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When the Rwandan government first announced its goal to empty all the orphanages by placing the children into families, the idea was met by some with resistance.

One orphanage owner said closing the orphanage was impossible. He argued some children were “unadoptable,” and he pointed to three children from his orphanage as examples: Laurence, a 17-year-old girl living with HIV; Joel, a 10-year-old living with HIV; and Jean Pierre, a 4-year-old with cerebral palsy. No family, he said, would be willing to take in these sick or handicapped children, and therefore they would always need to be in the orphanage.

The local church knew, however, that God cared about each child, that He saw them and had a plan for their lives. They knew that God designed the local church as the hope of the world. Volunteers began raising up and training adoptive families with the support of the Orphan Care Initiative and Rwanda Orphan Sponsorship.

Joel, the 10-year-old living with HIV, was quickly adopted into a family from a local church who loves him and provides him with the care he needs. Laurence, who herself had no hope of ever leaving the orphanage, was adopted by Kabibi, a healthy woman living with HIV in Kigali (we shared their story here).

For a time it seemed that Jean Pierre would be one of the last children in the orphanage, as his cerebral palsy made his care more challenging. However, as the last few children left in the orphanage went home to family, the miraculous happened: Darlene, a woman who had helped to care for Jean Pierre at the orphanage, had grown to love him as a son. She couldn’t see him left alone and abandoned once again as the orphanage closed, and she decided to adopt him herself.

Darlene wasn’t sure she had the resources to care for him on her own, so she reached out to the local church who, through the Orphan Care Initiative, got them connected to a special needs school that will provide specialized care for Jean Pierre and training for Darlene. Darlene is so passionate about providing Jean Pierre the best care possible she is relocating in order to be closer to the school. Jean Pierre, once an “unadoptable” in the orphanage, is now a much-loved son.

Rwanda Orphan Care

Jean Pierre’s former orphanage is now completely closed. Every one of the over 100 children who were living there is now in a family of his or her own, thanks to the local church, the Orphan Care Initiative, and the support of generous Orphan Care Sponsors. The orphanage’s closing is just one testament to what God can do when His Church ignores the voice of those who say, “It can’t be done.”


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Jerome is a student at our Saddleback Manila campus who felt God tugging on his heart to serve local churches globally in the areas of orphan care and HIV/AIDS. The first member of his campus to serve on a PEACE trip, he recently recounted how God used his experience to open his eyes and grow his faith:

When I became a follower of Christ, I dreamt of serving God on the mission field. For 5 years, I prayed to go on a global mission. One day, one of our pastors at Lake Forest suggested I join a PEACE trip. I told him I was waiting for Saddleback South Manila to start one. He asked: “Why are you waiting? Manila is waiting for you.” He sent me a link to the Rwandan PEACE trip and I became a part of the team.

On this trip, God tested my faith. First, he tested it through fundraising. I didn’t know how to raise the funds, but God sent people who helped fully pay for my trip. The second test was 4 days before my ight. I su ered intense panic attacks and acid reflux. I almost backed out because I was scared of my condition.

But God spoke to me, “Jerome, you prayed for this for 5 years. You have funds, you’ve got all your papers; all you have to do is GO!” So I chose to step in faith and trust God. This was not just about fundraising anymore, but about faith raising. I knew God would take care of those wholly devoted to Him.

At Amsterdam, I met my team in person for thefirst me. The moment we landed in Rwanda, we celebrated like we won the Super Bowl and shouted ‘’Finally, this is it!” We spent our PEACE trip visi ng families and communities, conducting seminars on parenting, orphan care, HIV & AIDS, Celebrate Recovery, and more.

We visited families that adopted children. When we asked why they adopted, they said, “After the genocide, the most important thing for us is family and friends.” Hearing this broke my heart. These families in Rwanda have less access than I do to electricity, food, education, gadgets, or stable jobs, and yet they know that people are more valuable than any of these.

From my trip, I’ve learned to trust God in every situation. There are so many families who adopted 1 to 4 children, families living with HIV and AIDS, yet God didn’t forget them. In the whole week we were in Rwanda, I suffered anxiety attacks, but I declared I would finish this trip on His strength and promises. I believe God’s purpose for me is to share my stories on how God changed my life. I've been hopeless, I’m weak, I'm not rich; but I know God prepared me for this. He uses ordinary people to do extraordinary things.

I challenge you to be a part of our local and global PEACE projects. I tell you, it will change your life. 

If you would like more information on going on a global PEACE trip, email orphans@saddleback.com.

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Jeff knew he was going to be late. He rushed home after coaching his son’s soccer practice, then headed straight back out. The Saddleback Men’s event, Man Up, had started an hour earlier, but Jeff thought he could catch the end. Even if he only got 20 minutes in, he felt it would be worth it. Plus, there were free hot dogs.

Jeff arrived at this outdoor men’s event as Pastor Tom Kang was finishing the message. With the smell of grilled hot dogs still in the air, Jeff heard Pastor Tom giving some final announcements. As Jeff walked across the grass, he listened to the details of the upcoming men’s Wilderness Retreat, and thought to himself, ‘This is exactly what I need.’

Jeff had been out of work for several weeks and was feeling the financial and emotional pressure to find a new job — fast. He thought that he could use the time away, in the outdoor air, to get refreshed and refocused on God. He had a lot of questions for God about his future, and the retreat would be the perfect opportunity to meditate on those questions. Jeff took a retreat info card from a volunteer. Jeff thought that God had led him to church this night to hear about this opportunity, but as he read, he realized a problem: he had already made plans that week in June — the retreat would have to wait. 

Jeff took a deep breath, frustrated, silently venting in prayer. Pastor Tom continued his announcements from the stage, moving on to talk about the next big men’s event — a PEACE trip to Rwanda to help serve churches in the areas of Orphan Care and HIV/AIDS. He encouraged the men to support this PEACE trip in at least one of three ways: prayer, financial support, or going on the trip. Tom explained that two spots still needed filled, and he asked two men to step up that night. Jeff realized that he didn’t need to leave disappointed. But fear began whispering in Jeff’s mind. Unemployed and with no job prospects on the horizon, how would he find time and finances for a trip to Rwanda in the middle of his job search?

He didn’t know how or why, but he felt God pulling him to at least sign up for the trip. Taking a leap of faith, Jeff joined the line with a dozen other men who were signing up. Most people in his life were advising Jeff to use every waking moment to look for a job. But Jeff knew that God wanted him to be part of this trip. He had the time off work now — there might not be a better opportunity later.

That night, Jeff prayed with his wife, and they made a decision that even if he were offered a job before the Rwanda trip, he would not back out. The next day, he received the call: he was selected to go on the trip.

With the trip quickly approaching, Jeff needed to raise support immediately. Although asking for help felt out of his comfort zone, Jeff crafted an email to his friends and family and clicked send. Within the next 24 hours, Jeff’s account for the trip filled up. Jeff was the last man selected for this PEACE trip, but he was the first to see God provide every penny he needed.

The PEACE trip was a catalyst for Jeff’s involvement at church. Jeff returned from the trip, inspired to continue serving. In August, Jeff took his wife and his youngest son on a one-day PEACE trip to Baja, Mexico. Jeff continues to seek God concerning his career path, but through this step of faith he has found a place to serve in the local church and get his family involved. Jeff believes that it is through serving and building relationships that he will find God’s purpose for his life. 

Although Jeff still has not settled in to a new, full-time job, he enthusiastically shares how God is faithful and will continue to meet his family’s needs. Jeff is a man on a mission, a mission to serve God and others, even in the midst of trials. Although his faith is being tested in this difficult season, Jeff believes that God is always good and will provide the right opportunity at the right time.

 

If you would like information on going on a global Orphan Care or HIV/AIDS PEACE Trip, email orphans@saddleback.com.

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Isaac is a young pastor in Rwanda who has a passion for educating and caring for vulnerable children with disabilities. Pastor Isaac greeted us, an Orphan Care PEACE trip team of men from Saddleback, with his infectious bright smile, he graciously showed us the Presbyterian church that he pastors, and the adjoined school for disabled children that he started as a ministry of his church. He was unashamed to share that although he does not have much experience with disabled children, he knows he has been appointed by God to help them. Isaac walks by faith in obedience to Christ, ministering to his community in a very real and powerful way. He has a vision to grow the school, to expand the hours, and to be able to offer more help for disabled children who come with all sorts of special physical and mental needs.

We followed Isaac down the red dirt roads in the community he serves, and he led us to a very small residence. We were welcomed inside a dark, small living room that was lined with a small couch, a few chairs, and a wheelchair that sat in the corner. This is home to a young mother and her two children, ages 11 and 7. This brave young woman welcomed 8 strangers from this PEACE team into her humble living room and began to share her life story. Brave and vulnerable, this young woman did not hesitate to share her story of pain, fear, poverty, rejection, desperation, and the hope that the local church now gives her.

This young mother became pregnant as a teenager and gave birth to a disabled son who did not make a sound for the first 3 months of his life. As a teenage mother, she remained in the hospital with her newborn son for 3 months, without work and without support. Miraculously, an anonymous person paid for her very costly medical fees and she was released from the hospital with her son. Not willing to bear the burden of raising a disabled son, her husband left her to raise her son alone. This caused her to take extreme measures in order to provide for her family. She admits to having to lock her son in a room so that she could go find work. While her son was caged, she would sell drugs in desperation to earn money. Four years later, she gave birth to her second son and continued to sell drugs. Eventually, she was arrested and was sent to prison along with both her sons. Once released from prison, she would continue to lock her children up so that she could go find work. Prostitution eventually became the way that she would make ends meet. A life of prostitution led to fear, anger, and shame, but it was the only way she knew how to provide for herself and her children. She was hopeless, yet she desperately fought to survive.

Pastor Isaac and his church learned of this situation and wanted to offer this family real lasting hope. Pastor Isaac invited this young woman and her children to his church. Through the support of the orphan care sponsorship program, Isaac was able to come alongside this struggling family, and the funds enabled her son to enroll in the school for disabled children. The church is also able to make sure that this young mother has her basic needs met so that this family will remain intact. Church volunteers help teach her how to care for her children. Without hope, many families abandon their children, leaving them as orphans; but the local church offers hope.

The church works with families in order to prevent anyone from becoming an orphan. As the local church rises up, encourages, and helps support struggling families, many children (especially disabled children) are able to remain in their family of origin. Making sure that children remain in their family origin is a key strategy of the Orphan Care Initiative. This young mother can now be a mother to her children, she has hope, and her disabled son has recently been able to learn to sing and is learning to write! Praise God!

The church in action brings amazing hope, transformation, and healing. This family is now tangibly receiving physical, spiritual, and emotional support. Through generous giving and sponsorship, the PEACE plan partnering with the local church is truly able to be the hands and feet of Jesus to those desperately in need. Your sponsorship is offering hope to the hopeless and is helping to transform and heal some of the most vulnerable and broken lives in our world. Pastor Isaac’s church and this family are eternally grateful, their spirits are hopeful, and they sincerely offer their love and thanks as they are encouraged by your support.

Rwanda Orphan Care

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 http://www.saddleback.com/Sponsorship.

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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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