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Posts Tagged ‘Hope for Orphans’

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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Two years ago, when I sat down at the Cry of the Orphan concert event in Nashville, the guy in the row behind me introduced himself. Jeromy explained that he had attended an adoption workshop we had done in Baltimore a couple of years before.  He went on to explain that after that workshop, he and his wife adopted a little boy and little girl from Kenya.  It had been an unusually difficult and long process.  In fact, they had been forced to live in Kenya for a year in order to be able to bring their children home.  At the time, I’m sure it was difficult to understand why God had extended the process for so long

However, during the months they lived there, God gave them favor with church leaders and government officials and they built relationships that are proving to be incredibly important in God’s plan for Kenya.  As a result of all God has done in Jeromy’s heart and the relationships that were built, God gave Jeromy a vision to bring pastors and leaders together for the first East African Orphans Summit in Nairobi to discuss what can be done by the body of Christ in Kenya to address the needs of 2.5 million Kenyan orphans.

Last year, Jeromy called me to order a dozen copies of the book, Launching an Orphans Ministry in Your Church. He explained that he wanted to give it to several of his pastor friends in Kenya.

I told him, Bro, you know that book was written for lay people in American churches.  I’m not so sure its really going to work in Kenya.  I don’t know the first thing about how things work in Kenyan churches.”  Jeromy told me he would be sure to tell the pastors that the book was written for an American audience and he assured me that they would still be encouraged by its content.  I wasn’t sure I believed him.

Then a few months ago, I got another phone call from Jeromy.

“Can you come to Nairobi in June and speak at the first East African Orphans Summit?  I’d like you to do one session on the biblical perspective of God’s heart for the orphan and a second session on the content in the book about launching a church orphans ministry.”

I reiterated my opinion that the material on launching church orphans ministry was not created with the Kenyan church in mind and that there were really important differences between how Kenyans do church and how Americans do church that would render this material ineffective.

He argued that much of it would apply and that going would help me to learn the things that didn’t apply.  He urged me to at least consider it. After praying more about it, I finally sent Jeromy a text message saying, “I’m in.”

The Kenyan pastor helping Jeromy to organize the conference, Pr. George, hoped for 30 leaders to attend.  They planned for 50-60 just in case.  The conference start time was 9 AM.  At 9:40, there were about 5 people there besides the organizers.  It was obvious to me that God was going to choose to do this thing with a very small Gideon-sized army.

But during the course of worship, I turned around periodically to find that what I had heard for years from missionaries in Africa was, in fact, true.  Start times for events in Africa are merely suggestions.  There are far more important things in life than being on time (like being with people for instance).  The room kept filling up.  People kept coming in.  Before long, they had run out of materials.  That first day, 103 leaders showed up.  I was blown away.  Pr. George and Jeromy were shocked.  It was clear that God was about to do something amazing.

One of the attendees was an older woman named Pauline.  What Pauline lacks in physical stature she more than makes up for with spunk.  Pauline woke up that morning with two invitations for two different conferences on the same day.  One was a political conference for women and the other was this summit.

When Pauline woke up, she felt that the Lord was clear with her that she was supposed to go to the Orphan Summit.  She called a colleague of hers from a ministry they started that empowers grandmothers caring for their orphaned grandchildren (by the way, Pauline is one of those grandmothers).  They were on their way.  As Pauline sat through the first day of the conference listening to the testimonies of pastors, social workers, and lawyers about the needs of Kenyan orphans and the opportunity to promote adoption among Kenyan families, she was moved.  She later shared that she’d been to prayer meetings, and she’d been to meetings about various causes.  However, never had she seen a group of people praying about solving a societal problem and talking about the real issues at the same event.  At the end of the first day she shared that she was very excited and would be bringing others the next day.

The next day, when I turned around during the worship time, there was Pauline, singing and praising God, this time along with five other women she had recruited.  At lunch she said almost apologetically that she was only able to bring five.  During this second day of the conference, two Christian social workers from Uganda shared about a model they are using which is allowing 60 orphans to live in the homes of 16 different families in one tight-knit community.

At the end of the conference, Pauline stood up and challenged the others in the room to join her on the 14-hour bus ride to Uganda to visit this community and see this work firsthand so that it could be replicated for the children of Kenya.

The organizers of this Summit desired to mobilize many leaders on behalf of Kenya’s 2.5 million orphans and at the end, fifty-five Kenyan leaders agreed to hold Orphan Sunday events in their churches. Not to mention, with all five feet of Pauline on the move, God may have more in store for Kenyan orphans than anyone ever dreamed.

The bottom line is this:  God is moving in Kenya among these leaders and I expect that another great movement is afoot.  Pray with us that Kenyan orphans will find homes in Kenyan families and that God will use these children for His kingdom.

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In James 1:27 the believer is instructed to visit widows and orphans in their distress.

As American Christians, I think many of us have not considered the implications of what distress really means for kids in foster care and many other orphans throughout the world.

Many North American believers have awakened to God’s love for fatherless children. In some circles, unfortunately, and sometimes dangerously, it is even becoming a badge of spirituality to adopt.

Still, God has given thousands of children the joy of a forever family. The growing adoption movement is a visible illustration of God’s plan to overcome sin and brokenness through His adoption of us, made possible by the death and resurrection of His Son, Jesus. As for the Christian families adopting these children, the blessings for both them and their children have been nothing short of a demonstration of the reality of God.

However, what many people have not always understood is the magnitude of pain, hurt, fear, need, affliction, or “distress” as it were, that many children bring with them. When we love these children with special needs or who are coming from dark places, that means that this distress becomes a part of us…our marriages and our families. Some, maybe most, who are adopting have no idea of how to prepare themselves, much less their children and spouses.

This includes not really grasping the level of sacrifice that God is sometimes calling families to in adoption. In Hebrews 11, we all remember the recounting of the victories and miracles that God performed through people of faith, but what we forget are those lives talked about in verses 35 through 38. These are equally lives of faith; believers who endured mockery, scourging, chains, stoning, death by the sword and affliction. They, like those who experienced victory, also gained approval through their faith for something better.

Sometimes adoption is full of victory, miracles and joys unimaginable. But sometimes it brings with it the sufferings, confusion, doubts and struggles that can only be faced through faith and with the power of the Holy Spirit. When families are called to such adoptions, they often need help. The Church should be a place where they can turn and get that help.

There is a crisis brewing and spreading almost as fast as God is mobilizing the Church to serve orphans. The crisis is coming about as a result of the rapid increase in believers who are adopting older, special needs and at-risk children, but are not fully equipped to do so. The crisis is manifesting itself in an increase in the number of families struggling to cope with some of the issues their new children bring to their homes, and in an increase of post-placement risk of disrupted adoptions as well.

Next year, some experts estimate that 60% of all children adopted from China to American families will be special needs kids. In Ukraine, like many other parts of the world, it appears that future adoptions will be skewed greatly to older kids and sibling groups, in addition to those with severe emotional and medical needs. In America, we understand more instinctively that children from foster care are often coming from hard places.

At Hope for Orphans, we believe that God’s solution for meeting this crisis (and the whole orphan crisis for that matter) is THE CHURCH. The Church was designed by God to be that safe community where members of the body serve one another when the wheels come off in life. The Church should be a place where families can be honestly prepared, maybe even helped through self-assessment in advance of entering the process to adopt older, special needs, or at-risk children.

This September 16th and 17th, we will be hosting the Hope for Orphans Institute at the Hope Center in Plano, Texas. The purpose of this two-day conference is to equip orphan ministry leaders, pastors, counselors, social workers and others with biblically-based skills and tools to serve families called to adopt older, special needs and at-risk kids. We will have nationally-renowned experts providing insights to help families and leaders to meet this growing need. This event will be hosted and moderated by Ryan Dobson, who is himself an adult adoptee.

We believe that the Church is the key place that the needs of struggling adoptive families can be met in-depth and in sustainable ways. For social workers and professionals partnering with the Church in serving families in acute need, the principles from this conference will give new power to help make a difference. To learn more about this event and how God can use you to help others in your church and community, go to www.HFOInstitute.org.

 

Paul Pennington is the founder of Hope for Orphans. He and his wife, Robin, have six children. They live in Dallas, Texas.

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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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During this time of year, as we see the excitement and magic in the eyes of our children and grandchildren, if you’re like me, it takes me back to those days of my childhood when Christmas was full of wonderful food, grandparents laughing, speculating about presents and the warmth and comfort of knowing you had a family that loved you. In short, for me growing up and being at my Mam Maw’s house at Christmas meant feeling safe and loved unconditionally.

As we are now the ones charged to help a new generation see and know that a baby came into the world to give us life, we should stop to remember there are millions of children who won’t have such an experience, much less a family, this year.  It’s staggering to think that more than 16 million children under the age of 18 in Africa alone have lost one or both parents to AIDS.

Hope for Orphans believes that the Spirit of the Most High God can mobilize thousands and thousands of churches to touch orphans around the world. We know this because we have seen what He can do through just one church and just one family…one child at a time.

God accomplished a lot of amazing things in 2010 through the ministry of Hope for Orphans. We were able to go near the orphans of Haiti and help almost 25 come home to families after the horror of the January earthquake. We have seen more churches launch orphans ministries. We have seen the seeds of orphan ministry on the college campus come to life and students saved through going near the orphan. Hope for Orphans Kids is bringing vision to children in churches across America. But still it is the stories of specific children that stick with me and show me that God is truly at work.

When Yang Wen Sha was born in China, there was a problem. She could not hear. Soon she was in an orphanage, but through God’s providence, there were Christians at the orphanage caring for her. A few years later, our friends Dr. Andy and Trisha Wells connected with Yang Wen Sha through a Hope for Orphans contact.  Dr. Andy is an ENT, and with his help, Yang Wen Sha was able to receive the specialized hearing aid that she needed.  It was not just a coincidence that Andy and Trisha came into the life of this child.  You see, God had been working on Andy and Trisha’s hearts for some time about adoption, and now they dared to pray and ask, “Could Yang Wen Sha be our daughter?”  They had ears to hear how the Lord wanted to use their lives.

In a story of divine intervention (which perhaps we can share one day through our e-newsletter), the Lord did what only He can do and in July of this year, Yang Wen Sha became Kari Christine Pennington Wells. She now lives in a beautiful home in Augusta, Georgia with the forever family that God chose for her. I sort of think maybe in her little 5-year-old mind that when the Wells welcomed her into their family, she could hear the angels singing in her ears.

Our ministry is about providing the vision, resources and onramps for millions of Christians to step forward to love the fatherless. This month, we have an amazing opportunity to grow our ministry. A donor has agreed to match, dollar for dollar, all gifts to Hope for Orphans received before December 31st. If the Lord leads, please help us help more churches to bring the Hope born in Bethlehem to more orphans in 2011 than ever before.

Happy New Year.

Paul

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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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