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Posts Tagged ‘orphan’

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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…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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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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NOTE FROM PAUL PENNINGTON
Executive Director and Co-Founder, Hope for Orphans

When the World Throws Rotten Tomatoes …..Which Side Will You Be On?

“But so that it will not spread any further among the people, let us warn them to speak no longer to any man in this name.”

And when they had summoned them, they commanded them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus.  But Peter and John answered and said to them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to give heed to you rather than to God, you be the judge; for we cannot stop speaking about what we have seen and heard.” ACTS 4:17-20

Over 30 years ago, Robin and I heard an older man speak in Houston who said much the same.  In Swiss mountain attire and with a stylish goatee, we heard him say these words: “If there are no absolutes by which to judge society…..then society will become absolute”. Of course that prophet was Dr. Francis Schaeffer. Now, as we live in a post-Christian 2010 America in which zealous religious secular humanists spread their gospel through almost every means possible, we see the vision of what Dr. Schaeffer warned us about. In Barbara Rainey’s soon to be released devotional book, Growing Together In Courage, she says this:

“To be countercultural means to go against the flow. It means that you will do what is right and true no matter what others are doing, even if you are the only one. You recognize that just because something is the popular thing to do does not necessarily mean that it is the right thing to do.”

“Courage goes against the flow. It is countercultural.”

In March of 1861, in Austin, Texas, there was a large meeting, a convention no less, to decide whether Texas would secede from the Union and its leaders swear an oath to the Confederacy. The Governor of Texas, Sam Houston, was a man almost bigger than life. In fact, he is the only man in American history to be the governor of two different states. He lived much of his early life with Native Americans. His father was a close friend of President Andrew Jackson. He was a Senator, a General; he was the George Washington of Texas independence as both Commander of the Texas armies during the war with Mexico and then as the first President of the Republic of Texas.  Few men in Texas stood as tall as Sam Houston.

But in the days leading up to March of 1861, Governor Houston campaigned against secession. He thought it was unimaginable that Texas would leave the Union. This was not a popular position. It was, by all means, countercultural. But of course, he stood for what was right….

As the votes were counted, it was easy to see that it was to be the Confederacy. Not far from the capitol was the Governor’s mansion where Houston and his family waited for the inevitable results. Crowds stood outside the mansion waiting to see if Houston would pledge his allegiance to the Confederacy. Instead, in dramatic fashion, he addressed the crowd from his balcony and stated that he would not and that instead, effective immediately, he would resign as Governor.

In fairly short order, Houston’s family loaded their wagons to leave Austin for their home in Huntsville. This man who had led the armies of Texas to victory and freedom, road out of Austin with his family through streets of angry people screaming insults, and in some parts bombarding his family with rotten tomatoes.  “Courage goes against the flow.”

This story has always fascinated me because this man’s conviction was put to action when the response was sure to be painful. Peter and Paul lived this life. They understood that there are two different kingdoms in conflict. Each of us, with our actions, serves one or the other.

Another large meeting will be held in Austin, Texas this October, when our friends at Together for Adoption hold its 2010 National Conference.  We at Hope for Orphans are privileged to be a partner in this event. This meeting will not be about secession, but instead, it will be about the sanctity of human life. In particular, it will be about the love of God for orphans. Though much of the church has lost interest in orphans in the last 100 years, there is a movement of God in which thousands are standing up for that which concerns the heart of God.  The world continues to devalue, traffic, commercially exploit and suppress even the conception of children. The Bible sees children very differently than today’s world, saying that each child is valuable and made in the image of God, and we should as well.

Children who have no family should compel us even more to understand how we and our churches can be used by God. At Together for Adoption’s conference on October 1-2, you will be taught by some of the most knowledgeable leaders in the country how you and your church can be used in the lives of orphans. Even if those in your own church don’t understand orphan ministry….and even if they toss a few rotten tomatoes around…..will you come to Austin and stand for the pure worship that is found in loving and caring for orphans?

If you are able, please join us in Austin as we gather to grow and be inspired by those whom God is using in the Orphan Ministry movement. Join us in taking a countercultural stand by saying that all children have value because they are made in the image of God.

Blessings,

Paul

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Last fall, we were part of a life group through our church that looked at God’s heart for orphans, and His desire for His people to care for them through adoption, foster care, and orphan care.

One Sunday afternoon, we invited three adult adoptees from our church to come and share a little about their experiences growing up.  As we listened, it was fascinating to me to see to the contrast, especially between the two young women who shared.  Both women were adopted as babies.  One had a family that seldom talked about adoption.   One had a family that talked about and celebrated adoption.

One of the young women was in three homes by the time she was seven months old.  Her family didn’t discuss adoption very much while she was growing up.  She said it is hard to explain, but she still struggles in some ways as a result of being in three homes and she has a hard time talking about her experience growing up as a child who had been adopted.  She is pro-adoption, but it just isn’t something that she talks about easily.  Interestingly, her job now entails counseling kids in foster care.

The other young woman was placed for adoption at birth.  Her family talked about adoption all of the time and were very positive about it.  She is, in turn, very positive and open and comfortable talking about her experiences.  After working several years as a child abuse investigator for L.A. County DCFS, she is now working for an adoption law firm, counseling birth parents and working with adoptive parents through the birth and placement of the children.

The contrast made me think of my own family and the way we talk about adoption.  With six children, all of whom came to us through foster adoption, and five of whom were already adopted , we want to make sure our children view adoption in as positive a light as possible.  We don’t want them to ever feel like adoption is something to be ashamed of or something to hide.  Because of this, we shout it from the rooftops.  We make it a point to talk to people about the joys and blessings of adoption wherever we go, and we make it a point to do so in front of our kids.

I’m sure there are some that would disagree with our approach, but if we see adoption for what it really is…part of God’s redemptive plan to bring restoration to His creation as He places hurting and lonely children into families, then how can we be anything but positive about it?  How can we not tell everyone we see?  It’s a glorious thing God does when He places a child into a home and gives that child a mom and a dad to love and care for them.

Last night we repeated a ritual that we’ve been doing for years.  We celebrated the fourth anniversary of the date our daughter Aruna moved into our home.  My mom made Aruna a three-layer coconut cake.  We all went around the room and named things we appreciate about her.  We told her “Happy Anniversary” repeatedly throughout the day.  In our family, we celebrate our children’s homecoming days as much as we celebrate the anniversaries of their adoptions.  I think it has something to do with the way we view Psalm 68:4-6, which says: Sing to God, sing praise to his name, extol him who rides on the clouds — his name is the LORD— and rejoice before him.  A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling.  God sets the lonely in families, he leads forth the prisoners with singing; but the rebellious live in a sun-scorched land.

The psalmist is singing to God and praising Him, declaring Him to be Father to the fatherless.  And then, he tells of God’s great works, with the first example being how God sets the lonely in families.  If the psalmist is praising God for setting the lonely in families, should we not praise Him for placing our children in our home?  Of course we should…to do otherwise would be to discredit God’s plan for our children, our family, and His creation.

Celebrate your children’s adoptions…celebrate adoption for what it really is.  Praise God for placing your children in your home.  And while you’re at it, shout it from the rooftops.  Your children are watching.

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