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A team of women leaders from Saddleback recently took a PEACE trip to Rwanda to serve local churches with the Orphan Care and HIV&AIDS Initiative. We asked the team to share their experiences from the trip. Lauren Franco, a student leader in our College Age Ministry and Women's Communities Intern, offers a glimpse into what God is teaching her through the experience of serving in Rwanda:


The Hidden Beauty of Suffering

Rwanda was absolutely beautiful. Thousands of hills, rich with a green I'd never seen before. People warm and intelligent and joyful in such a way that embodies the Lord's own joy. Yet as beautiful as Rwanda is, I'm reminded that it's only a taste of God's glory. I'm reminded how small I am compared to His creation, and how all of the hills in Rwanda and stars in the sky, pale in comparison to how brightly He shines.

I learned of God's own heart. That was probably the most painful of all. But I asked Him to do it. To help me see and feel and hear how He does, and when you ask Him this, the answer is never without pain. Because Jesus suffered. We are called into a "fellowship of His sufferings" (Phil. 3:10), which, by nature of the name, is painful. At one point, I remember running to my room knowing if I didn't make it in time I would burst. Flinging open the door I fell to my knees, weeping in a way I never have before. I got angry. I didn't understand why He'd put His children through this pain. The kind of pain that is chronic, and unending, and irreconcilable. And what I was experiencing was only a taste. My heart broke for the nation that suffered a genocide so horrific that it is largely unspeakable, and left orphans, disease, and unimaginable loss in it's wake. It broke for the woman raped and beaten and left for dead that our team went to meet, who also contracted HIV/AIDS from the horrific incident. It broke for the grandmother single-handedly raising a grandchild who will be displaced from her home this week. It breaks again and again for stories that are not mine, yet somehow I share in because we're called to share in the fellowship of suffering, and weep with those who weep.

I suppose the only thing I can do to try to understand the genocide, and God's hand in any of it, is how clearly He's seen in suffering. Light needs darkness to shine right? Who do we draw near to when the bottom falls out of our world? Who is the only one large enough to cling to? And when we walk with another person through that suffering, God's love is seen. 

As Kay Warren so eloquently puts it "Deliberately choosing to enter into the experience of a fellow human being sets the stage for God to make an entrance."

And despite all the devastation and heartache, Rwanda now is an example to the world. The most forgiving, and joyful body I've ever seen, now stands not only in place of the wreckage and brokenness, but because of it. I have no doubt that God uses Rwanda to exemplify His unexplainable and unwarranted forgiveness. Grace seeps into every crevice of this country, and should push us to set aside denomination, and take up unity, let go of differences and take on love, and give pain up to God and take on joy instead.

He is near to the broken-hearted. And at times, when we ourselves are weak and vulnerable, broken as well, that's ok. It's okay to feel small and inadequate if it reminds us how big God is

Resilience & Revival

Something else that God spoke clearly to me was to "shed your light-hearted faith, and take up a resilient one." Stop picking and choosing what I like about Jesus, what I want to do or who I want to serve here on earth, and instead dive into ministry the way He did. In the trenches, on the front lines, resilience to me resembles armor. The kind of faith that can take a hit. That can take a sword and a battle and the hardest fights. It is beaten but it still stands. I don’t desire for anything in my life to be light-hearted. That implies a surface level attachment. An unwillingness to delve deeper, and go further. The need to stay light and happy in all things. That’s not what God longs for from us either. Jesus’ excruciating death on the cross was not light-hearted. He was resilient up there. Resilient and determined to keep faith in the Father despite what was thrown at Him. 

Maybe this rings true for you too, but I’m hungry for a revival. A revival of my own faith, to be the kind of resilient He so blatantly called me into, and a revival of the American church. More dependency on God, less emphasis on material, and more fire to grow the Kingdom. I heard the word “revival” more times than I can count on this trip, and the word still rings. There is hurt in the world, and yet we have the most powerful weapon on Earth. The church is powerful. When it's ignited, when it's active, it conquers problems. We are the church. It's not a building, and it's most certainly not confined to four walls and Sunday. We saw an active church in Rwanda, a church that is caring for the sick in their community, is mobilized to adopt and is clearing out orphanages, getting kids off the street, and being the very hands and feet of Jesus. That's what I crave for this generation of the church all over the world. Rwanda has pushed me out of blindness and into the harsh light of reality. When God shows us something I suppose we have choice of what to make of it, but we can never again claim we did not know. 

You can help empower the local church in Rwanda with tools and training to impact their communities and empty orphanages. If you would like to go on an Orphan Care or HIV/AIDS PEACE trip, email us at orphans@saddleback.com or call the Orphan Care and HIV/AIDS line at 949-609-8555.

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If you’ve ever thought about adopting or fostering, you are not alone. Did you know that one out of four couples have considered adoption or foster care. No matter why you have considered it, there is a place where you can get accurate information, simple overviews, and your questions answered. During the month of November, Saddleback Church will be hosting an informational seminar called, Exploring Adoption and Foster Care for My Family, at six locations in Southern California....
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Do you know any church wild enough to brainstorm, plan, and execute a conference for 2650 guests from all 50 states and 33 other countries in less than 50 days? Do you know anyone with such God-sized, audacious dreams and vision? Here at Saddleback Church, we do!

The Purpose Driven Church Conference was held at the end of June at Saddleback Church Lake Forest and marked the first time in a decade that Pastor Rick taught this conference in the United States. Last week marked the follow up conference – Purpose Driven Essentials. A special feature of the June conference was breakout tracks that enabled pastors and other church leaders from around the globe to sit in on specialized tracks to learn about more specific vision of empowering local churches with a discipleship process that helps get every member on mission.

Our Orphan Care and HIV&AIDS Initiatives shared about the vision of our ministries with conference attendees in separate breakout sessions and as a part of the Saddleback Signature Ministries panel that also included The Daniel Plan, Celebrate Recovery, and the Mental Health ministry. These breakout sessions enabled conference attendees to learn more about how the local church can be a source of hope to end both the global orphan and HIV crises and take practical solutions back to their churches.

In the Orphan Care breakout session conference attendees were shown why the Church should care about the global orphan crisis. As we have been spiritually adopted in the family of God, we should in turn model His heart to the orphaned by helping children remain in family, reunite with family and regain family through adoption. 

In the closing session of PD Essentials, Pastor Rick reminded pastors, "Please don't build an orphanage. Kids don't need orphanages; they need families! We have a goal that Rwanda would be the first nation in Africa with no orphanages... Children are getting in to families!"

In both the orphan care and HIV sessions, the message was clear: the local church is the hope of the world! God always intended to work through His Church, and Jesus promised that not even the gates of hell will prevail against the church. The tasks of ending the global orphan and HIV crises may seem monumental, but through the local church, we can successfully see children placed in loving, legal, and lasting families and effectively eliminate HIV in our lifetime.

Will you and your church take up this mantle in ending the global HIV and orphan crises? Perhaps your church needs help mobilizing members to ministry. For more information about how to start these ministries in your own church, please visit hivandthechurch.com and orphansandthechurch.com, or call the Orphan Care Initiative line at 949-609-8555.

 

Let's do for the orphan physically what God has done for us spiritually. Originally posted to pastors.comPastor Rick Warren outlines the Biblical perspective on why and how we are to define our faith by our care for the orphan.

You were an orphan once. You may have grown up with a father and a mother. Physically, you may not be an orphan.

But you were a spiritual orphan. You were a spiritual orphan until you were adopted by God. The Bible says in Ephesians 1:5, “God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure.” (NLT)

God loves you so much that He adopted you into His family. And He doesn’t do so begrudgingly. He takes great pleasure in doing it.

The Bible also says, “To show that you are his children, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who cries out, Father, my Father. So then, you are no longer a slave but a child. And since you are his child, God will give you all that he has for his children.” (Galatians 4:6-7. GNT)

God gives you all He has because you are now His child. We should show the same generosity toward physical orphans – those without parents – on our planet.

All throughout Scripture, God tells us that He’ll be a father to the fatherless. In the book of Proverbs, God tells us that we’re to speak up for those who have no voice.

God cares about orphans in a very special way. And so should we.

Many people in your community wonder what true religion really is. The Bible leaves no doubt. James 1:27 says, “Pure, unstained religion, according to God our Father, is to take care of orphans and widows when they suffer and to remain uncorrupted by this world.” (GWT)

Once we become believers in Jesus, we walk in our faith by caring for widows and orphans and keeping ourselves unstained by the world around us. James summarizes the Christian life as being about private purity and public charity. Jesus gives basically the same summary in the Great Commandment, Matthew 22:37-40.

Once we realize how much God loves us and what He went through to adopt us into His family, we really have only two responses.

·       First, it’ll clarify with you how much your life matters.

·       Second, it should make us sensitive to the plight of orphans around the world.


How does the Bible say we should take care of orphans?

1.     We are to defend their rights. (Psalm 82:3)

2.     We are to speak up for them as advocates. (Proverbs 31:8)

3.     We’re to feed them. (Matthew 25)

4.     We’re to clothe them. (Matthew 25)

5.     We’re to protect them from those who mistreat them. (Isaiah 1:17)

6.     We’re to ensure justice for them. (Deuteronomy 24:17)

7.     We’re to share our resources with them. (Luke 3:11, Romans 12:13)

8.     We’re to find families for them. (Psalm 68:5-6)


You and I have preached many sermons on the private purity spoken of in James 1:27. How many sermons have we preached on the public charity of caring for widows and orphans?

At Saddleback orphan care is one of our signature issues. We have a goal of 1,000 families from our church adopting orphans – 500 from overseas and 500 from the United States. We’re already halfway to this goal! Some of those Saddleback families have even adopted two or three kids.

We have more than 163 million orphans in the world. We have 113,000 orphans in America. If just one family from every four churches in America adopted a child, we’d have no more orphans in United States.

You don’t have to be a big church to make a big difference with orphans. Your church can do something for orphans and widows right now.

What will it be? How will you help?

If your church will make a commitment to help orphans, let us know about it. E-mail us at orphans@saddleback.com


If you are interested in becoming the family an orphan needs, we hope you will join us this Wednesday, October 5 at 6:30pm in Ministry Office 2 for our informational seminar, Exploring Adoption or Foster Care for my Family. Register here or email orphans@saddleback.com to receive more information. 

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Losing one parent is one too many. For Josiah, losing his mom to HIV/AIDS in 2014 almost prevented him from remaining in his family. Josiah was only 3 years old.  He and his 3 brothers and sister were living with their sickly father named Emmanuel. A carpenter by profession, Emmanuel did casual construction jobs to get by. However, after losing his wife, Emmanuel's health began to decline and his body weakened.  He was unable to provide for his family. Emmanuel's mother and  oldest daughter took on the responsibility of caring for the young family- three of whom were still in elementary school.  

This sad reality has provided a powerful opportunity for the local church to bring hope and support.  Emmanuel attends a local Anglican church in their community where his late wife also attended.  The church reached out to little Josiah, his Dad Emmanuel and the rest of the family.  The church explained that while he was recovering from ill health, the church could help.  They could see that the family was vulnerable not only to disease, but to being separated out of desperation and poverty.  An orphanage would have been one fo the few options if Josiah's family did not have the support of the local church.

Through Rwanda Sponsorship, the local church has wholistically come alongside Josiah's family. They are being supported by their church community and are frequently visited by the members in their church family. Through God's mercy, Emmanuel is now recovering and his family has remained together - largely in response to the relationship they've developed with their local church.

The Church is the hope of the world and the hope for every orphan and vulnerable child.  Ending the orphan crisis is not just about getting children out of orphanages - it's also about helping keep children out of orphanages in the first place by helping vulnerable children remain in families. By giving through the local church, sponsorship enables the entire church to come alongside families like Josiah's, serving them in every facet of life.  Because of Sponsorship, care and support reached these siblings before they became orphans, and the family is able to grow together!


If you are interested in impacting the life of a child through sponsorship, you can become a Rwanda sponsor at www.saddleback.com/sponsorship today! Connect with us at orphans@saddleback.com to learn about the ways you can help end the orphan crisis and prevent children from becoming orphaned.

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