Orphaned children haven't always been orphans. What happened?
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By Becky Hoffman | Director of Rescue Teams Growing up. Leaving the nest. It is something most of us have done or will do. The time comes when we leave our parents behind and set out on our own. Free. Independent. Terrified. Some will attend college, while others join the workforce. Many will rent apartments or buy houses. Bills are now addressed to self, not parent or guardian. Though the process of entering adulthood is daunting, it is also exhilarating. Well, it should be.
Others experience a different story: aging out. An 18th birthday means it is time to go. You are out of the system. Out of the orphanage. Out on your own. Whether you are leaving foster care or an institutional orphanage, the process is abrupt and final. No one is required to care for you anymore. Your bed will be filled by another.
In an interview with Neal Conan on NPR, Dr. Mark Courtney, Research and Development Director of Partnerships for Our Children, describes the status of the former foster children he has been following into young adulthood. He says, “…less than half of them are employed at 23, very high rates of involvement with the criminal justice system, lots of struggling parents, rely on public assistance…”
Not a pretty picture. If that is what happens in the United States, imagine what it must be like for children in impoverished nations. The fear of being left to fend for oneself must plague the minds of many 17-year-old youths.
This does not have to be the case. In fact, it is not the case for the six young women in India who are cared for by the local church in partnership with World Orphans. These young women have a different story.
After losing their parents to tragedies, including accidents, abandonment, and illness, these women were brought into the loving home of a pastor’s daughter and son-in-law. There they grew up as sisters and formed a tight bond with each other and their guardians. Now, at 18, 19, and 20 years old, they have not “aged out". Instead, there has been a gradual, natural transition.
Each young woman attends university and they share an apartment above the church. After nursing school, Ujala comes home to help her new mother sew beautiful wedding gowns and sarees to sell. Aalia and Mahla have taken on many of the church’s administrative responsibilities. Each one has her role.
What is even more special is that Ujala, Mahla, Aalia, Heli, Prema, and Aahna* were recently baptized. Not only are they growing in independence, but in faith. They are truly blossoming.
None of this would have happened without the local church stepping up to care for the fatherless. It would not have happened without the US church providing finances for food, school fees, medical care, and other necessities. It would not have happened without three-fold partnership between these churches and World Orphans.
We love our church partners and praise God for all they are doing to show Christ’s love to orphans. We invite you and your church to jump in and be part of changing the story for orphans who otherwise would have aged out of the system.
*Names have been changed to protect privacy.
Well, we're about two weeks into those resolutions. The holiday festivities have ceased. It's back to work and back to reality. The decorations have been stashed until next year (hopefully). As we dive into 2016, though, we'd be amiss to not rejoice in the challenges we faced, lessons we learned, and victories we celebrated over the course of the last year. Without further adieu, we invite you to reminisce with us as we look back on ten of our favorite blog posts from the last year:
- Jeremy gave us the opportunity to travel to Ethiopia, where we saw women empowered and children being given the gift of hope.
- We stepped back in time with David, as we learned about the heart of the early church for children who have been orphaned.
- Kathy ushered us through the doors of secondary schools in Kenya, where we met children who are not merely surviving, but thriving!
- We discovered what's different about a trip with World Orphans.
- Kevin taught us practical ways to deal with conflict.
- We considered the beauty in the brokenness as we reflected on the Haiti earthquake of 2010 and the hope that springs anew there.
- Why a home rather than an orphanage? We looked at that question.
- With loud shouts of joy, songs of praise, and tears of happiness, we took a closer look into Iraq and saw God moving in powerful ways.
- As Matthew guided us through the process, we considered what it means to love each other well, to abide in Christ, and to be the kind of father that magnifies our Heavenly Father.
- We learned more about the orphan crisis and we considered what the church's role should be in caring for those that have been orphaned.
God is working in powerful ways across the globe, and we are thankful for the privilege to be his hands and feet as we equip, inspire, and mobilize the church to care for orphaned and vulnerable children. Let's press on...
...until they all have homes.
By 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!
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.”
Don’t judge me.
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).
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.
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.
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.
By Kathy Davis | Director of Wholistic Care The question is universal. When tragedy strikes and comfort seems a million miles away, where is hope found?
An Annual Trip Like No Other
As a member of River Oaks Community Church (ROCC) in Maryville, TN, and a staff member with World Orphans, every summer I experience the joy of leading our annual partnership trip to Fountain of Hope Church (FOH) in Nairobi, Kenya.
I recently returned and much of our itinerary looked the same as in previous years. We visited widows and families in distress. We spent valuable time with the precious vulnerable children we have come to know and love, all of them being cared for through the ministry of the church. We facilitated and served in a church-based medical/dental clinic where over 500 impoverished people were physically treated and spiritually encouraged. Souls were saved. Teeth were extracted. We worshipped. We prayed. We laughed. We shared meals.
And, this year, we wept.
Previous to our arrival in Kenya, I received tragic news that a family member, who is part of FOH's Home Based Care (HBC) program, was severely injured in an automobile accident. His arm was severed at the shoulder, yet we were informed he was in stable condition. We were scheduled to visit and pray for him.
Profound Reflections from a 15-year-old Team Member
One of our team members, Ella Pearl, recounted this experience. She eloquently writes about our team’s most impactful moment together, the moment where sorrow’s sting intersected the beautiful hope of Jesus.
My name is Redeemed, and I have been born again.
I believe in Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection, and have grown up in a strong Christian family and church body.
I believe the entire Bible is God’s Word, which as a result is inerrant and infallible. But that doesn’t mean I lack confusion or gain context in every verse. I am human. I make mistakes for which I’m forgiven through the blood of His Son, but this isn’t a story about my life or my accomplishments. It’s a story about what the Holy Spirit has worked in my heart to see, and He has given me the ability to write it down.
Every year since 2010, my church has held a youth event called Mission 1:27, a twenty-seven hour fast to raise money for the medical camp we help facilitate with our sister church in Kenya. Mission 1:27 was taken from the passage of scripture, James 1:27, “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.”
Previous to my trip, two of my closest friends traveled to visit with FOH for our annual partnership trip. Both were captured by their experience and exclaim, even to this day, of their desire to live there. I had never quite believed them until my dad and I felt led by the Holy Spirit to join this year’s 2015 partnership trip to our sister church. The team leader (a close family friend and World Orphans staff member) has asked my dad to come for years because of his heart for the vulnerable and his dental expertise. He had previously declined, but this would be the year that the Holy Spirit would say 'go'. I was very excited, for I had only been to Honduras on family mission trips, and yearned to meet our church family in Kenya. I would be my dad’s dental assistant yet again.
We had worshipped on Sunday, and now we stepped into Monday with a bit more rest than the days before.
Our schedule had been to visit a dentist in Nairobi to discuss the equipment we would need for the clinic, eat a quick lunch, and then continue to visit some homes involved in FOH’s Home Base Care program.
Terrible traffic, a late lunch, and general mishaps delayed us.
After lunch we were told that the father who had experienced a terrible accident had suddenly passed away leaving behind three children and a very sickly wife.
We were invited to visit and pray for the new widow (Veronica) and to attend the youngest daughter’s (Mercy) discovery of her father's death. I felt sorrow, but nothing compared to their grief at his loss.
We made it through a Holy Spirit filled afternoon visiting other families with the bluntness of poverty thrust in our faces and the power of Christ’s family encouraging our souls.
Due to all the delays, we weren’t able to make the trip to the grieving family until late in the evening. We were soon lost on the dark roads weaving through the community. Eventually a young boy was invited into our van, giving us directions with a proud, straight form. The widow greeted us outside with a melancholy countenance.
She led us into her faintly lit home, a stark contrast to the dark alley entrance.
A tiny living room with a middle aged woman and young girl met our foreign eyes. They stood, allowing us to squeeze our party of nine into a very small space. When we were settled, a quiet presence engulfed the warm air.
An Aunt turned to Mercy. Although she spoke in the complicated tongue of Swahili, we knew what she was saying.
We watched Mercy become orphaned in front of our eyes.
My dad rarely ever cries, but he and the rest of the team joined me in silent tears as we witnessed a ten-year-old girl’s heart shatter.
In the background Veronica’s close friend wept.
Our team leader sat with the widow, for she had known this family ever since the partnership had started. Veronica’s head rested on the kind leader’s shoulder, and our leader spoke in a soft tone to the widow.
“We have informed our church of what happened, Veronica. They are all praying for you.”
Veronica opened her eyes, her raspy breath and weak body reflecting the pain inside.
“They are all aware?” Came her reply in a barely audible voice.
“Yes. They are all aware.”
Our team leader couldn’t see the widow’s face, and I don’t know if the rest of the team saw what I did.
Veronica’s countenance, despite the grief-filled eyes and worn soul, changed. Relief flooded her face. This relief represented that someone knew, and was praying to an almighty God for her.
That feeling stemmed from the relationship sowed by many years of communion between our churches. I knew then that this wasn’t about going on a mission trip and changing the world. It wasn’t my proud American sacrifice for a good cause. The partnership was about the honorable privilege to pray and encourage a fellow believer in the midst of sorrow.
To be a part of the Body of Christ and obey his words no matter what the cost.
“...To visit the orphans and widows in their affliction…” Not to gain some shining medal or mark for my good sacrifice, but to sacrifice and gain nothing in return. And why didn’t this sink in before? I understood in part, but never knew until I experienced the context. Suddenly I had a face and life story.
Could some of us be afraid to reveal God’s love and the awesomeness of His plan?
Cannot we, those privileged with an abundance of wealth, give our love and prayers for those afflicted?
Can we defy the cultural barrier, the flames that could burn, and become a warrior of faith and brother to a brother?
Or are we like the people of old, who turn on brother and sister for personal gain?
Visit the orphans and widows in their affliction, and keep oneself unstained from the world.
There is so much left to imagine.
I never could have thought of the ten-year-old girl weeping for her dead father would be witnessed by a fifteen-year-old American girl with her father beside her, alive and well.
And I never would have dreamed that American would be me.
I am blessed by the hand of the Holy Spirit to become a witness of affliction through a Church Partnership in the body of Christ.
Special thanks to: Fountain of Hope Church, World Orphans, and River Oaks Community Church.
"Bwana asifiwe!" (Praise the Lord)
- Ella Pearl Evans
When Suffering Has A Name
The Christian response to suffering engages human emotion where Church Partnership brings us face-to-face with suffering and tragedy. It is an honor to hold one another in grief and weep compassionate tears in loss. Jesus, who suffered and is sovereign, is our greatest living example of compassion and hope.
World Orphans wholistic approach to ministry sees the orphans’ need for food and education and, most importantly, recognizes the power of the Gospel as the greatest help and hope, both in this age and the age to come … until they all have homes.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
How is God inviting you to stretch in faith?
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.
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!?
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.
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.
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.
By Nicole Leeper | Senior Director of Communications I've been immersed in orphan care for five years now - three of them spent working for World Orphans - and I'm still learning. At this point I'm convinced that God will be teaching me about orphan care for the rest of my life. He uses many methods and people to show me the intricacies of His heart for the fatherless: our staff, the Haitian pastors I've visited, our missionaries who take the time to message me on Facebook, His Word, our volunteers, the families caring for children, and the children themselves. There is a lot to learn and I'm thankful for the soaking I've been able to do.
If you asked me what pieces of knowledge have been the most valuable, I would respond with these 3 things I've learned:
- Orphan Care Belongs to God
Yes it's true. Orphan care does not belong to me, to you, to World Orphans, to UNICEF, to the western privileged world, or anyone else on this earth. Orphan care belongs to God. It's His. Every messy situation, every family coming together, every church at work, every little thing about it. It belongs to God. He is the One with the blueprint for orphan care. So where do we come in?
- He Has Invited Us Into His Story
“For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.” - Philippians 2:13
As I stated above, God has the blueprint. So, what does He do with us? I often picture Jesus in a garage working on carpentry. I come along as a child and He teaches me how to build with Him. First he gives me a toy hammer and a box of plastic nails, patiently watching me and finding joy in my process of growth. At some point I graduate to a real hammer, and even though I miss the nails from time to time, He graciously loves me as I learn.
The way I see it, he's given some of us a saw, some a hammer, some a level, and some other supplies. He takes the time to patiently teach all of us about His heart for orphans and allows each of us to be part of the story in a variety of ways.
What tool are you in the toolbox of God? Maybe your tool is being an adoptive parent. Maybe it's being a fundraiser. Maybe it's educating caretakers. One of my tools is graphic design. I invite you to consider your tool. I promise that you are equipped with skills that God can use to care for those He loves. Ask Him to show you his blueprints and your place in His story.
- Orphan Care is Messy
"Everything stinks till it's finished." - Dr. Seuss
Ah, Dr. Seuss. This statement is true. It's certainly true in orphan care … IT IS MESSY. If you've ever put a solid foot into anything that deals with humans on a relational level, you know that it can be smelly and dirty. That is why I love that we can go back to the blueprint … the Bible...
“For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. Whoever thus serves Christ is acceptable to God and approved by men. So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding.” - Romans 14:17-19
We know what the kingdom of God looks like, and in this we can find joy in the mess while we pursue, "…what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding".
Join us in spending time getting to know the blueprints of the Father, identifying the tools He's given you, and jump into the messiness with us, until they all have homes.
By Scott Vair | President
In my nine years with World Orphans, I’ve traveled to 25 countries to meet with pastors, leaders, and government officials to talk about the poor, the marginalized, the vulnerable, and, most often, the orphan. I’ve been to Asia, Africa, South America, Central America, China, and the Middle East, and in those travels, I’ve experienced many different cultures and people groups. But, until last August, I’d never heard of the Yazidis.
So who are they? What’s their story?
In early August 2014, their story gripped much of the world, as they became a primary target of the terrorist group ISIS. They were forced to flee their homes; thousands were stranded on Sinjar Mountain in Northern Iraq. Major news agencies were suddenly taken with this ancient people group, and they quickly began to report their terrible situation.
“Singled out, threatened, chased at gunpoint from their homes. Pursued purely because they are members of an ethnic and religious minority. Iraq's Yazidi Kurds are no strangers to persecution. Their faith teaches them that throughout history, they have been subjected to 72 genocides. Many world leaders fear they are on the brink of a 73rd massacre, this time at the hands of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, which calls itself the Islamic State” (Ivan Watson, CNN, Aug 18, 2014).
“The Yazidis are a ethnic minority in Iraq made up mostly of ethnic Kurds and isolated from the rest of the population due to their ancient beliefs. Best estimates put the group's worldwide membership at approximately 700,000 people and while they have members living in Sweden and Germany, the vast majority are in the Middle East. Members of the group believe in an ancient religion linked to Zoroastrianism and are considered “heretics” by radical Islamists. This label has led to decades of persecution and now that ISIS has become more powerful in the region, they have targeted the group, forcing them out of their homes and into the mountains” (Meghan Keneally, ABC News, Aug 8, 2014).
“That renewed attack began at dawn on Monday when Islamic fighters attacked the southern part of the Mount Sinjar using Humvees and armored vehicles. Yazidi civilians were forced to retreat up the mountain where they are now trapped. Earlier this year, thousands of mainly Yazidi civilians were trapped by Islamic State fighters, prompting the U.S. to pursue an airstrike campaign against the militant group. ISIS has killed hundreds of Yazidis and has forced tens of thousands of others to flee for their lives since sweeping across Iraq, according to The Associated Press” (Fox News, Oct 24, 2014).
We watched in horror as reports of rape, murder, starvation, dehydration, and kidnapping flooded our news feeds. The US military got involved as they dropped water, food, and supplies to those stranded on Sinjar Mountain and provided air support to Kurdish Peshmerga forces battling ISIS.
Seeking refuge, the Yazidis fled to Northern Iraq, and that is where World Orphans enters the story.
As many of you know, World Orphans built our first refugee camp last September for 20 Shabak families from Mosul who also had also fled ISIS. It has been an amazing opportunity to serve in ways we never expected. The Lord has been gracious, indeed, giving us such a platform for ministry. Support for our work has been extraordinary—gifts large and small, from people, businesses, churches, authors, filmmakers, a major university, other ministries, and even Kurdish Regional Government officials—we couldn’t be more grateful.
This support has made it possible for us to join the story of the Yazidi people. We’ve just opened our second refugee camp, and 16 Yazidi families (about 100 people) have moved into their new homes.
Today, construction of camp #3 is well underway. Land is being leveled, and rock … lots and lots of rock … has been brought in to allow for proper drainage and a solid foundation. Kitchens are being built, bathrooms installed, electricity and water supplied. The construction is moving fast, and soon 55 more Yazidi families (nearly 250 people) will call this home.
All three of these are micro-camps; intentionally small so family leaders can manage them on site. They are being empowered to govern themselves, provide their own security, find their own food, get jobs, and support themselves. We are providing them with a safe place to live, a place to call home, for as long as they need. We are encouraging, building relationships, and living out our faith alongside them.
We are reminded in Deuteronomy 10:17-18 that “…the Lord your God is the God of gods and the Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God who does not show partiality nor take a bribe. He executes justice for the orphan and the widow, and shows His love for the alien by giving him food and clothing.
These Yazidi families and their children are in desperate circumstances. They’ve been attacked, they’ve been persecuted, they’ve fled their homes, and they are in danger. They must be preserved and protected.
Much of our focus at World Orphans is toward the preservation of highly vulnerable families, keeping them together, preventing orphaning from happening in the first place. The care of these Yazidi families fits perfectly into that strategy.
With the completion of our third camp, nearly 500 refugees have found safety and shelter in Northern Iraq. In each of these camps, World Orphans will be actively serving, loving, providing care, and walking alongside these families.
In these last seven months, we’ve found amazing favor with local leaders, and our staff in Soran has been working non-stop. So many efforts and hearts have come together—from prayers, to giving, to going, to serving, to thinking, to strategizing, to acting. What an amazing seven months this has been. And the next seven may be equally so!
We are endlessly grateful for how the Lord has positioned us and now led us into this incredible opportunity to serve and love in the midst of such great turmoil and tragedy. The fact that we are present and able is truly remarkable, and clearly the work of His hands. May He find glory and honor as we seek to do His work for His kingdom.
By Matthew Hanks | Project Manager
Africa The first time I participated in the Christian Alliance for Orphans Summit (CAFO), the number of amazing groups fighting on behalf of the orphan astounded me. There were more groups present at this adoption/foster care/orphan focused event than one could take in (I know this because of all the apparel my wife procured that I would have to do some post-event research on before donning). After three days of teaching, preaching, and seeking God on behalf of the fatherless, I left inspired, equipped and with a sense of hope that there was about to be a dent put in the apparent impenetrable barrier of the Global Orphan Crisis. From those doing international orphan care similarly to the World Orphans model, to very different, but also effective and needed models of care; from the adoption agencies focused specifically here at home, to others working in countries open to adoption, the diversity of needs being met was as great as the unifying purpose in the hearts of those attending: To find homes for all these precious children.
Just a few days before attending this event we were anxiously boarding an airplane in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia with our 5 month old, newly adopted son, Kaleb. My wife Amelia and I were both still processing all that the Lord had done to bring us to that place. The way He had used the body of Christ to water the seeds of desire placed in us years earlier; to come along side us and help us overcome any barriers (mainly financial) in our way; to challenge and call us forward in faith. All these realities were still very fresh. So much had transpired that was clearly from the hand of God, yet in many ways He had only taken us to the starting line. Within a few short months I would begin preparing to come on staff with World Orphans to begin the current race.
Fast forward two plus years. Currently we are quickly moving up the list toward our second Ethiopian adoption. We feel great anticipation regarding meeting our next child and yet are also aware of the tangible challenges that come with not only adding another child to the mix but one who will most likely have some attachment related obstacles to overcome. My work with World Orphans has been extremely rewarding but the complexities of orphan care and church partnership can at times seem daunting and prohibitive. Amelia’s opportunities to minister to moms of adoptive and foster families have brought many stories of a similar dichotomy of joy and heartache. And so I’ve found that the fatigues of life in ministry - life in general really - are constantly trying to rob us of the vision and calling the Lord has given us for a purpose greater than ourselves. The enemy is trying to prevent the Kingdom from coming to those places He has given you to take.
One of my favorite past-times is riding my bike on the roads in and near the Colorado Rockies where I live. However, the place I first mounted a bike as an official rider in spandex and with shoes that locked into my pedals was in the low flat lands of Texas. My first time out was with a group of 30-50 strangers. It was on this ride that I discovered something known in the cycling world as ‘drafting’. A concept that one can see in nature with geese, what seems so graceful and effortless as they fly in a V-formation all the way from Mexico to Canada, did not seem so natural to me when in a fast-moving pace-line with only inches between our tires. If it wasn’t clear how green I was from my borrowed, 20 year old, loose fitting shorts (if you can call spandex ‘shorts’) or my rented bike that had a large ‘rental’ sticker on it, once that pace-line started to rotate positions there was no mistaking that I was a rookie. Though the mistakes I made over the next dozen or so miles until I finally slipped off the back could fill another blog post, the lessons I learned were invaluable to my understanding of interdependence.
Before this point in my life I’d have told you that cycling was an individual sport as opposed to a team sport. I’d have been wrong. Any one who has caught even a few minutes of the Tour de France knows that not only are the teams dependent on each member but each member is also dependent on the entire Peloton (French for little ball, but also a term used to describe the main group of riders in a cycling event). Without each other it would be impossible to go the distance they all want at the speed they’re able to go together. This is all possible because of drafting. When in the sweet spot of the draft a rider can save up to 40% of their energy. An average rider can ride well beyond their own ability when in an experienced pace line so long as they don’t bonk when it’s their turn to pull (lead).
The parallels to adoption, foster care, and international orphan care are many. We all must not only be prepared to take the lead when it’s our turn but we must also be willing to let others take over when we realize we’re slowing the entire pack down because we’re exhausted. We must build trust and comfort with those we’re riding with so that we can ride close enough to create a draft, but also realize that if we wreck we might take out other members of our team or large portions of the Peloton.
There will be times when you rotate to the front and you’re so eager to lead that without knowing it you run off and leave those riding with you in your tracks. There will be times that you feel like slowing down to rest but then remember that if you slip off the back, out of reach of the draft, you’ll more than likely never get back. There will be times when you are called to ride your hardest just so someone else can go further than you know you’ll probably ever go. And then there will be times when you find yourself at the front of the line with nothing left in the tank, right on the verge of hitting the wall or cramping up, and all the sudden you feel a wind at your back, the Mighty winds of Grace gathering to carry you a bit further down the road.
Yes, may the winds of Grace carry you further than you thought possible.
By Kathy Davis | Director of Wholistic Care
The question is often asked of children, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” I remember my well-meaning grandfather asking me this question, hoping I would dream big, work hard, and achieve everything I ever desired. I pondered various opportunities like becoming a nurse so I could take care of sick people or a flight attendant to serve others while seeing the world. I wanted to make him proud. I wanted to ‘become’ somebody. Individual success was marked by the professional path I would choose and how hard I would work to ‘become all I could be’.
Success that is marked by what ‘I might become’ has at times taken me down a path of discouragement and disillusionment where the fundamental question of my identity and purpose go unanswered. Understanding God’s story and His intent for my life has been paramount in addressing the fundamental questions about why my life was purposed and what it is to become.
“I, Yahweh, have called you for a righteous purpose, and I will hold you by your hand. I will keep you and appoint you to be a covenant for the people and a light to the nations” (Is. 42:6).
World Orphans addresses the fundamental question of its mission and purpose with the Biblical view that we believe what Scripture says about the church, the orphan, and the expansion of the Gospel. I’m honored to share a recent example with you.
Wholistic Care (a function of World Orphans Projects and Church Partnerships) just returned from hosting their first Haiti Orphaned and Vulnerable Child (OVC) Caregiver Training for more than 270 precious men and women who have graciously welcomed vulnerable children into their homes and hearts.
Wholistic care for children (spiritual, physical, emotional and mental) recognizes that mankind has value, dignity, and purpose because we are created in the image of God, and for God. We learn from scripture that we all begin on the same playing field. There is no distinction between nations, races, education, or economic status. There is no one who is righteous, no one who does good, and we are all in need of forgiveness that we do not deserve and that we cannot earn.
World Orphans President and adoptive father, Scott Vair, began our training together by encouraging the caregivers with the biblical view of orphans and adoption. Scripture teaches that we are brought into God’s family through the blood of Jesus Christ, resulting in forgiveness of sin, spiritual adoption, and eternal inheritance. Scott taught that we do not love in an effort to earn God’s favor but we love others because God first loved us. The outflow of our love pours from the love that has graciously been poured into our hearts. Following this message, six caregivers responded and accepted the gift of salvation and invitation to become a part of God’s family! This tender moment still brings tears to my eyes. It was a joy to welcome six new sisters into the family of God.
“But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ” (Eph. 2:13).
The caregivers willingness to provide for orphaned and vulnerable children in the context of family is a beautiful metaphor of God’s gift of salvation through Jesus Christ.
"In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose…” (Eph. 1:3-7).
The practical components of this training bridged the divide of cultures and degrees of suffering because the righteous acts of Jesus specifically address the heart of human suffering and need. The degrees of suffering from nation to nation are marked by great contrast, yet the hope for every heart remains the same since hope’s remedy is not marked by status, nationality, or degree of hardship; rather, our boast is in the Lord who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption.
“Consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” It is from Him that you are in Christ Jesus, who became God-given wisdom for us--our righteousness, sanctification, and redemption” (1 Cor. 1:30).
The OVC Caregiver Training included:
- Identity in Christ - The Biblical View of Orphans and Adoption - My Hope (a children's workbook designed to help caregivers shepherd the hearts of their children, work through difficult places, and find healing and hope through Christ) - The Biblical Premise for Child Protection - Physical and Sexual Abuse Awareness and Detection - Grace-filled Instruction and Discipline - The Significance of Oral Hygiene
Willing caregivers who have taken children into their homes are greatly commended. These men and women are engaging in the hard work of daily tending to the hearts and needs of defenseless children who were far from protective love and care, but are now brought near.
“It is not that we are competent in ourselves to consider anything as coming from ourselves, but our competence is from God” (2 Cor. 3:5).
What an absolute joy to participate in bringing the ultimate hope of Jesus and practical encouragement to the work they are doing through the living word of God. I, along with my beloved brothers and sisters in Haiti, are continuing to discover what it means to be created for a righteous purpose.
Understanding that Jesus became sin so that I might become the righteousness of God continually informs my identity and purpose as a woman of God and compels me to live in light of this reality. Jesus, who knew no sin, bore our (my) sins that we (I) might become the righteousness of God.
For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor. 5:21).
My purpose and identity did not result in becoming a nurse or flight attendant (although I have great respect for both of these professions). I am continually deepening in my understanding that my ability to become anything rests solely in the righteous One who ‘became’ for me what I could not earn and did not deserve. I have been created, formed, redeemed, and named.
“But now thus says the LORD, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine” (Is. 43:1).
My boast is the Lord and the grace He continually gives to those who believe. I am so grateful for the caregivers in Haiti who are strategically placed by God to bring children into their families and care for their needs.
Truly, they have been created for ‘a righteous purpose’ and this love reflects the heart of our Father in Heaven.
“But I count my life of no value to myself, so that I may finish my course and the ministry I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of God's grace" (Acts 20:24).
And now you!
What are your thoughts?
How do you answer the question, “What is my purpose?”
By Jeremy Resmer | Sr. Director of Projects
Global orphan care is complex. We have the tendency to oversimplify problems. Sometimes, in our desire to think globally, we develop elaborate strategies to care for orphaned children and assume our plans will work in every country. For some reason, and I can’t figure out why, we think that we’re smarter or that our ideas are better than those that went before us. We can analyze problems from here in the US, usually without understanding the history and culture of the people we intend to serve, and we identify solutions and begin developing cookie cutter strategies for implementation in multiple countries. We cheer ourselves on as pioneers and promote our “models” as revolutionary.
And then reality sets in. We share our detailed plans with other people that live and work in the countries we plan to help and, if they’re honest, they often tell us our ideas won’t work in their culture. They go on to share with us all the reasons why. If we’re wise, we’ll listen. Too many times though, we disregard their feedback as a lack of understanding or vision. And as much as I hate to admit it, the “we” I mentioned aove is actually a reflection of me. Part of the problem is my personality and the other part is my desire to change the world. And since I’m being real here, I can honestly say that most of my “best” plans wouldn’t work or they contain major flaws. Fortunately, I have talented team members and pastors on the ground that I rely on to find solutions, implement appropriate responses, and keep my wild ideas in check.
If you’re involved in orphan care or considering it, hopefully you can learn from my mistakes. Below are some of the most important lessons I’ve learned in the past few years working at World Orphans with pastors in more than 14 countries:
- Don’t assume your successful model of orphan care in Haiti will be effective in India or Iraq or anywhere else. Enter each country with your eyes and ears open. Ask a ton of questions and learn about the history and traditions that shape the people. Focus on listening not solving problems.
- Rely on local team members that live in the culture to cast vision and develop appropriate responses to problems. They need to be empowered and able to effectively represent and communicate your ministry with pastors, partners, and other stakeholders.
- Work with pastors whose visions and actions align with yours. This means partnering with churches that are already meeting needs with their existing resources (not simply talking about their vision or what they could do if they had more money).
- Relationships are difficult. Long-distance, cross-cultural relationships are even harder. Whether it’s a friendship, marriage, or church partnership, success requires trust. Trust exists in the presence of transparency, accountability, and authenticity. These aspects can only be developed through ongoing relationship cultivated over time. Having local leadership significantly improves your communication and likelihood of success.
- Establish and maintain an attitude of empowerment. Every partner should be empowered: to give, to receive, to teach, to learn, to speak, to listen, to serve, to pray. Empowerment literally means to give power and authority. This includes training, money, and other resources. Information and resources should not be withheld if it hinders the effectiveness of those ministering or be served.
- Celebrate the small victories. Don’t overlook or minimize the transformations and miracles that take place every day.
If you’re involved in orphan care long enough, you’ll hear people use words like model of care, scalability, and sustainability. While these things should be carefully considered, we need to remember that God’s ways are different than our ways. His economics extend far beyond money and are a matter of the heart.
Recently I was profoundly impacted by one of our partners, Pastor Siva, at the Christian Life Centre in South Africa. While I’ve always been impressed with his leadership I realized something very important. His vision is global while his actions are local. Some people dream big, diversify, and start several projects in many locations without ever doing anything really well. Pastor Siva, however, dreams big and focuses his efforts on saturating his local community with love and hope by caring for orphaned and vulnerable children with excellence. He leads a dynamic, multi-faceted ministry with overlapping orphan care models marked by compassion, justice, and hope. He’s focused on transforming lives and trusts God for sustainability.
In addition to pastoring the church, Pastor Siva oversees a government approved transition home on the church property with the intention of reuniting children with parents and relatives, a bakery that employs local people to earn a living and offset ministry expenses, and a recently completed hospice facility (the only one of its kind in the district) for 12 terminally ill children with full blown AIDS. These children receive medical treatment, prayer, dignity, and love. Without a miracle, these children will likely die in his care. While Pastor believes these children can be healed, his hope lies not in their outcomes but the redeeming love of Christ. “These children have been discarded like dirt but we will fight for them and give them hope.” Thank you Pastor Siva and all the people like you that advocate, serve, and go unrecognized. We will fight with you and celebrate the victories!
By Sheri Mellema | Church Partnership
When considering the meaning of the word “normal,” I think we would all agree that it has become a very subjective term. Given the numerous contexts of our world today, what is deemed normal for one person can vary wildly from what another person perceives as normal. The dictionary actually defines normal as conforming to a standard; usual, typical, ordinary, customary, habitual, accustomed or expected.
Recently, several World Orphans staff members and myself had the privilege of participating in a webinar presented by Dr. George Grant. Dr. Grant is a historian, author, and pastor who has dedicated much time and research to the study of orphan care throughout the ages. He eloquently described history’s record of orphan care as far back as the Roman Empire. Frankly, I was more than relieved when he finally commented on our century, and for the first time since he started speaking I recognized a name! He mentioned Amy Carmichael and her enormous contribution to orphan care in India! As I listened, my mind began to wonder why it is that effective orphan care has ebbed and flowed through time and how is it that we have come to this present generation in which literally millions of abandoned and vulnerable children have no place to call home.
These questions led me to the recollection of a documentary I had viewed on PBS called “From Jesus to Christ: The First Christians.” Some of the scholars spoke of the distinctive nature of Christianity in that its followers naturally cared for the marginalized members of society. Professor Elizabeth A. Clark from Duke University stated, “Of course there was no welfare system so to speak. In the ancient world, wealthy Romans had given money for programs such as feeding of children and so on. But even such programs that we know of didn’t compare in size and scope to what the churches were doing.” Likewise professor Helmut Koester from Harvard Divinity School concluded that, “Christianity really established a realm of mutual social support for the members that joined the church. And I think that this has probably in the long run been an enormously important factor for the success of the Christian mission.”
So it would seem that the earliest followers of Jesus set themselves apart by caring for the needy, and in doing so created a legacy that has endured for more than two thousand years. In fact, I think we could say that their lifestyle was compelling enough to outlast the countless Greek cults that vied for the loyalty of the very same people that Christianity was attracting.
This powerful realization leads back to the word normal. Could we not conclude that the early church embodied the care of orphans as part of their everyday normal lives? They provided for the “least of these” in a usual, typical, customary, habitual, and expected way. Dr. Grant puts it this way, “It’s tragic that in our churches orphan care is just one more issue among a myriad of other issues. When in fact this is just our life together. Part of what we have to do is normalize our care for one another. Instead of approaching orphan care as something that’s sort of extraordinary, we need to make it just ordinary, and the way we make it ordinary is to live it out and integrate it into the whole of the life of the church. Gospel life (should) make it just normal for us to care about the despised and rejected. We need to get to the place that orphan care is no longer a program, an initiative, a new emphasis, or a distinctive of a particular church. It is just the normal life of (every) church!”
Each and every one of us can offer our giftedness as we develop a community of covenantal living in caring for the parentless children of this world. Further, each and every church can become a compelling light in making orphan care just normal, even in the twenty-first century!
By Kathy Davis | Wholistic Care
Yesterday morning my middle daughter brought a cup of coffee into my office, nestled into the couch, and said “Momma, you’re sad.” “Well, maybe a little,” I replied. Later in the day, my youngest daughter passed off her favorite hoodie that I ‘borrow’ from her closet way too often and gave it to me.
This week marks the closing of a chapter and the opening of another in the life of our family. All three of our daughters are moving out of our home and into an apartment together. My mind is flooded with memories, and my heart is conflicted as I ponder all that has encompassed 25 years of parenting. After all, isn’t this what we have prepared them for? Two of them have graduated with a college degree and are employed with great jobs, and the third is in her second year of college. They are all followers of Jesus Christ and are held in the grip of His grace. What could be more important? I should be thrilled but now find myself gripped with the question, ‘was it enough?’ Are they really prepared?
I suppose it’s all of the little things. Who will notice on those difficult days when their hearts are heavy – that they probably just need a hug, encouraging word, or chocolate brownie? Who will remind them that are beautifully created on days that they don’t feel pretty? Who will encourage them to eat vegetables more regularly than donuts? Who will remind them that they matter and are dearly loved, come what may? Who will tell them over and over again that God’s promises are true, that the Kingdom of God is at hand, and that every day is filled with opportunity to be agents of His grace? Who will take seriously that their holiness is far more important than their happiness? Isn’t this what parents are for?
As the Director of Wholistic Care for World Orphans, I spend a lot of time thinking about the needs of children and the significance of belonging that is communicated through family. As my husband and I have invested in providing for the essential needs of our children (physically, emotionally, spiritually, and mentally), I am confounded by the immense opportunity that the church has to participate in seeing orphaned and vulnerable children cared for in the context of family.
World Orphans Home Based Care program is a beautiful illustration of how this is being accomplished through the church. We would love for your church to engage in this great work where churches are partnering together from across the globe, children are being restored, and communities are being transformed by the Gospel of Christ.
My home is quieter this morning. I am wearing my new hoodie, and I am considering that in all of the years I have strived to care for and ‘see’ my children, that they are now ‘seeing others,' to include the tender heart of their Momma. It is the close of a chapter but an ongoing reality that the best Father of all, Jesus, will continue to guide them, remind them, and will not let them go. Children are truly a heritage and a blessing from the Lord.
By Bailey Kalvelage | Mobilization
Reflecting seems to always be part of the festivities of a new year. Whether in the quiet of the morning or between errands, we tend to ponder the past year, retracing steps both large and small. I invite you to journey with me through a few testimonies from World Orphans 2013 partnership trips. Relationships were deepened, kids and families were cared for, and the Gospel was spread…
“One of the events we did was a sports outreach where we took four buses of people to a sports complex. The day ended with testimonies from some of our team and then Jairo Jr. (pastor’s son) gave an invitation to accept Christ. The first girl that came forward was Abigail. She is 8 years old. When she was born, her mom had her dedicated at Verbo Sur (church), but her mom died a couple of months later. Her dad later died, and her grandmother is raising her. Verbo Sur has stayed close to her with the Community Development Center and feeding programs, and she comes to church each Sunday. This is a great example of the church stepping in and helping to raise an orphan right in their community." – Partnership between Verbo Sur of Nicaragua and Gaylord E-Free of Michigan
“Every day at noon, Eglise de Dieu D’Andullan has intercessory prayer time. What an experience for our team: to take time each day to come together and pray! Oh, how we have things to learn from our Haitian friends! When I first walked into the church, prayer time was already in progress, and it took a little getting used to at first…most people were praying aloud, some quietly. Several were pacing up and down while calling upon Jesus, some kneeled and rocked, some reached their hands toward heaven, and one woman was kneeling and wailing. To me, it was an intimate picture of how we all come to the Lord in a very personal way. Without understanding their language, I could only see their love, their desire for the Lord, their relationship with Him…beautiful!” – Partnership between Eglise de Dieu D’Andullan of Haiti and Lakewood Christian Church of Oklahoma
“In the afternoon, our team came up to the front of a house with seven young men out back. One team member walked up and shook hands and introduced himself. He started telling them his story, ‘I know what it’s like to be a young man…I want you to know you can have courage and salvation and all the freedom I have in my life. You will still mess up but you know Jesus.’ One young man said, ‘I’m a Muslim, but I’d like to have that Jesus.’ He prayed and accepted Christ. The US team member has prayed for him since then.” – Partnership between Hope Home Care Cyegera of Rwanda and HOPE 221 of Tennessee
Whether it was hundreds of people being treated and prayed for at a medical clinic or a little boy sharing the victory at his choir concert with his US friends, God’s faithfulness has reverberated throughout trips in 2013. Each partnership has unique stories of salvation, worship, service, and love.
“All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had. With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all that there were no needy persons among them.” Acts 4:32-34a
In 2013, special churches in the US and around the world continued to join in partnership through World Orphans to care for children who are orphaned and vulnerable. This reflecting brings gratitude and great anticipation of what is to come in 2014!
By Kevin Squires | Senior Director of Church Partnerships
America was taken aback in recent weeks by the sound of an orphan’s cry. Davion Only, a 15-year old boy in Florida’s foster care system, put on his finest clothes, went to church, stood on stage, and cried out for a family. I keep replaying his words in my head. “I’ll take anyone,” he said. “Old or young, dad or mom, black, white, purple. I don’t care.” He wasn’t looking to be rescued from foster care; he simply wanted what so many of us take for granted… he wanted a family. So, he desperately cried out for someone, in his own words, “to love me until I die.”
No doubt this story will continue to captivate America. At the time of this post, over 10,000 requests to adopt Davion have come into the main offices in Florida. Thanks to talk shows, news stations, and bloggers everywhere, Davion’s cry for someone to love me until I die will not only get him adopted, it will most certainly get thousands of others adopted as well. In many ways, Davion has become the face of the orphan crisis in America, where over 100,000 children currently “live” in foster care. But it’s his voice, his nervous and trembling voice, that has become the cry of over 150 million orphans worldwide. In many ways, his “Love Me Until I Die” speech was his version of “I Have A Dream,” a dream and a quest to be loved by a family.
So, that begs the question… with so many children around the world on a similar quest, what will it take to get these kids into loving families, especially when adoption is not an option?
For hundreds of years, orphanages have monopolized the global orphan care industry. With great intentions, limited options, and a growing orphan crisis, many churches, governments, and NGOs plunged into the business of running orphanages in hopes of saving as many children as possible. While we in America were desperately trying to keep up with the Joneses, those in the Majority World were frantically trying to keep up with the ever increasing issues of human trafficking, sex trade, disease, starvation, and a plethora of other causes that were leading to a growing crisis of orphaned and vulnerable children.
Amidst all the chaos, many of us have come to realize that simple band-aid solutions were prescribed at a time when complex wounds were gushing at an alarming rate. Somewhere down the line, without even meaning to, we replaced families with institutions. Meanwhile, orphans like Davion are crying out for families, not caretakers. They want homes, not buildings. They want to be loved until they die, not loved until they age out.
In hearing those cries, World Orphans is continuing to fight to keep children out of orphanages and in loving and caring families. We are currently searching for American churches to partner with churches in Haiti, Ethiopia, Kenya, Cambodia, and Guatemala to care for orphaned and vulnerable children through our family-based care model. These church partnerships provide education, food, medical care, and counseling to a growing number of families who are caring for children in need. By inspiring, equipping, and mobilizing local churches throughout the world, these children are able to remain in their communities.
Are you ready to join the fight? Engage your church in conversation today about partnering with World Orphans. For more information, go to our website at www.worldorphans.org or contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Nicole Leeper | Communications
Cause: a principle, aim, or movement that, because of a deep commitment, one is prepared to defend or advocate.
Every October I remember... We see pink on everything. We see ribbons. We see football players with pink shoes. It is literally everywhere. Breast Cancer awareness and support. This is the cause.
It's been 12 years since I lost my mother to breast cancer. Even before the cancer, she suffered from a neurological condition, Huntington's Disease (HD). After her passing, in my mid-twenties, I visited a support group for HD carriers and family members. As I sat in this room of people who were all bound together by the common ground of suffering, I listened as they all explained with enthusiasm how they are spending their lives advocating on behalf of those who suffer from HD. One woman was putting herself through law school for the sole purpose of defending those with HD. She had a cause.
I was overwhelmed, as I thought, "Do I want to spend my life and breath for the purpose of fighting a disease?" In that moment, God gently moved upon my heart as He reminded me that my life should be fully and completely wrapped up in one eternal cause: The cause of Christ.
Since then, I have found myself helping with breast cancer events and sharing information about HD. I watch others minister to the elderly or to families who are loving a child with autism. I also now find myself with many others in orphan care ministry. Even in this, it is important not to lose focus on THE cause. We do not care for orphans simply because orphans need caring for, but because we are desperately in need of Christ, and it is in His cause that we find Him. Others are desperately in need of Christ, and so it is He who leads us to them.
God has called us all to the cause of the orphan, the widow, the homeless, the lonely, and the broken. These can be cancer patients, HD carriers, children from broken homes, elderly women who have lost their husbands, a friend in prison... Every human is in a broken condition without Christ. You may feel drawn more to one cause than another. Whatever your passion be, let the overarching banner you carry be the banner of Christ, for the cause of Christ.
"Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus."
By Jesse Blaine | Cambodia
World Orphans is excited to share with you the release of a new video ‘Why Not a Family?’ presented by Uniting For Children. Uniting For Children is a movement whose purpose is to “expand the conversation about the best ways to care for orphaned and vulnerable children.”
The full version of the video can be viewed here: http://unitingforchildren.org/video/
The continuing prevalence of institutional care for children around the world, especially among the poor, is a great challenge for our generation . Despite a reduction in the number of orphans in Cambodia, the number of orphanages increased by an estimated 65% between 2005-2008 . Let me repeat that in question form....how does less orphans = more orphanages?
The increase has continued since then. Orphanages are predominantly supported by foreign donors and to exist they need to keep bringing in children. Three out of four children living in orphanages in Cambodia are not orphans, they still have at least one living parent . Many children in institutional environments experience developmental delay and irreversible psychological damage due to a lack of consistent caregiver input, inadequate stimulation, lack of rehabilitation and poor nutrition. Institutionalization isolates children from their families and communities and places them at an increased risk of neglect, social isolation and abuse . Orphanages and shelters are a poor long-term solution and should only be a temporary and last resort.
The good news is that there is a better way and it works.
Family-based care involves keeping children with their own relatives (kinship care) or in loving substitute families (foster care). At World Orphans, we are excited to walk alongside churches as they provide home based and family based care for children.
 Uniting For Children 2013 www.unitingforchildren.org  A Study of Attitudes Toward Residential Care in Cambodia, 2011  Alternative Care Report, Ministry of Social Affairs, Veterans and Youth Rehabilitation, 2008  WHO, 2012 Early Childhood Development and Disability: A discussion paper