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May we shout for joy when we hear of your victory and raise a victory banner in the name of our God. May the Lord answer all your prayers. (Psalms 20:5 NLT)


Victory Family Church sits on a hill with a gorgeous view of the Kamonyi District in Rwanda. The church property was once an orphanage, but all the orphans who recently lived there have graciously been adopted into local families. Victory Family Church now uses the church property not only as a church, but also as a vocational school that teaches sewing and hairdressing skills as a ministry of the church. Although the orphanage closed quickly and children returned to family, most families in this area who have adopted children are in need of parental training and emotional from the church. Seeing the immense difference that church support provides family, the government specifically asked the Orphan Care Initiative to come alongside these fragile new families with tools and training.

Rwanda Orphan Care

This past June, a PEACE team from Saddleback Church had the privilege of leading a parent training seminar at this wonderful church in Rwanda. As most people living in this community rely on walking as their most common mode of transportation, it took a couple of hours for the local parents to eventually arrive on foot. The attendees consisted of a few men and approximately 20 local Rwandan women who were beautifully dressed in their bright colorful patterned dresses. Prior to the start of the parenting seminar, a few of the colorfully dressed women led the entire sanctuary of visiting Americans and local Rwandans in joyful singing of praise, worship, and dancing to the Lord. “With God, anything is possible” is what was passionately being sung to the Lord in their local Kinyarwanda language that was accompanied by a beating drum, clapping hands, joyful shouts, and joyful dancing.

The PEACE team invested hours encouraging and training the attentive Rwandan parents who have all adopted children into their families. Most of these parents expressed that they have adopted not just one child, but multiple children into their families. Many of their adopted children are now teenagers, bringing new challenges to the family dynamic. The team taught the importance of patient and gentle discipline, facts concerning brain development, emotional attachment, and Trust-Based Relational Intervention (TBRI training). Although their spirits are willing, their flesh is often weak. These wonderful parents needed to be strengthened. And this day they were.

Rwanda Orphan Care

The Rwandan parents filled pages of notes as they listened attentively and later expressed how thankful they were for what they described as an invaluable and inspiring seminar. They expressed that they were immediately motivated to start a support group of their own in order to encourage one another. The long-term mission strategy for Orphan Care was set in motion that day as that special group of faithful believers left encouraged and inspired. The visiting PEACE team was able to minister through their acquired knowledge, education, and experience that was shared through the love and grace of Jesus Christ. And this visiting PEACE team was equally encouraged by the Rwandan parents who were so filled with the joy of the Lord as they were living out their purpose as compassionate, selfless servants of Jesus Christ.

The local Rwandan parents invited the team to return again as soon as possible as they were eager to continue to learn as much, and as often as they could. Thankful goodbyes were exchanged, and with their arms raised towards heaven and hands waving, they shouted, Imana Ishimwe! Praise God!

If you would like to serve churches like this one in Rwanda on an Orphan Care PEACE trip, email orphans@saddleback.com. If you would like to support an adoptive family in Rwanda through Sponsorship, check out www.Saddleback.com/Sponsorship.


But let all who take refuge in you rejoice; let them ever sing for joy, and spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may exult in you. (Psalms 5:11 ESV)


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Just a few miles outside of Kigali, the capital city of Rwanda, is a humble community of low-income residents who work very hard to make ends meet. This community may not be in the slums, but here things such as motorized transportation and electricity are considered luxuries. Those living here labor to ensure that they have the basic necessities for life - daily meals, clothing, and shelter. The humble homes in this hillside community are spaced at random along the dirt roads - small rectangle residences that consist of concrete walls and floors, shielded by a tin roof. Many children living in this community are able to go to school, but this too is a luxury in Rwanda. For those families who live with the additional challenge of raising a child with severe disabilities, the specialized schooling and specialized medical attention required can feel dauntingly beyond any financial capabilities that these families can afford.

Living in this community is a young couple raising five children. Two of their grade school aged children are twins. One twin attends the local primary school, but the other twin is not able to because she was born with a spinal cord disability that prohibits her from being able to walk. As is the case with many high-risk twin pregnancies, one twin will often be more dominant while the other will struggle to grow and survive. Such was the case with this young mother’s pregnancy, and although both her twins survived her emergency C-section, one of her daughters was confined to an incubator for many months after her birth due to hindered in-utero development, coupled with complications at birth.

This young family has faced difficult challenges, but they beam with hope as they have built their family on the firm foundation of Jesus Christ. Their faith is strong, they look forward to their eternal inheritance in heaven, but their daily struggle of raising a disabled daughter is burdensome. A recent PEACE trip team was invited into this young couple’s home to hear their story firsthand. These hopeful parents expressed their dream of being able to one day see their daughter healed, able to walk, and able to work. The PEACE team, consisting of eight Saddleback men, had the privilege of laying hands on this couple and prayed for their daughters healing and future success as a child of God. As this family continues to trust God, they are able to receive much needed support through their local church. Through the Rwanda Orphan Care Sponsorship program, the local church is able to tangibly help this family, providing them means to pay the school fees for her to attend a special church-run school for disabled children, enroll her in medical insurance, and learn skills for financial health through a savings group. The local church is able to offer this precious girl hope and is able to be a bright light to this entire Rwandan community.

As the local church is able to offer support to discouraged families, the church plays a key role in ensuring that orphanages remain empty in Rwanda. Many families are tempted to give up and are even tempted to abandon their children as they struggle to find hope and purpose. However, the local church, through the support of the Sponsorship program, is able to help ensure that families remain full of hope and purpose, that they remain intact, and that whenever possible, children are raised by their family of origin. As families are strengthened and learn that they can survive together, they are able to offer the same hope and encouragement to other families in their communities. Communities are being transformed! Faith is being strengthened! Christ is at the center, and hope is alive!

If you would like to help vulnerable families like these continue to support their children, check out the Rwanda Orphan Care Sponsorship program at www.Saddleback.com/Sponsorship, or call the Orphan Care Initiative at 949-609-8555.
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God specializes in bringing good out of broken situations, and the story of Pascasie and her family is an amazing testament of God’s redemption.

When a neighbor abandoned her baby girl after a failed abortion, Pascasie, a Rwandan widow, was stirred to compassion, and she chose to take the handicapped infant into her home. Pascasie saw the opportunity to give a family to this child who had lost hers, just as Pascasie had. A survivor of the genocide, Pascasie was deeply familiar with grief and loss. The genocide had left her widowed and with only one of her two beloved children. She lived, but feared she would not be able to provide enough to sustain herself and her children.

When her neighbor deserted the child, Pascasie made the courageous, faith-filled decision to make the girl her own, even though resources were limited. Pascasie trusted God, and it was in her obedience, amidst emotional and financial challenges, that she witnessed God’s goodness and provision on display. Her local church stepped in to help.

Thanks to Rwanda Orphan Care Sponsors, the local Rwandan church had resources to wholistically support this fragile family. Pascasie said the church is what “made the difference” in her and her children’s life. To hear the story of how Sponsorship changed Pascasie’s life in her own words, check out this video.

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The hope and transformation in this family are possible because of the generosity of the local church and Saddleback Orphan Care Sponsors! If you would like to become a sponsor, check out www.Saddleback.com/Sponsorship.

“For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11

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For children with disabilities, the care of a family can mean the difference between life and death. In Rwanda, families can struggle to know how to support children with special needs in the midst of a culture that stigmatizes disabled children. The challenge can become so daunting that parents sometimes abandon disabled children. The local church in Rwanda is stepping into the gap, affirming God’s love for every child and providing practical support to families caring for children with special needs. As part of the Orphan Care Initiative’s strategy to help all children remain in family, reunite with family, or regain family through adoption, children with disabilities living in orphanages who were once considered “unadoptable” have found permeant, legal, lasting families who are making amazing sacrifices to give them the care they need.

One Presbyterian church in Rwanda has begun a school for special needs children, which not only supports the children but has become a place for struggling parents to come together. Saddleback Orphan Care PEACE teams have come alongside these parents, encouraging them to start a support group to share their unique struggles in a safe space in the church, and providing them with skills to parent their children from hard places. Through Rwanda Orphan Sponsorship, as of this Spring, two of the families who adopted their children from the orphanage are receiving monetary support from their local church, in addition to three of the families who had been struggling to carry on.

Parents in the support group share that they have never before been able to talk to anyone about the challenges they face caring for their children. Being in community in the church with other families walking the same journey has lifted their burden and has helped them know that God sees them and cares about their family.

Thanks to the generosity of Sponsors, these families can now devote more attention to the care of their children and are being cared for by their local church family. Where they and their children once experienced isolation, they now have a community that can come alongside them in the tough times with practical help and shared experience.

If you would like to support a family in Rwanda through Sponsorship, visit www.saddleback.com/sponsorship or email orphans@saddleback.com for more info.

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The country of Rwanda is approaching its goal of closing all orphanages throughout the country as children are being placed in families out of the orphanage or reunited with their families. Despite this progress, in some orphanages children remain waiting to receive a family – either because finding a willing family is a challenge or often times, there are orphans ages 18 and older who grew up in the orphanage, never learned life skills to survive on their own, and therefore feel unable to leave the orphanage setting. What does all this mean for the work of “Getting to Zero”? Even when orphanages have closed, the task of caring for vulnerable and orphaned children is far from done.

 

The work of the Orphan Care Initiative goes far beyond simply “closing orphanages.” The tools and training we provide through the work of the local churches in Rwanda is developing a child welfare system for a country that will ensure that no children grow up outside of family care. If you take the case of the United States, we have no orphanages – in their place we have a system for identifying vulnerable and parentless children, sourcing families to foster and adopt them, and training and monitoring those families so that they are successful. If you look at Rwanda through that view, the work has only begun. There is now a stellar example in Western Rwanda – where the Orphan Care Initiative has focused our efforts at the request of the government – of what it looks like to reintegrate children into families well with the wrap around support of the church.

 

However, much of the rest of the nation returned children to families without the wrap-around support of the churches, which is so critical to the long-term success of an orphanage-free child welfare system. Our most recent Orphan Care PEACE trip saw this firsthand as they conducted trainings in Kimonyi, an example of an area where the orphanage recently closed but families had never received any information on how to address the trauma their children have experienced in the institution. When the government realized these families were struggling, they specifically asked for the Orphan Care Initiative to intervene with training and support.

 

Getting a child out of an orphanage and into a family is only the start of the journey of helping that child and family succeed long term. In that way, future Orphan Care PEACE teams remain critical to delivering several important, world-view shifting messages:

1) The value and need for adoption in a culture coming out of dependence on orphanages.

2) Teaching churches how to deliver the evidence-based adoptive parent training that allows families to help heal hurts of children who have come from the orphanage and other hard places.

3) The truth that EVERYONE in the church is called to care for the orphan, and the church can help members get on mission in this area in a variety of ways.

 

The Rwanda Orphan Sponsorship is a piece of this support system designed to help children remain in, reunite with or regain family through adoption. Families brought into the sponsorship program receive support to help care for their child in the form of a monthly amount from their local church. As part of sponsorship, parents become part of a savings group to learn how to grow and manage their money, and they receive lay social work support from the church and agree to attend parenting training. In return, the families agree to use the funds to pay their child’s school fees, enroll them in medical insurance and tithe back to their local church. Because these funds go directly to the family from their local church, many families receiving sponsorship don’t know there is a Western donor on the other end, they just see it as their local church coming alongside to support them.

 

If you would like to help families who are adopting children out of orphanages through the Rwanda Orphan Sponsorship, please visit saddleback.com/sponsorship for more information on how your giving can help in Getting to Zero.

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