, and rice. Additionally, a few years ago I had the opportunity to preach in his church. I spoke of the beauty of adoption – our adoption into God’s family - the permanency and security we receive as co-heirs with Christ sealed by the Spirit. Sudhakar explained as a result, they started to rethink their commitment to the children for whom they are caring, that their commitment does not end when the children reach a certain age. These children are part of their church family, permanent parts of their family. They have since implemented vocational and life skill training projects for children in their care.

As President of World Orphans, I am grateful for our founder Bob Roosen. I am grateful he cared so passionately about the church, the orphan, and the expansion of the Gospel. I am grateful for all the churches and pastors he equipped, inspired, and mobilized to care for orphans and vulnerable children. I am sure there were times Bob saw the fruits of his efforts quickly, but even when he didn’t, seeds were planted.

Bob Roosen has an amazing legacy. He has inspired thousands. I am grateful his inspiration continues today through our vision to empower the church to care for orphans - until they all have homes!

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Equipped to Serve

By Matthew Hanks | Project Manager: Africa  

Longing for More

In the midst of all the political talk and opining on Facebook about the Syrian refugee crisis, and as it relates to the recent Paris attacks, I’ve been thinking about how people wind up in lands other than the ones in which their genetics are tied. For example, what were the circumstances surrounding my Scottish great grandfather who brought his young family to the US? Or my Venezuelan sister-in-law, living in central Texas, and ethnically part French? This will no doubt be an ongoing thought of my Ethiopian born son growing up in Monument, CO … especially when he reads in the bible of his people’s ancestral connection to King David and God’s ‘Chosen People’ through the Queen of Sheba. For all of us, something different incites our need for an exodus, but at some level, I believe, there is a thread in all of us that is the same. As a follower of Christ, these thoughts lead me Hebrews 11:13-16:

All these people died still believing what God had promised them. They did not receive what was promised, but they saw it all from a distance and welcomed it. They agreed that they were foreigners and nomads here on earth. Obviously people who say such things are looking forward to a country they can call their own. If they had longed for the country they came from, they could have gone back. But they were looking for a better place, a heavenly homeland. That is why God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them (NLT).

We all desire a better country. It is written in our code. Whether we are aware of the longings or not, we are all looking for a heavenly city (see Philippians 3:20).

Two Cultures Connect

There are over 1 million ethnic Indians in South Africa. Brought there first as slaves by Dutch settlers in the late 1600’s, then as indentured servants in the 1800’s, the Indian population is a hodgepodge of culture that comprises South Africa. Yet, this people group has somehow stayed very homogenous and maintained many of the cultural practices, traditions, and religions of their homeland.

Earlier this month I took five ethnic Georgian’s (the state, not the country) along with a couple of cultural nomads to Durban, South Africa, where World Orphans partners with a church who’s congregational make up is almost 100% Indian. I don’t think there could have been two other cultures on this planet that share the same language but are more different from one another. Yet after spending two weeks with together, much to my surprise, Georgia peaches and Indian curry go quite well together.

Two Cultures Serve One Another

The Christian Life Center (CLC) is a vibrant and thriving church community strategically planted among the poor to minister to the people of the Zulu tribe in that region along with their own Hindu relatives. As a church, with a great force of volunteers, they take care of 20-orphaned children from the surrounding communities. Most of these children are Zulu children who were orphaned by HIV/AIDS. One of the world’s largest concentrations of “AIDS Orphans” is in this part of South Africa, propagated by the traditional Zulu practice of polygamy. The children live in four family-style houses and are cared for by “Nannies” who are typically widowed grandmothers or “Go-Go’s”. The church is led by Pastors Siva and Roni Moodley, who shepherd the church with great care, love, and do a wonderful job equipping the church members for ministry (see Ephesians 4:11-12). They also did an amazing job equipping us.

In addition to the Children’s Homes on the church property, there is a primary school, a bakery, a sewing/shoe making facility, and a coffee shop that the church uses to facilitate many types of conferences and events. During our time there we were given opportunity to serve and participate in all of these ministries. CLC has a great relationship with some of the poorest of the poor from the Zulu tribe who are out in the “Mountains” where they are doing amazing work bringing the love of Christ to them through medical clinics, delivering Operation Christmas Child shoe boxes, food supplies, and visiting them in their homes. They’ve also set up 'fair trade’ markets for the beaded craftwork that many in this community create to support their families. They have been given a piece of land and have a great vision to begin caring for orphaned and vulnerable children directly through building a daycare center that will also function for church services and other ministry use. Let’s pray the Lord helps them fulfill this vision.

One of the most meaningful ministry activities they provided for us was the organizing and facilitating of a 3-day “Grieving Retreat” for 44-orphaned children. There were eight of us from the States and we had 59 consecutive hours to fill for these children.

It’s still shocking to me how much a child can forever mark a soul in just 59 hours. I am forever grateful to CLC for the gift of ministry they gave us. And, I will never look at Ephesians 4:11-12 the same:

Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ (NLT).

Now That We’re Home…

Since returning I’ve pondered how different my faith community would look if we all lived on mission looking for every opportunity to help others ‘do his work’. What if the majority of our serving was to help others serve? Discovering the blessing in this will radically advance the Kingdom and could bring a much needed transformation to our churches. Often when we return from short-term mission trips we feel like we’ve found that ‘better country’ and that ministry can only be found ‘over there’. However, the reality is that God’s mission field for you, for me, will always be the space between our two feet. This space is that better country. And in times like this, be prepared for the harvest to come to you!

“Now may the God of peace… equip you with everything good that you may do his will…” (Hebrews 13:21-22, ESV).

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Red Rover, Red Rover, Send the Church Right Over

By Kevin Squires | Senior Director of Church Partnerships  

From the Dressing Room to a Playground Legend

I remember the day well. It was a hot and humid August day in the mid-1980’s. I was in elementary school, and my mom had taken me back-to-school shopping at K-Mart, where she guaranteed that, “All the cool kids buy their clothes at K-Mart.”

Yep, K-Mart.

Don’t judge me.

Or her.

After all, it was the 1980’s.

Being a boy, I could care less about fashion. I knew my place in a store like K-Mart. My mom would buy me a cherry Icee, and I would sit in the dressing room, stripped down to my underwear, and wait for her to toss shirts and pants over the door for me to try on.

But for some reason that year, things didn’t go the way they had always gone. Pants were tighter. Shirts didn’t button the way they use to. As the clothes flew over the door, I tossed them right back because what kind of boy can keep his gut sucked in for an entire school day.

Eventually, as the ping ponging of clothes over the door began to slow down, it happened. She said it. It was a new word to my limited third grade vocabulary. “I’ll try some of the ‘Husky’ sizes,” she said.

“Husky?” I thought. After a brief pause, I said, “Mom, what does ‘husky’ mean?” For a short moment, no one answered. Apparently, she had already darted to the husky section. Then, from the next dressing room over, a boy not-so-graciously shouted, “It means you’re getting fat!”

My shoulders slumped. Sadly, I slurped my cherry Icee and thought, “Husky sounds so much better than fat.”

As school started up in the coming weeks, I decided to confidently wear husky well. I daily took my husky self to the playground and quickly realized I kicked farther and threw harder than anyone else. Sure, I ran a bit slower, but hey, there ain’t no shame in the game!

That year, a new game was introduced to my class during recess. We called it Red Rover. Two teams, standing 10 yards apart, joined hand in hand, staring each other down as if we were on the frontlines of battle. For third graders, it was battle. One team would yell, “Red Rover, Red Rover, Send Bobby right over!” Bobby would let go of his team’s hands and would charge over to the other team like a bat out of hell trying to break through the clasped hands of the weakest link. If he broke through, he could select a member from that team to join his team. If he failed to break the human chain, he would have to join that team.

When it came to playing Red Rover, my newfound husky girth pretty much elevated me to an Olympic athlete! Straight to the pros! No third grader could break my clotheslining grasp, and no one dared to call my “husky butt” right over! When it came to Red Rover… when it came to crashing through the clasped hands of little people, I had quickly become a husky, playground legend.

Fast-forward to the present day, for I understand my story is vanishing as we get farther away from the 80’s and 90’s. Due to an ungodly amount of skinned knees, clotheslined necks, and concussions, teachers and school boards all around the country decided to kick Red Rover to the curb. But the game will always live on in infamy.

Red Rover and the Church

All this to say … I want to bring Red Rover back.

Now, calm down teachers and school administrators! Before you threaten detention, hear me out. I want to bring it back … to the Church.

Recently, I spoke at a church for Orphan Sunday, a day where churches and orphan advocates raise awareness of the global orphan crisis. The Christian Alliance for Orphans (CAFO) estimates there are approximately 150 MILLION orphans in the world today (not including street kids and children living in orphanages). Of that number, roughly 18 million children have lost both parents, and around 132 million have one parent who is unable/unwilling to care for them, often due to extreme poverty, medical issues, women’s rights, or other international justice issues.

Due to mega million lotteries, CEO salaries, and insane sports contracts, we are becoming more and more desensitized to the value of the word ‘million.’ To help put 150 million orphans in perspective, and to bring some humanity and understanding to that number, if we formed a separate country with all of these children, this newly formed country would start out on day one as the 9th most populated country in the world, edging out Russia (142 million) who would fall to 10th. That country would also have more people than France, Spain, and Canada combined (total of 146 million).

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Crazy, isn’t it? All that got me thinking. What if these children, these 150 million orphans, joined hands and stretched out across the globe? How far would it reach? After a quick calculation, I soon realized the human chain would circle the globe … 5 times.

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I don’t tell you this to embellish or sensationalize the problem. I tell you this because … we need to bring Red Rover back to the Church. A 125,000-mile chain of 150 million orphans is standing across from the church crying out, “Red Rover, Red Rover, Send the Church Right Over.”

Now is the time to break through the human chain of orphans that is circling our world. Fortunately, God gifted the Church with the means (dare I say, Huskiness) to break the chain and care for those in need. He gave us His Spirit, which makes the impossible, possible. He gave us the Body of Christ, which reaches communities all around the world. And He gave us this declaration in James 1:27, “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to care for orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.”

Breaking Free the Human Chain of Orphans

So, how and where do we start? A recent article by the Christian Alliance for Orphans titled, “Understanding Orphan Statistics,” suggested 3 key areas of focus in orphan care:

  • Preserving Families. Work with at-risk families before separation occurs. This expands orphan care to include getting involved in poverty alleviation, global health, community health, education, gospel training, etc.
  • Reuniting Families. Whenever it can be done safely and responsibly, we must seek to reunite families that have been separated by poverty, injustice, war, natural disasters, etc.
  • Expanding Families. When birth parents have died or are unwilling/unable to provide adequate care for their child, we must work quickly to place children in permanent, loving families.

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By focusing on these three areas, the Spirit-empowered Church can blast through the human chain of the orphan crisis. And as the Church breaks through, children will break free and find homes and families.

Church, we need to bring Red Rover back. 150 million children are calling our name. Now that our ears are tuned to hear their cries, it’s time to run towards them.

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South Africa with Journey Trips: A Guest Blog

HannahEBy Hannah Edington | Journey Trip Team Member Special thanks to Hannah for her willingness to share her words with all of us. May you be encouraged by her faithful, tender, available heart. And may we follow in her footsteps. (Previously seen on Hannah's blog on 9/8/15.)

 

In just over a month I will finally see the fruit of a process I began over a year ago.

I had been searching online for organizations that had mission trips going to Ethiopia. I was specifically looking for anything with a focus on orphans or economic development, as both of these are passions of mine and are things I hope to see as a part of my future.  I had begun an application with Journey Trips, a ministry of World Orphans, but for some reason or another, I never completed it. In December of last year I received an email, which was right around the time I felt a huge push and desire to get out, GO, and make some disciples!

A lot has changed since then. Not only am I not going to Ethiopia, but in a way, I am getting a second chance. When I was thirteen my family took a vacation to South Africa. We did a ton of amazing touristy things and had a blast and spent way too much money and I quietly prayed as we drove past the shanty towns, small huts made from tin, so I could ease my conscience. After all, praying puts it in God’s hands and He can do more than I could ever dream, so really I did the best thing possible…

But now I have to ask myself, what if this is God answering my prayers? What if He is saying, “Hannah, you prayed that they would be okay. That they would be looked after. That I would show them I love them. I will. I’m sending you.”

I want to cower in fear because who am I to do God’s work? How can I stare an orphaned child in the face and tell them I love them when a trip to Ulta costs me what they live on for a number of months? When I got a massage last night and they got to ignore hunger?

I don’t know what situations I will face. I don’t know if I am going to see children who are in clean clothes and receiving education but are fatherless and alone, or if I will see children who are struggling to survive in the most basic ways.

I’m tired of seeing sensationalized visions of poverty and I’m tired of the lies that it can’t really be as bad as the media shows us.

I’m going on this trip because people matter. Children matter. Orphans matter. I live in the conflict of “me” and feeling that I’m important and then loathing myself for thinking I am. The web of pride and the chase for humility (which, when false, is pretty much pride hiding behind self-deprecation) are all consuming when I let them be.

So I’m asking God to take me back to His heart. I’m asking Him to remind me of November 4th, 2013 on Orphan Sunday when my firm choice to never have children first began to waver. I’m asking Him to take me back to when I signed up to sponsor Ablavi in Togo who lives with her grandmother because her father died and her mother abandoned her. When I sponsored Tariku in Ethiopia who lives with his uncle after both parents passed away. I’m asking Him to take me back to when I read Kisses from Katie and my heart dropped to the pit of my stomach for her passion. When I heard about the suspended exit visas in the DRC and about little Ben dying before he ever made it home to his parents in the US and when I watched a woman in my church weep as the pastor shared about her wait for her son. I’m asking Him to take me back to Hosea 14 when He reminds me that it is in Him that the orphan finds mercy.

I’m going because God’s commands and our desires should always be united.

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Join us! If your heart beats similarly to Hannah's, consider joining us in 2016 on a Journey Trip to Ethiopia, Guatemala, or Haiti. Click this link for details and registration information. Or contact our Journey Trips Mobilization Director, Amie Martin, at amie@worldorphans.org.

 

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Women, Economic Empowerment, and Hope

By Jeremy Resmer | Senior Director of Projects “Half of humanity is female. If that half is not honored and appreciated with purpose and dignity as created equally before God, then abuse, perversion, and hatred of women follows. Oppression and poverty trail after, affecting all in society: men, women, children, and the unborn.” - Karen Carlson (Prayers for Crown Jewels: Honoring Women and Children in a World at War)

Women Without Opportunity

We live in a world at war. The effects are real: seen and unseen. Most often, the victims are women and children. Far too often, women’s economic contributions are undervalued and their potential is undeveloped. And yet, time and again, it is women who are less educated and without formal job training, that are left to raise their children alone, who provide for the daily needs of the family, and in cases where the mother earns enough money, the kids may attend school and receive medical care when they get sick.

We have observed these trends in the countries where we serve. The churches with whom we partner minister to the most vulnerable families in the community. Single mothers lead nearly all these families; many are undereducated day laborers and street vendors that barely earn enough to survive while caring for their children and/or other orphaned children. While our work with local churches has been a profound source of encouragement, relationship, and even stability, it hasn’t truly addressed the longer-term issue of strengthening these families financially.

Women Must Be Empowered

Globally, poverty is a leading cause that contributes to the breakdown of families. Empowering women economically has been shown to fuel growth in local economies and decrease poverty levels. In other words, vulnerable families are strengthened and children are more likely to attend school and receive adequate medical care. It’s no different for us. So the question is: how do we shift our focus from merely helping stabilize families in the short run to empowering and strengthening them to be a blessing that will affect the next generation?

This post isn’t intended to answer this complex question with a one-size fits all solution. Of course, such a solution doesn’t exist; however, it is intended to pose the question of how we can empower families economically, particularly single women, so they can lift themselves out of the most extreme poverty and improve their lives by using their existing talents and skills accompanied with appropriate opportunities and training for advancement?

Our Response in Ethiopia

In Ethiopia, economic and family empowerment, especially among single mothers, remain huge issues the church is trying to help address. We are working alongside our church partners to equip and train them in these areas. For example, our program director has trained seven church coordinators on a simple way for women to save as a group and open a savings account at a local bank. By June of this year (2015), all of our coordinators were trained and this program was implemented at each church.

Each caregiver in our program, 150 in total, has started saving. Some save 5 Birr per month others save more than 30 Birr (1.50 USD). It varies from church to church and person to person, based on what they are able to contribute. Two elected members of the group collect the money and take it to the bank. All funds contributed are tracked in a ledger. The group meets monthly, has coffee together, and engages all sorts of dialogue. They discuss family, business, faith, and other important issues. Often they pray together. In some churches, the meetings are done at the same time as a food distribution for families in the community. This simple, self-managed savings program is VERY effective. The women are all saving so they have the opportunity in the future to start or expand a business and improve the lives of their families. They feel a renewed sense of dignity and hope.

It’s Working! Women Are Being Empowered: Four Examples

  1. At Leku Keta Church, located around the outskirts of Addis Ababa and very poor economically, the savings program includes all 30 caregivers, one other member of the church, and a Muslim woman who doesn’t attend (32 total). In three short months, they have saved 1,690 Birr (~85 USD) and, in addition, each member contributes 1 Birr per month that is set aside to help other members of the community with special funding needs like the birth of a new baby, a funeral, and so on. These caregivers are not only saving but also contributing to the well being of the community and church. They aren’t simply saving to improve their own lives but also to be a blessing to others. This is nothing short of amazing!
  1. At Lafto Church, our program director piloted an empowerment fund where some of the caregivers are given loans starting at 500 Birr (~$25), after which they pay them back at 50 Birr per month for 10 months. When a person pays back the 500 Birr, they have the opportunity to receive another loan for 1,000 Birr and pay it back at 50 Birr per month for 20 months. Currently, there are eight women that received loans for 500 Birr and three women have already received loans for 1,000 Birr. This program is going very well so far. The church members even provided a portion of the initial funds to launch the program. The loans and repayments are tracked in a ledger each month and the funds repaid are used to provide additional loans to other members.
  1. Literacy training has also been initiated in each of the churches with whom we partner. The Home-Based Care (HBC) program coordinators are teaching Amharic to caregivers who are unable to read and/or write but who have a desire to learn. At one of our churches, six caregivers in our program are attending classes three days per week. The coordinator writes letters on the blackboard and the caregivers practice writing letters in their exercise books at home with their children. This activity is providing another way for parents to engage and connect with their children. None of these caregivers could read or write (even their names) when they started. However, after just three months since starting, two women can write their own names and both of them want to continue learning so they can teach other women in the community!
  1. In addition, five empowerment packs have been created in partnership with our church partners to address key issues: including hygiene, women’s health, and literacy. These packs will be distributed to each of our caregivers and accompanied with training for them and the churches.

Each of these initiatives is being developed and implemented in the local context, in collaboration with the churches and with financial contributions from our US church partners. While this program in Ethiopia is still in its infancy and we continue to learn daily, the results we’ve seen so far have been truly outstanding! Of course, there are challenges that we work through with the churches and the caregivers, but our grassroots empowerment program works through the local church, allows for the advancement of the gospel and ongoing discipleship, and is giving hope to women for a better life for themselves and their families.

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Amazed in Affliction

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

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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.

Ella Pearl Evans, our 15-year-old team member.

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.”  

Ella assisting her Dad during the dental clinic.

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.

Praying for Mercy as she learned of her father's passing.

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. 

A picture of the Mboya family (Veronica is in blue; Mercy is in pink).

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.

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Orphan Care in the Church’s Infancy

By David Martin | Communications Specialist “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” (James 1:17).

“By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35).

We know these verses well, and often invoke them when discussing the church’s role in caring for the fatherless. From the brief records we have, it certainly seems that the early church truly took these commands to heart, gaining for themselves a reputation as those who cared for the least of these.

Falsehood is not found among them; and they love one another; and from widows they do not turn away their esteem; and they deliver the orphan from him who treats him harshly. And he who has, gives to him who has not, without boasting. And when they see a stranger, they take him in to their homes and rejoice over him as a very brother (Apology of Aristides the Philosopher 15, c. A.D. 125).

And those who are well off and are willing to do so give as much as each desires, and the money thus collected is deposited with the bishop, who takes care of the orphans and widows, and those who are in straits through sickness or any other cause, and those in prison, and our visitors from other parts—in short, he looks after all who are in need (Justin Martyr, 1 Apology 67, A.D. 100-165).

The Writings and Practices of Early Church Fathers

Early church fathers had much to say about caring for orphans and widows as a regular part of the church’s praxis. David Nowell describes well the culture we find in the earliest centuries of the church.

In the growing Christian movement, the Church fathers consistently and conspicuously called upon followers of Christ to be faithful to Scripture’s demand that we care for the orphan. Virtually every early writing on Christian conduct stressed the importance of caring for children without parents. Eusebius, the Apostolic Constitutions, Lactantius, Ignatius, Polycarp, Justin Martyr…the list goes on and on, but every one of them called on the early church to care for orphans. One writer goes so far as to say that the orphan had only three possibilities in life: death, slavery, or Christian adoption (David Z. Nowell, Dirty Faith: Bringing the Love of Christ to the Least of These).

Below are a few passages that illustrate the sentiment carried by these founders of the church:

Now note well those who hold heretical opinions about the grace of Jesus Christ that came to us; note how contrary they are to the mind of God. They have no concern for love, none for the widow, none for the orphan, none for the oppressed, none for the prisoner or the one released, none for the hungry or thirsty (Ignatius, Smyrnaeans 6.2, A.D. 110).

The presbyters, for their part, must be compassionate, merciful to all, turning back those who have gone astray, visiting all the sick, not neglecting a widow, orphan, or poor person, but always aiming at what is honorable in the sight of God and of people (Polycarp, Philippians 6.1, c. A.D. 110).

It is the way of persecutors of the good, of those who hate truth, love a lie, do not know the reward of righteousness, do not adhere to what is good or to righteous judgment, who ignore the widow and the orphan…have no mercy for the poor, do not work on behalf of the oppressed, are reckless with slander, do not know the one who made them, are murderers of children…who turn away from someone in need…utterly sinful (Epistle of Barnabas 20.2, c. A.D. 100–130).

Other descriptive passages from early texts describe some of what this looked like in practice:

Perhaps the earliest textual evidence we have of an organized system specifically dedicated to the care of orphans comes form a passage of Hermas, in which their religious education is explicitly stressed… Many Biblical scholars believe that [James 1:27] assigns the task of caring for orphans to the deacons of the early Church. However, in light of other passages in Hermas it is obvious that caring for orphans was seen by the author as work generally pleasing to God and an ethical duty for all Christians (Hübner and Ratzan, Growing Up Fatherless in Antiquity).

A third century document known as the Didascalia Apostolorum lays out the criteria for selecting a presbyter. One of the requirements in this list is that the candidate has been known as ‘a father to the orphans’ (3.2). This document then goes on to describe a suitable candidate for the bishopric as one who has been ‘a lover of toil, a lover of widows, a lover of orphans’ (3.2) (Aloisi, Orphan Care, Adoption, and the Church).

When we first meet the mention of the adoption and bringing up of foundlings, this work appears not as a novelty, but as one long practiced. It is true that the heathen also used to take care of exposed children, but for the purposes of bringing them up as gladiators or prostitutes, or to use them in their own service…. Christians brought up the children whom they took charge of for the Lord, and for a respectable and industrious life (G. Uhlhorn, Christian Charity in the Ancient Church, p. 186).

All of this illustrates the reality of care for the orphan and the marginalized has been a central part of the church’s fundamental makeup from the very beginning, as it continues to be. Once again, David Nowell summarizes beautifully: “Orphan care is our (the church’s) identity — and has been for two thousand years.”

And we at World Orphans say a hearty “amen.”

 

SOURCES:

  • David Z Nowell, Dirty Faith: Bringing the Love of Christ to the Least of These
  • Hübner and Ratzan, Growing Up Fatherless in Antiquity
  • John Aloisi, Orphan Care, Adoption, and the Church: Historical Reflections and Contemporary Challenges
  • Uhlhorn, Christian Charity in the Ancient Church

 

 

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I Was an Orphan

By Tacy Layne | Guest Blogger Tacy

The majority of us do not understand what it means to be orphaned, experience homelessness, or be without the comforts of a family, but as believers we know something about the heart of an orphan because we were once orphaned as well. It's our story.

Adoption has been around for centuries as an integral part of many societies, but it has not always held the modern-day connotation of starry-eyed parents waiting and anticipating that sweet little life for months or even years. When Paul wrote to the early Roman church, he knew their paradigm, and in an effort to remind them of their identity in Christ, he shattered the current cultural perception of adoption to make way for something much bigger:

For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him (Romans 8:14-17).

The Romans would have understood Paul’s analogy of adoption because the practice was common in Rome. People of high class would often adopt to gain power. More often than not, Romans would adopt adults into their family simply to spread the expansion of their kingdoms. Adopted children would be given the same rights as the biologically-born children and be in line for a portion of the inheritance; however, these adoptions were fueled by a lust for power. Paul writes to the Romans and turns adoption on its head, saying we can cry, "Abba, Father." "Abba" was a warm, affectionate term for a father and the only relatively comparable term we have today is "daddy." It conveys a revolutionary kind of trust and closeness.

Senior Pastor of North Point Community Church Andy Stanley, in expanding on this analogy, said that sin trapped us in an orphanage where we could not be free. Jesus walked up to the door and knocked loudly until the door was finally answered. He sought us out and he adopted us. Regardless of what sin did to us before, when we came under the care of God, sin lost all authority. Sin treated us badly, but God offered us love. And when sin decides it’s going to drive the many miles or cross the ocean to come find us where we live under His care, it will knock on the door and God will remind it once more, "You have no authority over this child anymore."

We don’t love orphans merely because we’re commanded to do so. [tweet]We love orphans because their cry for a father echoes deeply in our own once-orphaned soul and our response is surprising, profound empathy.[/tweet] In the fibers of my being, I was the child who didn’t have a place to lay his head at night, didn’t know the comfort of a warm meal, and couldn’t fathom the love found in a mother’s arms. But, I was adopted. We were adopted. We were given a home. We’re going to keep on loving, keep on striving, and keep on dreaming until every single one of the 153 million orphans in the world has a home.

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Servant Leadership

By Scott Vair | President Recently I traveled to Haiti and participated in a two-day training conference for World Orphans church partners, including their pastors and OVC (Orphan and Vulnerable Child) teams. I started our time together with a devotional on servant leadership.

I explained that I want my leadership at World Orphans to be characterized by servant leadership; I want to be known as a servant leader in my church; I want to be remembered as a father that modeled servant leadership for his children.

So, I asked, “What is servant leadership? And when I say servant leadership, what comes to mind?”

Answers included:

  • Serving first – leading second
  • Serving those we lead instead of expecting those we lead to serve us
  • Caring for those we lead
  • Loving those we lead

The pastors and leaders gave examples of characteristics a servant leader possesses:

  • Humble
  • Caring
  • Helpful
  • Loving
  • Joyful
  • Peaceful
  • Patient
  • Kind
  • Gentle
  • Faithful
  • Self-controlled

Then we looked at what scripture has to say about servant leadership:

  • “For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45).
  • Jesus washed his disciples feet and then said to them, “For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you” (John 13:15).
  • “Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being the very nature of God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant” (Philippians 2:5-7).

Jesus is the example of servant leadership.

Pastor Jack Miller in his book, The Heart of Servant Leader, writes beautifully about servant leadership.

Paraphrasing, he says that in order for us to be servant leaders we must have a deep understanding of the gospel. We have to admit we are desperate sinners in constant need of grace. He says we must live a life of vital faith and humility, instead of pride and self-reliance keeping us from having a significant part in the work of Christ.

Miller notes that we must model repentance, saying that repentance is not a once-in-a-lifetime experience but a whole way of life. Miller does not think repentance was optional in the life of a Christian leader. He also points out that we are not to spend all our time thinking about our sins; rather, repentance drives us to a deeper reliance on Christ and his work on our behalf at the cross.

And finally, Miller insists that a servant leader is known by his or her commitment to prayer. As leaders, we are connected to Christ through prayer. Like repentance, prayer is a whole way of living. Pray, pray, and pray some more.

We concluded our time together confessing our desire to be biblical servant leaders, praying that our lives would be marked by:

  • A deep understanding of the Gospel
  • Vital faith and humility
  • Repentance
  • Prayer

May it be so!

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Carrie Steele | A Mother of Orphans

Every now and again, a person comes along whose life truly exudes the compassion and love of Christ. One such woman was Carrie Steele. steeleAn orphaned child herself, and born into slavery, Steele knew what it was like to feel the pain of abandonment, and gave her life to being a mother to unwanted children. In addition to this, she has left a legacy as a key figure in the fight toward race equality.

Steele’s work of caring for the defenseless began while working as a maid for Atlanta’s Union railroad station. She would often find abandoned children left at the train station, and proceed to take these children to her small home and care for them. Over time, her own capacity to care for the number of children she had taken in became stretched, and she began laboring toward the building of an establishment for the children.

She worked tirelessly and used various means to raise funds in order to build an orphan home, including the writing and promotion of her own autobiography, fundraising in the community, and finally, the selling of her own home. At last, the woman who made $100 per month working for the railroad station managed to gather the $5,000 needed to construct her orphan home, and it was dedicated in 1892.

The passion for these children ran beyond simply pulling them off the street, but bled into what we call Wholistic Care. She recognized that without the proper care, these orphans would end up no better off than at the first. As someone who had served as a volunteer probation officer, she understood that orphans were prone to fall into lives of crime, and in the effort to prevent this, she structured the home in such a way as to care for all of a child’s needs and prepare them for a successful life ahead.

Steele made the spiritual formation of the children a top priority. E. B. Carter makes note in his book The Black Side that orphans in Carrie’s home were “taught, first of all, to pray.” Bible study was also a part of the regular lives of the children. She would also ensure that the children would be taught practical skills and be instilled with a strong work ethic. As Tevi Henson put it in an article from the New Georgia Encyclopedia, “The orphanage was created to serve as a place for homeless African American children to be educated, study religion, and learn skills in order to gain employment.”

Steele was not only a notable figure in orphan history, but in the civil rights movement as well. She was fighting for young boys and girls of color when racial tensions were still extremely prevalent. This home would become a significant help for those underprivileged children who would fall prey to the highest level of discrimination and marginalization. Steele was truly helping the most helpless & outcast ones, and thus served in the ultimate sense to advance the cause of racial equality as well.

Carrie Steele Logan (her married name) developed a high acclaim and appreciation within the society of Atlanta, Georgia. Many in the community, including the local police force affectionately named her “aunt Carrie.” Her gravestone is inscribed with the phrase: “The Mother of Orphans. She has done what she could.” The labor of this woman who poured her life out for the defenseless has not been forgotten by those affected by her life, and, chiefly, by our heavenly “Father to the fatherless”.

SOURCES:

 

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Considering the Cost: A Guest Blog

By Amy S. | Journey Trip Member & Guest Blogger Our first Journey Trip of 2015 just returned from Haiti, and as the team leader I am thrilled to become acquainted with the hearts of my team members. When God lays something on a person’s heart it is our desire to respond to the leading no matter the cost. – Amie Martin, Journey Trips Mobilization Director.

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PRE-HAITI

Hello, my name is Amy, and I recently joined World Orphans for their Journey mission to Haiti in early August.

I never thought I would be a person to go on a mission trip, let alone a mission trip out of the country. I always thought there were plenty of other Christians out there to “fill the gap”, “make the sacrifice”, ”go the extra mile”.

Amy_Hello1.jpgI was pretty content in my small, quiet life … that is until God spoke to me. No, it wasn’t a “burning bush” experience, as I probably would have been paralyzed with fear and missed His message. No, it was more like He put a desire in my heart to do something more with my small, quiet life. You see, I am an “empty nester” now, and it has been a long time since I have been around younger children, but I have always loved caring for and nurturing them.

I knew scripture had specific instructions to the church regarding orphans and widows, so that is what I sought out when I decided to look for a place to serve. So using the Internet I searched “mission trips” which kicked me to a site that all I had to do was type where, what specifically do I want to do, and how long. Up popped World Orphans!

When I first applied to World Orphans the trip was set for May and it was to be a dental focus. I thought, “Great!” I work in the dental field and Haiti in May would be perfect! This must be confirmation that I am to “do this”. So, I invited my friend to consider joining me on this endeavor. She was all for it, applied, and was accepted to the team also. Fantastic! Now I had someone to share this experience with me! Then the trip was moved to August … Haiti in August? Then the dental focus was to be put on hold until possibly 2016. Then my friend backed out for her own personal reasons. What about the confirmation?

But, I knew I really was meant to go - because none of that mattered, the month, the focus, and not having a friend to go along with me. All that mattered was that I was to follow through on the desire to serve. I had so many obstacles in my way to distract me. My mother suddenly passed away weeks ago, my first grandchild was born, and an abundance of other distractions to get in my way for making this trip the experience of a lifetime.

It is my hope and prayer to stay focused on the path while remembering: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13).

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POST-HAITI

I’ve been home for one week already since my incredible trip to Delmas, Port au Prince, Haiti! I’ve been sorting through many feelings as I reflect upon the week with my teammates, World Orphans staff, and Christ followers of Haiti.

Before we departed for Haiti, my team leader Amie asked if I would recruit a “prayer warrior.” I would keep in contact with this person throughout the week with updates on our trip and prayer requests while we were on-field. I gave the name of one of my very best friends, Renee, whom I knew would be up to the task, since my previous “go to warrior” was now with the Lord and cheering me on. It is because of those prayers that I have felt God’s strength and sustaining grace that gave me one of the most wonderful and fulfilling experiences of my life.

The smiling faces of the children and people of Pastor Carlos’s church and community is a memory I will cherish the rest of my life. The prayer requests broke our hearts as our interpreter Davidson translated. We realized that the requested prayers were no different than the ones we lift up here in America, to be “faithful and be kept in the Lord Jesus and in the Church”. Only their difficulties are compounded with the inability to provide food or water on a daily basis.

I learned that World Orphans supports 20 children through Pastor Carlos’s church and we were able to visit a few homes in a “tent city” one afternoon. As we walked on the hillside through the community of makeshift, two-room tarp homes, people were smiling and greeting us with joy and acknowledgment. There was special hospitality shown towards Pastor Carlos, as he is known for his dedication and commitment to them. I also witnessed children playing and smiling, as well as mothers reading their Bibles and praising God. It was quite profound!

Yes, the country of Haiti is the poorest in the Western Hemisphere; we saw the evidence of that everywhere we looked. But when you look past that, God is moving in the individual lives of each Christian there! That is their Hope, that “He who began a good work in you will be faithful to work it to completion…” (Philippians 1:6).

That is my Hope also.

God Bless, Amy

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We at World Orphans rejoice in the work Amy was able to experience during her time in Haiti. She is one of hundreds of individuals whose life has been influenced by the incredible brothers and sisters with whom we partner in Haiti. Amy, thank you for your willingness to courageously journey with us, and as you beautifully stated, we also believe that “He who began a good work in you will be faithful to work it to completion.”

We invite you to take a step to becoming a lifelong orphan advocate by joining us on a Journey Trip! Click this link for more information.

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Intersections

A guest blog, by Simeon. You are invited to lean into some thoughts, feelings, and ideas from Simeon, one of our Journey Trip team members, currently in Haiti. We are thankful for his vulnerability and willingness to allow us to post his blog. We hope it inspires you today in your own journey of active faith.

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My journey to signing up for this Journey Trip mission follows from the intersection of two simultaneous stories of how God has been working in my life:

Getting Comfortable with Serving

I like logistics. In almost everything I do, I like organizing, planning, and running the show from safely out of the spotlight, behind the scenes. This includes the ministries I’ve served in as well, such as audio-visuals at church and the secretary and treasurer in the university fellowship. Last summer, I declined to join the VSET missions team from our church, and instead, I decided to support the team financially instead.

Hiding behind the soundboard. It’s rather comfortable back here.

I told myself that it was a better use of my resources: I had a summer job, and if I didn’t have to take a week off, I could give that money to someone else who can do missions better! Quite logical. It’s a similar reason to why I’ve chosen to serve in behind-the-scenes roles as well: there are others who are “better” at public speaking, and more sociable and charismatic.

But this was also an excuse. Serving behind-the-scenes is very comfortable. I’ve gotten rather experienced at it. And the problem is that I’ve started trusting myself that I can handle these jobs. It feels like I no longer need to trust in Him to do the tasks needed for the comfortable behind-the-scenes jobs. It was clear, this wasn’t good enough.

The whole idea of comfort and complacency happened to be the theme of one of our university fellowship retreats.

Passing On the Torch

At our church, the AV team had stayed relatively constant in the last 4–5 years. But in those years, I also had the chance to see high schoolers graduate and leave for university, young adults beginning to start families and have children. As people enter into brand new stages of life, the roles they serve in their ministries inevitably change. And so I thought about the AV team, “Who’s going to do this after we’re gone?” The current team members have been serving for several years, and we have not had any new recruits. I realized then the importance of actively training and mentoring the next generation as being a core part of every ministry, which is just as important, if not more than the tasks of the ministry itself.

At the same time, I had the amazing opportunity to teach children’s Sunday school at my church for grades 5-6. I love the children, and it’s the best feeling to see them get excited and be interested in learning about Christ. It was then that I came to realize the truth of the statement “the future rests with the children”. These same children are the ones who will grow up to be older siblings for the younger ones. It will be them who step up to lead the high school and university fellowships, who will be a light to their communities at their school, and in their workplaces. It will be them who will grow up to serve as department chairs and board members in the church. At that point, I wanted very much for every child to experience God for themselves in the personal way that changes them to the core of their being, so that they too, would want that for others.

The Intersection

When my pastor asked me this summer to join the missions trip, I voiced my objections that I didn’t want to be on the front lines; he challenged me to try being uncomfortable for once. Almost everything about this trip is scary, and travelling to a foreign country might not be the worst of it. I’m scared of saying the wrong things; I’m scared to ask my peers, friends, and family for money; I’m scared writing this blog post. But I also realized that there is an entire group of children who also need to experience God in that personal way. They too, have the future of their churches, families, and perhaps their country resting on them as well.

I realized that God has been preparing me all this time to reach out to the families in Haiti, and although it’s scary, He invites me to find my comfort through faith in Him. And that’s more than comfort enough.

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How is God inviting you to stretch in faith? 

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Bethesda Orphanage | A Puritan Preacher’s House of Mercy

By David Martin | Communications Specialist Every other month, staff member David Martin will share his research about men and women who have cared for orphans in various ways. We are inspired by the lives of believers from the past, and seek to learn from both their models and mistakes. Lean into this blog as David shares about preacher George Whitefield and his orphan-care model.

If scripture’s multitude of passages on the subject didn’t seem sufficient to convince that our God carries a deep, rich, and passionate love for the orphan, then a glimpse into the history of the church ought to win you over. Men and women, carrying in themselves a fervent love for our Lord, for the gospel, for the kingdom - find in themselves a compelling drive to provide for the orphan and widow.

We see something of this heart in the life of the early church when we see in Paul’s letter to the Galatians that Peter’s only request to him was to “remember the poor” - “the very thing I was eager to do” (Gal. 2:10). We can see this as well in the lives of many throughout church history. One of the preeminent examples from recent centuries would be that of the old preacher George Whitefield.

Most remember Whitefield for his contribution to the American Great Awakening, which swept across the American Colonies during the 1930s and 40s. Some call to mind his association and friendship with other prominent preachers and religious figures of the day, including Jonathan Edwards and the Wesley brothers. Some have heard stories of his oratory skill and open air preaching ministry, of which Benjamin Franklin calculated over thirty thousand people could hear him at once. Some, however, remember that less-often talked about, but massively important labor, of Whitefield’s life: the Bethesda Orphanage.

Whitefield, who lived from 1714 to 1770, first visited the colony of Georgia on May 7, 1738. His stay was short, and he left the US in August of 1738, just a few months later. By that time he was fully convinced of the need to construct the orphanage and lost no time in beginning to fundraise in England for the purpose of establishing an orphanage.

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His determination allowed for the swift construction of the orphan home, and by 1740, just a couple of years later, he was beginning to gather orphans from the colony into his new home. It was Whitefield who decided upon the name Bethesda, stating that it would be “a house of mercy to the souls and bodies of many people, both young and old.”

Whitefield cared deeply about the children’s need for spiritual care, as well as practical skills and education. The description of the children’s daily life portrays Whitefield’s aim:

“The children rose at five every morning, spent a quarter of an hour in prayer and then assembled for chapel at six where a psalm was sung and an extemporary prayer offered. After a breakfast served amid the singing of hymns, the orphans were employed until ten at such tasks as carding, spinning, picking cotton and wool, and sewing and knitting. Some of the older boys were apprenticed to nearby tailors, carpenters and shoemakers. There followed four hours of formal schooling, interrupted at twelve by lunch and a ‘free period.’ At four they returned to work for two hours, took supper at six and then attended an evening chapel service. From eight to nine Whitefield or Barber catechized the children, and after fifteen minutes of private prayer the children went to bed.”

In 1740, he said:

“Though the children are taught to labor for the meat that perisheth, yet they are continually reminded to seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and then to depend upon God’s blessing on their honest endeavors for having food and raiment added unto them. … As my design in founding the Orphan House was to build up souls for God, I endeavor to preach most of all to the children’s hearts… that they may be able to give a reason of the hope that is in them…"

His desire was to first and foremost care for the children’s spiritual needs, that that they would be grounded in the gospel; but he also ensured that they learned vocational skills so as to prepare them for a seamless transition into a successful life after leaving the orphan home. This was, indeed, a vision for “wholistic care”. He desired to not simply keep the children off the street, but to invest in their future for the sake of the children themselves, and also recognizing they were the future of society.

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Whitefield had as part of the grand plan the establishment of a college to run alongside the orphanage. In his petition to start the college, he stated that his desire was “to make the Orphan House not only a receptacle for the fatherless children, but also a place of literature and academical studies.” The College never successfully came to fruition during his lifetime, but it nonetheless gives us a further glimpse into his long-term desire and heart for the orphanage.

Whitefield was not a perfect man by any means, nor was this orphan home a perfect demonstration of care for the fatherless, but it was beneficial and inspirational to many. Orphan care has changed drastically throughout the years, but thanks to individuals like Whitefield, we are given examples from which to learn. This preacher, who cared more than anything for the preaching of the gospel, could not separate from his faith the responsibility to care for the orphan. It would seem that James 1:27 was truly beating in this man’s heart, and thus flowed out of his life. Oh that the Lord would give us more of these kinds of men and women in our day - those with a passion for the gospel, that includes being eager to “remember the poor”.

Interact with us: what do you learn from Mr. Whitefield’s model? What would you do differently?

 

SOURCES:

George Whitefield’s Bethesda – Robert V. Williams

The Life of George Whitefield - Luke Tyerman

The Works of the Rev. George Whitefield - Volume II

The Works of the Rev. George Whitefield - Volume III

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We Must Work the Works

By Matthew Hanks | Projects Manager – Africa Every time I’m in a developing country, such as Ethiopia, I consider how radically altered my life would be by simply being born on a different plot of dirt on this earth. Most of the privilege I’ve experienced has nothing to do with my efforts, abilities, or upbringing, but is primarily related to geography. I am also reminded of this reality as I watch my Ethiopian born son grown up in the US. At almost four years of age, in rural Ethiopia, would he be tending to the family goat? Maybe he’d be hauling water from a near by stream? Would he even be alive if he were never adopted, or would the seizures he was having as a baby have left him among the statistics of children who don’t make it to their 5th birthday? My thoughts also arise as I watch the news: would the Syrian born boy have grown up to be an ISIS terrorist if he thought he had an opportunity to go to college and become a doctor? Would there be nine more church members at the Emanuel AME church if Dylan Roof’s father had been transferred to Seattle when he was young, decreasing the fuel of his anger and prejudice?

I think about “my lot in life” and am incredibly thankful; however, it’s hard to reconcile the blessings I’ve received when people I’ve come to care about, who are every bit as deserving of good things in life as I am, seem stuck in hopeless situations. I’d like to tell you about two of those people: two boys who have equally invaded my heart, soul, and comfort seeking lifestyle since I’ve been back from my latest trip to Africa.

Meet Stephen

The first boy I’ll call Stephen. Not only was his “lot” to start out life as a double orphan, but as a reminder of his biological parents’ shortcomings, he was also born into this world with HIV/AIDS. Last month, when we arrived at the church compound where the children’s home is located, Stephen was one of the first faces for whom I was looking. Based on previous trips, I knew about his fight with HIV/AIDS, but I hadn’t heard how close he’d come to loosing the battle until just a few weeks earlier. It’s heartbreaking to witness a 90-pound child losing 18-pounds. The dagger drives even deeper when you wrap your arms around the 11 year old and feel nothing but bones under the baggy clothing. Feelings of helplessness, anger, and guilt left me completely speechless as we laid hands on and prayed for Stephen. Despite my best efforts to keep it together, tears spilled over the dammed reservoir of emotions. Though I couldn’t pray aloud, my heart was silently screaming for help on this child’s behalf. Without parents in this world who is going to fight for him? WHO!?

Meet Gabriel

The story of the second child, whom we’ll call Gabriel, is even more complex. Our Ethiopian Program Manager, Belgi, attempted to explain, in broken English, a situation at one of the churches where one of our children has “two sexes”. Upon examining the child, my doctor buddy used the term ‘ambiguous genitalia’. Hermaphrodite is the technical term; a term and condition hardly known by the “highly educated” in the US, and one certainly not known by the midwives of the child’s rural village. The condition requires delicate, specialized care and surgery, but where Gabriel comes from, those in authority decided that the most fitting solution to this “curse” was to end his life. That was the fate of his little brother when he was born with the same condition. Out of fear for the older brother’s life, the father brought him eight hours away to a church on the edge of Addis Ababa. The “what if’s” surrounding this child’s future hover over the situation like giant African vultures waiting expectantly for a meal. Without parents in this world who will ensure his heart, soul, and body get the specialized, delicate care that he needs? WHO?!

There Is Hope

I am thankful to say that, at least for these two boys, the answer to the question of “Who will be there for them?” is the Church. Primarily, the ones sharing the responsibility of providing love, attention, and the meeting of physical needs is the local church in their community, partnered with a US church family. Knowing this helps; yet, I still wrestle inside with the ‘why’ for these two.

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Luke 9:1-3 gives us a clear answer:

“As he passed by, he saw a man blind from birth. And his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him...”

I am overwhelmed with the feelings of helplessness when I put myself in the shoes of the desperate father of Gabriel, who had no known resources to turn to for help - no government assistance, no known grants to apply for, no hospital to set up a payment plan, no daytime TV program like Oprah on which to share his story. Rather, his only possible hope was for God to intervene through His people. All the details that have fallen into place are nothing short of miraculous - that the father heard of a church eight hours away, with people who have a heart for children like his, for the church to accept him, adopt him into a family in their congregation, carry the burden as their own, and for a US church partner to come into the picture and offer resources to help. Amazing! These are the “works of God” on display in both Stephen and Gabriel’s lives. It’s why the Lord allows broken pieces in the world and why the Church is the vehicle by which He plans to restore the brokenness.

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Look at what Jesus tells us “we must do”, as we continue reading in verses 4-5 of that same passage in Luke:

“…we must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming, when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”

What a privilege to be included in the “We”. We are how He’s chosen to remain in the world. Because of Jesus in us, we too are the light of the world.

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5 Life-Changing Lessons I've Learned by Working Through Cross-Cultural Conflicts

by Kevin Squires, Senior Director of Church Partnerships In recent months, it has been hard to watch television or scroll through social media feeds without noticing a surge in brokenness, hate, and heaviness. Long-standing wars on race, religion, socio-economics, gender, and sexuality are finding new battlegrounds, where online crusaders feel entitled to use an arsenal of no more than 140 characters to attack their opponents without ever having a meaningful conversation.

It often seems that each tweet gives birth to a new “expert.” Each “expert” comes equipped with armies of followers numbering in the hundreds, thousands, and in some case, millions. While news stations continually supply the arrows of agenda to these so-called experts, the war continues… seemingly, a war with no end.

It is important to note as Christians that before we conclude that we are always the victims or, dare I say, innocent in this war, we should first heed the words of the Apostle Paul, who cautioned the Philippians that, “…some preach Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from good will. The latter do it out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. The former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition” (Phil. 1:15-17).

It is perhaps even more important to note that many Christians spend just as much time, if not more, slandering one another as they do reaching out to a lost and broken world. This type of assault is what I’d like to address here. In a world where it is commonplace to hurl darts at people who believe differently, with quick strokes on our keyboard, shouldn’t Christians strive to rise above the status quo? Wouldn’t the world have a better chance of seeing Christ’s love if they were able to get a glimpse of how we, as Christians, love one another?

As I have traveled the world over the last 20 years, I have spent time training pastors, caring for orphaned and vulnerable children, and facilitating church partnerships between churches from very different cultures. I have seen the Beautiful Church, preaching Christ from the heart of goodwill and shining its light for all to see. In turn, I have seen the Ugly Church, preaching Christ from envy, rivalry, and selfish ambition, constantly blending in to an already darkened world of conflict and hate. In retrospect, and to be completely honest, I confess to have played a starring role in both types of churches.

It has led me to wonder… As Christians, how can we better equip, inspire, and mobilize the Beautiful Church, while refusing to empower the Ugly one? How can we navigate through the complexities of our disagreements, disputes, and doctrinal differences between one another while still being “the salt of the earth” and “a city on a hill” (Matt. 5:13-16)?

To begin the conversation, here are five lessons (inspired by Mary Lederleitner’s book, Cross-Cultural Partnerships) that I have recently learned in dealing with cross-cultural conflicts. Perhaps these might help you navigate through some difficult disagreements with a fellow believer:

 

  1. Intentionally focus on what you have in common by finding any signs of encouragement.

“So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind” (Phil. 2:1-2).

Differences often jump out first, so, just as Paul suggests, you might have to dig deep to find ‘any’ ounce of encouragement. But when you find it, stake your flag in it and declare that ounce common ground for the Kingdom of God. Churches split, families split, organizations split, and racial and ethnic groups split, often from the simplest of things. The ones that survive, thrive on unity. They agree on the core truths, the importance of love, and they are successfully able to distinguish the sharp difference between unity and uniformity.

 

  1. Humbly elevate the significance of others above your own interests.

“Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others” (Phil. 2:3-4).

Control freaks, BEWARE! It’s time to relinquish it. When we approach conflict with Spirit-led humility, the Lord regains control of the mess we created for ourselves. As people, we love to measure outcomes, but as godly people, we value the journey. Lederleitner says, “Sometimes outcome-based goals might be met, but the overall toll on the Kingdom of God is worse than before the partnership began because of harsh words, hurt feelings, and lingering resentment and bitterness. It takes humility to look past our own needs and recognize the needs of others. It takes humility to realize we are not the center of the universe and our goals are not the most important ones on the planet.”

 

  1. Cast away your right to power and embrace the rewards of obedience.

“Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who though He was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made Himself nothing, taking the form of the servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on the cross. Therefore, God has highly exalted Him and bestowed on Him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth, and every tongue confess that Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Phil. 2:5-11).

Power can light a fire to anything, but relinquishing our right to power can distinguish most flames. Christ had every right to come to earth on a chariot, but he came in a manger. He had every right to speak with the roaring sound of thunder, but He often spoke in a still, small voice. He had every right to leave earth without death, but instead said, “not my will but yours be done,” and then embraced the cross. He simply obeyed the Father and His service was rewarded. Are you willing to set aside the outcome to trust God through the journey? Are you willing to let go and let God?

 

  1. Letting go doesn’t mean you won’t have to work at it.

“Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure” (Phil. 2:12-13).

Working through disagreements isn’t always easy, but it isn’t supposed to be lonely either. Sure it takes work, but the work is in partnership with the gospel. As a matter of fact, it’s important to understand that our desire to work out our salvation and to find peace and unity actually comes from God. If resolution were left to us, we would always end up right, whether we were right or not. Rather, it’s God’s grace and love that will see both parties through to the end.

 

  1. There’s a reason you were called into this conflict.

“Do all things without grumbling or questioning, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you will shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain. Even if I am poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrificial offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all. Likewise you also should be glad and rejoice with me” (Phil. 2:14-18).

Everything comes full circle. How can we better equip, inspire, and mobilize the Beautiful Church, while refusing to empower the Ugly one? How can we navigate through the complexities of our disagreements, disputes, and doctrinal differences between one another while still being “the salt of the earth” and “a city on a hill?”

The answers are found when we understand our role. God has long placed Christians at the front of the stage in terms of conflict. Christ was constantly in the spotlight of conflict because it was there that He was able to “shine as a light in the world.” He didn’t grumble. He didn’t question. He didn’t respond as someone from a crooked and twisted generation. Rather, He held fast to the word of life. He extended grace. He leaned on the Father.

And, in the end, He rejoiced and invited us to rejoice with Him.

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