By Tacy Layne | Writer/Editor
Isn’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.
After 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.
By Lindsay Allen | Project Manager: Americas
One 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
By Kevin Squires | Senior Director of Church Partnership
I’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.
By Kevin Squires | Senior Director of Church Partnerships
If 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…
- Become Stress Free
- Lose Weight
- Quit Smoking
- Increase Your Education
- Save Money
- Eat Healthier
- To Not Have a New Year’s Resolution
- Get Good Grades
- Learn a New Language
- 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.
By Lindsay Allen | Projects Manager: Americas
Imagine 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.
By Scott Vair | President
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
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
By Matthew Hanks | Project Manager: Africa
The 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).
In addition to the children’s homes on the church property, there is a primary school, a bakery, a sewing/shoe making facility, and a coffee shop that the church uses to facilitate many types of conferences and events.
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.
By Lindsay Allen
In 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!
by Lindsay Allen | Project Manager: Americas
In 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!
Several years ago, I traveled to Israel where I studied the life of Christ and the tendencies of the early church’s expansion. For some reason, when you walk where Jesus walked, your steps become clearer. When you talk with real-life shepherd boys, you begin to feel a closer bond with Moses and David. When you climb the mountains that Jesus climbed and look at the towns where he ministered, you begin to see life from a more divine angle. And when you circle up to hear a Messianic rabbi tell stories, you feel like a disciple learning from a Master.
One story I was told goes like this…
An old rabbi named Akiva entered a village to collect supplies. Returning home at night, he mistakenly took the wrong road. Suddenly, a man shouted, “Who are you, and why are you here?” Not knowing if the man was talking to him, Akiva stopped, looked around, saw no one, and continued walking.
Then, once again, even louder than the first time, the man shouted, “Who are you, and why are you here?” And once again, Akiva stopped, wondered if the man was talking to him, looked around, saw no one, and continued walking.
Finally, a third time, the man shouted, “Who are you, and why are you here?” Stunned, Akiva realized he had wandered into the Roman garrison, and the voice had come from a young guard staring at him just a few feet away in the dark. In typical rabbi-fashion, he finally answered the harsh questions with another question: “How much do they pay you to stand guard and ask that question to all who approach the gate?”
The guard, realizing the man was a rabbi, put down his spear and calmly replied, “Five drachmas a week, kind sir.”
The tired rabbi humbly said, “Young man, I will double your pay if you come home with me, stand in front of my home, ask me that question each morning as I begin my day: “Who are you, and why are you here?”
What would happen to our lives if we asked God each morning these two soul-piercing questions, “Who am I, and what am I doing here?” What would happen if we expectantly waited for Him to respond? What would happen to our homes, our marriages, our churches, our communities, our country, and our world?
Sometimes, God responds through encouragement by letting us know that we are on the right path. Other times, He shifts our paradigms and leads us into living differently, thinking differently, even praying differently. He stretches our comfort zones. He extends the walls of our churches to the nations. He broadens our view of family to include people who have no family. Stretch by stretch, we begin to look more like Him and less like the person inside of us that we are trying to protect.
Ask yourself today, “Who am I, and what am I doing here?” Then, watch and join as God responds.