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Terri and I have observed a lot in our ten years in foster care.  We’ve certainly seen the best and worst of the system, and we’ve experienced heartache and blessing alike.  One of the biggest concerns we continue to have is that there are many foster parents that are involved in the system for what certainly appears to be selfish motivations.  It is our prayer that foster parents such as these will move on, and be replaced by foster parents motivated by the Gospel to not only care for the kids, but to love them unconditionally.  So many of these kids have suffered a great deal of trauma…they need parents who will stick with them when things get difficult, rather than keep them at arm’s length, or have them replaced at the first sign of trouble.

Thankfully, in our ten years of involvement, we have seen the Holy Spirit move among His people to become engaged in the system like never before…to become what the church was intended to be (and used to be) to the orphans and waiting children among us.

One recent Wednesday night, we were part of an informal gathering of people (mostly from our church) in which families interested in foster care and adoption could ask questions of families that are already a part of the system.  It was a very non-threatening forum in which these families could explore some of the issues, concerns and questions they have.

I was so encouraged as I listened to the conversation as it was very apparent that not only were the prospective foster/adopt families interested in getting involved, but they were interested in getting involved for all the right reasons.  Their concerns and questions reflected a real desire to do this the right way – God’s way, and to do it out of a motivation rooted in the Gospel, and to do it regardless of the personal cost.

I also loved hearing the perspectives of the other families that are already involved.  Both couples have experienced the heartaches and the blessings that come with being a foster parent.  Both have experienced real pain in loving these children so near to God’s heart.  Yet, as I listened to them, it was so evident that in spite of the personal cost, they have been obedient to God’s call on their lives, and that they have put their trust in Him through the trials and joy alike.  As one of the foster dads put it so succinctly, “This isn’t about us.”

He’s right, and it’s a reminder we often need.  It’s not about us, as much as we want it to be.  It’s not even about the kids, as much as we want to make it at times.  It’s about God.  It always has been about God, and it always will be.  And as long as God wants to work to redeem orphans, His children must join Him in that work.

No matter what it costs us.

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This week, Hope for Orphans’ Executive Director, Paul Pennington, will be delivering one of the keynote addresses at The Baby Conference: A Historic Family Summit on the Triumph of Life over the Culture of Death.

The Baby Conference, sponsored by Vision Forum Ministries, will bring to light issues that are pervasive in today’s pro-choice world.  Is it excessive to have 4 children in today’s world?  Is it right to bring a child into this world without being able to provide a $150,000 college fund?  Are children indeed a blessing from the Lord?  The Bible says, “Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD, the fruit of the womb is a reward” (Psalm 127:3).  The next two verses continue, “As arrows are in the hand of a mighty man; so are children of the youth. Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them: they shall not be ashamed, but they shall speak with the enemies in the gate.”

The Baby Conference is centered on the celebration of life — the life that we are called, as followers of Christ, to enjoy and cherish and honor.  All life is to be valued.  All of us — the orphan, the widow, the stranger – are fearfully and wonderfully made, in the image of God.  This conference will take a hard look at Scripture and will demonstrate, among other things, how adoption and orphan care fit within the church’s responsibility to what God has called us to do.

Join us, along with Doug Phillips and Jim Bob Duggar, on July 8 -10 in San Antonio for this challenging, yet fresh perspective on how we to look at human life biblically, in a post-modern, pro-choice world.

To learn more about the issues and topics that will be discussed, or to register for this event, please click here.

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(The following comes from our June 2010 E-Newsletter. You may subscribe to our bi-monthly e-newsletter by clicking here.)

Some of the very best things in my life have happened as a result of some of the hardest things in my life. There was a day that Robin and I learned that we had lost a baby and the ability to ever have a biological child short of in-vitro fertilization. It was a hard day. It was hard to pray or understand. But little did we know that as this was happening a little girl was soon to be born. This little girl was our daughter Kit whom God brought to us just 6 months later. Not only was she a gift we could not have imagined, but also through her, the Lord led us to more of our children, some born on the other side of the world, and ultimately to this ministry.

In his new book about Ruth, A Sweet and Bitter Providence, Pastor John Piper shares a quote from William Cowper, an 18th century poet and hymn writer:

“Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,
But trust him for his grace;
Behind a frowning providence
He hides a smiling face.”

Joseph experienced this frowning providence when his brothers sold him into slavery. But as you know, God knew this very act would bring about the rescue of those same brothers from famine and His grace would be demonstrated through the centuries like a chain in His word to us in the 21st century.

Every adoption begins in hurt of some kind. Sometimes being the parent of a child through adoption involves a lot of hurt. We all come from a hard place because of the first Adam’s fateful choice in the garden. Thankfully, the second Adam also made a choice in a garden, a choice not to save Himself, a choice made so that we might receive adoption as sons of God through Him.

As we consider with eyes wide open the road of adoption and loving the fatherless, let us remember why Ruth the Moabitess was able to say to Naomi in Ruth 1:16-17 that she would follow her from all that was familiar and safe…how she committed herself to this widow to the point of saying that Naomi’s God would be her God and Naomi’s people her people.

Ruth was grafted into this family and met her kinsman redeemer because as Piper says, “Here we have a picture of…faith in God that sees beyond present bitter setbacks. Freedom from the securities and comforts of the world. Courage to venture into the unknown and the strange. Radical commitment in the relationships appointed by God”. In this case, a relationship that led to line of David and The Messiah.

May those called to adopt, or to love a foster child, or to serve churches overseas in loving orphans be likewise radically committed to the relationships appointed by God for them. May we see the world as the work of God, and that we are privileged and blessed to be invited to join Him in His work. May we see God who sometimes uses frowning providence in bringing about His will, as the very One in whom we will very soon see His smiling face.

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Summertime.  The very word conjures up images of parks and pools, baseball and barbeques.  Summer is a season when we allow ourselves just a bit more laziness…a time in which we seek relaxation, and family vacations.  The fact is, it seems that everyone loves summer.

In the midst of summer, though, we need to pause and think of those who might not welcome summer as robustly we do.  For the orphan, summer doesn’t bring to mind all those thoughts that make it a favorite season for many of us.  No, for many orphans, summer is simply 92 more days to survive the dangers of life, to wait for rescue, to long for love, to hope for a better future.  In the midst of our summertime content, we must remember the orphan’s year-round discontent.  We also need to remember that God has not forgotten the orphan, and that we must remember them too.

In our June E-Newsletter, which came out today, we highlight the story of some schoolchildren in Birmingham, Alabama, who were touched by the orphan crisis in Haiti and decided to do something about it.  They raised nearly $4000 to help bring much needed relief to children suffering in the aftermath of January’s devastating earthquake.

It’s always exciting when we meet others who “get it”.  It’s even more exciting when we see children “get it”.  When we see kids gripped with God’s heart for orphans at a young age, we can only imagine what God will do through them later in life.  Kids loving orphans are infectious and inspiring.

What might God want to do through your children in reaching the least of these?  Dads, would you be willing to set aside a portion of your free time with your kids this summer and look at what God’s word says about orphans, and what His expectations are for us in relation to them?  Moms, would you be willing to take on a project serving orphans with your kids this summer?  Perhaps you could collect shoes for orphans overseas.  Perhaps you could pray for the children in your local foster care system.  Perhaps you could collect money to help offset the cost of adoption for a family in your church.

At Hope for Orphans, our job is to serve the church as it serve orphans.  That includes your children.  We have developed two tools that we hope will better serve you as you seek to educate your children of the mandate from God, and the needs to be met among the tens of millions of orphans in the world.

The first tool is our website for children, which can be found here.  At the website you will learn more about God’s heart, you will find ideas of how your kids can serve orphans, you will read about what other kids have done to address the orphan crisis, and much more.

We have also developed a curriculum for children, called God’s Heart for the Orphan…and Me!.  The curriculum is designed to be used in Sunday school classes, Vacation Bible Schools, or even in your own home with your family.  It is an interactive children’s Bible study that exposes children to God’s passion for orphans and waiting children.  You and your kids will talk about what God wants us to do for orphans, and you will be given the tools to take action and start making a difference in children’s lives right away.

If you have ideas of how you and your children will serve orphans this summer, or perhaps have served together in the past, please share them by commenting below.

Would you consider making this a summer in which your children and family become more closely aligned with God’s heart for orphans?  Imagine what God might do in you and through you if you commit yourselves to just that.

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We’re about halfway through the National Foster Care Prayer Vigil week.  Two days ago, I asked people to share their experiences as they went before the Lord this week on behalf of those in their local foster care systems.  Yesterday afternoon, I received this e-mail from Heather Bench, a passionate orphan advocate from Salem Church of God in Clayton, Ohio:

I was most touched during our prayer vigil when a recently adopted teen from foster care rose and prayed for the foster care workers.  My heart overflowed to hear her speak words of gratitude and ask for all foster children to have good influences in their lives.  Shortly thereafter our ministry participated in our first forever family dedication of this precious family.  What a privilege to thank God for bringing this family together and commit to loving, supporting and encouraging them as the perfect family He designed.  This week I have purposefully prayed by name for the teenagers in our state waiting for families.  God has brought them to my heart through a teen’s heartfelt prayer.

Heather’s story is but one of hundreds that God is writing this week through the National Foster Care Prayer Vigil.  As we commit to going before Him in prayer for these children, and those who influence their lives, God promises to meet us where we are, and He will bless us as He blessed Heather and the others at her church.

Thanks, Heather, for sharing your story, and thanks for your faithfulness in praying for His children in Ohio.

We would love to hear from others about their prayer vigils as well.  If you have a story of how God used your time with Him this week, please e-mail me at jmoore@HopeforOrphans.org.

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Sunday’s gathering was a small one, about twelve of us, but as always, God met us where we were.  We gathered in a circle and introduced ourselves.  We discussed the purpose of the prayer vigil, we read some Scriptures, and we prayed through the prayer guide.  As I listened to the others pray, I heard things that excited me…I heard passion…and I heard tears.

One of the women who prayed Sunday has been volunteering for the past 20 months or so at a foster group home in our area.  Every week, she, her husband, and two others from our church visit the boys in the group home, sharing their lives, their pains, their fears, and trying to instill hope where despair has reigned for far too long. As she prayed, she passionately petitioned God on behalf of each and every one of the boys in the home . . . by name.

As we continued to pray, I heard weeping…so much so that at times it was hard to understand what was being said.  But God knew.  God heard.  And where the words were not necessarily clear, the sentiment was…the hearts of those who prayed were broken for the children in our county’s foster care system…but not just for the children…the tears were for their families as well.  One young woman prayed, and rightly so, that God would bring healing to families in such a way that would eventually eliminate the need for foster care at all.  Wouldn’t that be an amazing thing…if churches could come alongside families before they lose their children, and help them get on their feet and experience the restoration and healing that God has for them?

Our small gathering was a wonderful reminder of God’s passion and broken heart for these children, and His desire for us to be passionate and brokenhearted for them as well.  I pray that the hundreds of other gatherings across the country this week will experience the same.

As you hold your prayer vigils this week, if you feel so led, please send me an e-mail at jmoore@HopeForOrphans.org.  Let me know how God met you and used your time seeking Him on the children’s behalf.  I would love to share your stories in this blog throughout the week to encourage those who haven’t yet had their prayer vigils, as well as those who have yet to plan one.

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We were so blessed to be with so many of you at last week’s Summit.  It was amazing to see God working in so many ways in and through His church to reach the children He loves so much.  It has taken a few days, but we are starting to settle back into our routines at work and home.  We decided to take this opportunity to reflect a little on our time at Summit VI and to write about the most exciting thing we experienced there.  As you read our thoughts, we would ask that you spend some time asking yourself what the most exciting or impactful thing was for you.

Jason Weber:

At the very beginning of the first session, I was overwhelmed with seeing over 1200 orphan advocates fill the sanctuary.  My mind immediately drifted back to Summit I when 30 something folks gathered together to ask God what could be accomplished together that couldn’t be accomplished individually.  Then, Maridel Sandberg, the MC for Summit VI, asked how many were there for the first time.  The enormous number of hands raised was shocking.  What blew me away was thinking about just how many children each of those hands will come to represent in the months and years ahead as they go out and “vindicate the weak and fatherless . . . ” (Psalm 82:3).

David Leventhal:

There were so many things about Summit VI that were encouraging for me.  I think the one that stands out the most is getting to see and hug friends from around the country whose hearts beat for the orphan.  So often, when you talk to people about orphan care, you get the “glassy stare” – people who love me & love Jesus but just don’t “get” the whole orphan thing.  It’s nice to be able to pull out of town for a couple of days and be around other like-minded people who “get it” in a way that I do.  Listening to the stories & seeing the faithfulness of others spurs me on to continue to engage in the battle.

Shane McBride:

As my role at Hope for Orphans is centered around equipping orphan advocates with the tools and resources needed to start orphans ministries, I was absolutely floored by the number of individuals that wanted to start an orphan/adoption/foster care ministry. A countless number of churches, that up until this conference did not have an orphans ministry, were represented by lay people impassioned to get involved. That means, churches from coast to coast, who did not have orphans ministries, will now have the ability to be mobilized. I am truly excited to see how many of these local champions will have success stories to tell at next year’s Summit VII!!

John Moore:

As always, it was energizing and invigorating to see old friends, and to meet new ones, who are engaged in this ministry.  I think the thing that impacted me most, though, was the constant reminder, as I listened to speaker after speaker, that orphan ministry is not just the latest thing to try out for a while before moving on to something else that lets me feel good about myself.  Rather, this is nothing less than a war over the earthly and eternal fates of 145 million children…and as the church responds more and more to God’s call, the enemy will ramp up the attacks more and more in response.  If this is a fad, we will not withstand those attacks.  If this is a calling to join God in battle, which it is, we have to continue to lift each other up in prayer, we have to continue to arm ourselves with everything God has for us, and we have to stay the course no matter how difficult and painful it might be.  The stakes are simply way too high to take this call lightly.

As you can see, God used our time at Summit VI in varied ways among our team members.  For those of you who were able to attend, we trust that God used it to impact you as well.  If you feel so led, please respond to this post with your own thoughts and reflections on what God showed you at Summit VI.

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