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Posts Tagged ‘children’

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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I see you there hanging on a tree
You bled and then you died and then you rose again for me
Now you are sitting on Your heavenly throne
Soon we will be coming home
You’re beautiful, you’re beautiful

When we arrive at eternity’s shore
Where death is just a memory and tears are no more
We’ll enter in as the wedding bells ring
Your bride will come together and we’ll sing
You’re beautiful, You’re beautiful, You’re beautiful

Phil Wickman

Sunday was Easter. Two weeks ago yesterday, my 6-year-old grandson Benjamin woke up, ate breakfast with his sisters and brothers and then had a “cardiac event” as the medical folks call it. Less than 15 minutes later, he arrived at eternity’s shore and full of faith. Ben had told his family several weeks ago that he was ready to go see Jesus. You see, Ben was born with single ventricle and pulmonary atresia. Basically half of a normal heart. But, the really hard thing was Ben had been put into the care of an orphanage shortly after birth. Fortunately he was born in South Korea and he did have a foster family. But Benjamin was not going to live long in South Korea. His best chance for sustainable intervention was in America. It turns out that God’s plan for him to have a family was in America too.

Our daughter Elizabeth and her husband Mat heard about Ben. It was not the kind of adoption most families, even Christians, pursue. It was a choice to enter into pain and even suffering from the beginning. The doctor here told Elizabeth, “Best case he will live to about 20, and worst case he will make it only to 2.” For a military couple with a biological child with severe heart disease and another little boy, this was a big decision. But as they considered the Spirit’s leading, they came to believe that not only was Ben “theirs” but that if they walked away, he would still have to face this road alone. For him to face it with a family and be introduced to Jesus, was their privilege. Later the Lord brought two more biological children to Ben’s new family; one of these also had a severe heart problem.

So it was that little Ben joined our family 5 years ago. More than once we were told he would not survive for 30 days. The Lord did not read that memo and Ben was here for another Christmas and birthday and another. He was ours and we were his. Robin and I have watched as our daughter and son-in-law have entered into what the Bible calls sharing in the suffering of our Lord. Along the way of surgeries, oxygen tanks and wheelchairs, something remarkable happened…God gave this child faith along with a family.

Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” (Matthew 19:14)

Ben believed in Jesus. He understood that he would not live long. He had such faith that Jesus would take him home, he even told us once that He would pick him up in a red car. We laughed, but listen to Jesus’ words: “And he said: ‘Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.’” (Matthew 18:3)

I was there when Ben’s mom, my first little girl, whispered to him, “It’s ok…you can go see Jesus now,” and because he was a little boy who loved and trusted his mother, and more importantly believed in heaven…he obeyed and his breathing slowed down and he slipped away. The presence of the Lord was strong. The angels were in the room. And a little boy who had earlier been released at an orphanage, left his family to join the family of the Lamb in heaven.

At Ben’s funeral, one of the Pastors made a wonderful observation. He said that this life is like the front porch. It is not the whole house; it is not even inside the house. Once we have been inside, like Ben, for the first million years we will look back at our time on the front porch as so very short. But, important decisions are made on the front porch of life here on earth. Will you change and become like a little child? Will you be willing to join Jesus in His suffering when He calls you? Will you see the lives of orphans with special needs and even terminal conditions as lives worth living, lives worth grafting into your family? Mat and Elizabeth did through God’s grace. As a result, we had a wonderful grandson who taught us that life on the front porch is all about knowing who is going to pick you up and loving those whom you can hug today.

So in the end, Ben’s story was not an adoption story. It wasn’t really a story of heroism. It was about a little boy that was really ours, who taught us in a fresh way how Jesus loved us before we loved Him. How it pleased Him to make us His real children, when we had nothing to offer Him.

What if my greatest disappointments
Or the aching of this life
Is the revealing of a greater thirst this world can’t satisfy
And what if trials of this life
The rain, the storms, the hardest nights
Are Your mercies in disguise

Laura Story

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This Saturday night, at 8 PM Eastern, 7 Central, Fox Television will air Change of Plans, a pro-family, pro-adoption movie presented by Walmart and P&G as part of their Family Movie Night Series. Immediately following the movie, there will be a special LIVE 45-minute webcast, sponsored by Chik-fil-A’s WinShape Foundation, in which viewers can submit their questions about adoption, and a panel, which includes Hope for Orphans’ Paul Pennington, will respond.

To learn more about the movie, please click here. To learn more about the webcast, please click here. To share this with your friends on Facebook, please paste this link (http://on.fb.me/FamiliesForAll) to your profile page.

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During this time of year, as we see the excitement and magic in the eyes of our children and grandchildren, if you’re like me, it takes me back to those days of my childhood when Christmas was full of wonderful food, grandparents laughing, speculating about presents and the warmth and comfort of knowing you had a family that loved you. In short, for me growing up and being at my Mam Maw’s house at Christmas meant feeling safe and loved unconditionally.

As we are now the ones charged to help a new generation see and know that a baby came into the world to give us life, we should stop to remember there are millions of children who won’t have such an experience, much less a family, this year.  It’s staggering to think that more than 16 million children under the age of 18 in Africa alone have lost one or both parents to AIDS.

Hope for Orphans believes that the Spirit of the Most High God can mobilize thousands and thousands of churches to touch orphans around the world. We know this because we have seen what He can do through just one church and just one family…one child at a time.

God accomplished a lot of amazing things in 2010 through the ministry of Hope for Orphans. We were able to go near the orphans of Haiti and help almost 25 come home to families after the horror of the January earthquake. We have seen more churches launch orphans ministries. We have seen the seeds of orphan ministry on the college campus come to life and students saved through going near the orphan. Hope for Orphans Kids is bringing vision to children in churches across America. But still it is the stories of specific children that stick with me and show me that God is truly at work.

When Yang Wen Sha was born in China, there was a problem. She could not hear. Soon she was in an orphanage, but through God’s providence, there were Christians at the orphanage caring for her. A few years later, our friends Dr. Andy and Trisha Wells connected with Yang Wen Sha through a Hope for Orphans contact.  Dr. Andy is an ENT, and with his help, Yang Wen Sha was able to receive the specialized hearing aid that she needed.  It was not just a coincidence that Andy and Trisha came into the life of this child.  You see, God had been working on Andy and Trisha’s hearts for some time about adoption, and now they dared to pray and ask, “Could Yang Wen Sha be our daughter?”  They had ears to hear how the Lord wanted to use their lives.

In a story of divine intervention (which perhaps we can share one day through our e-newsletter), the Lord did what only He can do and in July of this year, Yang Wen Sha became Kari Christine Pennington Wells. She now lives in a beautiful home in Augusta, Georgia with the forever family that God chose for her. I sort of think maybe in her little 5-year-old mind that when the Wells welcomed her into their family, she could hear the angels singing in her ears.

Our ministry is about providing the vision, resources and onramps for millions of Christians to step forward to love the fatherless. This month, we have an amazing opportunity to grow our ministry. A donor has agreed to match, dollar for dollar, all gifts to Hope for Orphans received before December 31st. If the Lord leads, please help us help more churches to bring the Hope born in Bethlehem to more orphans in 2011 than ever before.

Happy New Year.

Paul

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When “Jenny” was placed in our home as a nine-year-old in foster care, it was clear to us almost right away that she had some very deep fears…fears that would not easily be overcome.  Those fears were most apparent whenever we would awaken her from sleep.  Her eyes would shoot open…she would almost look petrified until she could get her bearings and see that she was safe.

It took three weeks before we learned why Jenny was so afraid. For years, she and her younger brother had been sexually abused by their mother’s boyfriend, “Mark”.  Their mother had known about it, yet had failed to protect them.  Now, she was scared to death that Mark was going to find her and kill her.  We reported what she told us and eventually, Mark was arrested, and based primarily on Jenny’s testimony, he was sentenced to nearly twenty years in prison.   Still, it took a long time before Jenny felt safe in our home.

Children need to feel safe.  They thrive when they feel safe.  But what happens when they don’t feel safe?  They don’t thrive.  According to Created to Connect: A Christian’s Guide to the Connected Child, by Dr. Karyn Purvis and Michael Monroe, fear cripples children.  It not only cripples them…it can manifest itself in all kinds of negative behaviors.

Could it be that so many children in foster care exhibit negative behaviors due, in part at least, to the fact that they know deep down that there is not a single person on the face of the earth who has their backs?  Could it be that they live in constant fear because they feel threatened and they know there is no one who will step in to protect them from real harm?

Contrary to what the world says, God has made men and women different.  And while moms would certainly do anything to protect their children, it is men whom God has given the role of protector (of their wives as well as their children).

Right now, there are about 125,000 children in foster care who are waiting for forever families.  These kids have a lot in common.  Fear is one of them.  Each of these kids goes to bed at night lacking the security your and my kids enjoy every day.  As Christians, and as men, we can’t allow this to happen.

What about it, men?  Let’s not wait for our wives to drag us into caring for the waiting children of the United States Foster Care System.  Let’s take seriously our God-given role of child-protector and let’s help 125,000 children sleep better at night.  Not only will they sleep better at night, but their behaviors are bound to change as they begin to believe you have their backs.  The waiting children in foster care deserve to enjoy the same security your kids and mine enjoy.  Are we going to give it to them?

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When Minh Ho was born in Korea, it took a whole month before doctors began to realize that something was wrong. He appeared normal, except that his color was not right. It was later learned that Minh Ho was born with a single ventricle, or basically half of a normal heart.  His pulmonary valve and arteries were genetically flawed as well. His birth mom was a teenage girl who handed him over without even knowing he had a heart problem. It was his foster mother who took him to the doctor who discovered his heart defect.

Minh Ho had two open-heart surgeries in Korea.  The only caregivers in his life were paid; he didn’t have a family. This was a child with a very poor prognosis; in fact, he wasn’t expected to live more than a year or so. The only possibility for any sort of repair to his heart was in the United States.

A young American military couple heard about Minh Ho. God led this couple to do something hard — something radical in this world’s eyes. They adopted a child who, even with intervention, would probably not live long. The enlisted man and his wife gave this child something he could not yet appreciate, not because of what he had to offer them, but because of what they could offer him…a family…a family for Minh Ho no matter what would lie ahead.

When Minh Ho came to America (and Texas) to join his big new extended family, it was a day of joy and celebration. A place had already been prepared for the little boy with half of a heart and he got a new name…Benjamin. Through the years to come, Ben has endured more surgery, more needles, more medicine and some days when it was a struggle just to get enough air. But there have also been many, many good days as well.

Ben has a family. He loves his family and enjoys reciting every name. He has even gotten to ride a school bus and open presents on Christmas morning and see the faces of all those he loves singing “Happy Birthday” just to him. God’s solution for orphans is a family. Grace revealed through adopting a special needs child produces blessing beyond measure for those who are called.

Almost three years ago, Ben got very sick. The doctors said it was time to bring in hospice; they believed that they had done all that could be done for his heart. But thankfully, God’s plans are not our plans and after six months of hospice care and then a flu which left him in nearly a coma-like state for 10 days, Ben woke up, saying, “I want spaghetti!!” I think I will always think of Ben when I hear the word “spaghetti” and then I will be reminded how God is the One who gives life and no one else. Ben ate a huge plate of spaghetti that day. He recovered and has now been with us now for three more birthdays and Christmases. You see, Ben is Robin’s and my grandson. His mom, who risked her heart to love and graft this child into our family, is our daughter. His dad, our son-in-law, has served our country in the Army now for almost eight years.

As I write this, Ben is lying in a hospital bed next to me, waiting for a CAT Scan to determine if he may have a blood clot that needs attention. We never know when he might leave us…but the Bible teaches us that the Lord has all of our days numbered and that we cannot add one. Life and family are precious every day. Ben’s mom and dad have walked in faith and given Ben something that the Lord gives to spiritual orphans and physical orphans more and more through His church…a family. Ben’s mom and dad are like so many involved in orphan ministry…ordinary people who give action to their faith by loving the least of these.

This week on FamilyLife Today, Dennis and Bob will be interviewing other folks who have walked in faith…special friends whom God is also using to love orphans and those needing a family. On Thursday, September 16th and Friday, September 17th, you will not want to miss the powerful stories of how God is working in orphan ministry. You just may hear through these stories what God’s invitation is for you in ministering to fatherless children.

Ben, who is now five years of age, told one of my sons this week, “Jesus is going to ride with me in heaven in a red car!!”

Jesus is coming soon for all of those who are called the Children of God and joint heirs with His beloved Son. When Ben rides with Jesus in that red car one day, it will be a very painful day for his family. We will miss him more than we can imagine right now. But I know that he will be there when we get to the banquet of the Lamb and I’m sure he will be eating spaghetti with that huge smile of his.

Paul

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Last fall, we were part of a life group through our church that looked at God’s heart for orphans, and His desire for His people to care for them through adoption, foster care, and orphan care.

One Sunday afternoon, we invited three adult adoptees from our church to come and share a little about their experiences growing up.  As we listened, it was fascinating to me to see to the contrast, especially between the two young women who shared.  Both women were adopted as babies.  One had a family that seldom talked about adoption.   One had a family that talked about and celebrated adoption.

One of the young women was in three homes by the time she was seven months old.  Her family didn’t discuss adoption very much while she was growing up.  She said it is hard to explain, but she still struggles in some ways as a result of being in three homes and she has a hard time talking about her experience growing up as a child who had been adopted.  She is pro-adoption, but it just isn’t something that she talks about easily.  Interestingly, her job now entails counseling kids in foster care.

The other young woman was placed for adoption at birth.  Her family talked about adoption all of the time and were very positive about it.  She is, in turn, very positive and open and comfortable talking about her experiences.  After working several years as a child abuse investigator for L.A. County DCFS, she is now working for an adoption law firm, counseling birth parents and working with adoptive parents through the birth and placement of the children.

The contrast made me think of my own family and the way we talk about adoption.  With six children, all of whom came to us through foster adoption, and five of whom were already adopted , we want to make sure our children view adoption in as positive a light as possible.  We don’t want them to ever feel like adoption is something to be ashamed of or something to hide.  Because of this, we shout it from the rooftops.  We make it a point to talk to people about the joys and blessings of adoption wherever we go, and we make it a point to do so in front of our kids.

I’m sure there are some that would disagree with our approach, but if we see adoption for what it really is…part of God’s redemptive plan to bring restoration to His creation as He places hurting and lonely children into families, then how can we be anything but positive about it?  How can we not tell everyone we see?  It’s a glorious thing God does when He places a child into a home and gives that child a mom and a dad to love and care for them.

Last night we repeated a ritual that we’ve been doing for years.  We celebrated the fourth anniversary of the date our daughter Aruna moved into our home.  My mom made Aruna a three-layer coconut cake.  We all went around the room and named things we appreciate about her.  We told her “Happy Anniversary” repeatedly throughout the day.  In our family, we celebrate our children’s homecoming days as much as we celebrate the anniversaries of their adoptions.  I think it has something to do with the way we view Psalm 68:4-6, which says: Sing to God, sing praise to his name, extol him who rides on the clouds — his name is the LORD— and rejoice before him.  A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling.  God sets the lonely in families, he leads forth the prisoners with singing; but the rebellious live in a sun-scorched land.

The psalmist is singing to God and praising Him, declaring Him to be Father to the fatherless.  And then, he tells of God’s great works, with the first example being how God sets the lonely in families.  If the psalmist is praising God for setting the lonely in families, should we not praise Him for placing our children in our home?  Of course we should…to do otherwise would be to discredit God’s plan for our children, our family, and His creation.

Celebrate your children’s adoptions…celebrate adoption for what it really is.  Praise God for placing your children in your home.  And while you’re at it, shout it from the rooftops.  Your children are watching.

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