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Posts Tagged ‘grace’

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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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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…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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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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Next week, Monday through Friday, FamilyLife Today will host Steven and Mary Beth Chapman.  The Chapmans have been tireless champions for the fatherless for years and have continued to speak up on their behalf, while helping mobilize the church to care for them in many ways, through their ministry, now called Show Hope.

In the first three days of interviews, the Chapmans will talk about, among other things, how they met, Mary Beth’s new book, entitled Choosing to SEE: A Journey of Struggle and Hope, and some of the darker times in their lives, including the tragic accident that took the life of their precious daughter, Maria Sue, and the way God has demonstrated His grace in the midst of those times.

On the final two days of interviews, the Chapmans will talk about Maria’s Big House of Hope — the latest initiative from Show Hope — a six-story, 60,000 square foot orphanage that houses and provides medical care for special needs orphans in China.  They will also share music from and talk about Steven’s latest CD, Beauty Will Rise.

Please be sure to tune in to the broadcasts next week, August 30th through September 3rd by clicking here.  Also, take this opportunity to share this link with family and friends who may not be aware of what God is doing through the Chapmans and others on behalf of orphans all over the world.  You and those in your circles will be richly blessed by these programs.

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In two earlier posts, I shared about how Terri and I have occasionally put excessive limits on the children we were willing to take into our home as foster children.  I shared that on each of those first two occasions, God redirected us to be open to the children He had for us, rather than the ones we had in mind for ourselves.  And, naturally, on both occasions, when we submitted to His will, we saw that what He had in mind was infinitely better than what we had imagined.  We never would have adopted four of our children had we not abandoned our desires, and submitted to God’s will for our family by being open to the children He wanted to place in our home.

I do think that whenever you open your home to a child, you need to use wisdom.  If you have young daughters, for instance, it might be unwise to take in a teenage boy who has been sexually abused.  That’s common sense.  But the problems come when we start letting our own personal desires dictate whom we are willing to take into our home, and whom we are not.  We really need to go into this with our hands open to what God has for us, not just open to what we think we want.

Well, in spite of the four physical reminders of God’s goodness and grace sitting at our dinner table every night, Terri and I once again decided to close our hands a bit when we told our social worker last fall that we were open to taking in another child.  We specified this time, though, no babies – we were done with the middle of the night feedings, etc…  We asked for a child 2 years and older.  Now, most agencies would be thrilled to have a family that is willing to take in a child over 2, but then, on November 9th, our agency got a call for a six week-old child who needed a home.  Our social worker called our home and talked to Terri, telling her that based on the information she had, this would likely be a very short-term placement – as little as a few days, in fact.  We know the foster system well enough to know not to count on such things, but we also know and trust our social worker enough to know that she was giving us the best information she had.

Terri told me that we had been asked to take in a child who was a month and a half old.  Evidently, I hadn’t had coffee yet, because I know I heard her say a year and a half.  In my mind, it wasn’t 2, but it was only six months away from 2, so surely it wouldn’t be so bad.  We called the social worker and accepted the placement.  It was only on the way to the county office that it became clear to me that this child was only 6 weeks old.  To be honest, I was a little bummed out…okay, I was very bummed out.  This wasn’t the plan.  We were not going to take in a baby this time around.  We thought we had made that clear.  Yet, we had accepted her already, so we couldn’t go back on our word.  And besides, maybe it really would turn out to be just a few days.

We brought her home, and well, a few days turned into a few weeks.  Naturally, the few weeks turned into a few months.  We were in court for her case yesterday, and it is looking more and more likely that I will walk her down the aisle one day.  I would love to share a picture of her, but she is still a foster child, so I have to keep her name and face private for now.  Trust me on this, though – she is beautiful, she is precious, she’s a part of us…and we are so thankful that I hadn’t had my coffee when Terri came to tell me about her 8 months ago today.  Once again, God took our desires and redirected us to be open to what He wanted.  And once again, what He had for us was better than we could ever imagine.

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