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
firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (949) 609-8555.
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 CARE? March 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 email@example.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 (firstname.lastname@example.org)
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.
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.
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!
Ten years ago in Kigali, Rwanda’s capital city, an
unspeakable tragedy left a young unmarried girl, Joselyn, pregnant with a baby
boy. She felt ashamed and broken.
Shortly after she gave birth, Joselyn’s aunt took the newborn
and sent him to an orphanage hidden in the mountains miles from Joselyn’s home.
Her aunt told Joselyn if she tried to find her son she would be arrested for
Last month, diligent orphan care volunteers from local
churches near the orphanage began to unravel now ten-year-old Eric’s history.
The story slowly unfolded. They found out this child living without hope of a
family actually had a mother. When Joselyn learned that her Eric was
waiting—parentless—she found new hope that she could reunite with her son once
The orphan care volunteers talked Joselyn through the
potential challenges of raising her son. Undeterred, she made the bold decision
to bring him home. In the course of their conversations and parenting training,
the volunteers asked Joselyn if she knew about Jesus, how He cared for her, how
He had come to redeem her pain and make her whole. Joselyn accepted Christ that
day in her home. She realized that her current accommodations—a small house
doubling as the community bar—was no place for a child, and she chose to move
down the street to a humble mud home, one with an extra room for Eric.
Local church members paid Joselyn’s way to make the grueling
six-hour bus ride to the orphanage where she and Eric were finally reunited.
Tears rolled down their faces as they embraced each other at last. As Joselyn
dried her son’s eyes using her traditional Rwandan skirt she spoke to him with
the soothing, tender words Eric had waited so long to hear, “ I love you. I
can’t wait to care for you. I can’t wait to hold you.”
Mother and son are now back home in Kigali, adjusting to
their new lives as a family. Through the generosity of sponsorship donors,
Joselyn has the means to provide a better home and a smooth transition for her
son. Eric will receive love from his own mother who can now provide medical
insurance, school fees and the home he never knew. He will hear and experience the love of Jesus
in the arms of his mother, with a family of his own.
This month, members of the local Rwandan church have decided
to take a local PEACE trip to fix up Joselyn’s home, making it more suitable
for their little family. They plan to paint the walls and add windows to the
small rooms. Through the love, care and provision of Saddleback sponsors and
members of the local church in Rwanda, Joselyn’s painful experiences have been
redeemed through their miraculous reunion, and a little boy’s future is forever
You can help children leave the orphanage! If you are interested in helping families like Joselyn and Eric reunite, visit saddleback.com/sponsorship for more information.
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
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.