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Posts Tagged ‘earthquake’

January 12th will mark one year since the devastating earthquake in Haiti.  Those few moments and their aftermath took hundreds of thousands of lives, left many more homeless, and affected countless children in profound and permanent ways, including leaving many as orphans.  The eye of the media has largely moved on to other stories, but the need in Haiti remains as pressing as ever.

Of course, there are as many unique callings and places to serve as there are Christians in the world.  We certainly should not feel guilty that we can’t all focus on Haiti.  But still, if we felt ache and anguish in the days following the earthquake, we would do well not to quickly forget.  To do so merely mirrors the world’s sad and harmful pattern: to feel deeply yet act little and persevere even less.

The true disciple of Christ consistently matches compassionate emotion with both loving action and loving perseverance, just as the Good Samaritan both cared for the wounded traveler and also promised to return later to cover his future medical bills.  Even if our primary calling is to Russia or Cambodia or foster youth in the U.S., we can remain faithful in prayer to Haiti.

I’m tremendously thankful that Scott Vair and the others at World Orphans felt a desire to gather Christians virtually on the earthquakes’ anniversary to pray for Haiti.  We invite you to join with us and others members of the Christian Alliance for Orphans community on January 12th, 2011 at 4:00pm EST for one hour via “webinar.”  Led by a number of orphan advocates, we will be praying together for the country of Haiti, for stability and integrity in its government, for ongoing relief and rebuilding efforts, for the Haitian church, and for the children of Haiti we all care about so much.

Registration is required, and you can do so today here.

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The last twelve months, not unlike the twelve months prior…or the twelve months prior to that, have produced a slew of tragedies.  In just the first 4+ months of 2010 there have been earthquakes in Haiti, Chile, Indonesia, Turkey, California, Spain & China – with an estimated 230,000 lost lives from these quakes.  2010 has brought avalanches in northwestern Pakistan, flooding & mudslides in Portugal & in Rio de Janeiro, & landslides in eastern Uganda.  There have been multiple plane crashes – the two with the most casualties include a Polish military jet going down and killing 96 on board & an Ethiopian flight crashing and killing 90.  If statistics are playing out as they have in previous years (and they are), then in the first quarter of 2010 over 2.25 million children will have died of preventable disease before their fifth birthday – half of them in Africa alone.  Within 24 hours of this blog post another 24,000 will have perished.

But there is another tragedy occurring – and it’s happening as you read this post right now. And it’s happening to me as I write this post.  It is the tragedy of being less and less moved by the loss of life, the destruction & the carnage described in the first paragraph. It is the reality that our hearts are burdened enough by the suffering in our own lives and most of us don’t have the capacity, the desire, or the will to allow ourselves to enter into the suffering of those outside our immediate context on a day after day basis.  We are saturated with the suffering of others as day after day images of tragedies flash across our TVs, our computer monitors & our iPhones.  Day after day we hear of tragedy.  Day after day we read of devastation, loss & sorrow…parents losing children… children losing parents.  Whole families wiped out.  Entire villages reduced to rubble.  The reality is that our hearts are frail and we simply grow weary of the information and grow calloused to the suffering.

We’ve even come up with a term for this reduction in compassion – it’s called “compassion fatigue.”  A simple Google search for “compassion fatigue” produces 163,000 results.  Our friends over at Wikipedia sum it up:

“Compassion fatigue, also known as a Secondary Traumatic Stress Disorder, is a term that refers to a gradual lessening of compassion over time. It is common among victims of trauma and individuals that work directly with victims of trauma. It was first diagnosed in nurses in the 1950s. Sufferers can exhibit several symptoms including hopelessness, a decrease in experiences of pleasure, constant stress and anxiety, and a pervasive negative attitude. This can have detrimental effects on individuals, both professionally and personally, including a decrease in productivity, the inability to focus, and the development of new feelings of incompetency and self doubt.

“Journalism analysts argue that the media has caused widespread compassion fatigue in society by saturating newspapers and news shows with decontextualized images and stories of suffering. This has caused the public to become cynical, or become resistant to helping people who are suffering. Journalism analysts cite research which shows that visual images affect brain activity in demonstrable and measurable ways.”

As I’ve been noodling on this whole compassion fatigue concept, my mind took me to the question, “Does God experience compassion fatigue?”  I mean, does He become overwhelmed by the suffering?  Does His heart grow weary of the pain and loss?  Is it possible that He would check out…unable to handle what He sees on a day in and day out basis?

If you’ve spent much time in my personal blog, then you’ll know that my gut response to this question is no, of course not. His capacity to experience compassion is unending.  However, I wanted to go back to Scripture to verify that my gut response was indeed backed up by God’s word.  The Old Testament is full of passages that speak to God’s compassion (Ex. 34:6-7; Deut. 4:30-31; 2 Chronicles 30:8-9, Nehemiah 9, Lamentations 3:19-26, Jonah 4:2ff to name a few).  And when we get into the New Testament and see Jesus, who “is the image of the invisible God”, we get to see God, in physical form, live a life void of compassion fatigue.  Two (of the many) passages that most encouraged my heart were Matthew 20 & Luke 7.

  • Matthew 20:29-34: Jesus is leaving Jericho.  He has just told His twelve disciples that they are headed to Jerusalem and this thing they are a part of is moving towards a murder – His murder.  It is crowded.  It is noisy.  There is chaos just being near this man.  And in the throng of people sit two unnamed men – both blind.  Though they cannot see Him with their eyes, they can see with their hearts that this man is something special.  And so they cry out at the tops of their lungs – a loud and annoying yell – “Have mercy on us!  Have mercy on us!”  The crowd tells them to shut up.  But Jesus stopped.  Is He busy? Yes.  Is He overloaded with requests?  Yes.  Are there crowds of sick people that need His attention?  Yes.  Is He aware that His body is about to be ripped to shreds by a whip?  Yes.  Is He cognizant of the fact that, in a very short time, nails will be driven through His hands & feet?  Yes.  And yet, He stopped.  No compassion fatigue – just compassion.  And two men receive their sight.
  • Luke 7:12-15: Jesus is approaching the city of Nain & comes along a funeral procession.  In the coffin is a young man – the only son of a widow.  This woman has lost everything – no husband to protect her…no son to provide for her.  She is alone.  But in God’s sovereignty, her aloneness is about to be interrupted.  Jesus sees this woman through the crowds – both the crowd following Him and the crowd following the coffin.  He sees the coffin. He sees the pain. He sees the loss.  No compassion fatigue – just compassion.  And with a touch to the coffin and a single sentence uttered there is life restored where there was death.

If you want to see how God responds to suffering, you need not look beyond Jesus.  If you need proof that God does not experience compassion fatigue, then spend some time in the gospels and remember that you and I are the blind men on the side of the road.  We are the widow who has lost everything.  And yet, God, full of compassion, has moved on our behalf.  “God demonstrates His own love for us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).

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David Leventhal is still in Haiti.  He wrote the following after addressing 100 Haitian pastors:

“This morning Paul Myhill (President of World Orphans) & I had the opportunity to speak before 100 Haitian pastors at a Campus Crusade for Christ training conference in Port Au Prince.  The training was being led by Esperandieu Pierre.

Esperandieu asked us to cast vision & encourage these pastors in their love & service for the orphans in their community.  We didn’t have much time & because Esperandieu had to translate for us the time we had was cut in half.

When I woke up this morning I began asking the Lord what He wanted me to communicate to these men.  It had to be short, easy to remember & useful.  As I worked through my thoughts & reflected on a couple of passages I realize the best place to start & finish was at the very cornerstone of all we believe.  I distilled it down into two main points:

  • The gospel is the basis for WHY we care for orphans
    • The gospel frees us to love others – we love because He first loved us (1 John 4:19).
    • The gospel frees us to look outside ourselves towards the needs of others – we look at Christ who being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped (Philippians 2:5ff).
    • The gospel provides the power by which we can love sacrificially when it doesn’t make sense for us to (Romans 6:11ff).
  • The gospel is the model for HOW we care for orphans.
    • The gospel is offered free of charge – we are to care for orphans without expectation of receiving anything from them (John 3:16).
    • The gospel is not dependent upon our abilities – we are to care for orphans irrespective of their physical, mental or emotional capacity (Ephesians 2:8-9).
    • The gospel addresses the whole person – we are to care for the spiritual, physical & emotional needs of vulnerable children.  This is more than just basic food, clothing & shelter (James 1:27, 2 Corinthians 4:16ff).
    • The gospel cost Christ his life – we are to spend ourselves for the cause of the orphan, the vulnerable & the defenseless (Romans 8:32, Romans 5:8)

At the end of the day orphan care should tie back to the grace of God made fully known in the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ.”

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David Leventhal sent this update from Haiti:

Today was a good laying the groundwork day.  Our team met with CMBH (Southern Baptist Group in Haiti) & World Relief.  The net result of our time is that we will be able to meet with 46 churches in the coming week.  Definitely a great start to the church to church partnerships we are hoping to create to care for Haiti’s orphans.

Our time with World Relief was especially sweet as we got to hear about all the great things they are doing to care for orphans & vulnerable children.  Their headquarters in Port Au Prince was destroyed so they are working out of one of their hospital / orphanage facilities called King’s Hospital.  After our meeting we were able to spend some time with the children in their orphanage.  There is nothing, absolutely nothing like getting eyeball to eyeball with a child that has lost everything.  It brings a renewed perspective that you simply cannot get from a book, a sermon or a meeting over coffee. It will wreck you in the best possible way.

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Last week Hope for Orphans’ Founder & Executive Director, Paul Pennington was in Haiti advocating on behalf of a group of orphans.  He was able to see and experience firsthand the utter devistation in Haiti.  Paul returned to Texas on Monday & had an opportunity today to share about his experience in Haiti on FamilyLife Today’s radio broadcast.

Click below to listen to the interview

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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 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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