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Ten years ago in Kigali, Rwanda’s capital city, an unspeakable tragedy left a young unmarried girl, Joselyn, pregnant with a baby boy. She felt ashamed and broken.

Shortly after she gave birth, Joselyn’s aunt took the newborn and sent him to an orphanage hidden in the mountains miles from Joselyn’s home. Her aunt told Joselyn if she tried to find her son she would be arrested for abandonment.

Last month, diligent orphan care volunteers from local churches near the orphanage began to unravel now ten-year-old Eric’s history. The story slowly unfolded. They found out this child living without hope of a family actually had a mother. When Joselyn learned that her Eric was waiting—parentless—she found new hope that she could reunite with her son once again.

The orphan care volunteers talked Joselyn through the potential challenges of raising her son. Undeterred, she made the bold decision to bring him home. In the course of their conversations and parenting training, the volunteers asked Joselyn if she knew about Jesus, how He cared for her, how He had come to redeem her pain and make her whole. Joselyn accepted Christ that day in her home. She realized that her current accommodations—a small house doubling as the community bar—was no place for a child, and she chose to move down the street to a humble mud home, one with an extra room for Eric.

Local church members paid Joselyn’s way to make the grueling six-hour bus ride to the orphanage where she and Eric were finally reunited. Tears rolled down their faces as they embraced each other at last. As Joselyn dried her son’s eyes using her traditional Rwandan skirt she spoke to him with the soothing, tender words Eric had waited so long to hear, “ I love you. I can’t wait to care for you. I can’t wait to hold you.”

Mother and son are now back home in Kigali, adjusting to their new lives as a family. Through the generosity of sponsorship donors, Joselyn has the means to provide a better home and a smooth transition for her son. Eric will receive love from his own mother who can now provide medical insurance, school fees and the home he never knew.  He will hear and experience the love of Jesus in the arms of his mother, with a family of his own.

This month, members of the local Rwandan church have decided to take a local PEACE trip to fix up Joselyn’s home, making it more suitable for their little family. They plan to paint the walls and add windows to the small rooms. Through the love, care and provision of Saddleback sponsors and members of the local church in Rwanda, Joselyn’s painful experiences have been redeemed through their miraculous reunion, and a little boy’s future is forever transformed.

You can help children leave the orphanage! If you are interested in helping families like Joselyn and Eric reunite, visit saddleback.com/sponsorship for more information.

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Laurence is a 17-year-old girl living with HIV in Rwanda. Lawrence’s parents died when she was just two years old, and she was sent to live in the orphanage. For fifteen lonely years, Laurence didn’t have access to the care she needed, and at times the painful skin condition she developed from her disease kept her out of school and isolated from other children in the orphanage.

Laurence lived depressed and without hope. Because of her age and her HIV status, the orphanage claimed she was unadoptable—that no one would want her. Laurence couldn’t see an end to her loneliness.

However, that is not how Laurence’s story ends. Five hours away from the orphanage, a woman named Kabibi also lives with HIV. Kabibi lost two children in the genocide, and though she heard God whisper that she would one day have a family again, but without a husband she couldn’t see how that was possible. She asked God, “Will you make me laugh like Sarah?”

Through the Global HIV&AIDS Initiative and the Rwanda Orphan Care Initiative, Kabibi learned about Laurence, one of the last children left in the orphanage, and her heart broke. Kabibi knew God had redeemed her pain so she could redeem others, and she decided, no matter the opposition, she could be a mother to Laurence.

As they met for the first time, Kabibi embraced her new daughter. Tears streamed down both their faces as Kabibi told Laurence, “I’m going to be your mother.”

Laurence saw that after years of living without a family, she could finally have a home with a mother who loved her deeply. She decided to go with Kabibi.

With the help of the local church and Saddleback sponsorship, Kabibi has been able to  adopt Laurence. Just a few days ago, Kibibi went to the orphanage to get Laurence. At last, Laurence left the orphanage and came home to a family of her own – to a mom who will love her and make sure she gets the HIV care she needs.

Half of the children who lived in orphanages in Rwanda when we began two years ago now have a family of their own. Together as a church, we can reach the goal of zero children living in orphanages in Rwanda.

Did you know you can sponsor a Rwandan family who is willing to adopt a child like Laurence? 

For just $38 a month you can bring a child out of an orphanage. Please visit www.saddleback.com/sponsorship for more information.

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Grace’s 11th birthday party looked the same as any eleven-year-old’s from the outside—children ran around her house in superhero costumes, eating cake and ice cream and playing games—but this eleven-year-old’s birthday party was different. Instead of asking for toys and clothes, Grace asked her guests to give to support orphans in Rwanda waiting to be adopted.

Grace attended Saddleback’s PEACE night, and visited the Orphan Care breakout session. There she saw pictures of little Rwandan faces, desire and longing in their eyes, and Grace’s heart filled with love and compassion for children her age half a world away.

She felt called to do something for them, and decided to be creative. After some thought, her mom suggested donating money from her birthday party rather than asking for toys like she normally would.

 “I was just proud of her,” said Grace’s mother. “We live in Orange County, and everyone has so much, so we thought it was a better thing to do than get a toy. I felt like we were blessed to be involved.”

Grace’s friends were very supportive of the idea, excited to be part of something bigger than themselves. Through her party, Grace raised $650, enough to support an adoptive family in Rwanda for over a year.

Grace shared, “Now one of my friends wants to do it too.” Grace’s mother said, “Maybe it will spread the idea around. God works in your heart, and maybe he works through you to reach other’s hearts.”

One of Saddleback’s mottos is “Every member on mission.” Grace is just one example of a believer living her life on mission – using her influence to impact the world and God’s kingdom. After feeling God’s call, she did what she could to follow him faithfully, and He multiplied her efforts more than she could have imagined!

Many people feel overwhelmed at the idea of tackling the orphan care crisis, but as Grace shows, everyone can make an impact. Together, through each of us playing the part God calls us to play, we can end the orphan care crisis by helping children remain in family, reunite with family, or regain a family of their own through adoption.

If you’re interested in helping a family in Rwanda adopt a child from the orphanage, please visit saddleback.com/sponsorship.

For other ideas of how you can get involved, join the Orphan Care Initiative breakout at PEACE night on November 22 at 6pm in Tent 3 on the Lake Forest Saddleback Campus!

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The greatest adversity is the loss of a mother's touch. Sadly, for children whose mother is HIV positive, 16% of these children will be orphaned as a result of HIV and AIDS by the time they reach their 18th birthday. This has obvious tragic implications in the life of a child.

A new report has been released highlighting the effects of HIV on children whose mother is living with HIV.  Sadly, the report by the PEPFAR Orphans and Vulnerable Children Technical Working group, in partnership with Management Sciences for Health and the Human Sciences Research Council confirms that children are at serious risk for adverse emotional, physical and developmental outcomes when their mom is living with HIV.  Even in areas with high treatment, 16% of children will, by age 18, be orphaned as a result of HIV and AIDS.  The report also found a significant decrease in the graduation rates and higher incidences of anxiety and depression.  The study describes that children are also at increased risk for sexual exploitation and early sexual debut when a mother is too ill to protect and care for them. In every arena, children suffer because of HIV.[1]

What can be done to provide hope and healing for mothers and children infected or affected by HIV? At Saddleback, we care about mothers and their children infected and affected by HIV. PEACE teams travel to help local churches come alongside mothers and children. They help churches provide HIV testing and guide mothers into early treatment. Church-based health care workers volunteer to check on the mother’s health and help with HIV medications. Ordinary members of Saddleback Church work with local churches, providing training to youth on how to prevent HIV. 

The Bible says, “The Spirit of the LORD is upon me, for he has anointed me to bring Good News to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim that captives will be released, that the blind will see, that the oppressed will be set free.” (Luke 4:18)  You are invited to join a PEACE team that helps women living with HIV and their children.  For more information on joining a PEACE trip;  orphans@saddleback.com



[1] OVCsupport.net, PEPFAR.gov Consequences of Adult HIV for Affected Children: Modelling the Impact (September 2014)

 

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Keep an ear out this week – on Wednesday October 15th, Kay Warren will be featured on Focus on the Family, discussing the role of the church and every believer in caring for orphans. In the hour long segment, Kay re-tells her journey with HIV&AIDS from the time God broke her heart for the hurting, leading her to a passion for the many people living with AIDS, and for the children who were left orphaned and alone by parents who died from this disease. Her message is a call for the church to step up and speak up for those who cannot speak up for themselves.

 

“Mothers [who are dying] in every country ask the same question: who will take care of my children when I die? Does the church have an answer? Does your church have an answer to that question?”

 

Kay Warren’s first experience with HIV and orphans came while flipping through a magazine where pictures of men, women and children, weak and dying from the horrific disease, shattered her, illuminating to the brokenness of the world and her own heart. This one small experience sent her on a journey on which she became, what she terms, “gloriously ruined” and “dangerously surrendered” to God’s will for her life. Kay now calls on the church to take up the cause of those who cannot stand up for themselves – children living outside of parental care.

 

Every believer can play a role in ending the orphan crisis. As Kay asks, “If you’re going to be ruined, why not be ruined for the kingdom of God?”

 

If you have a heart to help orphans or are considering adoption – we are here to talk to you! Simply call the Saddleback Orphan Care line at 949-609-8555, and we will connect you with people with adoption experience who would love to answer your questions!

 

If you missed Kay’s message, you can listen to her speak at the Christian Alliance for Orphans summit: http://kaywarren.com/accepting-the-call-to-care-for-orphans-kay-warren/

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