Thursday, January 16, 2014

The Journey to Flight

Yesterday morning my middle daughter brought a cup of coffee into my office, nestled into the couch, and said ‘Momma, you’re sad’.  Well, ‘maybe a little’, I replied.  Later in the day, my youngest daughter passed off her favorite hoodie that I ‘borrow’ from her closet way too often and gave it to me.

This week marks the closing of a chapter and the opening of another in the life of our family.  All three of our daughters are moving out of our home and into an apartment together.  My mind is flooded with memories and my heart is conflicted as I ponder all that has encompassed 25 years of parenting.  After all, isn’t this what we have prepared them for?  Two of them have graduated with a college degree and are employed with great jobs, and the third is in her second year of college.  They are all followers of Jesus Christ and are held in the grip of His grace.  What could be more important?  Shouldn’t I be thrilled?

I suppose it’s all of the little things.  Who will notice on those difficult days when their hearts are heavy – that they probably just need a hug, encouraging word, or chocolate brownie?  Who will remind them that are beautifully created on days that they don’t feel pretty?  Who will encourage them to eat vegetables more regularly than donuts?  Who will remind them that they matter and are dearly loved, come what may?  Who will tell them over and over again that God’s promises are true, that the Kingdom of God is at hand and that every day is filled with opportunity to be agents of His grace?  Who will take seriously that their holiness is far more important than their happiness?  Isn’t this what parents are for?

As the Director of Wholistic Care for World Orphans, I spend a lot of time thinking about the needs of children and the significance of belonging that is communicated through family.  As my husband and I have invested in providing for the essential needs of our children (physically, emotionally, spiritually, and mentally), I am confounded by the immense opportunity that the church has to participate in seeing orphaned and vulnerable children cared for in the context of family. 

World Orphans Home Based Care program is a beautiful illustration of how this is being accomplished through the church.  We would love for your church to engage in this great work where churches are partnering together from across the globe, children are being restored, and communities are being transformed by the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

My home is quieter this morning.  I am wearing my new hoodie and I am considering that in all of the years that I have strived to care for and ‘see’ my children, that they are now ‘seeing others', to include their Momma.  Children are truly a heritage from the Lord.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

I recently returned from a Home-based Care training in Ethiopia where 14 churches and over 80 attendees were represented.  It was a deeply impacting week together.  Churches were equipped, hearts were encouraged, and once again, I was undone by the generoisty of impoverished men and women who are already caring for orphans and widows in their communities.  What would I have to offer?

On my return flight home, I sat beside a gentleman who asked the question:  "Why do you do what you do"?  I answered his question, but over the past few days have pondered my response further.

My answer to the question seemed simple in the moment.  "Well, I love others and plead the cause of the orphan because God first loved me and compels my heart to love others."  Upon further consideration of this question, of this I am certain:  children who are fatherless need a father, children who are lost need rescue, and children without a voice, need an advocate.

World orphans is committed to rescuing orphans, strengthening indigenous churches, and impacting communities with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  One of the primary ways that we see this accomplished is through the partnering of churches here with the indigenous church around the world.

Meet Milkessa from Ethiopia.  We visited he and his new family while in country.  My heart was deeply moved by the tender ways that his house father displayed loving affection towards the children within his care during our short visit with him.   Milkessa was rescued about a year ago.  His biological father got drunk, came home and killed his mother with a knife.  He then fled the area and no one knows where he is.  Milkessa was rescued, yet his other 5 brothers and one sister still remain in danger.   A young boy without protection and hope now finds himself within the embrace of a loving father with the provision of spiritual, physical, emotional, and mental care.

It is for the rescue and plight of precious children like Milkessa that my heart is unraveled and then enlarged to do what I do.  This is my fifth international trip with World Orphans in one year and reentry following this trip has proved the most challenging of all.  Christmas decorations are in full swing...Thanksgiving Day is upon us, and indulgence is in the air.  How do I reconcile the suffering and need of this world with the indulgences of this holiday season?  

World Orphans has provided an opportunity in the midst of this season for me and others to participate with the rescue of orphans like Milkessa through hosting a Home for the Holidays party.  Invitations, information, and even recipe ideas are provided.  All that is required is a date on your calendar, an open heart, and an open home.  The invitation is for others who would gather together over a hot cup of cider and hear more about the plight of those orphaned, destitute, and abandoned in this world.

As I contemplate Emmanuel - "God with us" and what I might have to offer the least of these this Christmas season, I am reminded of Jesus' words to His disciples that He is in us and will provide for the rescue of the orphan through us.

"If you love me, you will keep my commandments.  And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.  I will not leave you as orphans but I will come to you."

From one orphan to another,

Until they all have homes.

Monday, November 14, 2011

 World Orphan's Home-based and Holistic Care Training in Ethiopia A ministry; not a program
An impartation of the Holy Spirit; not just another conference

"Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand" Proverbs 19:20-22

Mark Gumm, Phyllis LeBranch, and I traveled to Ethiopia to launch our first Home-based Care Training where 14 churches and over 80 participants were represented.  Our first couple of days were spent making home visits to some who are already being cared for through World Orpahans Home-based Care ministry.  We had the great priviledge of worshiping with Kore Berhane Wongel Baptist Church upon our arrival Sunday morning.  Kore and Repi are actively participating in the Home-based Care ministry and we were encouraged to hear from a couple of ladies who have been caring for orphans in their communities.  Mark took a few minutes to greet, pray, and encourage the church at Kore in the work that they are currently doing in their community.

Monday morning, we spent time visting churches who are presently active in the Home-based Care ministry.  Pictured below is one of the families being helped by the church at Repi.

More visits to those participating in Home-based Care.

Tuesday would begin our first day of training.  We began each day with a heartfelt and precious time of worship and prayer.  Worshiping with the church in Ethiopia was one of my greatest blessings!  Although I couldn't understand many of the words, my heart was deeply moved as we, with one voice, lifted high the name of Christ and exalted Him together.



Mark kicked off our time together teaching a biblical view of orphans and adoption.  He communicated that in order for us to truly understand the care of the orphan, we must first understand that 'we are the orphan'.  A deeper understanding of the character of God, orphans, and adoption compels us to see this ministry as a means of glorifying God, fathering the fatherless, and loving others - not out of duty - but because Christ first loved us and gave Himself up for us.  

We were reminded in Deut. 10:18-19 that God executes justice for the orphan and widow and shows love for the alien by giving him food and clothing; so we are to show our love for the alien, for 'we were aliens' in the land of Egypt.  It is love that compels us to care for orphans and this love must be focused on the Gospel of Christ.  There are many NGO's who provide food and clothing but we believe that there is more to orphan care than just meeting physical needs.   Caring for orphans is an opportunity to share Christ's love, spread the Gospel, and see the brokenhearted and abadoned restored and healed by the power of the Holy Spirit.

The work of orphan care ministry is executed through the church.  God has ordained the church as the light of the Gospel and instrument of love and compassion to the world.  We are involved in ministry because He loves us, not so that He will love us. that the through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places Eph. 3:10

We considered together the emotional and spiritual benefits of making home visits.  Home visits are a platform for ministry to the whole family; spiritually, physically, emotionally, and mentally.

Lunch time together provided times of encouragement and additional processing of the training materials.  Phyllis LeBranch is enjoying time with our new friends.


I had the opportunity to try Ethiopian cuisine for the first time and enjoyed my first taste of injera!  

Our Home-based Care training was shortened from 4 days down to 3 and I wondered how we would accomplish all that we had planned to teach.  One thing about our time in Ethiopia is sure ... It is Christ who qualifies us to be ministers of His grace and we are empowered by the Holy Spirit to care for others because Christ first loved us and gave Himself up for us.
"The plans of the heart belong to man but the answer from the tongue is from the Lord."
Proverbs 16:1

We spent precious time in small groups praying and encouraging one another. The crosses that the attendees are holding are a symbolic reminder that I put together for each of them before leaving as I was praying that their hope and help would always be found in Christ, no matter how difficult their circumstances. Our ability to imitate Christ comes through the power of the Holy Spirit as we depend on Him to equip us to care for the orphan, widow, and poor in our communities.

                                                      Trauma and issues that we face are real.  We were encouraged to engage and embrace the families in our HBC ministry, holistically.  Our goal must be nothing less than healing for the whole person.  The healing that we desire for those within our care will be a process and must be anchored by hope and the object of this hope is Jesus.   What wasn't expected was that we would have several share from the attendees out of their own stories.  It was in and through these testimonies that I believe we turned the corner from becoming 'just another training' with the accomplishing of 'our agenda' to making room for what was most important through the impartation of the Holy Spirit.  I taught about trauma and the loss of my own father as a young girl.  It was in God's mercy, that He would provide spiritual fathers and others who would see my need and 'come to me' in my distress.  It was in these times that there was sharing of tears and the connection of hearts, from one orphan to another.


As the training came to a close, my heart was overwhelmed with love for the people and deep gratitude for the ongoing ministry of the church in Ethiopia through World Orphans Home Based Care ministry.  The leaders closed our time together with gifting each of us with traditional Ethiopian dress and we were so blessed by their love.


Children are being rescued, families are being loved, and the light of the Gospel is being proclaimed to the least of these.  As it always goes with these trips, I came away far more blessed that I could have ever blessed.  Please pray for our dear friends in Ethiopia as they are true imitators of God in their beautiful care for the least of these in their communities.

Mark Gumm is finishing up final visits to additional churches that have been identified to become a part of this ministry.  May children continue to be rescued, God be glorified, the church equiped, and our hearts encouraged with the manifest power of the spirit to partner us together, side by side, for the sake of the Gospel!  

Thursday, October 13, 2011

The Heart of a Mother, the Blessing of Children, the Rescue of Orphans, and the Greatness of my GOD!

Tonight I was reminded of the fragility of quickly things can turn...and how a mother's love knows no bounds. My daughter, Amy, was in a car accident this evening on her way to work. She hydroplaned in the rain and had a head-on collision with another vehicle going around a sharp corner. Her father and I rushed to the site, guided her through the trauma of crunched cars, accident reports, and emotional turmoil. Amy and the other driver are bruisded and shaken, but both walked away without serious injury. Although the cars are probably totaled; the 'total sum' of this evening has been marked by a mother's heart that is filled with gratitude for one more day that I could hold our baby girl in my arms, comfort her in her pain, and remind her once again of the immeasurable blessing that she is to me.

Amy and I at Living Waters

That was tonight... This morning was marked by time spent with a young mother and friend that I visited in the hospital, prayed for, and loved on. She is in preterm labor and longs for the moment that she might be granted the joy of holding her baby in her arms, expressing her love for him, and experiencing the joy of watching him grow up.

As I went about the urgent needs of my day, I was made accutely aware, once again, in my work with World Orphans, of the many children in this world who linger outside of a mothers love, fathers protection, and secure family unit. Who will hold the wounded child in his pain, feed him when he is hungry, and clothe him when he is naked? Who will grant these children who are wandering the streets without hope, the love of a mother and the guidance of a father?

The harsh reality is that an estimated 163,000,000 children worldwide are orphaned. Although this number seems overwhelming, World Orphans provides many ways to become involved in the rescue of abandoned and orphaned chidren. Without assistance, orphans continue in a cycle of poverty, HIV/AIDS, trafficking, prostitution and slavery. By becoming involved in World Orphans, we can help break this cycle and put children back in families.

Today was difficult, yet every day is a reminder that even though all is not well within our world, that there is a God who is about redeeming souls, rescuing orphans, and providing hope through the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

As I fall into bed on this late night, todays events will be a sobering reminder of my deep love for family, friends, children without families, and the greatness of my God to make a way...

Until they all have homes

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

A Night of Hope - 2nd annual Coffee House

A Night of Hope

Last night River Oaks Community Church celebrated their second annual 'Night of Hope' coffee house. Complete with the aroma of freshly brewed coffee and delicious desserts, the body gathered together to see pictures and hear stories about our most recent Church to Church trip to Fountain of Hope in Kenya. This was a tender family night of worship and sharing. We heard from those who went to Nairobi about all that the Lord is doing through the ministries of our church partner. We are blessed to partner with Fountain of Hope as we seek to plead the cause of the orphan, strengthen the local indigenous church, and impact the community side by side for the sake of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

A full house!

Lindsey, a team member, shares about Fountain of Hope's Saturday Feeding Program. Fountain of Hope opens their gates every Saturday to the hungry children living in the surrounding slums.

A father introuduces his daughter to the orphaned children through our team picture.

We talked about the significance of prayer in our partnership.

The purpose of the evening was to rejoice at what God is doing through our Church to Church partnership and deepen the body's commitment in our work with Fountain of Hope.

Revelation 5:9-10
"Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth."