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This article, written by Elizabeth Styffe, Global Director of the Orphan Care Initiative, originally appeared in Ministry Today Magazine.


God’s adoption plan provides the church with the perfect ministry model

 

At the heart of orphan care at Saddleback Church is the desire to end the orphan crisis. We believe every child deserves a loving, lasting, legal, lifelong family of their own—and we believe this is doable. If every church empowered their members to care for orphans in ways that helped and didn’t hurt, the orphan crisis could be over.

 

Unfortunately, though there are still more than 163 million orphans and vulnerable children in the world today, little has been done yet to help orphans stop being orphans. As a culture, we’ve spent years trying to put Band-Aids on the orphanage institution. But children need more than food, shelter, clothing and education. We don’t want children to just survive, but to thrive—and children thrive in family.

 

At Saddleback, we began asking ourselves, “How can we end the orphan crisis, and is there something every church can do?” Here are what we believe are the answers to those questions.

 

God’s Solution

Orphans stop being orphans when they become sons and daughters. At Saddleback, we’ve been challenged to change everything about how we care for orphans and how we engage members to care. We have two goals: (1) to end the orphan crisis; and (2) to get every member on mission, caring for orphans locally and globally by helping them find a family of their own.

 

Family is God’s remedy for orphanhood. The church doing for orphans what God has done for us is His solution. Because of this, we believe that if more Christians would do physically for orphans what God has done spiritually for us, the orphan crisis would be solved.

 

When we were orphans, God adopted us. Scripture teaches that the reason God made the world was so He could adopt (see Eph. 1:4-6). Our triune God, who needed nothing but wanted a family of His own, allows us through the blood of His Son to share in the rich communion as His sons and daughters (see Eph. 1). When God adopted us, He made us part of His permanent family, so we would no longer be orphans. Even though we were not His bloodline, He grafted us in through adoption, giving us permanent security and a family, and meeting our need to belong. His adoption of us is a legal process that cost Him everything. It gives us an inheritance and the right to call Him Abba, or “Father” (see Gal. 4, Rom. 8). As a result, at Saddleback we are in the work of reconciling people to God through adoption (spiritual adoption), and helping children stay in their families, be reunited with their families or find a new family through adoption (physical adoption).

 

Church and Family

There are 163 million children at risk in the world today but 2.4 billion people who claim the name of Jesus. This means the solution for every child is a church where all the members are caring about orphans. Churches can help orphans find a new family through adoption. They can help them remain in their current family if it is safe. Or they can help them reunite with their families if they are separated (since most children in orphanages have families in the communities but need the church to help the family become safe, healthy, and financially and emotionally ready to care).

 

The Orphan Care Initiative at Saddleback empowers ordinary believers to help orphans and vulnerable children locally and globally, and it also focuses on helping children find families. On the local level, this could mean doing several things: volunteering to serve children recently removed from their home, helping with sessions for people thinking about adoption, giving financially to someone who is adopting, or caring for newly adopted children while their families gain support. Even if you can’t adopt (and not everyone should), you can help someone who is adopting.

 

This has changed what Saddleback does cross-culturally. We send teams to help churches start orphan ministries that provide permanent, legal, lifelong families for children. We don’t invest in group homes or orphanages or other often harmful substitutes for families.

We help local churches and governments find and equip families for adoption. The emphasis is on solving the orphan crisis through adoption. We’re not talking about Americans adopting (although the very small and declining number of adoptions last year in the U.S. is evidence that more people should). Instead, this is about helping churches all over the world legally adopt children, doing what’s best for a child and ending the orphan crisis.

 

Six Things Every Church Can Do

So what can you do to help eradicate such a global problem? Here are six things every church (including yours!) can use to launch an orphan-care ministry:

Open your heart to God’s heart for the orphan.

Recognize your responsibility to find permanent families.

Prevent children from being orphaned.

Help orphans in ways that move them out of orphanhood.

Affirm loving, legal and lasting families by preservation, reunification, or adoption.

Never forget the local church is key.

 

Thinking Differently

The church’s approach to orphan care has changed dramatically from what it once was. Let’s continue moving closer to God’s heart for adoption, as found in His Word. He’s given us the perfect ministry model, so let’s embrace it. By working together, churches can end the current worldwide orphan crisis.

(Article originally printed in Ministry Today Magazine)

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Ernie and Pat are two ordinary members of Saddleback who have chosen to make an extraordinary difference by caring about orphans. Adoptive and foster parents, they have seen first hand the difference that family makes in the life of a child who has been deprived of a mom and dad. Below, Ernie shares a bit of his wife’s own remarkable adoption story – a miracle dating back to World War Two in Germany.

In 1947 post war Germany, a mother named Alma Mosher, a military wife lived in Germany as part of the US Occupational Forces. Alma had two biological sons, but her heart still longed for a daughter.

In a German orphanage, Alma found a six month old, brown-eyed little girl whose parents had thrown her away because she wasn’t the boy-warrior they wanted.

She picked up this precious baby girl, so tiny and underweight, and she knew that it was God’s plan for her to adopt her. Then the true battle started.

The politics in Germany and the rights of American GI’s and their families were not yet established. Alma refused to leave the country without the baby girl in her arms. After months of negotiations, Baby Pat officially became Alma’s daughter, and the first baby adopted in post-WWII Germany by an American GI. Alma’s refusal to accept a negative answer opened the door for adoption in Germany.

Forty years later, Pat lives in Lake Forest, CA and attends Saddleback Church. She is married with two boys, and like her mother, feels God’s call to help a little girl just like she was helped long ago. Accepting God’s call, Pat became a foster parent to three girls: Jessica, Kimberly, and Elizabeth.

Pat felt God’s call to foster and readily accepted, but she didn’t know the difficulty it would bring her; the same difficulty her mother faced years ago. Pat advocated for her girls – to protect them and to give them a better life. All three girls had come from difficult and traumatic situations, and needed the healing love of a family. Despite the difficulties, Pat’s love for her girls only grew with her desire to battle for their care and protection.

There is a story for each of these little girls that would fill a thousand novels, but the bigger story is how the love of a mom, who wouldn’t give up despite the hard circumstances, made a difference in the world more than a generation later.

Jessica is now a 27 year old woman living in Boston, now reunited with her birth mother. But her desire to find her birth mother did not alienate her birth family, it only added members to her already loving family.

Elizabeth, now 28 years old, was adopted by a family in Los Angeles.

Kimberly, abandoned at birth in a Tustin Hospital, is now our adopted daughter and a beautiful 25 year old woman, attending college so she can become a psychologist to help others with the same life experiences she had.

But the impact of the love of a mother doesn’t stop with helping orphaned children; there are consequences to their family members inspired by the actions of their mom. David, our oldest son, is a business man in Orange Count. Tim, our youngest son, is a pediatric cardiologist who spent ten days last Christmas with a medical team in Ethiopia and repaired the hearts of 38 children.

Pat and I are now spending time working with the Local Orphan Care Initiative here at Saddleback Church to grow a coalition of churches and Orange County Social Services to find a loving home for every orphan in Orange County and to spread that model across the country.

If it wasn’t for the love of Pat’s mother at the end of WWII, who fought for and adopted one brown-eyed baby girl, there wouldn’t be our marriage of 46 years, a business man making a difference for immigrant families, a cardiologist working on baby’s hearts, an adopted little girl studying to help others work through their emotional pain, and a senior couple now working on the Global Orphan Care Initiative at Saddleback Church.

The love of a mother can change the world one life at a time. Together with God, you don’t need to start a revolution to make a difference; loving one lonely child at a time can change the world, just like Alma and Pat changed the lives of the orphaned children around them.


To get connected to Orphan Care at Saddleback, join us this Sunday from 4-6pm in the Refinery to hear the variety of opportunities available for you to make a difference in the life of an orphan! 

If you would like information on how your family can adopt or foster a child, join us at “Thinking About Adoption or Foster Care” Wednesday June 4th from 6:30-8:30pm, or call the Orphan Care Line at 949-609-8555.

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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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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.