Posts Tagged ‘gospel’

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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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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In my ten years in the foster system I’ve had many occasions where I’ve witnessed injustice toward children in my home, in friends’ homes, toward birth families, and foster families as well.  Each time I’ve been faced with a decision to speak up and fight against that injustice, or to step back and let things fall where they may.

As a Christian, if I take God’s word seriously, and if I understand His character, I’m really not left with much of a choice.  I have to speak up.  God is a God of justice and He tells us to seek justice as well.  God defends the fatherless, and He tells us to do the same.

Of course, His calls for justice extend to others in the system as well.  We need to speak up anytime we see others denied justice, whether it be the children, the workers, the birth families, or the foster families.

Some friends from my church are in the middle of such a situation right now.  They recently stepped up for two children on very short notice, taking them into their home and loving and caring for them as their own.

They quickly found themselves in the middle of a difficult situation in which they were faced with a choice.  They could retreat and take the safe and easy road, or they could take God’s word seriously and seek justice for these little ones that He had placed in their home.  They chose the latter.  Not only are they seeking justice for these two little ones, but for their birth relatives as well.

It’s been amazing to watch as our church has rallied around this cause.  We have had two times of intensive prayer and we have others praying constantly in their own homes as well.  My friends and others have seen the love of Christ throughout as people come alongside to support them and the children.  They have also witnessed the work of God in other ways as He moves hearts and minds and puts people in place to accomplish His purposes.

I stand back and I watch in awe as my friends serve God faithfully in pursuing justice for two children they haven’t even known for two months.  They are compelled because they know what God’s word says and they take Him at His word.  How many of us would do the same?  Would you?  Would I?  I pray that we will when given the opportunity.  Every orphan in every nation deserves no less.

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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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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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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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