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This month marks 20 years since the genocide in Rwanda that devastated the country. All over Rwanda, local churches are remembering those lost, while also celebrating how far God has brought the country since that time.

 

Pastor Leonidas is keenly aware of the change that transformed the country, as leader of a church in the Karongi District of the Western Province, an area hardest hit by the genocide. His church is a source of life and hope for his community, and many families in his congregation have experienced the transforming impact of PEACE Plan programs, including Orphan Sponsorship.

 

One of his church members, Elena, is a prime example of the power of the PEACE Plan coming together with the local church and the generosity of sponsorship donors to create change. Elena is a single mother of eight children. Three of the children she took into her home when her neighbor developed AIDS and became too sick to care for them.

 

Elena’s life was in shambles until she attended Pastor Leonidas’ church, which was going through the Purpose Driven Life study. Elena found hope and learned that God had a purpose for her life. Through the PEACE Plan, she learned how to care for her community. She joined a savings group and developed the heart to take in her neighbor’s children, who would have ended up in an orphanage without her care. Her new life in Christ, her local church, and the support of the Orphan Sponsorship Program gave her the confidence and resources to take additional children into her home. Through the money management skills she learned in her savings group, Elena was able to use her resources well, and she has now started a thriving new business which allows her to provide more for her children.

 

To begin sponsoring a family in Rwanda to take in a child from the orphanage, click here.

 

Click below to WATCH Pastor Leonidas and Elena’s stories in their own words:

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Looking to get connected to Orphan Care at Saddleback Church? May and June are action-packed with opportunities to learn more and serve!

Check out the variety of opportunities below, and feel free to let us know if you have any questions! (call us at 949-609-8555 or email orphans@saddleback.com)

 

Thinking About Adoption & Foster Care

Have you considered adopting or fostering, but aren’t sure how to get started? This is the place for you! Families from our church who have adopted and fostered share helpful overviews and answer your questions in a no-pressure environment.

We have three different nights for you to catch the seminar and get your questions answered:

Monday May 12th – 7-9pm in MO2 (the small portable office on the Lake Forest campus)

Thursday, May 15th – 7-9pm in Room 404 (in the portable classrooms across from Tent 1)

Wednesday, June 4th – 6:30-8:30pm in MO2 (the small portable office on the Lake Forest campus)

 

SPECIAL EVENT with Milan & Kay Yerkovich, authors of How We Love

Healthy attachment is the key to great families, and great adoptive and foster parenting. Using attachment theory, experts Milan and Kay Yerkovich have created the tools to take your relationships to the next level. Come learn your attachment style, how to grow your marriage, and take your parenting to the next level at this unique event.

Saturday, June 21st – 9am – 12pm The Plaza Room, Lake Forest Campus

Register HERE: http://saddleback.com/event/11637464971/event

 

Orphan Care Volunteer Gathering

Our monthly orphan care volunteer gathering is a great opportunity to hear all that is going on locally and globally with orphan care, and get plugged in to serving opportunities! Connect with others in our ministry with a heart to make a difference in the global orphan care crisis.

Sunday, June 1st – 4-6pm in the upstairs Refinery classroom

 

Global Orphan Care Skills Training

You can make a global impact! In this training, you will learn how to empty orphanages and help orphaned children find their forever families. If you are considering going on a PEACE trip, or just want to know more, join us for skills training!

Saturday, June 14th – 8:30am – 12:00pm in Tent 2

 

Local Orphan Care Orientation

If you have a heart to serve orphaned children here in our own community, come to the local orphan care orientation to hear about the different opportunities, and how you can make a difference in the life of a foster child or adoptive family! Email lynny@saddleback.com for more information.

Tuesday, May 13th – 7-9pm in the Plaza Room

 

Questions? Email orphans@saddleback.com or call 949-609-8555.

 

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A member of our Saddleback community became involved with the Orphan Care Initiative because of how the ministry has personally affected her. She is passionate about sharing her story and her views on CHIFF (Children in Families First), but asked that her identity to remain anonymous to protect her nephew. This is her story:

 

 

My Story

My nephew is a precious bundle of precocious energy. At ten years old, what else would one expect? He is the epitome of an Orange County boy. A champion at the 200 meter in track, a lover of the Chima warrior cartoon series, a burgeoning fisherman, and a would-be surfer dude.

He also could have been an orphan.

For reasons that aren’t mine to discuss, my brother didn’t know that he had a son until several months into the pregnancy. The woman had considered abortion & adoption… Then finally told my brother that he had a son.

Sadly, as a young twenty something man-child my brother was ill equipped to take on the responsibilities of an infant. Let alone one he wasn’t even sure was his. Yet, my brother fell in love with this boy the moment he saw the first sonogram. He didn’t care that the DNA tests had come back 100% positive – they could have been negative for all he cared – this baby was his. No matter what.

In a turn of events, my brother was given full custody of his son. Sadly, my nephew has not had a relationship with his mother.

At any point during this journey, my nephew could have been lost to us, his family. My brother couldn’t do it on his own, so my parents, my siblings and I, we all stepped up. For much of his life, I have been my nephew’s “mom” and we are his support structure, his village.

 

Why it matters?

Even though I can see it hurts him sometimes to be the one without a mom at Back to School night, my nephew is one of the lucky ones. So many other children around the world suffer much, much, worse. They don’t have the support structure of family, and there is no one to advocate for them. That’s why I felt so strongly about getting involved with the Orphan Care Initiative at Saddleback, and why I’m sharing this personal story with all of you.

This is a Call to Action.

The Orphan Care Initiative is putting its support behind a bill called Children in Families First, or CHIFF, and we need to help them get the word out. Introduced to Congress in 2013, the bill focuses on finding orphans permanent families FIRST, often times with their own relatives. It also outlines a process that would help streamline international adoption, making it easier on American families waiting to adopt.

We need to write, tweet, blog, vlog, sing, and dance our hearts out to every member of Congress currently undecided on this bill. An online petition has already been created and you can sign your name to it here.

 

How You Can Help

It’s as simple as clicking a link and filling out a quick form that takes less than a minute to complete. But don’t misunderstand, this isn’t slacktivism, clicktivism, or an attempt at arm-chair foreign policy. Your support of CHIFF will literally help to change the course of not only a child’s life, but of entire families and communities world wide.

CHIFF attempts to the do the following:

·      Creating an office for vulnerable children and families in the Department of State that will create a foreign policy and diplomatic hub with a focus on strengthening families and creating families for children who need them.

·      Directing the U.S. Agency for International Development to implement development programs that also strengthen and create families. (This also means support structures for families that already exist but need to know they can sustain their households, or have the knowledge to provide, protect, and nurture their children.)

·      Making the adoption process more straight-forward and transparent for American families choosing to adopt overseas; and

·      Providing the tools needed to count and identify orphans so that we can be sure our help is making a difference.

CHIFF will do all these things while requiring NO NEW MONEY from the American people.

The United States Government already spends $2 billion on assistance programs for children internationally. CHIFF proposes reallocating a small portion of that funding to support these programs. CHIFF does not require American taxpayers to pay MORE or spend MORE. It fights, on their behalf, to spend that hard earned money WISER and more efficiently.

 

My Prayer for All of You

I never thought I’d be a surrogate mother for a young child in my twenties. I never dreamed I’d be responsible for his needs and emotions. I also never expected what a miracle that beloved burden would become in my life. My nephew lives with my parents and I in our home in Orange County, and every single day I pray in thanksgiving to God for the blessing his presence is in our lives.

I am overwhelmed by his courage to face a world that often doesn’t understand him, and so grateful for Saddleback and others who try to give comfort to other children like him: children who could have been orphans, or are orphans, but instead are viewed as just another member of God’s family, our family,— your family.

May the Lord bless you with grace, wisdom, discernment, and the courage to follow through with your convictions. I hope those convictions lead you to our church family at Saddleback, and I encourage you to support CHIFF by getting involved now!

Click here to learn more about CHIFF.

 

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The Orphan Care Iniative is coming alongside local churches as they partner with the Rwandan government in the effort to empty all the orphanages in Rwanda and place those children into loving, lasting, legal famlies. Part of this effort is our Rwanda Orphan Sponsorship program, which provides Rwandan families with the financial support needed to be able to take an additional child into their home, allowing the child to become a son or daughter, and not an orphan any longer.

We are so grateful to the support of our Rwanda Orphan Care Sponsors - check out the impact that their generosity, combinded with the efforts of the PEACE Plan working in local churches, is making:

 

OUR GOAL IS TO ASSIST THE RWANDAN CHURCH AS THEY GET TO ZERO. ZERO CHILDREN LIVING IN RWANDAN ORPHANAGES.

ORPHAN CARE SPONSORSHIP HAS HELPED AS:

·      1,500 children leave the orphanage and join a family of their own

·      15 orphanages close completely

 

“ When my parents died of AIDS, I thought it mean I would be an orphan for all of my life. Now I realize there is hope for a family.” - An orphaned child in Rwanda

 

WE ARE DOING THIS BY MOBILIZING THE LOCAL CHURCHES IN RWANDA THROUGH THE PEACE PLAN TO CARE FOR ORPHANS IN THEIR COMMUNITIES.

LAST MONTH:

·      3,000 pastors and church members received training in orphan care

·      The message of “God’s Heart for the Orphan” was preached in 22 churches across Rwanda

·      One of our own Rwandan PEACE staff adopted a 10-year-old named John

 

“We have a long way to go. Everyone cares about orphans, but we had not realized that it is best for the child to come into a home.” - Rwandan church member

 

VOLUNTEERS FROM LOCAL CHURCHES ARE TRAINED IN HOW TO COME ALONGSIDE FAMILES THAT ARE TAKING IN CHILDREN FROM THE ORPHANAGE.

·      150 volunteers and government social workers have been trained in how to care for families and children

 

FAMILIES WHO NEED FINANCIAL ASSISTANCE TO TAKE IN A CHILD FROM THE ORPHANAGE ARE ABLE TO RECEIVE SUPPORT FROM THE RWANDA ORPHAN SPONSORSHIP PROGRAM.

SPONSORSHIP THIS MONTH HELPED:

·      Families provide school fees, medical insurance and basic necessities for the child they welcomed into their    home.

·      Families join a savings group to learn how to make their income sustainable.

·      Families multiply dividends from their sponsorship funds.

 

“People do not realize that just because we are poor, it does not mean we are not good parents.” - A mother in Rwanda

 

THERE IS STILL MORE TO BE DONE:  The Rwandan government has asked the PEACE Plan to take a greater role in deinstitutionalization, working in every area where government social workers are focused.

 

If you would like to sponsor a family in Rwanda to take in a child from the orphanage, please click hereTo visit Rwanda and make a difference on an Orphan Care PEACE trip, please email orphans@saddleback.com.

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What is the Orphan Care Initiative?

The Bible makes it clear that God cares deeply about the orphans of the world and expects His people to do the same – in fact, He uses our care for orphans as a benchmark of our faith. “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress…”  James 1:27

The Orphan Care Initiative of Saddleback Church exists to provide meaningful ways for every person to engage in caring for orphans through local churches at home and around the world.

We believe that every child deserves a family. The best thing we can do for the orphan is to help them join a family so that they are no longer an orphan, but a son or daughter. To reach the vision of every child with a family of their own, locally and globally we work to help children remain in family, reunite with family, or regain a family through adoption.

There are simple things everyone can do to help move children one step closer to a loving, lasting, legal family of their own. Here are some examples of opportunities in the Orphan Care Initiative:

 

Get informed

Orphan Care Skills Training   Wondering what you can do practically to serve orphans locally and globally? Orphan Care Skills Training will be a great foundation to learn simple things everyone can do to help end the orphan crisis. Mark your calendars for June 14th from 8:30am to 12:30 in Tent 2. Email orphans@saddleback.com for more info.

Trauma-informed care classes   Most orphans and institutionalized children suffer from childhood trauma. Understand of the effects of trauma on attachment and what to do to promote attachment and trust with children from hard places and traumatic backgrounds. Email lynny@saddleback.com for more info.

 

Get started

Volunteer with Orphan Care   You can make a difference serving with Orphan Care! We have many opportunities get involved – examples of volunteer needs include: blog writing, social media, events, office admin, and anything else you have a passion for! If you have a heart to serve in the office or at church, we’re here to help you get connected! Email orphans@saddleback.com to get involved.

Consider fostering or adopting   If you’ve ever thought about adopting or fostering, we have a place just for you! Come get accurate information, simple overviews, and your questions answered. Hear from ordinary people who have adopted in a no-pressure, friendly environment. Learn God’s heart for adoption, and simple ways to take your next step. Join us the first Wednesday night of every month from 6:30 to 8:30pm in the MO2 building of the Lake Forest campus (the smaller portable office building).

Support important Orphan Care legislation   Did you know that right now the US House and Senate are considering legislation that would help ensure that American efforts for children are focused first on finding orphans permanent families? CHIFF (Children in Families First), would also help streamline international adoption, making it easier on American families waiting to adopt. Click here to sign a petition and email your members of Congress to support CHIFF.

 

Get going

Rwanda Orphan Care PEACE Trips   Saddleback PEACE Teams are helping children get out of orphanages and into families! You can help local churches as they partner with the Rwandan government, which has decided to empty all its orphanages by 2014. Out of the 3,000 children who started out in orphanages, 1,500 have already gone home to a family in Rwanda. Orphan Care PEACE trips will train local churches in promoting adoption, assisting newly adoptive families, and training lay social workers within churches. Email orphans@saddleback.com for more info.

 

Give

Sponsor a family in Rwanda   Did you know that for $38 a month or a one-time donation, you can help support a family to be able to take in a child from the orphanage? Your sponsorship provides for basic necessities, school fees, and medical insurance. Families on sponsorship are required to join a savings group and tithe to their local church. Click here to sign up online.

 

If you have questions or would like more information on any of these opportunities, please email orphans@saddleback.com or call 949-609-8555.