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Just a few miles outside of Kigali, the capital city of Rwanda, is a humble community of low-income residents who work very hard to make ends meet. This community may not be in the slums, but here things such as motorized transportation and electricity are considered luxuries. Those living here labor to ensure that they have the basic necessities for life - daily meals, clothing, and shelter. The humble homes in this hillside community are spaced at random along the dirt roads - small rectangle residences that consist of concrete walls and floors, shielded by a tin roof. Many children living in this community are able to go to school, but this too is a luxury in Rwanda. For those families who live with the additional challenge of raising a child with severe disabilities, the specialized schooling and specialized medical attention required can feel dauntingly beyond any financial capabilities that these families can afford.

Living in this community is a young couple raising five children. Two of their grade school aged children are twins. One twin attends the local primary school, but the other twin is not able to because she was born with a spinal cord disability that prohibits her from being able to walk. As is the case with many high-risk twin pregnancies, one twin will often be more dominant while the other will struggle to grow and survive. Such was the case with this young mother’s pregnancy, and although both her twins survived her emergency C-section, one of her daughters was confined to an incubator for many months after her birth due to hindered in-utero development, coupled with complications at birth.

This young family has faced difficult challenges, but they beam with hope as they have built their family on the firm foundation of Jesus Christ. Their faith is strong, they look forward to their eternal inheritance in heaven, but their daily struggle of raising a disabled daughter is burdensome. A recent PEACE trip team was invited into this young couple’s home to hear their story firsthand. These hopeful parents expressed their dream of being able to one day see their daughter healed, able to walk, and able to work. The PEACE team, consisting of eight Saddleback men, had the privilege of laying hands on this couple and prayed for their daughters healing and future success as a child of God. As this family continues to trust God, they are able to receive much needed support through their local church. Through the Rwanda Orphan Care Sponsorship program, the local church is able to tangibly help this family, providing them means to pay the school fees for her to attend a special church-run school for disabled children, enroll her in medical insurance, and learn skills for financial health through a savings group. The local church is able to offer this precious girl hope and is able to be a bright light to this entire Rwandan community.

As the local church is able to offer support to discouraged families, the church plays a key role in ensuring that orphanages remain empty in Rwanda. Many families are tempted to give up and are even tempted to abandon their children as they struggle to find hope and purpose. However, the local church, through the support of the Sponsorship program, is able to help ensure that families remain full of hope and purpose, that they remain intact, and that whenever possible, children are raised by their family of origin. As families are strengthened and learn that they can survive together, they are able to offer the same hope and encouragement to other families in their communities. Communities are being transformed! Faith is being strengthened! Christ is at the center, and hope is alive!

If you would like to help vulnerable families like these continue to support their children, check out the Rwanda Orphan Care Sponsorship program at www.Saddleback.com/Sponsorship, or call the Orphan Care Initiative at 949-609-8555.
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Many walk into an orphanage expecting to find rambunctious and lively children. However, they are surprised to find something quite opposite. The quiet and still environment causes many to exclaim, “These children are so well behaved!”

Unfortunately, what we deem as “well behaved” can actually be a result of severe neglect. When a child is born, they quickly and instinctively discover an attachment pattern with parents. When a need arises, the child feels the need and expresses the need, crying for mom or dad comes to help. In a healthy attachment cycle, mom or dad meet the need when the need is expressed – whether that need is feeding, changing a diaper, giving a hug, etc. For many children growing up in orphanages, however, this healthy cycle did not occur. Needs were not met. When the child cried mom and dad or a caretaker did not always come.  Crying ceases because “a child without a voice quickly learns he will be ‘on his own’ in getting his needs met. Survival skills emerge in the absence of nurturing care that will later put him on a developmental trajectory of harm. Without a voice, this child will learn not to trust others to care for him” (Adoption).

According to studies performed at Harvard University, “children who experience severe deprivation typically need therapeutic intervention and highly supportive care to mitigate the adverse effects [of trauma] and facilitate recovery” (Neglect). This is why TBRI, or Trust-Based Relational Intervention, is such powerful knowledge for those caring for foster or adopted children. This form of attachment-based, trauma-informed intervention encourages parents to use a balance of nurture and structure with their child in order to repair the losses their child has endured – including the loss of their voice. Children from hard places were taught by their environment early on that their voice has no power to get their needs met. In order to disarm fear and survival strategies, parents teach children three important truths:  You are safe, you are precious, you are heard.

You’ve heard the phrase many times, communication is key. Often a child will misbehave and it is our responsibility to ask ourselves, what is the need behind this behavior? Giving children a voice helps them to convey their needs without acting out and resorting to behavior to communicate. A healthy parent-child relationship has secure attachment and attunement to a child’s emotional and developmental needs. Repetition in completing the Attachment Cycle helps to rewire the brain with trust.

 

To learn more about how to promote connection with your child, check out The Connection, a 13 week small group study to equip families with practical skills, or join us at our next Connection Seminar: http://orphancareinitiative.com/event/.

 

Sources: 

https://www.adoptioncouncil.org/publications/2013/07/adoption-advocate-no-61

http://developingchild.harvard.edu/science/deep-dives/neglect/

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It is extremely important to remember that a foster or adopted child’s beginnings may be vastly different than those of a child who did not come from a hard place. Harvard studies indicate that children who have experienced abuse, severe deprivation, and neglect often “need therapeutic intervention and highly supportive care to mitigate the adverse effects” of trauma and facilitate recovery ( Neglect). In order to combat damage done in early childhood, knowledge of TBRI, or Trust Based Relational Intervention, is helpful for providing parents practical skills for healing. This form of attachment-based, trauma-informed intervention encourages parents to use a balance of nurture and structure with their child. In order to disarm fear and survival strategies, parents teach children three important truths:   You are safe, you are precious, you are heard.

As we continue our TBRI series in preparation for our TBRI seminar happening July 15, today’s post focuses on letting your child know they are precious. Every person has the need to be known and to be loved. Connection principles can be used to show a child just how much they are valued. Connecting principles describe “ an interaction between child and caregiver that produces warmth and trust. It disarms fear, promotes attachment and builds social competence.  Even adolescents who seem resistant and challenging actually love the opportunities [these principles provide] for joyful, silly connection” ( Fleming).

Connecting with your child means being engaging, making time for them, and being attuned and mindful to their needs. Prove you value your relationship with them by investing in it. This could look like stooping down to eye level to have a conversation or setting aside other tasks for time dedicated just to listening and playing with your child. According to Pastor Rick Warren, “It is not enough to just say relationships are important; we must prove it by investing time in them. Words alone are worthless. ‘My children, our love should not be just words and talk; it must be true love, which shows itself in action.’ Relationships take time and effort, and the best way to spell love is T-I-M-E.”  

Take time to invest in your child. Show them they are precious to you.   “The best use of life is love. The best expression of love is time. The best time to love is now.” -Rick Warren

To learn more about TRBI, check out this new animated video:


Join us via webcast or at the Saddleback Lake Forest campus on July 15th to learn more TBRI strategies for parenting children from hard places. Click here to watch or email us at orphans@saddleback.com for more info.

 

Sources:

http://www.jennaflemingcounseling.com/blog-post/tbri-connecting-principles/

http://www.gracewood.org/blog/2015/09/08/teaching-self-control-with-tbri-guiding-your-child-with-discipline/

http://developingchild.harvard.edu/science/deep-dives/neglect/

Warren, Rick.  The Purpose-driven Life: What on Earth Am I Here For?  Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2016. Print.

 

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God specializes in bringing good out of broken situations, and the story of Pascasie and her family is an amazing testament of God’s redemption.

When a neighbor abandoned her baby girl after a failed abortion, Pascasie, a Rwandan widow, was stirred to compassion, and she chose to take the handicapped infant into her home. Pascasie saw the opportunity to give a family to this child who had lost hers, just as Pascasie had. A survivor of the genocide, Pascasie was deeply familiar with grief and loss. The genocide had left her widowed and with only one of her two beloved children. She lived, but feared she would not be able to provide enough to sustain herself and her children.

When her neighbor deserted the child, Pascasie made the courageous, faith-filled decision to make the girl her own, even though resources were limited. Pascasie trusted God, and it was in her obedience, amidst emotional and financial challenges, that she witnessed God’s goodness and provision on display. Her local church stepped in to help.

Thanks to Rwanda Orphan Care Sponsors, the local Rwandan church had resources to wholistically support this fragile family. Pascasie said the church is what “made the difference” in her and her children’s life. To hear the story of how Sponsorship changed Pascasie’s life in her own words, check out this video.

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The hope and transformation in this family are possible because of the generosity of the local church and Saddleback Orphan Care Sponsors! If you would like to become a sponsor, check out www.Saddleback.com/Sponsorship.

“For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11

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Saddleback Church’s Orphan Care Initiative gathered in May to catch the vision of how mobilized volunteers can collectively end the crisis of children living outside of parental care right here in Orange County. The need of vulnerable children to belong in loving, lasting, and legal families is daunting, but together, there is hope of meeting this need locally by 2020. Accomplishing this vision will depend upon the church, county, and business partners focusing their efforts around the pivotal 3 R’s of permanency where children remain in healthy families, reunite with family, and regain family through adoption or kinship care.

Our local vision of “Getting to Zero by 2020!” was inspired by the model of orphan care adopted by local churches in Rwanda. With the collective decision to close all orphanages in Rwanda, ordinary church members throughout the country, with ongoing support and encouragement of their churches, decided to legally adopt children into their forever families, effectively emptying orphanages in the process! Within four years, thousands of children living in orphanages in Rwanda have been adopted, and the country is well on track to being the first African nation without orphanages. This is the power of the Church championing the cause of families for orphans.

 

Within Orange County there are about 300 children waiting for a family – meaning their parental rights have been terminated and are in need of a new family through adoption. Within the Orange County foster care system there are over 3,000 children who rely on families to care for them until their family of origin again is able to care for them or until they are adopted. The task of “getting to zero” in Orange County may sound like a lofty goal, but through collaboration of church partners, county officials, and other community stakeholders, we believe it’s possible that no child should have to wait for a family!

 

We believe every person can play a role in helping vulnerable children in the foster care system in Orange County. Though not all are called to adopt or become a resource parent, there are so many ways to support those who can. If you are interested in helping accomplish this vision and “get to zero” by volunteering or becoming the family a child needs, contact us at orphans@saddleback.com or 949-609-8555. 

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