Posts Tagged ‘orphans’

This week, Hope for Orphans’ Executive Director, Paul Pennington, will be delivering one of the keynote addresses at The Baby Conference: A Historic Family Summit on the Triumph of Life over the Culture of Death.

The Baby Conference, sponsored by Vision Forum Ministries, will bring to light issues that are pervasive in today’s pro-choice world.  Is it excessive to have 4 children in today’s world?  Is it right to bring a child into this world without being able to provide a $150,000 college fund?  Are children indeed a blessing from the Lord?  The Bible says, “Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD, the fruit of the womb is a reward” (Psalm 127:3).  The next two verses continue, “As arrows are in the hand of a mighty man; so are children of the youth. Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them: they shall not be ashamed, but they shall speak with the enemies in the gate.”

The Baby Conference is centered on the celebration of life — the life that we are called, as followers of Christ, to enjoy and cherish and honor.  All life is to be valued.  All of us — the orphan, the widow, the stranger – are fearfully and wonderfully made, in the image of God.  This conference will take a hard look at Scripture and will demonstrate, among other things, how adoption and orphan care fit within the church’s responsibility to what God has called us to do.

Join us, along with Doug Phillips and Jim Bob Duggar, on July 8 -10 in San Antonio for this challenging, yet fresh perspective on how we to look at human life biblically, in a post-modern, pro-choice world.

To learn more about the issues and topics that will be discussed, or to register for this event, please click here.


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(The following comes from our June 2010 E-Newsletter. You may subscribe to our bi-monthly e-newsletter by clicking here.)

Some of the very best things in my life have happened as a result of some of the hardest things in my life. There was a day that Robin and I learned that we had lost a baby and the ability to ever have a biological child short of in-vitro fertilization. It was a hard day. It was hard to pray or understand. But little did we know that as this was happening a little girl was soon to be born. This little girl was our daughter Kit whom God brought to us just 6 months later. Not only was she a gift we could not have imagined, but also through her, the Lord led us to more of our children, some born on the other side of the world, and ultimately to this ministry.

In his new book about Ruth, A Sweet and Bitter Providence, Pastor John Piper shares a quote from William Cowper, an 18th century poet and hymn writer:

“Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,
But trust him for his grace;
Behind a frowning providence
He hides a smiling face.”

Joseph experienced this frowning providence when his brothers sold him into slavery. But as you know, God knew this very act would bring about the rescue of those same brothers from famine and His grace would be demonstrated through the centuries like a chain in His word to us in the 21st century.

Every adoption begins in hurt of some kind. Sometimes being the parent of a child through adoption involves a lot of hurt. We all come from a hard place because of the first Adam’s fateful choice in the garden. Thankfully, the second Adam also made a choice in a garden, a choice not to save Himself, a choice made so that we might receive adoption as sons of God through Him.

As we consider with eyes wide open the road of adoption and loving the fatherless, let us remember why Ruth the Moabitess was able to say to Naomi in Ruth 1:16-17 that she would follow her from all that was familiar and safe…how she committed herself to this widow to the point of saying that Naomi’s God would be her God and Naomi’s people her people.

Ruth was grafted into this family and met her kinsman redeemer because as Piper says, “Here we have a picture of…faith in God that sees beyond present bitter setbacks. Freedom from the securities and comforts of the world. Courage to venture into the unknown and the strange. Radical commitment in the relationships appointed by God”. In this case, a relationship that led to line of David and The Messiah.

May those called to adopt, or to love a foster child, or to serve churches overseas in loving orphans be likewise radically committed to the relationships appointed by God for them. May we see the world as the work of God, and that we are privileged and blessed to be invited to join Him in His work. May we see God who sometimes uses frowning providence in bringing about His will, as the very One in whom we will very soon see His smiling face.

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Summertime.  The very word conjures up images of parks and pools, baseball and barbeques.  Summer is a season when we allow ourselves just a bit more laziness…a time in which we seek relaxation, and family vacations.  The fact is, it seems that everyone loves summer.

In the midst of summer, though, we need to pause and think of those who might not welcome summer as robustly we do.  For the orphan, summer doesn’t bring to mind all those thoughts that make it a favorite season for many of us.  No, for many orphans, summer is simply 92 more days to survive the dangers of life, to wait for rescue, to long for love, to hope for a better future.  In the midst of our summertime content, we must remember the orphan’s year-round discontent.  We also need to remember that God has not forgotten the orphan, and that we must remember them too.

In our June E-Newsletter, which came out today, we highlight the story of some schoolchildren in Birmingham, Alabama, who were touched by the orphan crisis in Haiti and decided to do something about it.  They raised nearly $4000 to help bring much needed relief to children suffering in the aftermath of January’s devastating earthquake.

It’s always exciting when we meet others who “get it”.  It’s even more exciting when we see children “get it”.  When we see kids gripped with God’s heart for orphans at a young age, we can only imagine what God will do through them later in life.  Kids loving orphans are infectious and inspiring.

What might God want to do through your children in reaching the least of these?  Dads, would you be willing to set aside a portion of your free time with your kids this summer and look at what God’s word says about orphans, and what His expectations are for us in relation to them?  Moms, would you be willing to take on a project serving orphans with your kids this summer?  Perhaps you could collect shoes for orphans overseas.  Perhaps you could pray for the children in your local foster care system.  Perhaps you could collect money to help offset the cost of adoption for a family in your church.

At Hope for Orphans, our job is to serve the church as it serve orphans.  That includes your children.  We have developed two tools that we hope will better serve you as you seek to educate your children of the mandate from God, and the needs to be met among the tens of millions of orphans in the world.

The first tool is our website for children, which can be found here.  At the website you will learn more about God’s heart, you will find ideas of how your kids can serve orphans, you will read about what other kids have done to address the orphan crisis, and much more.

We have also developed a curriculum for children, called God’s Heart for the Orphan…and Me!.  The curriculum is designed to be used in Sunday school classes, Vacation Bible Schools, or even in your own home with your family.  It is an interactive children’s Bible study that exposes children to God’s passion for orphans and waiting children.  You and your kids will talk about what God wants us to do for orphans, and you will be given the tools to take action and start making a difference in children’s lives right away.

If you have ideas of how you and your children will serve orphans this summer, or perhaps have served together in the past, please share them by commenting below.

Would you consider making this a summer in which your children and family become more closely aligned with God’s heart for orphans?  Imagine what God might do in you and through you if you commit yourselves to just that.

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Danish Fishermen taking Jews to Sweden

On September 28, 1943, in Nazi occupied Denmark, something amazing happened. Orders came from Berlin to arrest all 8,000 Jews living in Denmark and send them to concentration camps in mainland Europe. The plan was to begin on the night of October 1st and to round up every Jewish person in the country within 48 hours. Werner Best (the Nazi leader in Denmark) leaked the plan to a confidant, who told Danish leaders.

What happened next was a demonstration of what happens when good people who believe in the sanctity of human life DO SOMETHING.  Danes did not just do something however; they risked their very lives because their worldview said that human beings have value as made in the image of the living God.

Christians and ordinary people began offering the keys to their homes to Jewish strangers on the street. They hid Jews in attics, churches, country homes and they even hid 1000 in Copenhagen hospitals.  Hans Fuglsang-Damgaard, the Bishop of Copenhagen, issued a defiant ecumenical letter, which was read in almost every church in the nation. After negotiations with Danish leaders such as physicist Niels Bohr, Sweden announced it would accept refugees.

The Germans only found 284 Jews out of 8000. Within weeks, Danes smuggled almost 95% of all the Danish Jews to safety in Sweden.

Six years ago, 38 leaders gathered in Little Rock, as those who treasure the value and sanctity of life, to deal with a similar emergency. They met to ask the question, “How can the Church be the hands and feet of Christ to orphans, most of whom are threatened by evil forces far greater than perhaps than even the Jews of Denmark?”

This week, over 1000 people will gather in Minneapolis for Summit VI, to consider how God might use them as The Body to lay their churches, organizations and lives on the line for perhaps the largest unreached people group in the world. Because of the magnitude and reach of The Church (through the Local Church), the potential for rescue and hope is staggering. The opportunities for the Gospel and the Glory of God revealed in orphan ministry are breathtaking.  But unless we understand that Faith without Action is not living faith, we will have missed the opportunity. If you are coming to Summit VI….pray for the filling of the Spirit that you will learn God’s invitation for you in this emergency to join Him and step forward just like the Christians of Denmark in 1943.  For those not attending Summit IV, won’t you take time to ask God how He wants to use you to reach and serve the least of these among us?

One of my favorite parts of the Danish Solution story, is how on the night before the round up, Lutheran ministers, knowing the greatest treasures of the Rabbis were their Torahs, came to them and offered help. Rabbis and Followers of Christ, their arms full of Torahs, walked in the middle of the night through the dark streets of Copenhagen and hid those scriptures in the alters of Lutheran Churches. These Christians, who put their lives and money where their mouths were, then led these men and their families to safe places.

Grace is usually not convenient but when we lose ourselves in loving those who have nothing to give us in return, we experience the reality of Yeshua Mashiah…Jesus the Messiah.

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[NOTE:  This post was originally written by Paul and Robin Pennington for the Hope for Orphans April 2010 E-Newsletter, which can be found here.]

By now you no doubt have heard about the Russian 8-year-old adoptee sent by his American adoptive mom….alone…back to Russia with a note. The repercussions of this decision on hundreds of Russian children waiting for families are devastating to be sure. What many don’t know is that failed adoptions, or disruptions as they are called, are on the rise and Christians are not immune even if it does not reach such a dramatic level. In fact, Christian families are in some ways more at risk.

Little noticed in the story of the Russian child is that his master-degreed, medical professional mom chose to pursue a “special needs” child because she wanted to get a child more quickly. It also appears that despite the routine communications of her agency post placement, she did not have an effective post adoptive support system.

This story teaches us about two very important trends in the North American adoption and orphan ministry movement.  One trend (though a very small percentage of the total number of adoptions) is negative and dangerous, the other positive and encouraging.

In an ever-increasing consumerist American church there is emerging a troubling trend — families who see adoption as a new badge of spirituality. At Hope for Orphans, we stress that those considering adoption should carefully examine their motivations before they ever begin the adoption process.

Common red flags we see are: pursuing adoption as a mission, wanting to please God as a result of sins of the past, desiring a sister or brother for a biological child, or thinking it will help a struggling marriage. Orphaned children do not want or need to be a mission, an act of atonement, a companion strategy or a marriage enhancer….no, they want and need what every child wants and needs…..a mom and dad that loves them unconditionally. Motives that are not geared towards the “unconditional” love of a child, but rather focused more on meeting a need in the parent(s) are dangerous.

It is a sign of a more “me-centered” Christianity that leads to adopting special needs children as a means of getting into the “express lane”. This sort of thinking, which minimizes or dismisses the true needs of hurt children and doesn’t take the time to count the costs, has led to an 8-year-old who sits today confused in a Russian hospital.

On the other hand, more and more there is a wonderful trend and work of God that is the counter to this very sad case. Lay leaders led by the Holy Spirit are launching orphan ministries in their local churches. Many of these new ministries are creating adoption support groups. Typically, adoptive families blessed with years of experience, come alongside new adoptive families, as mentors, coaches, crisis responders, prayer warriors and respite caregivers. This is what the Bible calls “body life”. The Scripture tells us in 1 Corinthians 12: “so that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it. Now you are Christ’s body, and individually members of it.”

Remember that God wants to use you as an instrument of grace in the lives of your body of believers. He also wants to use that body to help you when the wheels of your life come off. Does your church have a support group for families adopting special needs children? Does your church have an orphans ministry at all? Pastor Chuck Swindoll says: “The test of our morality and theology is passed or failed by our response to the weakest and most helpless among us”. May God use you and your church as a demonstration of pure religion that is pleasing to Him.

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The last twelve months, not unlike the twelve months prior…or the twelve months prior to that, have produced a slew of tragedies.  In just the first 4+ months of 2010 there have been earthquakes in Haiti, Chile, Indonesia, Turkey, California, Spain & China – with an estimated 230,000 lost lives from these quakes.  2010 has brought avalanches in northwestern Pakistan, flooding & mudslides in Portugal & in Rio de Janeiro, & landslides in eastern Uganda.  There have been multiple plane crashes – the two with the most casualties include a Polish military jet going down and killing 96 on board & an Ethiopian flight crashing and killing 90.  If statistics are playing out as they have in previous years (and they are), then in the first quarter of 2010 over 2.25 million children will have died of preventable disease before their fifth birthday – half of them in Africa alone.  Within 24 hours of this blog post another 24,000 will have perished.

But there is another tragedy occurring – and it’s happening as you read this post right now. And it’s happening to me as I write this post.  It is the tragedy of being less and less moved by the loss of life, the destruction & the carnage described in the first paragraph. It is the reality that our hearts are burdened enough by the suffering in our own lives and most of us don’t have the capacity, the desire, or the will to allow ourselves to enter into the suffering of those outside our immediate context on a day after day basis.  We are saturated with the suffering of others as day after day images of tragedies flash across our TVs, our computer monitors & our iPhones.  Day after day we hear of tragedy.  Day after day we read of devastation, loss & sorrow…parents losing children… children losing parents.  Whole families wiped out.  Entire villages reduced to rubble.  The reality is that our hearts are frail and we simply grow weary of the information and grow calloused to the suffering.

We’ve even come up with a term for this reduction in compassion – it’s called “compassion fatigue.”  A simple Google search for “compassion fatigue” produces 163,000 results.  Our friends over at Wikipedia sum it up:

“Compassion fatigue, also known as a Secondary Traumatic Stress Disorder, is a term that refers to a gradual lessening of compassion over time. It is common among victims of trauma and individuals that work directly with victims of trauma. It was first diagnosed in nurses in the 1950s. Sufferers can exhibit several symptoms including hopelessness, a decrease in experiences of pleasure, constant stress and anxiety, and a pervasive negative attitude. This can have detrimental effects on individuals, both professionally and personally, including a decrease in productivity, the inability to focus, and the development of new feelings of incompetency and self doubt.

“Journalism analysts argue that the media has caused widespread compassion fatigue in society by saturating newspapers and news shows with decontextualized images and stories of suffering. This has caused the public to become cynical, or become resistant to helping people who are suffering. Journalism analysts cite research which shows that visual images affect brain activity in demonstrable and measurable ways.”

As I’ve been noodling on this whole compassion fatigue concept, my mind took me to the question, “Does God experience compassion fatigue?”  I mean, does He become overwhelmed by the suffering?  Does His heart grow weary of the pain and loss?  Is it possible that He would check out…unable to handle what He sees on a day in and day out basis?

If you’ve spent much time in my personal blog, then you’ll know that my gut response to this question is no, of course not. His capacity to experience compassion is unending.  However, I wanted to go back to Scripture to verify that my gut response was indeed backed up by God’s word.  The Old Testament is full of passages that speak to God’s compassion (Ex. 34:6-7; Deut. 4:30-31; 2 Chronicles 30:8-9, Nehemiah 9, Lamentations 3:19-26, Jonah 4:2ff to name a few).  And when we get into the New Testament and see Jesus, who “is the image of the invisible God”, we get to see God, in physical form, live a life void of compassion fatigue.  Two (of the many) passages that most encouraged my heart were Matthew 20 & Luke 7.

  • Matthew 20:29-34: Jesus is leaving Jericho.  He has just told His twelve disciples that they are headed to Jerusalem and this thing they are a part of is moving towards a murder – His murder.  It is crowded.  It is noisy.  There is chaos just being near this man.  And in the throng of people sit two unnamed men – both blind.  Though they cannot see Him with their eyes, they can see with their hearts that this man is something special.  And so they cry out at the tops of their lungs – a loud and annoying yell – “Have mercy on us!  Have mercy on us!”  The crowd tells them to shut up.  But Jesus stopped.  Is He busy? Yes.  Is He overloaded with requests?  Yes.  Are there crowds of sick people that need His attention?  Yes.  Is He aware that His body is about to be ripped to shreds by a whip?  Yes.  Is He cognizant of the fact that, in a very short time, nails will be driven through His hands & feet?  Yes.  And yet, He stopped.  No compassion fatigue – just compassion.  And two men receive their sight.
  • Luke 7:12-15: Jesus is approaching the city of Nain & comes along a funeral procession.  In the coffin is a young man – the only son of a widow.  This woman has lost everything – no husband to protect her…no son to provide for her.  She is alone.  But in God’s sovereignty, her aloneness is about to be interrupted.  Jesus sees this woman through the crowds – both the crowd following Him and the crowd following the coffin.  He sees the coffin. He sees the pain. He sees the loss.  No compassion fatigue – just compassion.  And with a touch to the coffin and a single sentence uttered there is life restored where there was death.

If you want to see how God responds to suffering, you need not look beyond Jesus.  If you need proof that God does not experience compassion fatigue, then spend some time in the gospels and remember that you and I are the blind men on the side of the road.  We are the widow who has lost everything.  And yet, God, full of compassion, has moved on our behalf.  “God demonstrates His own love for us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).

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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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