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The country of Rwanda is approaching its goal of closing all orphanages throughout the country as children are being placed in families out of the orphanage or reunited with their families. Despite this progress, in some orphanages children remain waiting to receive a family – either because finding a willing family is a challenge or often times, there are orphans ages 18 and older who grew up in the orphanage, never learned life skills to survive on their own, and therefore feel unable to leave the orphanage setting. What does all this mean for the work of “Getting to Zero”? Even when orphanages have closed, the task of caring for vulnerable and orphaned children is far from done.

 

The work of the Orphan Care Initiative goes far beyond simply “closing orphanages.” The tools and training we provide through the work of the local churches in Rwanda is developing a child welfare system for a country that will ensure that no children grow up outside of family care. If you take the case of the United States, we have no orphanages – in their place we have a system for identifying vulnerable and parentless children, sourcing families to foster and adopt them, and training and monitoring those families so that they are successful. If you look at Rwanda through that view, the work has only begun. There is now a stellar example in Western Rwanda – where the Orphan Care Initiative has focused our efforts at the request of the government – of what it looks like to reintegrate children into families well with the wrap around support of the church.

 

However, much of the rest of the nation returned children to families without the wrap-around support of the churches, which is so critical to the long-term success of an orphanage-free child welfare system. Our most recent Orphan Care PEACE trip saw this firsthand as they conducted trainings in Kimonyi, an example of an area where the orphanage recently closed but families had never received any information on how to address the trauma their children have experienced in the institution. When the government realized these families were struggling, they specifically asked for the Orphan Care Initiative to intervene with training and support.

 

Getting a child out of an orphanage and into a family is only the start of the journey of helping that child and family succeed long term. In that way, future Orphan Care PEACE teams remain critical to delivering several important, world-view shifting messages:

1) The value and need for adoption in a culture coming out of dependence on orphanages.

2) Teaching churches how to deliver the evidence-based adoptive parent training that allows families to help heal hurts of children who have come from the orphanage and other hard places.

3) The truth that EVERYONE in the church is called to care for the orphan, and the church can help members get on mission in this area in a variety of ways.

 

The Rwanda Orphan Sponsorship is a piece of this support system designed to help children remain in, reunite with or regain family through adoption. Families brought into the sponsorship program receive support to help care for their child in the form of a monthly amount from their local church. As part of sponsorship, parents become part of a savings group to learn how to grow and manage their money, and they receive lay social work support from the church and agree to attend parenting training. In return, the families agree to use the funds to pay their child’s school fees, enroll them in medical insurance and tithe back to their local church. Because these funds go directly to the family from their local church, many families receiving sponsorship don’t know there is a Western donor on the other end, they just see it as their local church coming alongside to support them.

 

If you would like to help families who are adopting children out of orphanages through the Rwanda Orphan Sponsorship, please visit saddleback.com/sponsorship for more information on how your giving can help in Getting to Zero.

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“God sets the lonely in families…” Psalm 68:6a NIV

The newest addition to Patricia’s family weighed little more than 2lbs when she arrived. A stroke of luck had led security guards to a tiny baby girl abandoned in a bush near Patricia’s home, alone, underweight and still attached to her umbilical cord. At one month old, the hope of survival for this little one looked bleak. Families in the neighborhood were hesitant and unwilling to take the baby in, anxious about the degree of care she would need and nervous she wouldn’t survive.

Patricia, however, was moved with tender compassion for this child. Already a mom of 4, Patricia has a heart for children and had heard about God’s heart for the orphan, so she volunteered to take in the baby. With no guarantee of how long she would get to mother this fragile child, Patricia stepped out in faith choosing to meet this orphan’s needs in any way she could, starting with her need for family. By God’s mercy, the nearest hospital assessed Patricia’s little one and proclaimed she was in good health! And the story doesn’t end there…

Rescued from certain death, this little girl Francine is now a beloved and permanent member of Patricia’s family! After four months of fostering, the Rwandan government offered Patricia the opportunity to finalize her adoption and legally make Francine a forever daughter in Patricia’s family.  

"I love children. It's a blessing to have children. I have hope for her future. I know she is mine" -Patricia

The story of Patricia’s daughter Francine is one filled with hope. This mother has physically modeled for her daughter, her friends, and her community what God has done for every believer spiritually: Rescued us from death and given us life as beloved and legally adopted daughters and sons of God’s own family! Now one of 5 siblings, Patricia’s daughter will grow up healthy and strong and connected to a physical family with the opportunity to have a relationship her loving heavenly Father as well.

Rwanda Orphan Care Sponsors serve not only families, but churches too. Your Sponsorship allows Patricia’s local church to come alongside her in this endeavor. Your faithful giving empowers Patricia to meet her newest daughter’s need for a family as she continues to meet the array of emotional, relational, medical, and financial needs of her family as a whole. When families come around an orphan in their most critical moment, your sponsorship is a critical way in which the local church can come around their family.

 “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


If you would like to start sponsoring a family in Rwanda like Patricia's, visit www.saddleback.com/sponsorship.

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The Stinson family has been on a journey to chase after the things on God’s heart. Since early in their marriage, Christy and David recognized that caring for the orphan is a call and privilege given to every Christian. James 1:27 says, “Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father is this....caring for orphans and widows in their distress” The Stinson's realized that becoming a disciple of Jesus is not just about learning, it's about obedience and daring to step out towards desires that God has has put within our hearts. As a result, advocating for orphaned children has become a hallmark of their life.

After having three wonderful biological children and navigating the challenges of a full house, an awareness and passion for vulnerable children pushed them out of their comfort zone towards children in need of a family. After they stepped out, imperfect and uncertain onto the waters towards Jesus in hopes of changing the world of a child through adoption, their world was also beautifully changed. After a journey filled with many ups and downs, they have grown from a family of five to a family of nine! 

After adopting four children, you might think that the Stinson family's passion to run towards orphaned children has wained. However, they have seen with their own eyes how much a family means to vulnerable, orphaned children, and they have tasted the indescribable treasures that come from drawing close to these precious ones so close to our Father's heart. Their next step of faith is introducing their church family at Saddleback San Diego to the call and the gift of Orphan Care Ministry. On Sunday, as lay leaders in the Orphan Care Initiative, they hosted an informative meeting about adoption and foster care. Their team began to reveal many of the diverse ways in which any believer can make a difference for orphans and vulnerable children locally and all over the world!

Recently a CBS 8 in San Diego featured the Stinson Family in a news story: 

CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

If you would like more information on adoption or foster care, or if you would like to serve with Orphan Care at the Saddleback San Diego campus, email us at orphans@saddleback.com or call the Orphan Care Initiative at 949-609-8555.

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Those who sow with tears will reap with songs of joy. Psalm 126:5

An important part of Getting to Zero is helping vulnerable children remain in their families. One such group are the children of commercial sex workers – mothers who will often leave their children alone at night to work the streets.

This month we are celebrating that 44 women in Busanza, Rwanda recently graduated from a program in their church that trained them in income generating tools to help them move out of commercial sex work and into sustainable livelihoods. Orphan Care teams from Saddleback had spoken into the lives of these women during their training, sharing with them the value of their children and their children’s need for attention and care from their mothers. When a team returned again a few months ago, they were given a glimpse into the truly transformative power of that message.

Rwanda Orphan Care

Josephine, a young mother of two, stood to share her testimony. Her life had been marked by extreme loss and pain. Desperate to survive, Josephine entered into commercial sex work as a
means to provide for her and her children. Feeling trapped and hopeless, she could not see how she could care for and love her children. She had already formulated in her mind the plan for where to abandon her children when she walked in to hear the Orphan Care team share their message of hope that day. God opened her eyes to the important role she had to play as a mama to her two little ones.

Rwanda Orphan Care

Through the support of her church, Josephine was ready to become an attentive mother to her children. Josephine’s eyes were opened and her heart towards her children changed when she learned the principles of Trust-Based Relational Intervention, or TBRI®, at her church. Within a community of other women with similar life experiences, Josephine was equipped with knowledge on how to foster connection that builds attachment with her children, disarm fear, and give voice. These practical interventions infused Josephine’s parenting with hope that she could be the loving and supportive mother her children need, and the community at Mama Joy’s encouraged her to persevere through the challenges this paradigm shift would bring.

Rwanda Orphan Care

Coupled with their newfound parenting skills through TBRI® education, the women at Mama Joy’s church also learned income-generating modalities that would enable them to have a trade that could support their families. The women were taught how to use sewing machine to make beautiful clothing, purses, and other goods and also learned how to handcraft jewelry. These life skills offer the women holistic interventions to generate wealth outside of commercial sex work. The women are also equipped with knowledge on wealth stewardship through savings groups, allowing them to learn how to manage their income, invest, and grow their wealth, helping build a solid foundation for future financial stability and success.

The support of their local church and Mama Joy has equipped 44 women just like Josephine to learn practical life skills to provide for their families, leave commercial sex work, and be caring, present mothers to their children. We praise God for how He’s re-writing their stories, taking them from pain and desperation, to joy!

If you would like to become a Rwanda sponsor, connect with us via email at orphans@saddleback.com or learn more about giving now at  www.saddleback.com/sponsorship

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The Orphan Care Initiative is in the midst of working with the country of Rwanda to achieve a momentous goal - closing each of the country's orphanages and getting each child into a loving, lasting, legal family of their own through Saddleback Church's unique missions model, The PEACE Plan. The history of the PEACE Plan in Rwanda is an amazing testament to the transformational work God can do through local churches:

In 2003, the sixth and current President of Rwanda, Paul Kagame read a copy of the book, The Purpose Driven Life. Barely nine years had passed since the horrendous Rwandan genocide that began on April 7,1994. Over the course of 100 days, it took the lives of one million Rwandans and left one million children orphaned before ending three months later. After reading the book, Kagame had a vision to make Rwanda the first Purpose Driven nation.

At the same time, while Pastor Rick Warren was speaking in South Africa in 2003, the PEACE Plan was born—Planting Churches that Promote Reconciliation, Equip Servant Leaders, Assist the Poor, Care For the Sick, and Educate the Next Generation.

The vision was to mobilize local churches and ordinary people, empowered by God, to make a difference wherever they are. Together, they would fight the five Global Giants of spiritual emptiness, self-serving leadership, poverty, disease, and illiteracy.

A year after reading The Purpose Driven Life, President Kagame invited Pastor Rick to implement his newly-announced PEACE Plan in Rwanda. It quickly became a reality to form a partnership and have Rwanda serve as a model to the world.

As Pastor Rick says, “It would be just like God to take a small nation like Rwanda, on which the world turned its back in its greatest need, and use it for God and for good.”

To implement this plan, Pastor Rick began commissioning Saddleback members to go to Rwanda in small groups. Through the PEACE Plan in Rwanda, the church began working together with the public, private, and faith sectors of the nation, to help lower the poverty rate, empty orphanages, provide health care, train pastors, and offer education. To date, over 2,000 Saddleback members have gone on mission to facilitate this national strategy to mobilize local churches.

“I could take you to 10 million villages around the world where the only thing there is the church,” Pastor Rick says. “The church is the biggest organization on the planet and has the most potential to do good if mobilized.”

Today, over 4,000 Rwandan churches have partnered with the PEACE Plan and have mobilized thousands of volunteers to serve and invest in their communities. Many have completed a three-year intensive training and are offering everything from micro-savings clubs to training programs for farmers.

According to Kay Warren, co-founder of Saddleback Church, ”When we first visited Rwanda, we had no idea what we were doing or what we had to give. But we brought what we knew, which was the love of Christ.”

Saddleback leadership saw that the magnitude of churches in Rwanda were located where healthcare facilities were lacking. They envisioned a model of training church members to provide medical care. Today, over 9,000 trained health volunteers serve families in villages that would have otherwise never received medical treatment.

Today, Rwanda is one of the cleanest countries in the world, thanks to decrees from President Paul Kagame. Each month in the capital city of Kigali, citizens—including the president and his cabinet—participate in picking up litter on a public clean-up day. Additionally, PEACE has helped reduce the poverty rate in Rwanda by 11 percent, and has worked toward emptying orphanages so that every child has a home.

Over the past 20 years, Rwanda has experienced exponential growth and is ranked among the fastest developing countries in the world. Pastor Rick credits God for blessing Rwanda because they have chosen to forgive, are willing to work together, have trusted the Lord, and have persevered.

“The mission of Rwanda was not to create a dependency on others,” says Pastor Rick, “which is why the PEACE Plan has thrived so well there. The PEACE Plan is built on the Great Commandment that says, ‘Go and teach them’. People need trade, not aid. They don’t need a hand out, they need a hand up.”

In 2014, during a church service honoring the victims of the Rwandan genocide, Saddleback members celebrated the partnership and efforts of the PEACE Plan in Rwanda. Reflecting on those 10 years, President Kagame shared about Rwanda’s efforts to move on from the past and educate a new generation to impact the future.

“Our relationship with Saddleback has contributed to the renewal of our country,” President Kagame said. “We continue to work together with friends to ensure our future no longer holds fear, but opportunity.”

If you would like to go on an HIV/Healthcare PEACE trip to work alongside local churches in Rwanda, email us at  HIV@saddleback.com or call 949-609-8555.

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