By Lindsay Allen | Project Manager: Americas
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.
By Tacy Layne | Writer/Editor
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.
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.
They 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.
Brittany 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.
While 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
By Lindsay Allen | Project Manager: Americas
“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?
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.
By Jeremy Resmer | Senior Director of Projects
How 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
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.