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.
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.
“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.
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.
This fall, brush up on new relational skills and grow healthier connections with your children and loved ones with one of our series of
classes and support groups designed just for you! Whether you are an adoptive
or foster parent, a relative caregiver, or just someone looking to learn skills
to work with children who come from hard places, there’s a place for you to learn in
Caring for Children
Impacted by Trauma and Grief
Are you a parent, teacher, childcare worker, mentor, or just
have a passion for helping children? Join us for this cutting edge 7 week/14
hour workshop on how to recognize the signs of grief and trauma in children and
how to intervene to get them back on the path of healing and connection.
Wednesday nights from 6:30pm-8:30pm
Sept. 24, Oct. 1, Oct. 15, Oct. 22, Oct. 29, Nov. 12, Nov.
Register here: http://saddleback.com/event/13169657801/Caring-for-Children-Impacted-by-Trauma
This 7 week training, perfect for relative caregivers as
well as foster and adoptive families, will help you and your family understand
the effects of trauma on your child. Learn to understand your child’s experience
with attachment and acquire practical techniques for promoting trust and
creating a safe environment for your child. Join a community of families as we
come together to be equipped with skills to create a tighter bond with your
child and a healthier relationship.
Class dates: Sept. 24, Oct. 1, Oct. 15, Oct. 22, Oct. 29,
Nov. 12, Nov. 19
Portable room 301/303 Saddleback Church Lake Forest Campus
Register here: http://saddleback.com/event/13192012665/Trauma-Informed-Parenting-Classes
Adoption & Foster
Care Support Group
Join other adoptive and foster parents for 13 weeks of
support and encouragement as we learn how to better relate to our children.
The Connection: Where Hearts Meet is an interactive small
group study designed to help you and your child build lasting, loving
connection. You will be encouraged and equipped with practical help based on
Biblical truths and research-based interventions specifically developed for
adoptive or foster care families.
The support group meets Tuesdays from 11am to 1pm.
Support Group will meet on the following Tuesdays: Sept. 30,
Oct. 14, Oct. 21, Oct. 28, Nov. 11, Nov. 18, Nov. 25, Dec. 2, Dec. 16, Jan. 6,
Jan. 13, Jan. 27, Feb. 3
Location: Upstairs classroom of the Refinery building on the
Lake Forest campus of Saddleback Church.
Questions? Email us at email@example.com or call the
Orphan Care Initiative at 949-609-8555.
This blog has been adapted from a post on Dr. Karyn Purvis’
site Empowered to Connect.
For more helpful trust-based parenting tips, visit their resources page.
To order The Connection, a 13 week small group study for adoptive and foster
parents written by Dr. Karyn Purvis and Elizabeth Styffe, click here.
When people hear our kids ask, “May I
have a compromise?” they tend to look at us a bit funny. They seem completely
confused when we respond to our kids as if their request for a compromise is
normal. But at our house it is normal. In fact, it’s a request we hear no less
than a dozen times each day.
We began teaching our kids to ask for
compromises when our now five-year old daughter was only two. We figured that
she was old enough to have a conversation with us, so she was old enough to
begin learning how to compromise.
One thing we’ve noticed over the
years among kids who are adopted or in foster care is that they tend to have
control issues — sometimes really BIG control issues. Many kids (and parents)
struggle with control issues, but this especially true for adopted and foster
kids that come from homes or situations where most, if not all, of their world
was out of control. Sometimes these kids had to raise younger siblings,
or had to fend for themselves to find their next meal. Sometimes these kids had
to use control and manipulation to stay safe, both physically and emotionally.
And some of these kids resorted to control as an attempt to mask their
lack of trust and feed their desire to avoid being hurt, neglected, or
abandoned ever again. Control is often an “all or nothing” proposition for
these kids, and when they come to our homes they aren’t willing to easily give
up the control they’ve worked so hard to get.
In our home we’ve decided we are
going to help our kids deal with their control issues not by taking control
away from them, but by sharing control with them. Share control with our kids?
Sounds crazy. After all, we are the parents so we need to show our kids
that we are in control, right? The thinking goes that they need to respect our
authority or everything will devolve into chaos. We followed this way of
thinking for a while, but showing our kids that we were in control was NOT
working. As we tried to suddenly take all the control away from them what we
got in return were power struggles and the very chaos we were trying to avoid.
What worked, however, was a very simple solution…compromise.
The insight that helped us grasp this
approach was actually something that Dr. Karyn Purvis said – “If you as a
parent share power with your children, you have proven that it’s your power to
share.” This helped me understand that I get to decide when and how much
power to share when I offer my kids a compromise. And offering
compromises doesn’t mean that I lose control or give my kids all of the
control. It means that I teach them how to share power and control
appropriately and by doing so, I teach them an essential skill for healthy
Here’s how a compromise works at our
Me: Son, please go clean your room.
Son: (who is playing a videogame)
Sure mom. May I have a compromise?
Me: What’s your compromise?
Son: May I finish this level on my
game and then go do it?
Since that is an acceptable middle
ground I will typically say sure and let him finish the level before going to
clean his room. Of course this is an ideal conversation. Often times it goes
more like this:
Me: Son, please go get your room
Son: (who is playing a video game)
Ugh!! Can’t I just finish this level first?
Me: Whoa! I don’t like that tone.
Are you asking for a compromise??
Son: Yes.?Me: I’m listening.?
Son: May I have a compromise?
Me: Sure! That’s a good job asking
for a compromise!
Learning compromises takes practice
for both kids and parents. As they learn this skill, it’s important to
praise your kids when they ask for a compromise correctly (even if you have to
prompt them). Still the risk remains that your child might not hold up his end
of the deal. So, as you start using compromises it’s important to remind
your kids that if they don’t hold up their end of the compromise, then you
won’t be able to offer as many compromises in the future. Contrary to
what I thought would happen, my kids have always held up their end of the
compromise. As a result, we have had far fewer control battles.
By using compromises our kids have
learned that they have a voice. They know that I can’t always give them or
agree to a compromise, but they also know that I will as often as I can.
And the funny thing is that they now are able to accept ‘no’ much better
than in the past.
Remember – compromising is NOT about allowing our
kids to argue or debate with us, nor is it about losing our control or giving
them all of the control. It is about sharing power – our power.
Compromises give our kids a voice and allow them to RESPECTFULLY
ask for what they want and need. And compromises give us as parents the
opportunity to teach our kids an important way of relating that builds trust
This article, written by Elizabeth Styffe, Global Director of the Orphan Care Initiative, originally appeared in Ministry Today Magazine.
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
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.
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
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.
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
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).
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.
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
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.
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
Recognize your responsibility to find
Prevent children from being orphaned.
Help orphans in ways that move them out of
Affirm loving, legal and lasting families
by preservation, reunification, or adoption.
Never forget the local church is key.
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.
printed in Ministry Today Magazine)
Children In Families First (CHIFF), a bipartisan bill that would
prioritize family as a key element of U.S. foreign policy and help streamline
international adoptions, is hosting a Tweet-Up today – and your voice matters!
goal is to get the word out and influence members of Congress who will be
voting on the bill. Help raise awareness for this important bill that could help orphans around the world find family and change the face of international adoption in America by tweeting your support and sharing its
importance with your followers!
Please check out the CHIFF petition, sign it, and share to
your friends on social media
You can also learn more about the bill in this article about
CHIFF in the Christian Post: Sen. Mary Landrieu Asks Christians to #SupportCHIFF and Aid Orphans in Crisis (VIDEO INTERVIEW)
There is still a long battle ahead for this important piece
of legislation, but with your help we can help children get into families much
faster! Visit the CHIFF page at childreninfamiliesfirst.org to learn how you
can get involved. You can also follow CHIFF on Twitter and like their Facebook page to keep up with all the updates.