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June 2010 Enewsletter
NOTE FROM PAUL PENNINGTON
Executive Director, Hope for Orphans
Behind A Frowning Providence
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.
|In this issue:
New Post-Adopt Material Fills Long Dark Void
By Jason Weber
One of the questions I have made it a habit of asking orphans ministry champions in the church over the past several years is “What is something you need that hasn’t been created yet?”
If you have been involved in adoption for longer than two weeks, it will come as no surprise to you that the most common answer to that question goes something like this: “We really need a post-adoption resource written from a biblical perspective.”
For a long time, the best we’ve been able to do is to try to find resources that are not expressly biblical but that at least don’t necessarily propose solutions that are contrary to a biblical worldview. Needless to say, that list is short.
However, there is good news. Dr. Karyn Purvis, national expert and author of The Connected Child, has teamed up with Michael and Amy Monroe, church orphans ministry leaders of Irving Bible Church, to produce a brand new resource entitled Created to Connect: A Christian’s Guide to The Connected Child. I have spent many hours over the past several weeks combing through this material and am thrilled to report what an important resource this is.
Every chapter of The Connected Child has a counterpart chapter in this study guide. While not expressly a “Bible Study,” the authors have done an excellent job of recapturing the essence of each chapter of the book and then exploring its principles through the lens of a biblical worldview. One of the hardest things to accomplish in a discussion-based resource is to ask good questions. However, Dr. Purvis and the Monroes have done it well.
If you are part of an adoptive family support group, this material is a must. If your church does not have an adoptive family support group, having this material in hand should give you the confidence to start one. Speaking of having this material in hand, the authors have made it exceedingly easy to do so. It is free. You can download the entire guide from the internet as many times as you want and it costs you nothing. A print version will also be available by August, but in the meantime you can download it by clicking here.
Created to Connect is a response to the longing of many Christian adoption advocates over the past several years. Dr. Purvis and the Monroes have stepped into a gaping hole in the landscape of Christian adoption resources and have done it well.
Twin Cities Summit VI a Huge Success
The Christian Alliance for Orphans’ Sixth Annual Summit was held in Minneapolis on April 29-30. Over 1200 believers gathered for the two-day event, representing church orphans ministries, adoption agencies, orphan care organizations, advocacy groups, foster agencies, and more. We gathered to explore how we might work together to better obey His command to care for the least of these.
After the Summit, we contacted several local church orphans ministry champions and asked them to tell us a little more about their experience at Summit VI. Here's what they had to say:
Ginger Cook, First Baptist Church -- Powell, TN This was Ginger's first Summit and her favorite breakout session was Implementing a Balanced Orphan Care and Adoption Ministry in your Church, presented by Johnny Carr of Bethany Christian Services. She said that she appreciated when Johnny said, “Setting up an atmosphere for God to work in people’s hearts is key.”
Heather Bench, Salem Church of God -- Clayton, OH Heather's favorite breakout was Now What? Helping Children Age Out of Foster Care, which was led by Doug Sauder of 4KIDS of South Florida. She said that the breakout was “extremely informative, encouraging and timely” in that her church’s ministry, New Family Tree Orphan Outreach, is just beginning to develop a new branch of ministry in the area of emancipating youth. She added, “Every breakout we attended was extremely good! We are still processing and making notes on what we learned.”
Ashlee Harry, Calvary Chapel -- Thousand Oaks, CA
Ashlee, who was attending her first Summit, said that on a “personal and family level, hearing Dr. Karyn Purvis was a highlight. One of the most critical aspects of hearing her wisdom was to gain greater understanding of how we, as parents of children who were institutionalized, can be agents of healing for our children. Being among others who have had similar experiences with their children was so refreshing.” She added, that on a ministry level, she “really appreciated the presentation by John Singletary from Baylor (Understanding Childhood Development of Overseas Orphans). His overview of the core needs of children - namely a relational foundation - was excellent. We can feed them, clothe them, and house them, but all of that void of primary trusted relationships is insufficient. God's children who have experienced trauma need healing through relational foundations that are culturally rooted and relevant in order to truly begin to thrive. Maybe this was obvious all along, but his presentation was a powerful reminder.”
Sarah Hock, Community Presbyterian Church -- Ventura, CA
Sarah said that she found Human Trafficking and Orphans, presented by Tom Davis of Children’s HopeChest, and Understanding HIV/AIDS and the Orphan, presented by Susan Hillis of the Centers for Disease Control, to be especially informative, saying, “The speakers offered very current information from work being done on the ground with orphans who are being affected by both of these larger global issues.I feel it is important for orphan advocates to be well versed in how orphans are affected by the larger issues plaguing our world today - whether it be exploitation or disease. Having very current data from experts in the field and real stories of how orphaned children are being affected by these issues provides me with impactful resources to be an even more persuasive and credible advocate for orphans.”
Scott Bowen, North Point Community Church -- Alpharetta, GA
Scott had a number of favorite breakouts, “but the one that had the most impact on me was the intentional prayer time we had for sub-Saharan Africa. To spend 45 minutes in intentional prayer for this region and the people was very powerful. Another breakout session I enjoyed was the session that had the 4 pastors from different countries and regions around the world (Wisdom for Partnering with Indigenous Churches). It was very interesting to hear their thoughts on global orphan care and how we as Americans can assist in what they are doing rather than hinder them.”
Camie Schuiteman, Twin City Bible Church -- Marion, IN
Camie had a hard time naming just one breakout session that stood out above the rest. “The entire conference encouraged and inspired me!” she said.
Churches go to their Knees on Behalf of our Nation’s Foster Children
The third week in May marked the third annual National Foster Care Prayer Vigil, which was again observed by followers of Jesus in over two hundred individual prayer vigils in forty-seven states.
It was exciting to once again see how different churches implemented their Prayer Vigils in different ways. From Calvary Church in St. Peters, MO, which had each of its 25-30 Growth Groups praying for the children in foster care (and the adults who touch their lives), to Stonehouse Presbyterian Church in Williamsburg, VA, which had 8 different gatherings throughout the week, including women’s groups and a time when the staff prayed before church one Sunday, the whole week was filled with gatherings small and large of God’s people speaking up for those who cannot speak for themselves.
Our church, Grace Brethren Church in Long Beach, CA, set aside a time of prayer after the first hour on Sunday. About a dozen of us came before the Lord for a time of intense prayer on these kids’ behalf. Down the hallway from us, our junior high ministry was praying at the beginning of their time together as well.
The folks from the Gold Coast Orphan Alliance in Ventura, CA, held a picnic and family day in a city park. After eating, people broke up into small groups to pray.
Olive Crest, a local foster agency, opened its conference rooms to the public, inviting others to pray and have lunch together.
At Timberline Church in Fort Collins, CO, the Prayer Vigil was combined with a time that people could meet and talk to staff members from the county foster care system.
Also in Colorado, our friend Katie Porter of Focus on the Family prayed with others as part of a Bible Study she is involved with in Colorado Springs.
The 7th and 8th grade girls’ Life Group from Northcliffe Baptist Church in Spring Hill, FL, prayed together one Sunday morning.
At Willow Creek Community Church in South Barrington, IL, a pizza dinner was held, followed by a time of prayer. In addition, organizers of that Prayer Vigil arranged to have the Illinois Heart Gallery on hand so that people could pray for individual children by name.
Also in Illinois, in Kankakee, a foster care prayer breakfast was held at Kankakee First Church of the Nazarene.
The folks at Oxford Advent Christian Church in Oxford, ME, held a 24-hour Prayer Vigil, with people signing up for 1-hour shifts.
Mount Oak Fellowship in Mitchellville, MD hosted a 12-hour Prayer Vigil in the sanctuary, allowing people to come in throughout the day.
The folks from the Orphan Ministry Alliance, West Michigan, held a 16-hour Prayer Vigil and enabled people to sign up for time slots on Facebook.
Christ Presbyterian Church in Oxford, MS, gave the Prayer Vigil special mention during the prayer times in their morning and evening worship services, and included the Prayer Guide in their bulletins for their morning service. Families were asked to pray throughout the week.
Cross of Hope Lutheran Church in Albuquerque, NM, had one hour of praying together at the church, with 24 hours of continual prayer individually as designated on their prayer wheel.
Redeemer Church of Newcastle, OK, made the Prayer Vigil part of their regular church service on Sunday morning, as did East Pickens Baptist Church in Pickens, SC.
The folks from the Adoption Ministry at Lake Pointe Church in Rockwall, TX, prayed together as a ministry all week. They also designated each family in their ministry to pray for a specific child or sibling group in the North Texas Heart Gallery that week.
The Men’s Group and Women’s Group at Cool Spring Baptist Church in Mechanicsville, VA, both took time to pray.
As exciting as it was to read about the various ways people implemented the prayer vigils in their homes, churches, and more, it is even more exciting to hear what God does. A couple of weeks after this year’s prayer vigil was over, we received the following praise report from Cheryl Nicolay of New Beginnings Christian Center in Dinuba, CA, about last year’s prayer vigil:
Just wanted you to hear this praise report. Last year we had 3 foster girls ages - 11, 9, 5 living with us. I asked them what would they like us to pray for at the prayer vigil. They want to be adopted by a family that would want not only take all three of them but also their three brothers who were 7, 3, and 1 years old. Someone wanting six kids - for man impossible, for God possible!!!
The week of the prayer vigil a pastor's wife felt that God was calling her to adopt more children. She had one of her own, and two adopted from Kenya. She came across the listing of our youngest girl and her three brothers. (The two older girls have different fathers). The week of the prayer vigil!!! They drove 8 hours to come to Visalia, CA to meet the 4 who the judge had said to put up for adoption without the two older ones. But something (or Someone!!) told her to ask if there were any other siblings. They were told about the two older ones.
One year later - all ten kids are together, being homeschooled, living on a farm. Happier than they have ever been. My God answers prayers!!!
This year we had over 45 people praying!!! And we are opening Dawnings Crisis Pregnancy Center to help moms & dads keep their babies by providing them with parent classes and life skill class.
We were so grateful to hear from Cheryl and to see what God did as His people prayed. We look forward to hearing more stories of God’s faithfulness in answering our prayers on behalf the children in foster care. We encourage you to please share any praises you have, and we also encourage you to remember to pray for these children for not just one week in May, but throughout the year as well. For more information on how to hold a prayer vigil for children in foster care, please click here. For a guide on how to pray for children in foster care, as well as the adults who influence them, please click here.
Local Church Orphan Ministry Spotlight: Flatirons Community Church (CO)
By Johnston Moore
God’s word says that He uses all things together for good for those who are called according to His purpose. For Tony Harbour, it was the death of his father at age 12, and his adoption of two children from China, that helped lead him and his wife Stacee to their current church home and ultimately to the launch of an adoption ministry there.
When they found themselves looking for a new church home about four years ago, the teachings from the pastors at Flatirons Community Church in Lafayette (near Denver) really resonated with them. “Each week they made the Bible and God’s teachings relevant to my life today and not merely history lessons of events that happened some 2,000 years ago,” said Tony. “Many of their messages focused on caring for the widows and orphans. Having lost my dad to cancer when I was 12 and adopting two children from China, reaching out to both orphans and widows really hit home with me.”
Having landed at Flatirons, Tony and Stacee felt God was leading them to start an adoption ministry. They went to church leadership and got the support they felt they needed, and the long, slow process to start the ministry began. The process was frustrating at times, but whenever they got discouraged, God sent more people to join the team. “While God was speaking to Stacee and me, he was also calling other great folks in our church,” said Tony. “People like Sheryl Driscoll, Joe and Stacey Fair, Lee and Amy Kendall, and Jake and Rebecca Mutz. Each time I thought the adoption support ministry was dead and was ready to give up God would bring another one of these wonderful people to the table saying that God was also speaking to them and that we could make this happen.”
Jake was familiar with Hope for Orphans (he is the son-in-law of FamilyLife founders Dennis and Barbara Rainey) and suggested the core team go through Launching an Orphans Ministry in Your Church together. “The book was an excellent guide and really helped us focus on what we thought was best for our ministry and church. It facilitated many great discussions and ideas,” said Tony.
Things began to come together when in December 2009, the pastors “presented a series entitled, ‘Just Christmas’, which talked about how in spite of our many reasons and excuses, God can use anyone and everyone to make a difference,” explained Tony. “They talked about how there has to be more to life than trying to stay safe until we die and that are hurting and helpless people everywhere that need hope, lost and broken people that need to be rescued. In the end, who needs rescuing more than an orphan?”
The ministry was named Village. During the sermon series, a call was made to support orphans. Village had a booth in the church lobby. “Over 350 people fill out cards saying that they wanted to support in some way the millions of displaced children in this world,” said Tony.
Village has been active as a ministry for several months now. It acts as a resource and support center for people considering, in the process of, or having completed, the adoption and/or foster care process. In addition, Village has facilitated several events over the past few months, including a panel discussion where over 125 people were able to hear from adoptive parents and experts, a Project 1.27 orientation in the church lobby attended by more than 100, a meeting during which 6 adoptees where able to share their experiences, and an all-day seminar on a Saturday using Hope for Orphans’ If You Were Mine DVD Adoption Workshop, attended by 35-40 people.
The summer plans include a picnic on June 27th for anyone interested in discussing adoption, and in the fall they will host a time for people to learn from an expert about attachment issues.
“It’s been a lot of work,” said Tony, “but very exiting to see how God has blessed this ministry. We have a great team and everyone has contributed in so many amazing ways. Although starting Village took much longer than I had hoped, it’s so much better then I ever imagined.”
For more information about Village, please click here.
International Adoption Updates
In light of the ever-changing world of international adoption, we want to highlight some of the recent changes and issues related to adoption in six countries in particular: Ethiopia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Nepal, Russia and Swaziland.
The U.S. State Department issued a Notice on April 13, 2010, that The Federal First Instance Court of Ethiopia has issued an announcement that as of May 9, 2010, adoptive parents must now be present at the federal court hearing in order for the adoption to be approved. That means two trips must now be made instead of just one as before. This new ruling affects all pending and new adoption cases. For the complete statement, please click here.
The U.S. State Department issued an Alert on May 21, 2010 stating that on May 17th, the Kazakhstan Government has instructed its Embassy and Consulate General not to accept any new intercountry adoption dossiers until Kazakhstan becomes compliant with the Hague Adoption Convention, which it hopes to be by September 2010. For more information, please click here.
The U.S. State Department issued an Alert on April 28, 2010 discussing the ongoing investigations of corruption and fraud which caused the Kyrgyz government to stop processing all inter-country adoptions in October 2008, including at least 65 adoptions by American families that were already in process when the halt was announced. Recently, the Kyrgyz Parliament passed a bill that, if signed by the president, will affect international adoptions, though its actual impact is unclear. For more information, please click here.
The U.S. State Department issued an Alert on May 26, 2010, strongly discouraging prospective adoptive parents from pursuing adoption of Nepalese children due to what it calls “grave concerns” about the adoption system in Nepal. It even goes so far as to encourage families that are already in the process (but who have not yet been matched with a child) to consider pursuing adoption from a different country instead. For more information, please click here.
The U.S. State Department issued a notice on June 18, 2010, announcing that an American interagency team had been involved in meetings in Washington, DC in mid-June for a third round of meetings an adoption agreement. The discussions were reported to be productive and positive, with the hopes that inter-country adoptions between Russia and the United States will continue in the future with proper safeguards in place. For more information, please click here.
The U.S. State Department issued an Alert on March 1, 2010 stating that the government of Swaziland had informed the U.S. embassy in February that it is reviewing its adoption procedures and will cease processing inter-country adoptions until the review is completed. Cases that were already with the High Court at that time will be allowed to continue. For more information, please click here.
Children Help Bring Hope to Haitian Orphans
By Johnston Moore
One of the most exciting things we see as we partner with God and His church in bringing hope and love to orphans, is when children truly “get it.” For a group of children in Birmingham, Alabama, the recent crisis in Haiti offered them an opportunity to put into action what they already knew.
These second and third graders at Oak Park Elementary School were part of a program called Character in Service, which teaches them that their character changes them, their homes, their schools, their communities, and their world. The program, which is an initiative of Birmingham-based Make Way Partners, encourages kids to do service projects in their communities. Through these acts of service, they are able to earn merit points. Corporate sponsors then donate money based on the number of merit points earned by the students. The money goes toward helping Sudanese orphans.
Toward the end of the two-week program, after the children had performed nearly 1000 meritorious acts, the earthquake struck in Haiti. Hearing the news of the devastation, and the tens of thousands of orphaned children, the children decided they wanted to help in Haiti as well.
They went back to their homes and communities and raised $3892. They asked Make Way Partners to get the money into the hands of an organization working with orphans in Haiti. Make Way Partners knew of Hope for Orphans’ work there, and donated the money to the cause.
Make Way Partners’ Fred Blackwell praised the students’ initiative, saying, “It demonstrates to me that no effort is too small…and the collective synergy of a lot of small individual efforts made a big difference.”
Hope for Orphans joins Make Way Partners in thanking God for these children’s efforts on behalf of the least of these in Haiti.