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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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When ten-year-old Gideon was born in Western Rwanda, his mother was overwhelmed with the thought of caring for a child. Physically disabled without the full use of her legs, she used crutches to walk on the hilly dirt roads and could find shelter only with her brother and sister-in-law who advised her to place her son in an orphanage nearby.

Since that time, Gideon lived in the orphanage, working daily on the hillside growing produce to fill the orphanage’s coffers. He labored without the affirmation and love of a mother and father to help him through the day. Gideon had food. He had a bed. He had a place to live. But it wasn’t home.

Recently the Rwanda Purpose Driven/PEACE Orphan Care Initiative began teaching the local churches about the effects of orphanages on children. Church members learned that life without the one-on-one care and attention of a parent takes a serious toll on children’s’ mental, physical and psychological development. Once they heard that families were God’s best design for children, the churches near the orphanage resolved, “If the orphanage is this bad, we must get the children out quickly.” They committed themselves to finding loving families for all the children in the orphanage, including Gideon, as soon as possible.

 

Volunteers from the local church tracked down the story of each child and invited their relatives to the orphanage to meet their children again and receive parenting training and support. The church members used the training received from the Rwanda Purpose Drive/PEACE Orphan Care Initiative and taught the parents about the children’s situation in the orphanage, God’s Heart for the orphan and were presented an opportunity to reunite. Gideon’s mother was one of the family members in attendance.


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Her heart broke for her son as she sat there, yet she felt helpless to change his situation. She raised her hand to state her fears, “I understand the orphanage is bad, and I don’t want my son to be here, but I don’t know what to do. I don’t have another choice. I cannot take him to the place where I am staying- it is too small and the people who are kindly accommodating me won’t allow my son.  Is there anyone who can help me find a different living situation- where I will have room for my son? I am in a training program for the disabled. I have a good job and can care for my son if I just have a little help in finding a new place to live. I’d like my son to leave this orphanage today, but I can’t take him home with me today.”  Her love for her son and eagerness to never part from him again was palpable and everyone in the training longed to help.

 

From the front of the room came the words every mother wants to hear. A pastor who had been visiting the orphanage and providing some of the training looked at her and replied, “Yes, the church will help you.  I know your son. I have spoken to my wife and we have agreed to offer our home to you for your son until you can make the preparations for him to come back home to live with you. You do have another choice. My wife and I and our family- we will be your other choice.”

 

“Can he go with you today?” the mother asked hopefully, having watched her son hop from her lap to the arms of the Pastor all through the training. 

 

“I want my son to leave the orphanage right away.”

 

“Yes, today,” the pastor replied as the room broke into applause.

 

The pastor committed to take Gideon home to become part of his own family until they could find a different living situation for his mother. Gideon’s mom would be able to visit and interact with the son she had been separated from for so many years.

 

The orphanage staff couldn’t believe their eyes. “We did not believe it was possible for children to be reunited with family. We thought families were too desperate or poor. Surely a mom with such disabilities wouldn’t be able.”

 

“That’s where you’re wrong,” the Pastor gently offered. “The church is a family to families. When the church steps up and steps in, the load is lighter and the road is brighter. We are not alone.”

 

The church volunteers who are trained will make home visits and check on Gideon in the home. They will provide more parenting training and sponsorship support as he leaves the orphanage and ultimately is reunited with his mom.

 

Leaving the orphanage later that day, Gideon sat on the pastor’s lap in the big white van, waving at everyone passing with both hands. From his ecstatic grin it was easy to see his overwhelming joy at being free from the orphanage and the hope of being reunited with his mom soon. He waved wildly at every passer-byer on the road. The church leaders that had provided the training road along in the car, singing praises to God all the way.

 

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“Gideon, you look like you are running for President, greeting everyone on the road as we ride,”  one of the church trainers offered gleefully.

Gideon didn’t answer. He just kept smiling and waving, as if announcing the joyous news.

For the first time in many years, Gideon will be taken care of by a mother and a father who will give him the care and attention he needs to flourish until his mom is able to care for him too. His mom had already made plans to visit the next day. Gideon has a home. He has a family. The road ahead looks brighter than ever before.

If you would like to sponsor a family in Rwanda to be able to provide a home to children from the orphanage like Gideon, please visit www.saddleback.com/sponsorship.

 

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Left: Gideon and his mother

Right: The pastor and church volunteers address parents at the orphanage

(all photos used with permission)

 

 

“GETTING TO ZERO” UPDATE

 

"No child belongs in an orphanage - every child deserves a family. And the churches are leading the way on this! Families are in churches.

- Pastor Rick Warren, addressing a crowd of 12,000 at the Rwandan national thanksgiving rally

This summer in Rwanda, Pastor Rick hosted a delegation of 100 pastors and leaders from all over the continent of Africa who are looking to bring the PEACE Plan to their countries. These pastors were impressed to see how Rwanda is leading the way in emptying orphanages using the local church, and many are looking forward to bringing the vision to their own countries.

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