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Love Lived Out

By Lindsay Allen | Project Manager: Americas

Cindy* is a 17-year-old girl with severe cerebral palsy. She cannot walk or talk, and caring for her requires almost constant attention. Her mother, Valeria*, is unable to work because she must stay home to take care of Cindy full time. The meager wage Cindy’s stepfather brings home as a farmer is the family’s only source of income.

Last year, Valeria fell ill and had to be hospitalized. She received a terrifying diagnosis—cancer. As a mother, her fears were not for herself, but for her daughter. Who would care for her? The answer to this question is exactly as God intended it to be: the church.

A group of volunteers from nearby Central Baptist Church accepted the responsibility to help take care of Cindy while her mother was in the hospital. One woman in particular, Diana*, became Cindy’s primary caregiver. Diana’s service to Valeria and Cindy is a direct result of the training she received through Tesoros De Dios, the World Orphans ministry partner in Managua. This ministry focuses on training and encouraging churches to reach out and care for families with disabled children. Culturally, disabilities are seen as a curse for some grave sin. But these churches are pushing back against the cultural norm, armed with the biblical truth that all children are created and loved by God.

Every day Diana would go to Cindy’s home and care for her in a beautiful display of Christ’s sacrificial love. She fed her, bathed her, clothed her, helped her go to the bathroom, sang to her, and eventually developed a genuine friendship with Cindy. She cared for and loved Cindy, whom many considered to be a curse, as she would her own daughter.

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While Valeria was in the hospital, Diana and the other believers at Central Baptist were faithfully praying for her and visiting her. After a couple months in the hospital, her health began to improve! The doctors declared that the cancer had left her! She was able to return home and now goes to the hospital only for occasional checkups to ensure the cancer has not returned. Praise the Lord! Diana still frequently visits her dear friends, Valeria and Cindy, and she helps out whenever she is needed.

Diana speaks of Cindy with deep love and respect, not as a tiresome burden. She believes that “even though Cindy cannot speak, that does not mean she can’t understand. Spend some time with her, and you’ll see how she lights up when she hears a certain song and dances along in her wheelchair!”

When we consider Diana—how she spent weeks devoted all day every day to lovingly and tenderly caring for Cindy, and how she took on such a big commitment without asking for anything in return–we see something remarkable. In Diana we see what the church should be. Caregivers. Servants. Friends. Prayer warriors. This is not just the calling placed on Diana’s life but on the life of every believer. We are to pour ourselves out as a living sacrifice in service to others.

Diana’s counter-cultural willingness to serve is humbling. She took on the responsibility of caring for a child with severe special needs, an act of service which demanded time, effort, and attention. In contrast, many of us feel too busy to sacrifice one hour per week to serve in the church nursery, teach a youth Sunday School class, or visit someone in the hospital, much less become someone’s caregiver. Even though our story and our service may look very different from Diana’s, we should be looking for ways to serve others right here in our own communities. Neighbors. Classmates. Coworkers. Who can we serve today?

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She Is Enough: Telling a Different Story in South Africa

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She Is Enough: Telling a Different Story in South Africa

In Chatsworth, South Africa, you’ll find a battle raging. Stories won’t saturate CNN or FOX News, and images from the war won’t inundate your social media accounts.

It’s a quiet war.

It’s waged behind closed doors, in the depths of the night, and in the pulsating blood of individual residents. Death is fighting life. Good is fighting evil. Darkness is fighting light.

In 1950, while apartheid reigned in South Africa, the Group Areas Act–a law which separated all ethnic groups–was passed. This law forcibly uprooted Indians from areas such as Mayville, Cato Manor, and Clairwood, and relocated them to Chatsworth. Chatsworth was officially opened in 1964 and was intentionally established as a barrier between the designated “white residential areas” and the township of Umlazi. Today Chatsworth is home to a variety of people from different ethnic backgrounds, though the township remains predominantly Indian.

South Africa has made substantial strides in desegregation and economic growth since the days of apartheid, but the country wrestles with a darkness, an evil underneath the surface–a war.

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According to UNAIDS Gap Report 2014, over 19% of the adult population of South Africa has HIV. The stigmas that are often associated with HIV/AIDS continue to affect those living in South Africa, as HIV patients are ostracized from family and friends, and routinely denied medical care or education.

When stigmas and prejudices persist, long-standing misinformation and lies flourish, leaving many to believe old mysticisms, such as the notion that sex with a virgin will cure an HIV-infected person. Beliefs like these, with deep, ugly roots continue to tear apart communities, towns, and countries, while robbing young women, children, and even babies–yes, babies–of their innocence.

Thus, young women, children, and babies are being condemned to a painful life marred by the effects of HIV. Many will never have romantic relationships or families of their own, as they will now forever be viewed as unworthy and not enough.

In the depths of this brokenness, Christian Life Center is offering safety, care, and the promise of hope. The campus includes homes that house six to eight children at a time, a church, a bakery, and a sewing facility. At the center, children are cared for wholistically (spiritually, physically, emotionally, mentally), and often taught a new trade, such as baking or sewing.

Zama came to Christian Life Center as a teenage girl with an HIV diagnosis. Like many of the children within the community, her story is filled with brokenness, but instead of facing homelessness or a life of prostitution, she has found a place of shelter within this community.

By societal standards, Zama has nothing left to offer this world. She cannot have children, and the disease has taken a substantial toll on her young body. Society says she is not enough.

But, at Christian Life Center, she is told a different story. She has found a home, a purpose, and a family. Having aged out of the program, Zama now serves alongside the staff at the center. Despite her disease, Zama has a sweet demeanor, and she works hard to help care for other orphaned children living on the campus.

Here she is told that she is enough. She may have scars and she may come from a broken past, but she has not been turned away, and she is not the object of degradation and shame.

Christian Life Center exists to not only rescue and rehabilitate children, but to tell these children a different story about themselves. They are more than their pasts, their diseases, their weaknesses, or their inabilities.

The war will wage on in South Africa, yet as the silent bullets fly, the men, women, and church of Christian Life Center will stand to fight for the good. They stand to tell orphaned children a new story of hope and a future in Christ. They stand to tell women like Zama that they are enough.

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Daring to Climb Out of Poverty

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Daring to Climb Out of Poverty

“There is freedom waiting for you, On the breezes of the sky, And you ask "What if I fall?" Oh but my darling, What if you fly?” ― Erin Hanson

Over the last twelve months, we’ve witnessed a major shift in the families of our Ethiopia Home Based Care Program.

Since we trained our church partners on starting and facilitating self-managed savings groups, we have seen over 150 people, mostly single mothers, begin saving for the first time in their lives. While it’s critical that they now have a safety net and funds available in case of an emergency or unexpected life event, something even more important is happening.

These women are realizing their own potential and transforming the way they think and speak about themselves.

Dignity. Value. Confidence.

Where there was hopelessness, today there is hope.

These women meet together over traditional Ethiopian coffee to share about life: family, faith, business, joys, sorrows, successes, struggles, fears.

Not only do these women save together and grow in their understanding of basic principles of financial stewardship, but they also encourage one another in every other aspect of life. It’s true that iron sharpens iron. The entire group is better off together.

As we continue to learn from the families that we serve, we gain new insight into their daily lives. Emotional, physical, spiritual, social, and financial health are closely connected. We realize that economic opportunities, like the ability to start or grow a small business, can strengthen families and dramatically improve the quality of life.

Working with our local church partners, we’ve developed other empowerment initiatives, including literacy and microloan programs for the women in the savings groups. The goal is to empower the church with effective platforms, training, and ongoing support. This will enable churches to provide vulnerable families with opportunities to use their creativity and resourcefulness to generate sustainable incomes, while also enabling them to contribute to their communities.

Our microloan program will begin this year and be available to the caregivers in the savings program. Using the knowledge and relationships they have developed in the savings group, members are encouraged to apply for a small loan of 500 Ethiopian Birr to start or expand a business. The loan will be paid back over 10 months at 50 Birr per month with zero interest. At the end of 10 months, each client that successfully pays back her loan will have the opportunity to reapply for another loan up to 1,000 Birr. The second loan will be paid back over 20 months at 50 Birr per month.

The loan program is entrenched in relationships and will include ongoing training, encouragement, and accountability with our clients. The plan is to start small and stay small. Our desire is to make a significant impact in a few communities. We are going into this with eyes wide open, aware of the inherent risks and challenges such a program presents.

The fact is, some clients will struggle for one reason or another and not pay back their loans. It’s a fact we must face. However–more importantly–many more will be empowered to hope, to grow their businesses, and to sustain and strengthen their families.

If you talk to many microfinance organizations working in developing countries, they will tell you that you can’t loan money to the poorest of the poor successfully. I’m not talking about the top 10% of the economically poor, but the bottom 10%–those with no income, assets, or security of any kind. But if no one is willing to invest in these people, they will remain in hopeless desperation.

Microfinance isn’t a silver bullet to alleviate poverty; however, when incorporated into a long-term wholistic program of economic empowerment, it can be a very effective tool.

We know the mountain is tall but we came here to climb.

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5 Ways I Went from Stressed Out to Finding Grace

By Kevin Squires | Senior Director of Church Partnerships My two sons (ages 11 and seven) recently asked me if they could download a song from iTunes that’s “not on the Christian radio stations”. I almost spit my drink across the room! It wasn’t because we, as a family, are opposed to music that doesn’t shout Jesus in often-random places throughout the song. The shock came from the fact that my two hoodlums had a joint meeting in their conference room (bedroom) to discuss who was going to ask Mom and Dad if they could “change the course of time” by adding a little secular music into their life.

The slightly-above-decent parent that I am followed up their brave ask with a simple question, “What song is it?”

My oldest son looked at the floor and mumbled, “Stressed Out by Twenty One Pilots.” The slightly-below-cool parent that I am had never heard of them. So, I donned my CIA badge of parenthood, opened my laptop, and began stalking these group of pilots. I found the song quite catchy, like something I would have listened to when I cared about being cool . . . like way back in the 90s. I was struck by some of these lyrics:

Wish we could turn back time, to the good ol' days, When our momma sang us to sleep but now we're stressed out. Wish we could turn back time, to the good ol' days, When our momma sang us to sleep but now we're stressed out.

We used to play pretend, give each other different names, We would build a rocket ship and then we'd fly it far away, Used to dream of outer space but now they're laughing at our face, Saying, "Wake up, you need to make money."

My sons were quite ecstatic to hear that I approved their song choice. They took off running to their conference roo- uh, I mean . . . bedroom to download their new favorite song. Meanwhile, I quietly sneaked off to my home office to listen to the song again, and again, and admittedly, again–you know–strictly for research purposes for a well-educated parent.

The song got me thinking about the good ol’ days. It’s not that these days aren’t good, but I have to admit, life gets hard as we grow older. I’m tired, but reminded that the apostle Paul tells us in 2 Thessalonians 3:13 to “not grow weary in doing good.” I hear you, Paul, but I must confess that the thought of doing good makes me weary sometimes.

I’ve worked in full time ministry for 17 years. I would like to say that I’m always godly, that I always see the best in people, and that I don’t get frustrated with my own lack of perfection. But, I’m often embarrassed by some of my mistakes, and I realize that some of my moral failures brought me and my loved ones some added stress through the years. I wish, sometimes, that we could “turn back time/to the good ol’ days.”

Fortunately, yet sometimes painstakingly, God doesn’t allow that. Instead, he uses the bumps in our road to show us His amazing grace.

Grace. Seems like it’s vanishing these days . . . not just in how little we extend it to others, or how rarely we extend it to ourselves, but also in how much we ignore the free buffet of grace given to us by God. Unfortunately, all too often, grace is hard to find in the church. Agendas and self-promotion battle their way to the forefront, often leaving what Christ called “The Way” behind. Churches, made up of sinners, fall and fall hard. And when we fall, we get hurt. And as the saying goes, “hurt people hurt people”.

In many ways, listening to “Stressed Out” by those pilot guys reminded me that you can’t just turn back time to the good ol’ days. You have to eventually find the grace in today.

Here are the five ways I went from stressed out to finding grace:

  1. I am nothing; He is everything. And that is more than okay with me!
  2. Success is measured in Kingdom gains, not personal gains. Success in life is not success if it harms the Body of Christ.
  3. When the going gets tough, the tough realize they are not alone. Christ didn’t give us the human capacity to deal with the toughness of life on our own. But, through the divine capacity of His Spirit, He is able to see us through it.
  4. In a day and age that stresses the importance of leadership, Christ is primarily looking for followership. He is doing something great in the world, so quit trying to always blaze trails, and learn to follow Him. The journey is always worth it!
  5. Prayer guides your journey. Corrie Ten Boom once asked, “Is prayer your steering wheel or your spare tire?” Prayer won’t just get you out of ruts; it will also help you avoid them.

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Grief and Gratitude

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Grief and Gratitude

The day she walked into the church to share her testimony, Jalene* was wearing all black from head to toe–black top, black skirt, and a black scarf. This is the traditional clothing for Ethiopians who are mourning the death of someone they loved. Months and years after a loss, family members often continue wearing full black. It speaks to the depths of their grief without demanding words.

Jalene’s testimony begins with her marriage to Menas*. Like Ruth of the Old Testament, she left her family and all she knew to marry into his family. Together, they moved far away from her home in rural Ethiopia to the city of Addis Ababa. The city was unfamiliar in every way, including the language spoken there. Still, Jalene loved Menas, and he was a good husband.

A beloved member of the church, Menas served as an elder. He worked in construction, cracking rocks used for building. And he was the kind of man that used his skills generously, bringing 300 rocks for the construction of a new church hall and laying the foundation for free. Jalene and Menas were happily married and gave birth to a little girl, whom they named Desta*.

Five years later, everything changed. While at work, a boulder fell on Menas, and he died instantly. Jalene was heartbroken, and five-year-old Desta was fatherless. In spite of her great pain and grief, Menas’ family rejected her, claiming that she was bad luck and had brought this death upon their family. The people who were supposed to help care for this young widow and her child wanted nothing to do with her. They kicked her out of her own home.

Jalene had no work experience. Menas had always been the sole provider for their family. Suddenly, she was a widow, a single mother, and homeless. She didn’t know what to do. Her hope was fading away, and she began to question God.

Why did her husband—a good man—die? Is this what happens when someone faithfully serves the Lord?

Thankfully, this is when the local church stepped in to care for Jalene and Desta. The Addisalem Berhane Wongel Church accepted this family into their Home Based Care program with World Orphans. Through the church, she is able to receive support for her family. They have shelter and food, and little Desta is able to attend school. Jalene has also found a job and is providing income in addition to what she receives from the program. This allows her to save and plan for the future.

As she tells her story, tears flow down her cheeks. They are tears of mixed emotions—of great grief and great gratitude. She will never stop missing her beloved husband, and she will continue wearing black as a sign of that grief. But now she has regained her hope! She and her child are being cared for and loved. As she walked away from the church that day after sharing her testimony, she looked up to the sky, smiled, and thanked God.

*Names changed to protect identity

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Grab Your Racing Shoes & First Aid Kit

By Tacy Layne | Writer/Editor The Race That Eats Its Young.

It's a daunting tagline, isn't it? Doesn't it make you want to sign up for the race tomorrow? The Barkley Marathons is a gruesome, agony-filled race whose distance exceeds 100 miles and whose memories could scar you for a lifetime. Nestled in the hills of Tennessee, the race challenges runners not only with the distance, but the hills, trees, briars, and early-spring possibilities of rain, snow, sleet, or hail. The course time limit is 60 hours. 60 hours of crying, bleeding, hallucinating, hungering, thirsting . . . fun?

In the first 25 years of the race's existence, only ten people completed the course. Despite its grimacing tagline and its infamous reputation (or because of it), hundreds of runners apply for the race each year. Only 40 of those that apply are given formal invitations (which are written in the form of condolence letters). The race follows a looped course. Three laps, approximately 78 miles, is considered a "fun run", and the full five-lap course finishes out at 130 miles.

If you aren't yet sick to your stomach, each loop of the race has a 12,000 foot ascent and 12,000 foot descent, making the full course equivalent to climbing Mt. Everest twice.

Lazarus Lake, cofounder of the Barkley Marathons, says runners "just had a fallback mentality [in the race's early history] that the race was just the fun run and the hundred [full race] was impossible." Nobody completed the full race course until nearly ten years after the race was established. Lake went on to say, "Once someone finished, you knew it really could be done." Did you catch that? Runners assumed the race was impossible until someone completed it.


Until They All Have Homes.

It's a daunting tagline isn't it? When you place the desire to see every orphaned child in a home up against the reality that there are 153 million orphaned children in the world, this tagline doesn't seem to pay homage to the situation at hand.

  • 153,000,000. If we multiplied the Texas population by five, that number would still fall short of the amount of orphaned children in the world.
  • The worldwide orphan population is larger than the entire population of Russia.
  • If all the orphans in the world were placed in a country of their own, they would have the ninth largest country in the world.

Seeking to house and nurture every orphaned child in the world might as well be the world's most difficult 130-mile race, right? We know the challenge to "defend the weak and the fatherless" (Psalm 82:3), yet we feel like we don't know where to begin sometimes.

Here's the thing. It's going to be impossible until we do it.

When runners run the first four laps of the Barkley Marathons, they typically run together. They partner up – the seasoned Barkley runners with the newbies – and they tackle the course together because they know they stand a better chance against the terrain and their own weaknesses when they choose to not go alone.

I cannot do this alone. You cannot do this alone. World Orphans cannot do this alone. We're holding on to the grace of God, asking you to join hands with us, and tackling the orphan crisis one mile at a time. We aren't taking the "fun run" option. We aren't assuming this is impossible. We're in this for the long haul.

We're going to ride out the briar-covered hills, the snow-packed trails, the rainy miles, the blistered feet, and the relentless exhaustion. Far more than bragging rights and race medals are at stake here.

153 million children deserve hope. It's not impossible for every orphaned child to have a home. It's just that nobody has done it . . .

Yet.

Join us?

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God's Treasures

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God's Treasures

World Orphans currently has more than 40 projects in 12 countries around the world. Naturally, the varying cultures, expectations, and regulations shape the way our projects are developed and maintained. Even within one country’s borders, no two projects look identical. Navigating the cultural norms, customs, and appropriate practices in so many varying communities certainly has its challenges. But, it also brings a beautiful diversity to our ministry. Whether it’s a refugee camp in Iraq, Home Based Care in Haiti, a residential children’s home in India, or economic empowerment programs in Ethiopia, we are constantly exploring the best ways to care for orphans and preserve families.

One of our more unique partnerships is an organization in Nicaragua named Tesoros de Dios, meaning ‘God’s Treasures’. This ministry works specifically with children and families that are suffering from the effects of physical and mental disabilities. The facility offers a variety of therapies for children and provides support groups for caregivers. Here, children receive needed treatment to help them meet their potential, and parents are educated on how to provide care for their special needs child.

Tesoros de Dios also does outreach to local churches and schools, providing Biblical teaching about our responsibility to care for these children whom society too often casts aside. Much of the training focuses on inclusivity and education for both churches and schools, as they learn how to engage and care for these families well.

I want to share the story of Mateo* with you. Mateo was born with a seizure disorder and began visiting Tesoros de Dios at 3 years old. He had poor muscle tone and could not walk on his own. Now, after 3 years of therapy, he is able to walk and run! Mateo’s mother was also concerned about his hearing and delayed speech abilities. A speech therapist began working with Mateo and his family to determine what issues he is facing and create a plan to improve his speech. Mateo’s mother was encouraged by the speech therapist as she learned practical ways to assist her son.

Every year, the children are treated to a water park visit. It is the only time Mateo ever goes to the pool. He has so much fun playing in the water! During his last visit to the pool, one staff member was able to work with him on water therapy treatment. They practiced walking and balancing, and he had a blast!

Sadly, in most societies throughout the world, families are shunned by their own communities when they have children born with disabilities. These communities are convinced that the disability is a curse or punishment for the parents’ sins. Worse yet, these children are vulnerable to abandonment, neglect, or murder.

We are so thankful for the work God is doing in Nicaragua through Tesoros de Dios. At Tesoros de Dios, hope is triumphing in children whose lives initially seemed hopeless. Mateo and others like him truly are “treasures of God”. It is encouraging to see the church stepping up to its responsibility to love and protect these precious children.

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Pursuing the Good: Education in Iraq

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Pursuing the Good: Education in Iraq

Soran, Iraq is tucked into the Zagros Mountains of Northern Iraq, where springtime is brilliantly green and winters are harsh and thick with snow. The terrain is majestic and fierce.

When the Ray family moved to the Iraqi Kurdistan region, they didn’t know what God had in mind for them, but they heard the call to go, and listened. After building relationships in the area, the family was approached in 2009 by Mayor Krmamji Dargali, who asked the Rays to establish a community center that would minister to widows in the region through education and job skills training, enabling them to continue supporting their children.

The community center was affectionately and prophetically named: “The Refuge Community Center”. Oh, the beautiful things God had in store. Billy and Dawn Ray, along with their three boys, in partnership with Tim and Sarah Buxton and their three children, began to establish roots in Iraqi Kurdistan.

Then, in 2014, everything began to change.

ISIS wreaked havoc across Iraq, targeting religious and ethnic minorities in what has now been justly declared a genocidal campaign. As a result, millions of desperate Iraqi families were suddenly on the move, seeking refuge. As a peaceful safe haven in the midst of violence, many turned to the region of Northern Iraq. Thus, in a matter of days, the community center was repurposed to not only serve widows and orphans of the region, but to create space for Yazidi and Shabak families fleeing ISIS.

In August 2015, The Refuge Initiative was officially established.

The efforts of the Buxtons and Rays have been tremendously blessed and multiplied, as the Refuge Initiative now includes five self-governed micro-camps that wholistically care for the needs of approximately 700 people through the provision of adequate housing with running water and indoor plumbing, trauma counseling, access to food, and education. For the children in this region, education is vital.

"With guns, you can kill terrorists. With education, you can kill terrorism." -Malala Yousafzai

In a country where political and economic stability will continue to remain a distant dream, the children grow further behind in their education with every passing day they miss school. For many of these youth, the long-awaited day of returning home will not change their educational circumstances, as the Iraqi government will not allow children to miss such large quantities of time in the classroom. These youth run the risk of never receiving a formal education again, yet at TRI, the children have a much more hopeful story.

English, math, music, and art classes have been held in the community center, but the space is proving to be too small for the more than 100 children currently receiving an education. In an effort to remain focused on wholistically caring for refugee and IDP families, ground has been broken for a school.

This school, an answer to many prayers, will be 16,000 square feet and two stories high. A gym will be located on the ground floor, with nine classrooms upstairs. The facility will make both the teaching and the learning process far more accessible to the educators and students, as space will no longer be a daily issue.

By focusing on education for these families, we remind them that they weren’t always refugees, and they won’t always be refugees. We remind them that they have a hope and a future, and the circumstances they currently face will not determine the rest of their lives. Children that would be at risk of forced child labor or human trafficking within the confines of a large, bustling macro-camp are instead receiving some dose of normalcy in their lives as they go to to school each day to learn, to dream, and to grow.

"For we are God's masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago." – Ephesians 2:10

As they continue to follow God’s leading, the Rays and Buxtons come face-to-face with the good that God planned for their families so long ago, the good that they could never have planned for themselves, and the good which has provided refuge for so many families. In the soil of devastation and brokenness, goodness and hope are blossoming.

We’re excited about the work God is doing through TRI in Northern Iraq. As we educate the future leaders of Iraq, establish Christ’s deep hope in the hearts of refugees, and continue to celebrate God’s providence in the midst of devastation, we want to invite you to join us. We’re seeking 538 additional sponsors for TRI and would love for you to be a part of this.

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Changing Lives One Bite at a Time

Tacy Layne | Writer/Editor “We have to do something.” Months of researching, being pummeled by images, and endless news stories led the mother-daughter duo, Sheryl Russell and Brittany Turco, to make this statement regarding the refugee crisis.

1They were sitting in a warm, familiar place on that December day: Sheryl’s kitchen. After 30 years of cooking and baking, the kitchen had seen many wedding cakes, mouth-watering cookies, and cinnamon rolls.

Cinnamon rolls have been a Christmas staple in the Turco and Russell homes, as the ladies have passed out the homemade pastries to family, friends, and neighbors for the last several years. This past year, however, they took a different approach.

What if a cinnamon roll could bring awareness? What if indulging in a delicacy could somehow raise funds for refugees in Syria and Iraq? What if hours baking in a kitchen could translate to over $1,000 for refugees?

Sheryl watched the news stories pour in, saw the faces of mothers, fathers, and children as they journeyed to safety, and came face-to-face with the realization that those who traveled for miles were the fortunate ones . . . because they escaped. When that realization set in for Sheryl and her daughter, Brittany, they did what they do best. They baked.

2Brittany and Sheryl established Rolls for Refugees with the goal of raising $1,000 to support three organizations that serve refugees in either Syria or Iraq. Brittany quickly set up a website to take orders online, and in just four weeks Rolls for Refugees went from a kitchen table conversation to a profitable $1,400 fundraiser.

World Orphans project, The Refuge Initiative, was one of the three organizations that received not only the financial, but the awareness-driven support of Brittany and Sheryl. The Refuge Initiative operates out of Iraq, a country ravaged by the destruction and heartbreak brought on by ISIS. This project uses self-governed micro-camps to provide wholistic care and equip refugees with pathways back to independence, including education, vocational training, and job creation.

3While the funds Brittany and Sheryl raised certainly made an impact on the lives of refugees, they were most excited about the opportunity to raise awareness, not only for the refugees, but for the organizations whose ministries focus on serving refugees. Family and friends were excited to have an easy, tangible (and delicious) way to get involved.

Brittany and Sheryl, like us at World Orphans, believe that God has blessed us with gifts and talents, and he breaks our hearts for specific people and circumstances. Why? Because we have something to offer. Whether it’s baking or running or offering up our finances, we have a role to play in caring for widows, orphans, and refugees . . . until they all have homes.

What do you have to offer? Learn more about the ways in which your gifts and passions can impact the ministries of World Orphans by visiting us at www.worldorphans.org/rescueteams

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Wait For the Lord

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Wait For the Lord

“Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength. Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.” -- Isaiah 40:28-31

In these verses and several times throughout Scripture, we are told to wait for the Lord. That command seems so simple, and yet we struggle to obey it every day. Our human nature compels us to try to control every aspect of our lives—our finances, our health, our futures. We may say we desire God’s blessing and His will for our lives, but are we willing to wait for Him to reveal it to us? Are we willing to endure trials and heartache as we wait for the Lord?

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Tigsit is a widow living in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, with her three children. Her name in Amharic means ‘patience’, and her testimony shows us what it means to patiently wait upon the Lord despite hardships and challenges.

In 2001, Tigsit and her husband, Mulugeta, were living in Eastern Ethiopia when she became very ill. For three months, she lay in a hospital bed, and no one knew what was wrong. Finally, the doctors determined she had both tuberculosis and HIV, but nothing helped, and she continued to become increasingly sick. Four more months passed, and it became clear that she would die in that hospital bed. So, her husband and father began preparing for her funeral.

A group of Christians from the local church came to the hospital one day to visit and pray with the sick patients. One man of God prophesied that Tigsit would be healed in one month. One month later, after eight long months of illness, she was suddenly healed! Tigsit’s father had been worshiping a witch for years, but after her healing, he, Tigsit, and Mulugeta all gave their lives to Christ immediately.

Tigsit and Mulugeta then moved to Addis Ababa, joined a church where they began to learn about Jesus and His Word, and they were eventually baptized. Sadly, Mulugeta’s family rejected them because of their faith in Christ. Still, they proclaimed the Gospel proudly.

Not long after moving to Addis Ababa, Tigsit gave birth to a son. Their family continued to grow through the birth of a daughter in 2005 and another daughter in 2010. Mulugeta worked as a tailor, and Tigsit made some extra money washing clothes. Together, they worked hard to provide for their family.

Then, on August 1, 2014, Mulugeta was walking home from work when he suddenly fell down and died. The cause of death is still unknown. And just like that, the story changes. The same God who had miraculously healed Tigsit in 2001 had suddenly—abruptly—taken her husband home to heaven.

Tigsit, a widow suddenly grieving the loss of her husband, had to bear the full burden of caring for her three children alone. She sold many of their possessions, worked multiple jobs, and still found herself struggling to feed her family and pay rent.

That is when waiting on the Lord is not so easy—when the children are hungry, when you can barely keep a roof over their heads, and when the pain of losing someone you love seems like a physical weight you can’t lift—and yet, in spite of the financial strain, Tigsit faithfully gave her tithe to the church, trusting in the Lord and waiting upon Him. She knew firsthand the power of God, and her faith could not be shaken. She knew she was passing through the valley of the shadow of death, but she did not fear, for she knew her Shepherd was with her.

Then, when she needed it most, assistance came from her local church and the World Orphans program. She joyfully received small, needed items like soaps and cooking oil. But, more importantly, her three children, who were all HIV+, could receive the medication needed for them to stay healthy, and they were able to attend a good school.

Tigsit has now joined a savings group through the church, which enables her to save money each month. She feels empowered to provide for her family, making sure her children are never hungry and can receive a high-quality education. Tigsit is also delighted to report that her youngest daughter of five, after taking medication consistently, is now HIV free!

Those who know Tigsit say that she claims the name of Jesus in almost every statement. She is full of joy and radiates the love of Christ. How beautiful it is to see this woman, who has suffered so much, proclaiming the Lord’s faithfulness. May we take Tigsit’s story to heart, and pray over the areas in our lives where we must only wait for the Lord, and He will renew our strength.

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Empowering Women In Jinja

By Jeremy Resmer | Senior Director of Projects empowering_women_in_jinjaHow can we help empower women?

Before we attempt to address such an important topic facing many secular and Christian organizations, let’s dig deeper and ask more questions:

Which women? In which country? Single or married? Do they have children? How many? Do any of the children have special needs? Do the women have a formal education? Through what level? Do they have a job or informal small business? Do they have any health problems? Do any of the children have health problems? The list goes on and on . . .

Bear with me as I go on a tangent.

From my experience working with many American churches, we are often quick to oversimplify problems and offer solutions. We tend to start new organizations, manage them from afar, and let outsiders make key decisions. Yes, I too am guilty as charged.

We tend to be slow to listen and learn. Seldom have I seen missionaries or teams spend several months and years living in a country, building relationships, visiting locally-run organizations, and seeking local input before starting a “project” or organization. One would assume this would be the norm. However, when we move intentionally and in ways appropriate to the local culture, people back home have a funny way of asking, “What are you waiting for?”

Let’s face it; we want a quick fix and think we can do it better on our own. We believe that we can take a solution or a model that worked in one community and apply it to every country. We tend to underestimate the challenges and costs of working cross-culturally and overcompensate by cutting corners. I’ve seen this play out over and over again by well-intentioned churches, ministries, and NGOs led by smart people with huge hearts.

Unfortunately, they were guided by their own visions and emotions rather than appropriate research and cultural considerations. This is a recipe for disaster. It often leads to bigger projects, bigger budgets, and bigger mistakes. This approach causes fractured relationships and damaged reputations, and these costs are far greater than money.

The same principles that apply to working in new countries also apply to specific communities and subsets of the population. The objectives may differ, but the questions we ask and the process we follow is very similar.

Let’s revisit our questions and get a little more specific.

How can we help empower women in Jinja, Uganda? While this is still quite broad, let’s dive in anyway to see if we can make some progress.

We’ve spent the last five years facilitating Church Partnership in Jinja. The initial vision for the partnership included inspiring and equipping the local church to care for a small number of orphaned and abandoned children, while exploring sustainable, long-term solutions to funding the work.

If you’ve ever been involved in these types of partnerships before, you know that nothing comes easy and it takes time to develop relationships and trust. Undoubtedly, you will face cultural miscues and things lost in translation. In other words, expect to make mistakes. Hopefully, you will minimize and learn from them.

Here we are, several years into the partnership, and the church partners have witnessed struggles and joys and everything in between. The work has evolved from merely creating a sustainable form of orphan care to finding local solutions to preserve, strengthen, and empower vulnerable families, particularly single mothers.

Over the course of time, and after ongoing meetings, phone calls, emails and trips, the church partners have learned a great deal about the local culture, the people, and the issues the local people face. Over and over again, they have been reminded of the importance of empowering women—spiritually, physically, emotionally, mentally, and socially. None of these are more important than the others. All aspects are overlapping each other.

Just two months ago, the church started a food distribution and visitation ministry. People in the community helped the church identify fifteen families that are highly vulnerable and in desperate situations. Members of the church visited these families to learn more and introduce themselves.

Rose*, a single mother of three, told her excruciating story. One of Rose’s children has a severe disability that requires her to be present with the child at all times. Her husband, who worked and provided for the family, considered the child a curse and would not accept the child as his own, so he left.

Rose, who couldn’t leave her child’s side, was unable to work, could no longer provide for the family, and could no longer pay rent. She and her children moved to a tiny parcel of property. They had no home and used an old tarp to provide covering from the rain. The other children didn’t receive much attention from Rose and they seldom had anything to eat. To make matters worse, the family was isolated from the community because having a child with special needs is often viewed as a curse or repayment for past sins.

Truly in despair, Rose and her family experienced physical, emotional, social, economic and spiritual pain. They had nowhere to turn.

Community of Faith Church has a desire to serve the community and is meeting these families in their brokenness and affliction, physically and spiritually. Rose and her family are now receiving food regularly, along with prayer and support. The church is working with her to find ways to come alongside her to provide proper care for her child and discuss ways to earn an income. These stories are all too common and long-term solutions are not often immediate.

After months of planning and prayer, the church is preparing to open The Greater Love Center for Women’s Ministries. The center will be a refuge for women from all backgrounds and faiths to share their stories, and receive counseling, encouragement, and emotional support.

The center will start with specialized programs for women who have experienced trauma and help them heal from their past. Over time, it will gradually develop economic empowerment programs, including savings groups, financial stewardship training, small business training, and possibly microloans.

Through the church and the relationships it has developed with the community and families with special needs, the center is also praying and researching ways to empower other local churches, particularly women’s ministries. The church hopes to see other churches visiting families with special needs, providing basic education and training, offering resources, and helping to initiate support groups for the women.

How do we empower women in Jinja, Uganda?

It looks different in each community. The church seeks women out and meets them right where they are. We listen to their stories and show compassion for their pain. We gather small groups of like-minded women together to encourage, pray for, and support each other through similar struggles in life. By working together with the people we serve, we identify needs within the community and find appropriate solutions to the problems we face while learning that our healing, restoration, and identity are all found in Christ.

*Name changed to protect identity

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The Language of Hope

By Tacy Layne | Writer/Editor language-of-hope-1Isn’t it remarkable how the world can change in just a few hours? One short flight from Ft. Lauderdale will take you to Port-au-Prince, Haiti, and suddenly everything has changed. Most notably, unless you’re fluent in Creole, you cannot understand anything that’s being said around you.

Within a few hours though, you’ve settled into the normalcy of not being able to understand those around you. So, when English words in a recognizable American song burst through the Haitian air in a tiny peach-walled room with rough-cut pew benches, your heart stops for a moment.

Savior, He can move the mountains, My God is mighty to save, He is mighty to save.

Forever, Author of Salvation, He rose and conquered the grave, Jesus conquered the grave.

You’re surrounded by the beautiful faces of orphaned children exclaiming the might of their Savior. But, you need to know more before you can appreciate the sacredness of these heartfelt words.

language-of-hope-2After the Haiti earthquake of 2010, a local Haitian pastor received a phone call from one of his congregation members. The individual said, "Pastor, I think you're going to want to come down to the church. You won't believe what we're seeing down here." When he arrived, the pastor was greeted by 370 orphaned children. In an effort to find homes for the children quickly, he began calling other pastors in the area to seek their assistance. In the meantime, the children slept in tents outside the church. Since that shocking and seemingly hopeless day in 2010, all 370 children are either in local homes or they're one of the children now living under the care of the pastor.

But, the story doesn’t end there. Last year, the pastor became ill. Fevered, growing increasingly thin every day and having no strength, he’d lie on the floor of the building that the orphans call “home” – his home – and he’d wait to die. The children were heartbroken for this man who had become a father-figure to them. Day and night, they would surround him, pouring out prayers and tears on his behalf. They believed the mighty Savior who sheltered them in the chaos of the earthquake could heal him.

God healed the pastor.

In a hot church in Haiti on a December afternoon, orphaned children proclaim “Mighty to Save” with confidence and joy, and a smile comes to life on their pastor’s face. When it comes to hope, it doesn’t matter what language you speak.

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The Key to Educating a Nation

By Lindsay Allen | Project Manager: Americas educating-a-nationOne of our partners in Uganda, Father’s Divine Love Ministries (FDLM), recently celebrated with a young woman named Mary as she graduated from university. Her degree is in secondary school education with a concentration in English literature. In a country where only 9% of the population enrolls in university level courses, and of that 9% only 37% are females*, this wonderful accomplishment becomes even more significant.

Mary has made a habit of defying the odds. In 1995, Mary was an infant when she lost her father to AIDS. As time went on, all of her siblings had to drop out of school due to a lack of resources. But Mary did not want to give up on her education. Her family, like all of us at some time or another, needed some assistance. In 2005, FDLM intervened in her life, and gave her a chance to continue with her education. Pastor David of FDLM has always believed that the key to educating a nation lies within the girls who will become women. Those women will become mothers and those mothers will then educate their own children.

Ten years after Mary first met Pastor David and FDLM, she graduated from university. In addition, while she was in college, she was offered a great job and got engaged! This young woman who was orphaned as a baby and had no chance at getting an education, is now breaking the cycle of poverty. She has a college degree, a secure job, and a godly, well-educated fiancé. Now she is beginning her career as a teacher, where she will shape the future of countless high school students.

Mary’s future students hold the future of Uganda. They too may have faced adversity at a young age. Growing up in one of the poorest countries in the world tends to make receiving an education more difficult, and being born a girl means the expectations placed on your life are much lower than those of a boy. But Mary defied the odds and shattered expectations, and soon she will be educating and motivating a generation of young people to do the same.

*according to World Bank data

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Love: Unplugged

By Kevin Squires | Senior Director of Church Partnership love-unpluggedI’m a child of the 80s and 90s. With that, comes embarrassing stories, shows I’d never admit to watching, and a certain “Material Girl” that was (regretfully) my crush. But, it wasn’t all bad. The world was in transition. As a boy, I went from long hair in the 80s to short hair and long sideburns in the 90s (RIP 90210). Shorts got longer thanks to Jesus, of course, and the Fab 5 of Michigan basketball. Pants got baggier and saggier because of . . . well, Hammer-Time! And music got unplugged.

Yes, the 90s unplugged music when MTV produced its critically-acclaimed Unplugged series by taking world-renowned recording artists (i.e. Eric Clapton, Mariah Carey, Neil Young, etc.…) and displaying their talents acoustically (unplugged). It stripped the artists of technological advancements and showed the audience what the real music sounded like in the trenches of production.

In light of Valentine’s Day, I thought it would be interesting to flash back to the days of MTV’s Unplugged and attempt to Unplug: Love. Many Bible scholars refer to 1 Corinthians 13 as the “love chapter.” In other words, it shows what love—in its most perfect, “plugged in,” and advanced form—looks like. Impossible without the Spirit of God, the Apostle Paul lays out the characteristics of love: patient, kind, not envious or boastful, not arrogant or rude, not insistent on its own way, not irritable or resentful, not rejoicing in wrongdoing, but rather rejoicing with the truth. The beauty goes on and on.

However, love isn’t always beautiful. More often than not, it’s kind of messy! In the Parable of the Good Samaritan, Jesus unplugs love and defines what it looks like in the here-and-now trenches of life . . . when life is hectic, busy, messy, and bound by certain restrictions.

Shortly after Jesus told the parable, He asked the question, “Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” In many ways, the question was much more intrusive than that. He was also asking, “How did the Samaritan show (unplugged) love to the man who was in need?”Jesus had clearly already answered that question by depicting the Samaritan wholistically meeting the physical, economic, social, and spiritual needs of the man in need. Jesus somehow managed to unplug love from its neat and tidy home and connect it to the grind of our daily lives: the dirty, expensive, sacrificial, and time-consuming reality of our lives.

Tim Keller, in his book Generous Justice, said, “Jesus refuses to let us limit not only how we love, but who we love. It is typical for us to think of our neighbors as people of the same social class or means . . . We do it for people like us, and for people whom we like. But, Jesus will have none of that.”

Luke 14:12-14 further unplugs love in the Parable of the Great Banquet:

[Jesus] said also to the man who had invited him, ‘When you give a dinner or a banquet, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, lest they also invite you in return and you be repaid. But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the just.

During this month, unplug love by loving people outside your reach. Join with me in praying that God transforms and expands our definition of neighbor. Pray that His Spirit guides us to those who most need of a friendly ear, voice, or touch.

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Redeeming Resolutions

By Kevin Squires | Senior Director of Church Partnerships redeeming-resolutionsIf you’re like the majority of people, chances are, since we’re already days into January, you’re teetering on failure.

I know. I know. That’s probably not what you wanted to hear so early in 2016. My high school English teacher, Mrs. Hogue, would have killed me for writing an introduction like that. You see, she strongly believed that introductory sentences should make people want to continue reading rather than make them want to light the paper on fire with a blowtorch for being confirmed a failure!

But, take a couple minutes to hear me out. We’re only days into our New Year’s resolutions, and there’s a chance - albeit small - that we’re still going to the gym, eating healthy, and/or smoking less.

Realistically, though, you’re more than likely one failure in a stadium full of failures. A 2007 study by Richard Wiseman from the University of Bristol found that 88% of those who set New Year’s resolutions - wait for it. Wait for it - fail. Reasons varied: 35% said their goals were too unrealistic; 33% said they forgot to track their progress; 23% said they forgot they even set a resolution (these are my people); the remaining 9% said they made way too many resolutions.

So, why set them? And who came up with this horrific idea?

Well, according to the great philosopher Wikipedia, this addiction to New Year failure arguably started with the ancient Babylonians, who were accustomed to promising their gods at the start of each year that they would return borrowed items and pay off their outstanding debts. Needless to say, wars broke out and villages were burned because borrowed items weren’t returned and debts didn’t get paid. Later, the Romans carried on this repulsive tradition by making promises to the god Janus, from whose name we get “January”. Not to be outdone, the medieval knights threw their swords into the game by taking the Peacock Vow (no, seriously) at the end of the Christmas season to reaffirm their commitment to chivalry. Jews, Christians, and other religions joined in as their way of recommitting their quest for self-improvement.

In most recent years, 40% of Americans admit to setting New Year’s resolutions. Meanwhile, 60% of Americans are shameful liars with resolutions tucked neatly in their closet to avoid having others judge their failures (bless them). I say “most recent years” because during that time called the Great Depression, the percentage of resolutioners plopped to roughly 25% because no one really cared about life anymore.

It’s no secret that resolutions vary. According to thetoptens.com, the Top 10 New Year’s Resolutions of 2015 were…

  1. Become Stress Free
  2. Lose Weight
  3. Quit Smoking
  4. Increase Your Education
  5. Save Money
  6. Eat Healthier
  7. To Not Have a New Year’s Resolution
  8. Get Good Grades
  9. Learn a New Language
  10. Stop Watching Porn

I guess that’s why Americans are more stressed, chubbier, smokier, dumber, poorer, sicker, more cynical, less linguistic, and more sexually immoral than we were in 2014 (no studies support this cynical data).

I say all of this because what we really need to be saying is, “Lord, help us!”

Ask and you shall receive. Seek and you will find. Knock and the door will be opened unto you.

This year, redeem your resolution by focusing on ways to pour into the Kingdom of God rather than yourself. After all, it’s often said that the best way to love yourself is to love those around you. Look for ways to strengthen the Church. Care for orphans. Support a refugee family. Empower a struggling family to care for their vulnerable children.

And don’t fear - His grace and power already defeated failure.

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Caring for the Cursed

By Lindsay Allen | Projects Manager: Americas caring-for-the-cursedImagine for a moment that your child has a rare medical condition. Despite the difficulties, you would still love him and care for him to the best of your ability, right? You would make whatever sacrifices necessary to ensure your child’s health.

Now, continuing this same fictional story, imagine that you live in a rural village in Ethiopia. Your family lives in poverty, and you don’t have the money for medicine or treatments. Still, you do what you can, and you love your child immensely.

Now imagine that the people in your village believe this medical condition is a curse brought on your family by God, who is punishing you for some heinous sin in your life. The people are so afraid of this curse they are willing to murder your child. It seems unthinkable, doesn’t it? We can possibly empathize with having a sick child, and maybe even having limited resources, but having to protect your child from those who wish to end his life for something he had no control over is almost beyond our imagination.

Sadly, this is not uncommon in rural areas of developing countries.

For many like Gabriel’s family, this is not a fictional scenario. This is the real struggle he and his family face. Gabriel is an 8-year-old boy from a rural Ethiopian village. He was born with ambiguous gender or hermaphroditism as it is also known. Gabriel’s little brother was also born with this same condition. Such a diagnosis requires delicate, specialized care and surgery. Instead, those in authority decided that the best way to handle this “curse” was to simply end the child’s life. This was the tragic fate of Gabriel’s little brother.

Out of fear for Gabriel’s life, his parents took him and fled eight hours away to Addis Ababa, where they now live. Gabriel is one of the kids in the Home Based Care (HBC) program with Leku Keta Kale Heywet Church. Their US church partner, Pulpit Rock Church, recently met Gabriel on a Church Partnership trip. After hearing his story and learning of his diagnosis, the trip participants quickly decided that they would assist Gabriel’s family in getting him the care he needs by covering all medical expenses.

In the time since, Gabriel has had a chromosomal analysis to determine his gender genetically, and the test confirmed that he is a boy. In November, he underwent surgery, and the doctors said that he is doing very well. His future is looking brighter, but there are still many questions regarding his health, as he continues with testosterone treatments and other possible treatments and procedures.

Gabriel’s family needed emotional support, financial assistance, and medical care. They suffered the loss of a child, were ostracized by their village, and were forced to move to a new city. After so much pain and grief, they were welcomed into the loving arms of the Church. They are now being cared for and accepted, and Gabriel is receiving the medical attention he needs thanks to the generosity and love that has developed through church partnership. Where others saw a curse, the Church saw an opportunity for blessing.

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A View of 2016

By Scott Vair | President 2016-World-Orphans-T-Shirt-In February of 2010, following the tragic earthquake that left countless children orphaned, I led a research team to Haiti to hear firsthand what happened to children who lost their parents. We wanted to find out where the children were and what the local church was doing (or hoping to do) to help. We met with more than 100 pastors and church leaders. We expected to hear the children had been sent to orphanages. Instead, we learned that they were living with surviving relatives. Some were being cared for by a widowed parent, some by aunts and uncles, some by grannies, and some by neighbors. Churches were providing a variety of care. Some were providing clothes, some food, and some hoped to give scholarships for education when school resumed.

As a result, World Orphans made the philosophical and programmatic shift from group care to family-based care. Our goal is to strengthen families that have taken in orphaned children, keep them together, and prevent children from being abandoned at orphanages. We want to see children cared for wholistically (physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually) through the local church. We also agree with the overwhelming statistical information available today that affirms what we know to be true: children are best raised in families.

Last month the Christian Alliance for Orphans posted an article titled 7 Major Trends in the Christian Orphan Care Movement.

The first two trends listed were:

  • Increasing recognition that children need families
  • De-institutionalization

We find those trends both encouraging and affirming.

As we charge into 2016, we first pause to reflect, prioritize, strategize, plan, and set our course ahead.

We have much to celebrate relative to our Home Based Care (HBC) model. Families have stayed together, while children now have food, attend school, have access to medical care and trauma counseling, and most importantly are loved and discipled by local churches. We have expanded the program to Cambodia, Ethiopia, Guatemala, and Kenya.

Yet, there is still much to do.

We desire to see the vulnerable children and families in our program not only survive, but begin to thrive. We want to see single mothers/fathers, aunties, and grannies grow in their ability to love and care for their children, many of whom were previously orphaned.

Leadership development guru, Patrick Lencioni, writes in his book, The Advantage, that every organization needs a thematic goal - a single top priority within a given period of time (usually 4-12 months). It is a rallying point, a single area of focus around which there is no confusion or disagreement.

This year, our thematic goal is to Lay the Foundation for Economic Empowerment of Vulnerable Families.

For us, economic empowerment means building the capacity of women and men in our programs to participate in, contribute to, and benefit from economic opportunities in ways that:

  • Recognize the value of their contributions
  • Respect their dignity
  • Build stronger families
  • Improve the quality of life

In the year ahead, we will teach on the Biblical principles of financial stewardship. We will focus on creating discipleship groups and savings programs. We pray this will lead to opportunities for business training, microloans, vocational training, internships, and job placement.

Extreme poverty is a major contributor to the orphan crisis and destruction of families around the world. Economic empowerment of these families will take time, will not be easy, and will be a bumpy road. But, this is a critical piece to family-based care, and stronger families will lead to stronger churches, which will lead to stronger communities.

Economic Empowerment of Vulnerable Families

Stronger Families = Stronger Churches = Stronger Communities

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Update from South Africa

By Matthew Hanks | Project Manager: Africa update-from-south-africa-1The Christian Life Center (CLC) in Durban, South Africa, is a vibrant and thriving church community strategically planted among the poor. The center ministers to the Zulu people in that region along with the ethnic Indian Hindus who are one of the largest populations of Indians outside of India.

As a church, with a great force of volunteers, they take care of 20-orphaned children from the surrounding communities. The children live in four family-style houses and are cared for by “Nannies” who are typically widowed women. 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 (Eph 4:2).

update-from-south-africa-2In 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.

The Zulu tribe is considered among the poorest of the poor, and the CLC is building great relationships with these people who are out in the “mountains.” The CLC is bringing the love of Christ through medical clinics, delivering Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes, food supplies, and visiting them in their homes. They’ve also set up 'fair trade’ markets for the beaded craftwork created by many in this community, which supports their families. They have been given a piece of land and have 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.

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Friendship Makes a Difference

By Lindsay Allen friendship-makes-a-differenceIn Guatemala, World Orphans serves orphans and vulnerable children through a “home-based care” (HBC) program. In this type of program, one of our local church partners identifies 10 to 20 children and families that are the most in need in their communities. Then that church has a committee of about 5 members who regularly visit those families, bringing them food baskets, encouraging them, praying over them, and sharing the Gospel.

One family in particular, the Martinez family, has been facing significant trials, but God is using a small group of believers from Jesucristo Rey church to impact this family in mighty ways. The Martinez family is made up of 4 children, Samuel (3), Diego (12), Matias (14), and Joaquin (15), and they are all cared for by their grandmother Sofia. They live in a small house with just 2 beds for the 5 of them to share. The children’s mother, Sofia’s daughter, is addicted to drugs and is a prostitute, unable to care for her 4 children. Grandma Sofia is a “waste picker” and does her best to provide for the family by selling plastic bottles, cardboard, and other recyclable materials.

Unfortunately, Grandma Sofia could not afford to pay for school fees for the children. So they have not been able to attend school and are mostly illiterate. The two older children, Matias and Joaquin, have also developed a drug addiction. Grandma Sofia had begun to lose hope. Her family was living in extreme poverty, and it looked like there was nothing more she could do for her grandchildren.

After the committee from Jesucristo Rey church began visiting Sofia and her family regularly, she no longer felt so alone. She said, “I now know I have friends I can count on.” She also said she has reconciled with God, after nearly losing her faith in Him entirely. Sofia now has hope for her family, and she and her grandchildren faithfully attend the services at Jesucristo Rey. The youngest grandchild, Samuel, is now in preschool, and his older brother Diego will hopefully begin school soon as well. The oldest child, Joaquin, feels motivated to change his ways and is interested in learning more about God. He is also going to start working as a cook to help provide for the family.

This is how the local church becomes a beacon of hope for families who are struggling to survive in difficult circumstances. When it seems like the world has forgotten about them, it is the church who is reaching out its hand to these families, lifting them out of their despair and leading them to the Hope of Christ. And while families can certainly benefit from resources like food baskets, it is friendship that truly makes a difference. Grandma Sofia did not regain her faith and her joy because of a food basket. It was because she had friends she could count on! She began to see the love of God displayed to her and her family, and it stirred her spirit. Let us all as believers see the value in simply building meaningful relationships with others, and God will use those relationships for His glory!

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I Will Face the Future with a Thankful Heart

by Lindsay Allen | Project Manager: Americas story-threeIn Fangshan, China, a district outside of Beijing, World Orphans supports the Angel Training Center, a division of Living Hope International. This center is both a residential facility and school for orphans. The Angel Training Center provides orphaned children with a high standard of education, and even includes arts programs and vocational training.

Rachel is a teenage girl who has benefitted greatly from the Angel School and the ministry of Living Hope International. Read in Rachel’s own words what it means to have these opportunities…

My name is Rachel, and I am 17-years-old. First I want to thank God for bringing me to Angel School, which feels so much like home to me. I am very fortunate and blessed to be in the love and care of the school.

My parents passed away when I was only 4 years old, and this put my relatives and me in a very difficult situation. In 2005, I was brought to the big family of Bo Ai School, which was the predecessor of Angel School.

In both Bo Ai School and Angel School I received a good education. I grew healthily and happily. I feel loved and grateful. I am 17 now and in the second year of an associate degree program, studying Early Education. From May 2014, I began my internship in a kindergarten owned by China’s Department of General Staff. I am on the payroll now and am able to be independent. I no longer need the financial support of Angel School.

I want to thank you for your support over the years so I could grow and learn healthily and joyfully. I received so much love and material support from you, which I do not take for granted. The most important thing I received is getting to know our Lord Jesus. I realized Jesus is always with me, leading and helping me. Words can hardly describe such warm and special love, which comes from God.

I am also thankful for all the non-material, invisible things and blessings I received at Angel School. I have learned to be grateful, cherish what I have been given, and repay those who have helped me. I will face the future with a thankful heart. I don’t know how I can fully express my gratitude to all of you, but I will work hard to show my gratitude with my actions. My two-year internship will be completed by July 2016. After that, I will become an official employee. Thank God and thank you all for giving me a wonderful childhood full of joy. Thank you!

Headmaster Ms. Li visited me recently to see how I was doing. I felt touched by her continued love and care for me. I certainly will stay in touch with Angel School and Living Hope. I hope one day I can make contributions to Living Hope and Angel School. I deeply appreciate God, Angel School, and everyone who has ever helped and supported me. Thank you all! God bless you all!

We are so thankful for testimonies like Rachel’s. Even as a 4-year-old orphan in China, God had a plan for her life. And now as a young woman, she recognizes how the Lord has protected her and provided for her all along. In God’s sovereignty, He used World Orphans, Living Hope International, and the Angel Training Center to write Rachel’s special story. We are all a part of it and bless God!

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