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Archive for the ‘Haiti’ Category

As many Christians continue to see the face of suffering on the news every evening, they wonder, “What can I do to really help?”  Over the past week on this blog, our team has been discussing the role of adoption and giving in response to the crisis in Haiti.  One of the things I have been thinking about is the role of a local church orphans ministry in the midst of a humanitarian crisis such as this.

We have seen a huge outpouring of individuals wanting to do everything from donating the use of their airplanes, to spending time in Haiti administering medical care, to hosting and even adopting children affected by this tragedy. In light of this great number of Christians who are poised and ready saying, “Lord, here am I – send me,” what can an established church orphans ministry do?

When I was a kid, one of my favorite things to do with my friends was to play “Tackle the Man with the Football” (we had another name for this game that isn’t really suitable for print). There were really no rules to speak of, no order and certainly no protective equipment – you just looked for the guy with the ball and did everything you could to get him on the ground.  In short, it was chaos.  In retrospect, I have no earthly idea how I’ve made to this point in my life never having broken a bone.

As I got older, my friends and I graduated into more organized football and learned the importance of game plans, coaches and quarterbacks (and helmets).  When it comes to caring for orphans through your church in the midst of a crisis situation, a church orphans ministry can serve the function of a quarterback on a football team.  Still under the authority of the church staff (the coaching staff), a church orphans ministry leader has the advantage of being on the field and seeing things others can’t see and that will greatly affect the outcome of the game.  I recognize that football as a metaphor for church orphans ministry falls short at several different levels in light of the severity of the need. However, I feel it does help for illustration purposes to describe the three roles that a church orphans ministry can play:

1) Apprise – To apprise means to “inform.”  A quarterback takes in a lot of information and assimilates that information for others.  If he sees the defense doing certain things, he lets the coaches and the other players know.  You can be the eyes and ears for your church as it relates to orphans in the midst of a crisis.  For example, in Haiti, a church orphans ministry leader should be the one who knows the daily developments related to Haitian orphans.  What is happening to the children?  What are the Haitian and American policies on adoption and on temporary care in the U.S.? What are Christian organizations doing specifically for orphans in Haiti?

Finding and assimilating this information and then passing it on to your congregation through your church’s website, e-mail and your team’s social networking connections can help members of your church know the truth, can eliminate rumors about what is and is not possible and will equip them to respond accordingl

2) Advise – A quarterback can tell his coaches on the sidelines what he is seeing on the field and then make recommendations for a plan of attack.  Having gathered as much information as possible, you may very well be in a position to humbly counsel your church’s leadership about the church’s corporate response to the crisis.  Your church staff will undoubtedly be in contact with your missions team but you can provide counsel specifically related to orphans involved in the crisis.  How will the church counsel members who indicate an interest in adopting a Haitian orphan?  What organizations will be recommended to church members for financial partnership?

The key to playing this role in your church is to approach leadership as a helper and not as an expert.  Make recommendations rather than impassioned demands (i.e  “Children are starving on the streets without parents – what is this church going to do about it!!!!”)  Remember that you’re on the same team as (and under the authority of) your pastor.

3) Advocate—If a quarterback notices that his running backs are not getting the blocks they need to get through the line, he is going to talk to his linemen and advocate for his running backs.  In the same way, when you see a place where a strategy or a particular group of children need to be noticed, speak up.  Keeping in mind the last part of point 2 about humbly approaching church leadership, don’t be afraid to advocate in your church and “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves . . .” (Proverbs 31:8a).  God has placed you in a position within your church to be the voice for children who lack one. God will use you to demonstrate His love and His reality to children in the most desperate of circumstances.

A church orphans ministry at a time like this cannot only be a blessing to hundreds of children, it can be a blessing to your church and your church’s leadership as you use your passion and experience to serve your church and the Kingdom.

If you don’t yet have an orphans ministry in your church and are interested in learning more about starting one, please click here.  If you would like to talk with someone at Hope for Orphans about orphans ministry in your church, please contact our Manager of Church Mobilization, Shane McBride, at SMcBride@familylife.com.

By God’s leading and with the wisdom He provides, you can play an important role in helping the members of your church “Defend the cause of the weak and fatherless. . .” (Psalm 82:3a).

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We, at Hope for Orphans, want to thank you for the incredible outpouring of support for the orphans in Haiti. The need has been great, but you, the Body, have overwhelmed us with your willingness and desire to serve the “least of these”. We have been amazed at the numbers who have responded with a desire to open your homes and your hearts to these children. We are sorry that we can’t respond to each one of you individually. As of yesterday (Saturday),the Haitian government and the U.S. State Department issued a statement that only children who were in the process of being adopted will be allowed to leave the country.

We are thrilled that some of the children we have been advocating for will be allowed to come to their forever families in the U.S. We will do everything that we can to come along side these families and encourage, support and pray for them. We are heartbroken over the children that will not be allowed to come to prospective adoptive families waiting for them on this end. Paul Pennington and others have spent countless hours working to convince Embassy Authorities that we have home study ready families prepared to parent these children in the U.S. Unfortunately, they are unwilling to allow these children to leave if they had not previously (before the earthquake) been assigned to an approved family. These children should be available, through the normal adoption process, when the Haitian government resumes adoption placements.

If the Lord has used this tragedy in Haiti to ignite the flame in your heart to adopt, then we would encourage you to pray that His Spirit would lead you to your waiting child. There are over 140 MILLION orphans across the globe. Not all of those are adoptable, but many are and your family might be the answer to their future. There are approximately 118,000 adoptable children in the U.S. Foster Care system. We encourage you not to miss God’s blessing.

Thank you to all who have worked tirelessly over the last few days to help these children: volunteers, staff, physicians, churches, American Airlines, and so many others. Please visit our website at www.HopeForOrphans.org to find out how you can engage your church to care for the orphan. We will continue to post updates on this blog.

Thank you for serving along side with us,
– Robin Pennington

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I just talked with Paul Pennington on the phone.  There are two pieces of information that I want to pass along:

  1. Paul spent 30 minutes on the phone with the czar of the Haiti task force from the State Department.  This morning the Haitian government came out & said that only children in the process of being adopted will be allowed to be released. He said that even if Hillary Clinton were to issue a special parole designation for the double orphans in Haiti they still would not be allowed to leave.
  2. There has been a rumor going around that if a Haitian child has a sibling in the U.S. then they will be allowed to leave.  Paul said this is not the case (unless that sibling is in the process of being adopted per item #1 above). 

Please continue to pray that the Lord would: 

  1. Move so that children who have been separated from their family would be reunited & for those who are desperately trying to match kids with parents & extended family in Haiti.
  2. Move on behalf of the children who have lost family & have no one to care for them…that families would be raised up to care for them & not only for them but for the millions of others around the globe that are waiting for families.

Be sure to check back for more updates. 

Here are a few of the children in the orphanage that Paul has been advocating for.

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This is the second in a three part blog series addressing the crisis in Haiti.

 

In the past week I have received scores of emails from organizations asking me to give money to their Haiti relief efforts.  Many websites are now carrying advertisements for all types of non-profit organizations that are serving those devastated by the earthquake.  When a crisis strikes and people are moved to help there are always going to be huge financial needs, as is the case in Haiti.

So that our giving is not done in a haphazard manner it’s helpful to have a framework or a lens through which we view these requests – a “why?”, a “ how?” and a “who?”.

 

Why:

Motives matter.  It’s important that we remember why we ought to be giving financially to serve those who are hurting.  We need to be honest with the reality that as long as we are alive we will wrestle with our motives.

In 2 Corinthians 8 & 9 the apostle Paul reminds his readers that the reason they have excess is so that they can share with others in need.  We have been blessed financially so that we can be a blessing to others.  We have been given much so that we can give much.  And don’t miss this – all this flows out of the gospel.  We see in Christ the one who “though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich” (2 Corinthians 8:9, NASB).  We find that Christ, though he “existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” (Philippians 2:6-8, NASB).  Make no mistake about it – our giving should start from what we’ve been given through the birth, life, death & resurrection of Christ.  We love because He first loved us.

This means that our motivation for giving should not lie in our tax deduction. It should not spring from a desire to have our name on a building.  It should not emanate from the thought that God will find greater pleasure in me, for if you are in Christ then you are already clothed in righteousness (2 Corinthians 5:21) and co-heirs with the Son (Romans 8:16ff).

How:
With requests coming at you almost daily how do you determine who you should give to?  What criteria should be used to sift through the many ministries, organizations and NGOs?  Randy Alcorn, the President of Eternal Perspective Ministries said it succinctly: “Our mailboxes are filled with urgent requests from innumerable ministries. The needs may be real, and needs are important, but they are also endless. So needs alone are not sufficient reason. For the glory of God, we must say ‘no’ to many need-meeting opportunities, even most of them, the vast majority of them, in order that we may say a strong ‘yes’ to those that God has uniquely called us to support.”

Might I suggest two criteria to start with  – there are certainly others you could & should use, but I think these two are good ones to get you started:

1)      Gospel-centric:  We believe that the God created man with a body (that is temporary) and a soul (which lives on for eternity).  Since they are both God’s handiwork both are important, but the state of a person’s soul is insurmountably more important. There is an African proverb that says, “An empty stomach has no ears” – which is another way of saying we cannot ignore people’s physical needs for the sake of simply passing along the gospel. And so when we look to give to an organization that is going to help provide for people’s physical needs we ought to look for one that has the long term (e.g. eternal) perspective in mind.

2)      Accountable: We believe that you should only funnel your resources to organizations and ministries that are accountable.  Membership to an organization like the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountablity (ECFA) is a great way to filter through some of the ministries you may be looking to support.  The key is that the organization be above reproach in the way they handle their resources, their financial reporting & disclosure, their donor development and other key aspects of their ministry.

I would also encourage you to check out Randy Alcorn’s writing. He has been producing really solid content on this whole idea of stewardship.  I’ve found his writings very solid from a biblical perspective & very challenging from a personal perspective.  You would do well to spend some time on his website.   One post that is particularly relevant to the topic I’m addressing now is: Nineteen Questions to Ask Before You Give to Any Organization

Who:
We’ve talked about the why & the how – what about the who?  Let me suggest a four organizations (all members of ECFA) that I believe are worthy of your resources:

  • Global Aid Network (GAiN) – Providing humanitarian relief on the ground. GAiN had prepositioned a container in Haiti before the earthquake & had supplies already in the country.
  • Children’s Hunger Fund – CHF was in the right place, with aid products, training, and strategies, at the right time, just days before the earthquake struck. They have responded immediately and have begun to launch long-term poverty relief strategies.
  • Hope International – A leader in the Christian micro-finance space.  You can give to their Haiti Re-Development Fund that will be put to use to help the people of Haiti rebuild their lives.
  • World Orphans – Partnering with the local Haitian church to care for orphans. 

For other recommended organizations you can click HERE for Desiring God/John Piper’s list or HERE for Together for Adoption/Dan Cruver’s list.

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This is the first in a three part blog series addressing the crisis in Haiti.  The question we have heard most revolves around the adoption of Haitian orphans and so this is where we felt compelled to start.  The other two posts will center on the priority of giving and of church orphans ministries. The leadership team at Hope for Orphans spent some time over the past 48 hours thinking through the best way to communicate a response to the adoption question.


With this post, we launch the Hope for Orphan’s blog and it is our desire to use it to help you live out the heart of God for orphans which has not changed since the Bible was written. Just this week it was announced that the oldest written examples of the Hebrew language ever found were discovered near Israel’s Elah valley. It just so happens that this text was about pleading for the rights of orphans and widows at the hands of the King.

This morning I saw a story on T.V. about orphans from Haiti being airlifted by Americans to the U.S.  This disaster is an opportunity for we The Church to live out the connection between the Good News and good deeds.  At a time like this when the need is so overwhelming, you may have many questions about the best way to help.

Many have been calling us at Hope for Orphans asking about the possibility of adopting orphans in Haiti.  You may have received some of those same questions.  For families that have already been in the process to adopt a Haitian child, the State Department announced yesterday that “humanitarian parole” for certain Haitian orphans is being offered. That means if you are in process and have been matched with a child, the placement may be expedited. You can learn more about this at: http://www.uscis.gov/portal/site/uscis.

For those interested in pursuing adoption of Haitian orphans, we want to share a few important thoughts regarding this desire.  The process by which orphans will be adopted from Haiti post-earthquake is still unclear as much of the infrastructure has been wiped out.   Regarding a desire to adopt a Haitian orphan – first of all, the reality of this crisis does not change the fact that the most important consideration in any adoption is obedience to God.  If God is calling you to adopt from Haiti (or anywhere else for that matter) then you should pursue it.  However, we must caution others to not mistake the emotional response to the devastation we see with the clear direction of God’s Spirit in our lives.  Here are a few issues anyone thinking about adoption should consider:

  1. How have we sensed God’s leading toward adoption prior to this tragedy? While it is entirely possible that the Lord is using this tragedy to open your eyes to the needs of orphans and the possibility of adoption, you may want to proceed with caution if this tragedy is the first time you have ever considered adoption.  You will want to take some necessary steps to insure that this is, in fact, the Lord’s leading and not simply an emotional response to the suffering you are seeing.  This kind of response is natural but should not be the driving force in decision-making.  Adoption is a life-long decision that should only be made after careful consideration.
  2. Are you and your spouse unified in your decision to pursue adoption? Two of the biggest temptations in adoption take place in the arena of your marriage.  The first is to pressure or even nag a spouse who is not convinced of God’s calling to adopt.  This temptation is especially strong at a time like this when the need seems so urgent.  It is important to remember that for millions children, the need for a family is –  and has been – urgent every day and this tragedy should not be used to apply additional pressure to a spouse that is unsure of God’s leading.  The second temptation is to give in to a spouse that is applying pressure to adopt.  It is natural to want to please our spouse, but additional and serious complications will come down the road in your marriage if both spouses are not equally convinced of God’s call to adopt.
  3. Have you sought the insight and counsel from godly people who know you well? The best insight into our lives and our motives often comes through the eyes of others.  If you are inclined to consider adoption, talk to others who have your best interests at heart and whose lives demonstrate a commitment to the will of God.  Also, it would be wise to seek counsel from others you know who have adopted.  They can share with you the realities of raising children who have experienced great suffering and can help you to pursue adoption with healthy and realistic expectations.
  4. Have you been faithfully praying about what God would have your response to be? There is nothing more sobering than realizing that you are about to make a major life decision during a time when your prayer life is anemic.  Caring for orphans is God’s will for everybody. Adoption is not.  Spending regular time seeking the Lord in prayer is the best way to insure that you are not about to step outside of His will for your life.
  5. Is my desire to adopt coming primarily from a desire to obey God or to “save” a child who is suffering. The desire to help a child in need is very important.  The thing to remember is that adoption is not the only way to do this.  You can be a part of God’s care for the orphans of Haiti in other ways.  Adoption is one aspect of orphan care and requires clear direction from the Lord.

If after considering these things, you feel God may not be calling you to adopt, remember there are other things He may lead you to do in response to this tragedy which we will be discussing in the days to come.

For centuries God’s word has taught that loving orphans, the poor and the widow are in fact pure worship. I pray that out of these ashes many more will seek to join God where He is working and worship Him there.

On behalf of the Hope for Orphans team,
Paul Pennington
Founder & Executive Director
Hope for Orphans

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