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Ariana Crary plays soccer, works hard in school, and goes to church with her family. She is an average thirteen-year-old girl, and this past summer she chose to go with her family to Rwanda to serve on an Orphan Care PEACE trip.

During her time in Rwanda, Ariana learned about the plight of vulnerable kids her age who live half way around the world from her, and she learned that her life can have a global impact.

“It was very moving,” she says. “When we went to the Genocide museum and it made me realize what these survivors really went through and how so many kids were orphaned Then the first orphanage we visited was for special needs kids. I couldn’t imagine living there, but the kids were delighted to see us and play with us.”

Ariana and her family experienced stories of lives changed first-hand, going on home visits to families that had recently adopted children from the orphanage.

“In the home visit that I went to, a girl was reunited with her uncle. I was inspired by the way she described the differences between living in an orphanage and a family.”

Over the course of the trip, the Crary family saw their family grow closer as their lives changed together.

“Going to Rwanda has changed my life,” says Ariana. “Through my trip to Africa, I became exposed to the harshness of reality people have to deal with. It inspires me to help. I think this trip’s experiences and its impact will stay with me for the rest of my life.”

Her mother, Brenda, states “One of the most fulfilling parts of the trip for me was to see my kids step up and into their role to serve others, no matter what it took. It was by far the best family trip I have ever been on with my children. It brought us closer as a family and we’ll forever have the memories of Rwanda.”

If you and your family are interested in an Orphan Care PEACE trip to Rwanda, contact us at orphans@saddleback.com or call the Orphan Care line at 949-609-8555 for more information.

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Did you know that for $38 a month, you can change a child’s life? Saddleback’s Rwanda Orphan Sponsorship program provides hope for children in orphanages by sponsoring families who need a bit of financial support to bring a child into their home. When orphans gain a family they become permanent sons and daughters.

Listen here to Kay Warren’s message on how you can get involved:

Hi I’m Kay Warren. I’d like to tell you about a new kind of child sponsorship. Children need the love of a family, which is why we’re working in Rwanda to help them empty all their orphanages and place those children into permanent caring families.

Of the 3000 children in orphanages, 1200 now have families to call their own. There’s still more to be done. You can help empty orphanages by sponsoring a family in Rwanda, helping a child reunite with or regain a family.

Sponsorship helps a family provide school feels, food, clothes, and health insurance for the child. You can learn more at saddleback.com/sponsorship. When you sponsor you are helping an orphan become a son or a daughter again.

To begin sponsoring a family in Rwanda visit saddleback.com/sponsorship. Thank you.

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Mike and Brenda Crary are ordinary Saddleback Church members who responded to Pastor Rick’s challenge to step out in faith by going on an Orphan Care trip to Rwanda in the summer of 2014. They decided to bring their entire family, and together through Saddleback’s Orphan Care Initiative they learned how to help equip local churches to empty orphanages. They thought they knew what was in store for them, but as often happens on a PEACE trip, God used them in a way they never expected.

As part of their home visits made with local church members, Mike and Brenda stopped by to check in on a family prior to their reunification with their 17-year-old daughter. This family had placed their daughter in the orphanage long ago thinking it would be the best place for her. It wasn’t until they heard from their local church about the harm caused by institutional care that they decided to reunite.

The mother, Mama Evette, was tending to newborn twins as she waited with anticipation for her daughter to return home from the orphanage for good. As the Crarys held the newborns and chatted with the family, they learned that Mama Evette was a genocide survivor who had given her life to Christ at a local church sometime after the genocide. Soon after, she married her ex-boyfriend when he gave his life to Christ. They had recently had the twins whom the Crarys were now admiring.

Noticing the babies’ strong startle response, Mike shared how all babies have the inborn reflex to raise their hands when they feel the sensation of falling. Mama Evette was astounded. She told the Crarys how she had been praying about this behavior and was deeply worried her babies were experiencing demonic attack. Friends had even visited and advised Mama Evette to take her baby to the witch doctor for treatment. But in faith, Mama Evette had refused to go because she was now a believer in Jesus.

Brenda further explained how premature babies exhibit the behavior more frequently because their developing nervous systems are highly sensitive. Mama Evette confirmed that the twins were born prematurely. Excitement filled the room as this mother realized both her babies were healthy and growing normally. God had listened to Mama Evette’s prayers and responded by granting her the reassurance she craved through the Crarys’ visit.

God could have chosen anyone to answer Mama Evette’s prayers, yet He orchestrated that the Crarys would travel to Rwanda to be the vehicle of his love.  It didn’t take any special skills – just knowledge they already had, training they received, and a willingness to say “yes” to God. Because the Crary family had the faith to go, God used them in the lives of Mama Evette and her babies.

If you are interested in joining Orphan Care on a PEACE trip like Mike and Brenda, join us at the monthly PEACE night gathering on at 6pm in Tent 3 on the 4th Saturday of every month, or contact us at orphans@saddleback.com or by phone at (949) 609-8555.

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Your presence will make a difference this Saturday night. 6:00pm at the Lake Forest Campus.  The Orphan Care Initiative community gathers at PEACE night where your voice matters- you’ll also hear what God has been doing what He has in store for you.  You are making an impact for his precious children locally and globally!

 

Here's a few great places to get connected to the Orphan Care community, starting THIS SATURDAY:

  

PEACE NIGHT  THIS Saturday, February 28th – 6:00pm in Tent 3

Meet friends and get exciting updates from the Orphan Care Initiative this weekend! We will start at 6pm in Tent 3 on the Saddleback Church Lake Forest Campus, head to regional breakouts and come together for the Orphan Care Initiative breakout at 7:30 in room 303. PEACE Night is also a great time to learn how to go on an Orphan Care PEACE trip. Learn how to take your next step and get involved! 

 

THINKING ABOUT ADOPTION OR FOSTER CAREMarch 4th - Wednesday - 6:30pm-8:30pm

Have you considered adopting or fostering, but aren’t sure how to get started? Every first Wednesday of the month from 6:30-8:30pm in MO2, families from our church who have adopted and fostered share helpful overviews and answer your questions in a no-pressure environment. If that time doesn't work for you, we’d still love to talk to you. Free to call or meet with us for more information on fostering and adopting! 

 

JOIN OUR LOCAL AND GLOBAL ACTION TEAMS You can serve in ways too numerous to name, but here’s a sample:  Serve orphans and vulnerable children in our neighborhoods.  Play with children temporarily housed for their protection in Orange County, serve an individual foster children by being their volunteer/mentor in the court system, help teach local churches in orphan care, come alongside adoptive or foster families.  Serve in sponsorship, social media, website development, writing, hospitality/event hosts, or advocacy. There’s a place for you!

 

RWANDA: EMPTY ORPHANAGES STRENGTHEN CHURCHES

There’s room for you!  Join an upcoming trip.  Learn more this Saturday or email orphans@saddleback.com.

 

Interested? Just let us know and we will find the exact spot for you, your family or your small group. We’ll help get you connected and provide any necessary training.

 

Have questions? Need more information? Connect with us by email (orphans@saddleback.com) or phone (949-609-8555)! We can't wait to serve with you soon!

When the sun sets in Gishita, Rwanda the sky turns to dark blue velvet. Stars twinkle timidly and lights from little homes dotting the hillside turn on one by one. The hills—bright green during the day—roll on in succession, with only the moon to light their division.

At night Bellia and her 6 year old adopted daughter Marie sleep in the same room. The quiet of home comforts them and Bible verses on the white walls whisper love and peace over them. Two cows low in the next room.


For years in the orphanage, Marie went to sleep in a dormitory with more than twenty other girls, praying for a mother to tell her goodnight. She woke up without a mother to dress her in clean clothes. She breakfasted in a room with a hundred other children, and no one to make sure she got enough food to eat. She trekked home from school to a concrete building with no one to welcome her. She closed her eyes without anyone to tuck her in and kiss her forehead.

Now, for the first time, timid Marie knows what it is to have someone who cares just for her as she falls asleep under Rwanda’s velvet night sky. In her husky child’s voice she babbles stories about her day, wonders aloud about everything she sees. She asks her mother serious and silly questions about what it means to be a girl navigating life at 6 years old. 


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Her mother, Bellia, is a Community PEACE Trainer – a volunteer who trains families from her church about healthcare. As a mother to four grown children, Bellia’s heart has always been for children. When she heard teaching from the PEACE Plan about God’s heart for the orphan, she decided to adopt Marie. She now also assists other families who have reunited and adopted by doing home visits and providing parenting support.

 “I decided God has done well for me, so I will do well for God’s kids,” she says.

Little Marie has been part of her new family for several months. It’s her custom when she meets new people to proudly introduce them to her mama. The blossoming love they share is evident to anyone who visits their home. Because of the local church and Rwanda Orphan Care Sponsors, Marie and Bellia’s unfolding story is made possible. Sponsorship allows Bellia to provide Marie with all the necessities, as well as her school fees and medical insurance. 

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Bellia (left) with Marie (center) and Bellia’s grandson. All photos taken and used with permission.


“GETTING TO ZERO” UPDATES

We are excited to announce that Esperance, an orphanage in Western Rwanda that was using children to grow and harvest pineapples, is down to just two children left waiting for families!

When we began working with the local churches in that area in 2013, there were 130 children living and working in Esperance. Now 128 of those children have left the orphanage forever and each has been embraced by care of a loving family in the community – with your support and the diligent efforts of the local church in Rwanda!


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