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Posts Tagged ‘Focus on the Family’

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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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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In just 4 days, on Saturday, November 13th, hundreds of believers will gather at Watermark Community Church in Dallas for Wait No More, an adoption conference put on by our good friends at Focus on the Family’s Adoption & Orphan Care Initiative.

Wait No More is designed to share God’s heart for adoption, as well as the need for adoptive homes for waiting children, with Christians through speakers, video, music, and opportunities to connect with local foster care agencies.

To date there have been Wait No More Conferences in Colorado, Missouri, California, Florida, and Ohio. The results have been staggering. More than 1000 families have signed up to start the foster adopt process as a result of attending these conferences. God is clearly using the team at Focus to bring many kids forever families.

We at Hope for Orphans are honored to participate at these events. After the speaker portion of the conference, we will have a booth with some of our materials and staff present to share more about how we can serve you in your church’s orphans ministry.

If you are near the Dallas area this weekend, and are willing to take a few hours out of your Saturday to hear more about God’s desire for families for Texas’ waiting children, please go to the website and register. Or, if you have friends or family in the area, please pass this on to them.

Even if you’re not able to attend, please pray that God would use this event for His glory and that He would touch many hearts on behalf of the more than 3,500 children waiting for families in Texas’ foster care system.

Oh, and for those of you near Atlanta, GA, Wait No More is coming to your area, on February 26, 2011, at Victory World Church in Norcross.

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…They began selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need. Acts 2:45

“If you wish to be complete, go and sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” Matthew 19:21

From the beginning of the church, there has been a connection between the Good News and loving those in need. That connection usually means sacrifice. North American Christians as a bunch are not quite as keen for sacrifice as those in the early church, perhaps because there has been a drift in teaching away from Biblical truth and grace. The new direction has been towards more motivational and frankly “me-centered” teaching. However, as we approach the annual Cry of the Orphan Campaign and Orphan Sunday, we are seeing churches all over America who are launching lay-led, people-to-people orphan ministries, in which there is not only sacrifice but a laying out of lives for the fatherless. The impact, not only on orphans, but on churches, has been amazing.

At the beginning of Hope for Orphans, we worked with a small church in South Texas — a fledgling orphan ministry started by two adoptive moms who had a vision and conviction that loving the fatherless was not optional. This led in fairly short order to 29 kids coming for a summer hosting program. The Russian-speaking kids who came had an impact that reached much further than a handful of kids getting families. This church had a revival of sorts through the love of these orphans that introduced the entire congregation to a country most had probably never heard of. The Lord used orphan ministry to give this church a new passion for missions, evangelism, reconciliation and the Gospel that was truly supernatural. 29 kids became 41 and from there this church and its orphan ministry has helped mentor churches in many places to similar results. The compounded impact for children in foster care and around the world is wonderful. The transformation brought about by seeing the visible gospel by the whole congregation has been priceless.

The point is…One Church Can Make a Difference…a difference that impacts generations for God’s glory. Will you be an orphan ministry leader in your church? One way to give a vision to your church in these next few weeks is through the Cry of the Orphan Partners’ one-hour content-on-demand video special Answer the Cry. This free resource can be used in Sunday schools, small groups, youth groups and even in a special worship service to introduce your church to God’s heart for orphans. This and other resources will be available at www.cryoftheorphan.org. This special program will also be available on DVD in limited supplies at Family Christian Stores locations across the country.

We even have a promo video that you can show leadership in your church or maybe use to promote your own event. You may watch the preview now by clicking here.

Also, at Hope for Orphans, we have a new video that speaks to how God is using the church. You may see that video by clicking here.

So this Orphan Sunday week, consider a sacrifice of your time to give voice to those kids who have none. Consider how God wants to use your Church for loving orphans and waiting children.

Blessings
Paul

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Next Saturday will be a great day for orphan advocates across the country. On October 1st & 2nd, there are THREE great conferences that we want to introduce you too.  Whether you live on the east coast, central, or west coast, a phenomenal conference is right around the corner.

On the east coast, in Southern NJ, Chris Padbury will be delivering the key note address which aims to awaken the local church to all aspects of “defending the cause of the fatherless.”

In Austin, TX, the Together For Adoption conference will be addressing over 1000 attendees. The theme of the conference is “The Gospel, the Church, and the Global Orphan Crisis.”  If you live anywhere near this event, you will not want to miss this conference.

On the west coast, in Los Angeles, CA, Hope for Orphans’ John Moore will be the key note speaker. There will be several sessions covering the Biblical foundation for orphan care, as well as numerous break-out sessions that will give you substantial and tangible ways to engage in the orphan crisis.

To learn more information about these conferences, please visit the Hope for Orphans website: www.hopefororphans.org

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It has been said that significant teaching in the Christian life is normally followed by severe testing.  It is by this method that the potter works the clay of our lives. When the testing comes (and in every believer’s life, it will come), we have what Henry Blackaby calls a “crisis of belief” which reveals what we really believe about God and His truth.

Mary Beth Chapman, in her new book Choosing To See, shares this experience in her life and times which has led to her see what only those who share in the sufferings of Christ may see. It demonstrates what she and her husband, Steven Curtis, believe about God.

All this week, Steven Curtis and Mary Beth Chapman are guests of Dennis and Bob on FamilyLife Today. If you miss any of the broadcasts, make sure you go online and listen to this couple share how God has worked in their lives.

This is a special series to us at Hope for Orphans for many reasons, one of them being that we were launched as a ministry at just about the same time as the Chapmans were starting their orphan ministry, now called Show Hope. The first guest speakers at the very first Hope for Orphans event were Scott and Kerry Hasenbalg.  Scott is the Executive Director of Show Hope. That day a friendship and partnership was begun that has blessed my family and this ministry in extraordinary ways to this day. As we began to work with Show Hope and Focus on the Family with the Cry of the Orphan Campaign, many said it could not work. “Ministries like this can’t really work in unity,” they said.

This year will be the 5th year of our partnership and cord of three. Not only have we worked in unity and share with each other each year as one might have need, but our partnership has been a testimony of how God is working in this movement to reintroduce the importance and blessing of unity.

In John 17:23, we read this from the Lord:

“I in them and You in Me, that they may be perfected in unity, so that the world may know that You sent Me, and loved them, even as You have loved Me.”

May the orphan ministry movement continue to grow in unity as an evidence, such that the world will choose by grace to see and know that the Father has sent the Son as a ransom for many.

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The 2010 National Foster Care Prayer Vigil starts this weekend. For eight days, followers of Christ will gather in homes, churches, parks, and more to pray for the children in their states’ foster care systems.

The National Foster Care Prayer Vigil has grown from humble beginnings (one prayer vigil in Little Rock, AR) to become a nationwide movement (220 vigils in 47 states last year) in a very short time.

As this is published, there are about 170 prayer vigils scheduled for next week in 44 states, plus Washington, DC.  Unfortunately, there are no vigils currently registered in six states:

  • Delaware
  • North Dakota
  • Rhode Island
  • South Dakota
  • Utah
  • West Virginia

We know that there are believers in those six states who, if they knew, would love to pray for the children in their states. We just haven’t found those believers…yet. This is where you come in. We are asking you to please reach out to your Christian friends in these states and ask them to go to www.FosterCarePrayerVigil.org, to download the prayer guide, to plan a vigil, and to register that vigil.

For the person who refers the first person registered in each of those states, we will send a free copy of Christie Erwin’s “The Middle Mom”, a wonderful book written by a foster mom about her experiences of God’s grace as she has fostered numerous children over the years.

Keep in mind that we will give the book to the person who refers the first person to register in each of those states.  If you recruit someone in one of those states, but they are not the first to register, we thank you and appreciate you anyway!  If you do recruit someone just let me know at jmoore@hopefororphans.org.  As soon as they register their vigil I will send your copy of the Middle Mom out to you!

Thanks so much…oh, and if you haven’t planned your own foster care prayer vigil for next week…you know what to do!

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Over the past couple of weeks, I have discussed the need for prayer for the children, families (birth families and foster/adopt families), and workers in our nation’s foster care system.

There is another group of people for whom prayer is needed as they relate to the children in foster care.  Historically, the church has cared for the marginalized in society out of obedience to God’s commands and as an outpouring of the grace we have received from Him in our lives.  God still desires for His people to be His hands and feet to those who are hurting and forgotten, including those children in the foster care system.

By and large, the role of caring for these children has fallen on the shoulders of government agencies for the past several decades.  The church has taken a back seat to social services in meeting their needs.  The constant cry of some to keep church and state separate has kept some in the church from becoming more involved.

Thankfully, that is changing.  More and more, we are seeing that church and state can not only find common ground on which to stand for the benefit of kids, but they can actually work together to see that the kids’ needs are being met and that, as a result, they have a better chance at becoming all they were intended to be.

Having been involved in foster care for ten years, I have seen quite a change in the way churches and government relate to each other in this area.  Where once there was much suspicion and mistrust on both sides, now we are seeing both sides opening up to one another and engaging in open dialogue and partnership.  It was quite a telling statement when I heard a local child welfare official say in a recent meeting that the government doesn’t do a good job taking care of kids, and that they wanted to give that job back to the church, where it belongs.

All over the country, God is moving churches to start foster care ministries.  Amazing ministries have sprung up in Florida, Arkansas, Colorado, South Carolina, Texas, California, and more, helping literally thousands of children.  We should pray that God would continue to raise up churches to care for the needs of the children in their communities.  We should also pray that many believers would open their hearts, homes, and families to these children by fostering and/or adopting them.

If you would like to speak up for the kids, families and workers in your local foster system, as well as for the church’s response and involvement, please visit www.FosterCarePrayerVigil.org.  Download or order the prayer guide.  Please start praying today for all involved in the system.  Then make sure you plan and register a vigil for your church, family, and/or friends during the week of May 16-23.

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In part one of this series, I talked about the need for prayer for the children in our nation’s foster care system.  In part two, I talked about the need for prayer for the families of the children – both the birth families, as well as the families that have stepped forward to care for them through foster care and adoption.

There is a third group of people involved in the children’s lives that we must remember when we pray.  The many workers who are involved in the foster system are on the front lines for these kids – making decisions that often affect their lives in profound ways.

Most who enter social work do so with the noblest of intentions – they have a genuine desire to help people and bring healing to broken lives.  The social workers who enter the foster system often do so because they have a real heart for children and they want to help the children become all that they were created to be.

Unfortunately, the realities of the job can overwhelm even the most committed workers.  So often, caseloads are too heavy, time is too short, and competing interests become draining.  Many times, social workers become fatigued….with the fatigue leading in many cases to burnout.

As Christians who are concerned about the well-being of, and justice for, children in the foster care system, we must remember to pray for the social workers who oversee their cases.  We must pray for the attorneys or the guardians at litem, who argue for their best interests in court.  We must pray for the judges, who often make very difficult decisions regarding short-term and long-term custody for the children.

The children in our nation’s foster care system will benefit most from dedicated workers who are driven to seek their best interests.  We must therefore pray for all of the adults who work in the child welfare system, that:
•    God would raise up laborers to fill every void:  judges, attorneys, guardians at litem, social workers, court appointed special advocates (CASA), support staff, therapists, and others.
•    God would encourage our state’s social workers and that they would not grow weary in doing good.
•    the workers will seek justice for everyone involved.

If you would like to speak up for the kids, families and workers in your local foster system, please visit http://www.FosterCarePrayerVigil.org.  Download or order the prayer guide.  Start praying today.  Then make sure you plan and register a vigil for your church, family, and/or friends during the week of May 16-23.

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In my last post, I talked about the need for prayer for our nation’s more than half a million foster children.  These children have been beaten down in their young lives – abused, neglected, abandoned…very often by their own parents — and they need people willing to advocate for them – through prayer and through many other ways as well.

As we learn more and more about the children in foster care, and as God begins to give us a heart and a growing burden for them, it would be easy and natural for us to develop a real anger toward those who have hurt them so deeply.  It would be natural to judge them harshly for their acts and to want them to pay dearly for their crimes against the children we have grown to love.  We must be careful, though.

The Bible teaches us that all people are made in the image of God.  As Christians, this means that we must treat all people with the respect and honor and dignity that comes with being made in His image.  No one is exempt.

The Bible also teaches us that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.  This means that in spite of the pain these parents have caused to these children we love so dearly, when we’re honest about our own condition, we find ourselves in the same boat as they are in…we are all sinners who have no chance before a Holy God apart from the finished work of Christ on the cross.

Yes, the children deserve justice and those who hurt them should pay a price, but we must not allow our righteous anger to become a self-righteous anger, and we must not allow our anger to obscure the truth that the blood of Christ can cover the sin of the child abuser just as it covers ours.  We can rightly want justice for the children, but we can and should also pray for the salvation of those who harm them.

One of the cruel realities of the foster system is that many of the children who age out of the system at 18 without a family end up having children in the system themselves one day.  The abused or neglected child therefore grows up to become the abusive or neglectful parent.  Why?  Because it’s all they know, and until someone shows them another way, the cycle will not be broken.  Yes, they are responsible for their own choices, and we must never excuse poor parenting by blaming it on the past, but just as we all learn habits and behaviors from our parents, we must recognize that these children are no different.

As Christians engaged in the foster care system, we must resist the urge to vilify the children’s birth families and we must embrace God’s call for us to love them and treat them with dignity.  It doesn’t mean that we should support sending children back to an unsafe home, and it doesn’t mean we support contact between children and birth parents if that contact further traumatizes the child, but it does mean that we can pray for the families and seek justice for them and truly hope for God’s best for their lives.  One of the greatest blessings in our journey adopting children from foster care has been the friendship that we’ve developed with our children’s birth families.  We recognize that friendship is not possible in all situations, and we have had to make some hard decisions regarding contact with our children’s birth families, depending on what we believe is best for our children at any given time.

In addition to praying for the birth families of the children, we also need to pray for families that have stepped forward to care for the children in foster care.  From time to time we hear horror stories of foster families who abuse the children in their care, but we must remember the many families that quietly care for and love them day by day, far out of the limelight.  God uses these families to bring healing, and in many times, permanency through adoption, to these hurting children.  We need to pray for God’s grace on them as they parent the children while navigating what is often a very difficult and thankless system.

If you would like to be an advocate for the kids and families in your local foster system, please visit http://www.FosterCarePrayerVigil.org and download the prayer guide.  Begin praying today for the children and their families, and then make sure you plan and register a vigil for your church, family, and/or friends during the week of May 16-23.

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