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Archive for the ‘Hope for Orphans’ Category

Fall leaves at Holt Korea

Molly Holt is a second generation fighter. Her parents, Harry and Bertha, were farming in Oregon when they heard about children across the ocean orphaned by the Korean War. They wondered how to adopt children internationally. They pushed and prayed. And prayed and pushed, til Congress and the House of Representatives moved, passing a bill, giving them the right to adopt. The Holt Bill of 1955 led to the formalization of international adoption in the United States.

Fast forward sixty-some odd years. I’m sitting a bus, leaning forward in my seat to hear Molly Holt speak above the traffic outside Seoul. She reminds me of my grandmother, but in a hanbok.*

We chat about Korean grammar. She tells me about her extended family back in the States. She misses them, but fits comfortably here, in her traditional clothes and fluent Korean. I’d seen that for myself.

I’d walked through the campus of Holt Korea, a huge complex of buildings and dormitories which is one still-budding fruit of Harry and Bertha Holt’s prayers. (In fact, they’re buried on top of the mountain where the campus is built.) I’d been hugged by some of the people who Molly serves—smiling faces with Downs’ Syndrome, or cerebral palsy, twisted joints and lists of disabilities I could not begin to name.

My heart hurt because that morning I’d held a baby whose complicated medical condition Molly summarized as being born with only part of his brain. I’d had my hands held, too, in the days before by perfectly healthy little children whose hope for forever-families was growing dim.

And I was impatient…am impatient…because God has not moved on their behalf yet. They are still waiting. As adoption in Korea is attacked by church and government leaders who oppose international adoption for nationalistic reasons, and as the orphanages continue to fill—“How long, O Lord?” is a prayer Korean social workers understand.

I ask Molly, “What is the biggest overarching lesson God has taught you in your years of serving?”

“Trust Him,” she says simply. Then she lists off times of God’s faithfulness.

She warns me against placing limitations on people. She warns against viewing them in terms of their mental powers instead as beloved people who carry the image of God. Molly tells me about her father–explaining that his Christian background wasn’t always devout; that God doesn’t necessarily pick people among the strong-and-perfect to show how great is His name.

But she comes back to the exhortation to trust, like the chorus to her song: “There were many times we nearly lost our ministry,” she says. “But God provided.” Trust.

It hit me while sitting on that bus, speaking loud over the hum of traffic, the life of the lady next to me is a living testimony. Holt Korea lives on the trust that God will continue to make a way.

Molly carries on a long legacy of hearts that have hurt with the weight of compassion, and yet have trusted. As a token of that confidence, she’s spent her life in the Lord’s service, serving alongside American and Korean co-laborers, watching and waiting for Him to move. In spite of the temptation to be discouraged, Molly realizes its an endurance race. Orphan ministry isn’t a place for sprinters.

Some sixty-odd years after an Oregon farmer and his wife began to pray, the obstacles to adoption in Korea have not yet collapsed. But with patience born of trust, orphan care workers still serve; social workers still campaign, and churches are arising to appeal on the side of children. The Holts are still there.

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http://snack.to/oanR71

Click the link to start the slideshow.

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Last April, my 6-year-old grandson Ben was with me on a playground in Texas on a perfect evening just before sunset. Ben had been expected to die 3 years earlier, because you see he was born in Korea with a single ventricle, which meant he had about half of a normal heart. But on this late afternoon, through God’s grace, with no oxygen tubing to interfere, he played on the playground full of joy.

By this time, Ben’s condition was so severe that his legs were very unsteady, so he was very careful about falling. On the playground, there were these little platforms with poles where a child can jump from one to the next and reach a perch on the other side. I asked Ben if he wanted to try it. He smiled and said, “Oh no, Papa.”

To my complete surprise, a few minutes later Ben came to me full of courage and said, “Papa I want to do it.” Amazed, I helped him up and held his hand as he jumped to each successive platform. When he reached the last platform, he swung around the pole in triumph and looked me in the eye, saying, “Papa, I Made It!!”

I looked back at him and said, “You sure did, Ben.

”

The next morning, Ben slipped away to be with Jesus in the arms of his mother, our daughter Elizabeth. He had told us for months that Jesus was coming to pick him up, and on that gorgeous Texas Spring morning in April, Ben “made it.”

Around the world and in the United States, there are millions of children without families, whose hearts have little hope. But the Church of the Living God is stepping up to be Christ, a kinsman redeemer to these children. It only takes one church to make a difference. One family to make a difference in the life of a child whom the world often says does not even have a life worth living.

November 6th is Orphan Sunday. During that week, as we do once a year, we and our partners at Cry of the Orphan and The Christian Alliance for Orphans seek to raise awareness and provide on ramps for orphan ministry in the North American Church.

We have two great suggestions for you to rally your church and family to this cause this year. First, The Orphan’s Table. This family-based activity will help you to give vision to your family by spending one meal during Orphan Sunday week eating a meal that would be typical for orphans. There is a discussion guide to help you. You can learn more by clicking here.

The second suggestion is to use the Cry of the Orphan Campaign’s new DVD called Answer the Cry: Faces of Hope. This 30-minute program, hosted by Eric Metaxas (author of best-selling biographies on Dietrich Bonhoeffer and William Wilberforce) will take your small group, Sunday school class or church into the lives of believers God has used to bring hope to orphans. There are three ways to get Answer the Cry: Faces of Hope.  Starting on October 14th, this DVD presentation will be available for free at your local Family Christian Stores.  Or you can sign up today at cryoftheorphan.org and your DVD will be mailed to you around Oct 14th. Last, the entire show will be streamed in High Definition starting in late October.  More information can be found at cryoftheorphan.org.

One of the stories featured on this program is that of my grandson Benjamin.  As I’ve said, Ben taught us a lot about God’s love for orphans, both physical and spiritual.  Help your church go near the orphan by showing this short video.  Please participate in Orphan Sunday this year by taking advantage of these opportunities, which will surely lead to more fatherless children “making it” into a family and experiencing the love of Christ.

Blessings,

Paul

Paul Pennington is the Executive Director and Co-Founder of Hope for Orphans. He and his wife, Robin, have six children. They live in Dallas, Texas.

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Two years ago, when I sat down at the Cry of the Orphan concert event in Nashville, the guy in the row behind me introduced himself. Jeromy explained that he had attended an adoption workshop we had done in Baltimore a couple of years before.  He went on to explain that after that workshop, he and his wife adopted a little boy and little girl from Kenya.  It had been an unusually difficult and long process.  In fact, they had been forced to live in Kenya for a year in order to be able to bring their children home.  At the time, I’m sure it was difficult to understand why God had extended the process for so long

However, during the months they lived there, God gave them favor with church leaders and government officials and they built relationships that are proving to be incredibly important in God’s plan for Kenya.  As a result of all God has done in Jeromy’s heart and the relationships that were built, God gave Jeromy a vision to bring pastors and leaders together for the first East African Orphans Summit in Nairobi to discuss what can be done by the body of Christ in Kenya to address the needs of 2.5 million Kenyan orphans.

Last year, Jeromy called me to order a dozen copies of the book, Launching an Orphans Ministry in Your Church. He explained that he wanted to give it to several of his pastor friends in Kenya.

I told him, Bro, you know that book was written for lay people in American churches.  I’m not so sure its really going to work in Kenya.  I don’t know the first thing about how things work in Kenyan churches.”  Jeromy told me he would be sure to tell the pastors that the book was written for an American audience and he assured me that they would still be encouraged by its content.  I wasn’t sure I believed him.

Then a few months ago, I got another phone call from Jeromy.

“Can you come to Nairobi in June and speak at the first East African Orphans Summit?  I’d like you to do one session on the biblical perspective of God’s heart for the orphan and a second session on the content in the book about launching a church orphans ministry.”

I reiterated my opinion that the material on launching church orphans ministry was not created with the Kenyan church in mind and that there were really important differences between how Kenyans do church and how Americans do church that would render this material ineffective.

He argued that much of it would apply and that going would help me to learn the things that didn’t apply.  He urged me to at least consider it. After praying more about it, I finally sent Jeromy a text message saying, “I’m in.”

The Kenyan pastor helping Jeromy to organize the conference, Pr. George, hoped for 30 leaders to attend.  They planned for 50-60 just in case.  The conference start time was 9 AM.  At 9:40, there were about 5 people there besides the organizers.  It was obvious to me that God was going to choose to do this thing with a very small Gideon-sized army.

But during the course of worship, I turned around periodically to find that what I had heard for years from missionaries in Africa was, in fact, true.  Start times for events in Africa are merely suggestions.  There are far more important things in life than being on time (like being with people for instance).  The room kept filling up.  People kept coming in.  Before long, they had run out of materials.  That first day, 103 leaders showed up.  I was blown away.  Pr. George and Jeromy were shocked.  It was clear that God was about to do something amazing.

One of the attendees was an older woman named Pauline.  What Pauline lacks in physical stature she more than makes up for with spunk.  Pauline woke up that morning with two invitations for two different conferences on the same day.  One was a political conference for women and the other was this summit.

When Pauline woke up, she felt that the Lord was clear with her that she was supposed to go to the Orphan Summit.  She called a colleague of hers from a ministry they started that empowers grandmothers caring for their orphaned grandchildren (by the way, Pauline is one of those grandmothers).  They were on their way.  As Pauline sat through the first day of the conference listening to the testimonies of pastors, social workers, and lawyers about the needs of Kenyan orphans and the opportunity to promote adoption among Kenyan families, she was moved.  She later shared that she’d been to prayer meetings, and she’d been to meetings about various causes.  However, never had she seen a group of people praying about solving a societal problem and talking about the real issues at the same event.  At the end of the first day she shared that she was very excited and would be bringing others the next day.

The next day, when I turned around during the worship time, there was Pauline, singing and praising God, this time along with five other women she had recruited.  At lunch she said almost apologetically that she was only able to bring five.  During this second day of the conference, two Christian social workers from Uganda shared about a model they are using which is allowing 60 orphans to live in the homes of 16 different families in one tight-knit community.

At the end of the conference, Pauline stood up and challenged the others in the room to join her on the 14-hour bus ride to Uganda to visit this community and see this work firsthand so that it could be replicated for the children of Kenya.

The organizers of this Summit desired to mobilize many leaders on behalf of Kenya’s 2.5 million orphans and at the end, fifty-five Kenyan leaders agreed to hold Orphan Sunday events in their churches. Not to mention, with all five feet of Pauline on the move, God may have more in store for Kenyan orphans than anyone ever dreamed.

The bottom line is this:  God is moving in Kenya among these leaders and I expect that another great movement is afoot.  Pray with us that Kenyan orphans will find homes in Kenyan families and that God will use these children for His kingdom.

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Hope for Orphans founders, Paul and Robin Pennington, will be interviewed today and tomorrow on the FamilyLife Today radio show. We covet your prayers that the interview will be helpful to individuals hoping to start an adoption/orphan ministry in their local church.

Paul and Robin will be discussing…

  •  How the church can support adoptive families
  • How the church can get involved in orphan ministry

Find a radio station near you.//Listen online.

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I just recently came on board with Hope for Orphans. To say that I have learned much would be an understatement.

My job is in publicity. I sit in an office chair with a headset, to hopefully save my head from cell phone waves and brain cancer. You’d think I’d be learning mostly about publicity. How to write a good press release. How to navigate church phone systems to get the right ministry leader on the line.

But what I’ve learned is different. I’m learning about the theology of adoption. I’m learning more about what it means to be a family.

I think of orphans a lot more than I did before. The voice of eleven-year-old me, memorizing Galatians 4:6 for church, flings itself back in my soul with new meaning: “Because you are His sons, God sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, ‘Abba, Father.'”

Russell Moore pointed out in an article for Christianity Today that this cry for Abba isn’t written in just in a context of a child’s affectionate pet-word for “Father.” Rather, “Abba” is always used in the Bible in a context of screaming:

Jesus cries “Abba, Father” as He screams “with loud cries and tears” for deliverance in the Garden of Gethsemane (Heb. 5:7; Mark 14:36, ESV…). Similarly, the doctrine of adoption shows us that we “groan” with the creation itself “as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies” (Rom. 8:23). It is the scream of the crucified.
The gospel of adoption challenges us, first of all, to recognize ourselves as spiritual orphans. The gospel compels us to see our fallen universe—and our own egocentric kingdoms therein—as not the way it’s supposed to be.

The theology of adoption underlines our desperation. A child screams “Daddy” because he is a guaranteed defender. No three year old can outrun the neighbor’s snapping dog. No infant can rummage through the fridge to find something to eat. As toddlers are helpless on their own, so I am before God. I have nothing. None of my own efforts can save my soul; none of my strength can dam the world’s pain. I have nothing but to cling to the knees of my Abba Father, asking with the impudence of childlike faith for Him to move in and work in my world.

The theology of adoption underlines God’s love. J.I. Packer noted in Knowing God, that adoption is a greater gift than justification. Yes, being adopted into God’s family is more a sign of His grace even than being legally declared righteous before God. Justification declares our souls as righteous by virtue of Christ’s death; adoption declares that we are now as close to God as family. Those who were far are now brought near (Eph. 2:13). Once, God was in His Heaven, far and away. Now He dwells with us. (Matt. 1:23; Rom. 8:9)

To bring this home, when a Chinese orphan is brushed off by adoption officials due to a cleft palate, the picture is that of us. When that child’s muscles atrophy because it can barely eat enough to survive, and when his nerves fight to develop in spite of almost never feeling the sensation of touch, that is us. When we were too broken to be noticed, and our voices were too weak to even scream, God tore the Heavens to come and save. (Isaiah 64:1) We have been given dwelling-place with the same God who tells us to call Him “Abba.”

Adoption isn’t just a picture of our relationship with God. Adoption is our relationship with God. Only when we are bowled over with the grace of that adoption can we see ourselves in the orphans of the world.

 

Hannah Farver is Co-Director of Publicity at Hope for Orphans, a blogger, and author. This was originally posted at www.hannahfarver.com.

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In James 1:27 the believer is instructed to visit widows and orphans in their distress.

As American Christians, I think many of us have not considered the implications of what distress really means for kids in foster care and many other orphans throughout the world.

Many North American believers have awakened to God’s love for fatherless children. In some circles, unfortunately, and sometimes dangerously, it is even becoming a badge of spirituality to adopt.

Still, God has given thousands of children the joy of a forever family. The growing adoption movement is a visible illustration of God’s plan to overcome sin and brokenness through His adoption of us, made possible by the death and resurrection of His Son, Jesus. As for the Christian families adopting these children, the blessings for both them and their children have been nothing short of a demonstration of the reality of God.

However, what many people have not always understood is the magnitude of pain, hurt, fear, need, affliction, or “distress” as it were, that many children bring with them. When we love these children with special needs or who are coming from dark places, that means that this distress becomes a part of us…our marriages and our families. Some, maybe most, who are adopting have no idea of how to prepare themselves, much less their children and spouses.

This includes not really grasping the level of sacrifice that God is sometimes calling families to in adoption. In Hebrews 11, we all remember the recounting of the victories and miracles that God performed through people of faith, but what we forget are those lives talked about in verses 35 through 38. These are equally lives of faith; believers who endured mockery, scourging, chains, stoning, death by the sword and affliction. They, like those who experienced victory, also gained approval through their faith for something better.

Sometimes adoption is full of victory, miracles and joys unimaginable. But sometimes it brings with it the sufferings, confusion, doubts and struggles that can only be faced through faith and with the power of the Holy Spirit. When families are called to such adoptions, they often need help. The Church should be a place where they can turn and get that help.

There is a crisis brewing and spreading almost as fast as God is mobilizing the Church to serve orphans. The crisis is coming about as a result of the rapid increase in believers who are adopting older, special needs and at-risk children, but are not fully equipped to do so. The crisis is manifesting itself in an increase in the number of families struggling to cope with some of the issues their new children bring to their homes, and in an increase of post-placement risk of disrupted adoptions as well.

Next year, some experts estimate that 60% of all children adopted from China to American families will be special needs kids. In Ukraine, like many other parts of the world, it appears that future adoptions will be skewed greatly to older kids and sibling groups, in addition to those with severe emotional and medical needs. In America, we understand more instinctively that children from foster care are often coming from hard places.

At Hope for Orphans, we believe that God’s solution for meeting this crisis (and the whole orphan crisis for that matter) is THE CHURCH. The Church was designed by God to be that safe community where members of the body serve one another when the wheels come off in life. The Church should be a place where families can be honestly prepared, maybe even helped through self-assessment in advance of entering the process to adopt older, special needs, or at-risk children.

This September 16th and 17th, we will be hosting the Hope for Orphans Institute at the Hope Center in Plano, Texas. The purpose of this two-day conference is to equip orphan ministry leaders, pastors, counselors, social workers and others with biblically-based skills and tools to serve families called to adopt older, special needs and at-risk kids. We will have nationally-renowned experts providing insights to help families and leaders to meet this growing need. This event will be hosted and moderated by Ryan Dobson, who is himself an adult adoptee.

We believe that the Church is the key place that the needs of struggling adoptive families can be met in-depth and in sustainable ways. For social workers and professionals partnering with the Church in serving families in acute need, the principles from this conference will give new power to help make a difference. To learn more about this event and how God can use you to help others in your church and community, go to www.HFOInstitute.org.

 

Paul Pennington is the founder of Hope for Orphans. He and his wife, Robin, have six children. They live in Dallas, Texas.

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