The Karongi District of Western Rwanda is where the Orphan Care Initiative began the charge with local churches to get children out of orphanages and into loving, lasting families 3 years ago. In a country that did not have a word for “adoption” when deinstitutionalization began, so many families have stepped up to open their hearts and homes to children that there was no longer any need for the orphanages in their region. All three of the region’s orphanages, which were once home to hundreds of children, are now emptied – the abandoned dormitories now testaments to God’s amazing work in Rwanda through his church and the generosity of sponsorship donors like you!
The success is so profound that the Rwandan government has now asked the Orphan Care Initiative to play a larger leading role in 3 other regions of the country. This year, PEACE teams were mobilized to vision cast God’s heart for the orphan to local churches in these new areas, providing them with the training they need to reunite families and raise up families for adoption. The churches of Karongi are now a shining example to the rest of the nation, teaching their brothers and sisters what it looks like to offer radical love through adoption.
Orphan Care PEACE Teams Deliver the Very Best in Evidence-Based Adoptive Parent Training
Life in an orphanage leaves a legacy of trauma in the life of a child – emotional pain and learned behaviors that can only be healed in the arms of a permanent family. The adoptive families in Rwandan local churches are trained in the best practices of parenting children coming out of trauma – a set of unique transformative tools called Trust Based Relational Interventions (TBRI®), developed and tested at Texas Christian University’s Institute of Child Development.
Through a train the trainer model, local churches are equipped to not only empower families, but also empower skilled lay social workers to come alongside families as they bring home a child from the orphanage. This year, 79 members on 9 PEACE trips delivered this training in Rwanda.
The Orphan Care Initiative’s work in this field was recently recognized as Initiative founder Elizabeth Styffe was awarded the TCU Green Honors Chair for 2017.
Check out this video to watch how churches are putting TBRI into practice in Rwanda:
Thank you to those of you who gave so generously to Rwanda Sponsorship in 2016. To set up monthly giving for the new year, visit saddleback.com/sponsorship. Let’s help another region get to zero in 2017!
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or call the Orphan Care and HIV/AIDS line at 949-609-8555.
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.
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.
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 email@example.com to learn about the ways you can help end the orphan crisis and prevent children from becoming orphaned.
God is at work in Rwanda - mobilizing ordinary church members to care for the orphan in radical ways! At the close of a God’s Heart for the Orphan vision seminar in Eastern Rwanda, an Orphan Care PEACE team asked the pastors attending to name 1 or 2 volunteers they could send the following day from their churches to receive the lay social worker training. As the team wrote in their journal that evening they noted:
“We asked the pastors to think of 1 or 2 people to send to our training tomorrow and we got 50 names! 1 could show up or all 50. We aren't sure but we are praying for all of them to come!”
The next day, 50 ordinary Rwandan believers came from various churches to receive the training! It was incredible that 50 individuals from different churches would drop their daily work to come receive training on how to support adoptive families in their communities. This answered prayer only illuminates the bigger miracle God has been stirring across Rwanda. Orphans are being taken into families with immediacy, churches are being mobilized to support families, and local church members are the ministers!
If you would like to be part of a miracle by sponsoring a Rwandan family to help them adopt, visit Saddleback.com/Sponsorship, or email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Families end the orphan crisis.
“God places the lonely in families...” Psalm 68:6 NLT
“Focus on the child and the family – not just the child – help with the whole family physically and spiritually” -Rwandan Lay Social Workers
In Gicumbi Byumba, Rwanda, 29 church leaders gathered to hear God’s Heart for the Orphan and consider the implementation of PEACE within their churches. Following breakout sessions, the leaders were prompted to identify the number one problem in caring for orphans and how their churches could solve it. Baptist leaders congregated on one side of the room while Anglicans gathered along the other. As they mulled over these questions, they realized their solution was to do physically for the orphan what God has done for believers spiritually. Their churches would adopt orphans, and as soon as possible!
Yet there was one last problem to solve. The Baptist leaders piped up, “We don’t have an orphanage; we don’t have a place to go get kids…” Then speaking to the Anglican leaders they asked, “Can we go to your orphanage, the Anglican orphanage, and adopt the children there?” After a tense pause seeming to last an eternity the Anglicans agreed, “Yes, yes you can!” The Baptists leaders announced they were sending members that same day to bring children home as their sons and daughters. In the family of God, mercy triumphs over judgment, and unity triumphs over division. Caring for the orphan is bringing together the family of God both here and in Rwanda as we serve the Kingdom together!
As a result of the unity of these Rwandan churches, orphans have been united with families. The Rwanda Orphan Sponsorship Program equips these families who are responding with daring faith to answer God’s call to care for the orphan. You can be a part of the transformation taking place - start giving today online.
If you would like to go on an Orphan Care PEACE trip to Rwanda, email email@example.com or call the Orphan Care line at 949-609-8555.