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In October 2016, a group of women from Saddleback Church took a PEACE trip to Rwanda to serve local churches in the areas of Orphan Care and HIV/AIDS. Comprised of core women’s ministry leaders, the trip brought together women ranging from college students and recent graduates, to young mothers and career women, to grandmothers and great-grandmothers. Together, these women found that their diverse hearts were weaved together by the common vision of empowering the local churches of Rwanda and living out the Great Commission in their daily lives. 

Many of the women who served on this trip harbored deep insecurities and questions as to whether God could use them in Rwanda. Whether they felt too young, too old, too sensitive, too feminine, too inexperienced, or too small in the kingdom, God met them in their doubts and empowered them to serve His Church. As Lauren Franco, Women’s Communities intern and team member stated, “The Great Commission isn't subject to one gender, or one age group. It’s all of us. We’re all called to go to make disciples of all nations.” These women discovered the truth that everyone can be used on a PEACE trip. No matter what your background, family history, or experiences are, God can use you!

Take a look at this discussion about the HIV and Orphan Care PEACE trip featuring several women who served on this trip as they discuss what God taught them in the process:

Are you ready to take your next step of faith by going on a PEACE trip? Join us January 22nd at PEACE Practical on the Saddleback Lake Forest campus to learn more about Orphan Care and HIV ministries and how you can GO or support what our church is doing to live life on mission. Please email orphans@saddleback.com or call 949-609-8555 with any questions! 

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The Karongi District of Western Rwanda is where the Orphan Care Initiative began the charge with local churches to get children out of orphanages and into loving, lasting families 3 years ago. In a country that did not have a word for “adoption” when deinstitutionalization began, so many families have stepped up to open their hearts and homes to children that there was no longer any need for the orphanages in their region. All three of the region’s orphanages, which were once home to hundreds of children, are now emptied – the abandoned dormitories now testaments to God’s amazing work in Rwanda through his church and the generosity of sponsorship donors like you!

The success is so profound that the Rwandan government has now asked the Orphan Care Initiative to play a larger leading role in 3 other regions of the country. This year, PEACE teams were mobilized to vision cast God’s heart for the orphan to local churches in these new areas, providing them with the training they need to reunite families and raise up families for adoption. The churches of Karongi are now a shining example to the rest of the nation, teaching their brothers and sisters what it looks like to offer radical love through adoption.

Orphan Care PEACE Teams Deliver the Very Best in Evidence-Based Adoptive Parent Training

Life in an orphanage leaves a legacy of trauma in the life of a child – emotional pain and learned behaviors that can only be healed in the arms of a permanent family. The adoptive families in Rwandan local churches are trained in the best practices of parenting children coming out of trauma – a set of unique transformative tools called Trust Based Relational Interventions (TBRI®), developed and tested at Texas Christian University’s Institute of Child Development.

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Through a train the trainer model, local churches are equipped to not only empower families, but also empower skilled lay social workers to come alongside families as they bring home a child from the orphanage. This year, 79 members on 9 PEACE trips delivered this training in Rwanda.

The Orphan Care Initiative’s work in this field was recently recognized as Initiative founder Elizabeth Styffe was awarded the TCU Green Honors Chair for 2017.

Check out this video to watch how churches are putting TBRI into practice in Rwanda:

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Thank you to those of you who gave so generously to Rwanda Sponsorship in 2016. To set up monthly giving for the new year, visit saddleback.com/sponsorship. Let’s help another region get to zero in 2017!


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Is your family experiencing infertility? Find community and hope with other couples walking the same journey at the Embracing Hope retreat at Saddleback Church on Jan. 27-28!

Join couples like Phillip and Alex, a couple who found support, community, and healing through the church in the midst of their infertility story. They will be sharing their journey at the retreat, and you can hear a bit of their story below...

 

Embracing Hope is an overnight retreat for husbands and wives experiencing infertility and exploring the many ways they can build their family.  We will kick things off on Friday night with an amazing session followed by socializing around fire pits next to the lake. The conference will continue throughout Saturday afternoon with life changing discussions and chances to create meaningful relationships. If you are walking the painful and often lonely road of infertility we would love for you to attend this event!

 

We encourage couples to come together and grow as you embrace the hope that God has for you in this overnight experience. There will be several breakout sessions where attendees can choose to hear about topics closest to their heart and situation, Q & A panel discussions, amazing testimonies, worship, and lots of opportunity for connection.

 

Space is limited so click here to register today. Please, don't hesitate to contact us with any questions or concerns at 949.609.8555 or orphans@saddleback.com. We can't wait to spend time with you!

At the heart of the Orphan Care Initiative at Saddleback is the belief that church and family are God’s remedy for the orphan crisis. Psalm 68:5 says, “God places the lonely in families…” When we were spiritually orphans, God adopted us into His family. In fact, Scripture teaches that the reason God made the world was so He could adopt (see Eph. 1:4-6). It gives us an inheritance and the right to call Him Abba, or “Father” (see Gal. 4, Rom. 8). As a result, as Christians, we are given the joy 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 adoption). In this blog (originally posted to Daily Hope), Pastor Rick Warren shares how we are adopted into God’s family, the Church.

 

“There are only two ways to get into a family: You can either be born into it, or you can be adopted into it. God does both for you! It’s called being born again, and it’s called being adopted into the family of God. God does both.

In Roman law, which people followed in the New Testament, you could disown a child you birthed. But if you adopted a child, you were forbidden to ever disown them. God says you are not only born again into his family, but he has adopted you, and there is no way he could ever disown you. That’s good news!

You may ask, “No matter what I do? Really?” That’s right — no matter what you do!

Once you’re born, you cannot be unborn. Once you are born again, you cannot be unborn again. You can grieve the Father, just like we often do to our earthly parents. The fellowship may be broken, but no matter what your parents say, everybody knows you are still their child. In the same way, once you become a child in the family of God, you’re in!

The Bible says in 1 Timothy 3:15, “I want you to know how people who are members of God’s family must live. God’s family is the church” (GW). We are the family of God. Church is not something you go to. Church is something you belong to. You’re welded into the building of the temple of God. You’re grafted into the vine and the tree of life. You’re born again and adopted into the family of God. You’re joined into the body of Christ. These are all connection models.

Most people think that Christianity is a belief system. There are beliefs that are involved, but it’s more than that. It’s a belong system. It means you belong to the family of God. It means you are a part of the body of Christ. The Bible says it’s like being born into a family.

Romans 15:6-7 says, “You will all be joined together, and you will give glory to God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Christ accepted you, so you should accept each other, which will bring glory to God” (NCV).

To learn more on God’s heart for the orphan, check out this video of Rick and Kay Warren. For more information on how you can be involved in helping children remain, regain, or reunite with family, email orphans@saddleback.com or call 949-609-8555.

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A team of women leaders from Saddleback recently took a PEACE trip to Rwanda to serve local churches with the Orphan Care and HIV&AIDS Initiative. We asked the team to share their experiences from the trip. Lauren Franco, a student leader in our College Age Ministry and Women's Communities Intern, offers a glimpse into what God is teaching her through the experience of serving in Rwanda:


The Hidden Beauty of Suffering

Rwanda was absolutely beautiful. Thousands of hills, rich with a green I'd never seen before. People warm and intelligent and joyful in such a way that embodies the Lord's own joy. Yet as beautiful as Rwanda is, I'm reminded that it's only a taste of God's glory. I'm reminded how small I am compared to His creation, and how all of the hills in Rwanda and stars in the sky, pale in comparison to how brightly He shines.

I learned of God's own heart. That was probably the most painful of all. But I asked Him to do it. To help me see and feel and hear how He does, and when you ask Him this, the answer is never without pain. Because Jesus suffered. We are called into a "fellowship of His sufferings" (Phil. 3:10), which, by nature of the name, is painful. At one point, I remember running to my room knowing if I didn't make it in time I would burst. Flinging open the door I fell to my knees, weeping in a way I never have before. I got angry. I didn't understand why He'd put His children through this pain. The kind of pain that is chronic, and unending, and irreconcilable. And what I was experiencing was only a taste. My heart broke for the nation that suffered a genocide so horrific that it is largely unspeakable, and left orphans, disease, and unimaginable loss in it's wake. It broke for the woman raped and beaten and left for dead that our team went to meet, who also contracted HIV/AIDS from the horrific incident. It broke for the grandmother single-handedly raising a grandchild who will be displaced from her home this week. It breaks again and again for stories that are not mine, yet somehow I share in because we're called to share in the fellowship of suffering, and weep with those who weep.

I suppose the only thing I can do to try to understand the genocide, and God's hand in any of it, is how clearly He's seen in suffering. Light needs darkness to shine right? Who do we draw near to when the bottom falls out of our world? Who is the only one large enough to cling to? And when we walk with another person through that suffering, God's love is seen. 

As Kay Warren so eloquently puts it "Deliberately choosing to enter into the experience of a fellow human being sets the stage for God to make an entrance."

And despite all the devastation and heartache, Rwanda now is an example to the world. The most forgiving, and joyful body I've ever seen, now stands not only in place of the wreckage and brokenness, but because of it. I have no doubt that God uses Rwanda to exemplify His unexplainable and unwarranted forgiveness. Grace seeps into every crevice of this country, and should push us to set aside denomination, and take up unity, let go of differences and take on love, and give pain up to God and take on joy instead.

He is near to the broken-hearted. And at times, when we ourselves are weak and vulnerable, broken as well, that's ok. It's okay to feel small and inadequate if it reminds us how big God is

Resilience & Revival

Something else that God spoke clearly to me was to "shed your light-hearted faith, and take up a resilient one." Stop picking and choosing what I like about Jesus, what I want to do or who I want to serve here on earth, and instead dive into ministry the way He did. In the trenches, on the front lines, resilience to me resembles armor. The kind of faith that can take a hit. That can take a sword and a battle and the hardest fights. It is beaten but it still stands. I don’t desire for anything in my life to be light-hearted. That implies a surface level attachment. An unwillingness to delve deeper, and go further. The need to stay light and happy in all things. That’s not what God longs for from us either. Jesus’ excruciating death on the cross was not light-hearted. He was resilient up there. Resilient and determined to keep faith in the Father despite what was thrown at Him. 

Maybe this rings true for you too, but I’m hungry for a revival. A revival of my own faith, to be the kind of resilient He so blatantly called me into, and a revival of the American church. More dependency on God, less emphasis on material, and more fire to grow the Kingdom. I heard the word “revival” more times than I can count on this trip, and the word still rings. There is hurt in the world, and yet we have the most powerful weapon on Earth. The church is powerful. When it's ignited, when it's active, it conquers problems. We are the church. It's not a building, and it's most certainly not confined to four walls and Sunday. We saw an active church in Rwanda, a church that is caring for the sick in their community, is mobilized to adopt and is clearing out orphanages, getting kids off the street, and being the very hands and feet of Jesus. That's what I crave for this generation of the church all over the world. Rwanda has pushed me out of blindness and into the harsh light of reality. When God shows us something I suppose we have choice of what to make of it, but we can never again claim we did not know. 

You can help empower the local church in Rwanda with tools and training to impact their communities and empty orphanages. If you would like to go on an Orphan Care or HIV/AIDS PEACE trip, email us at orphans@saddleback.com or call the Orphan Care and HIV/AIDS line at 949-609-8555.

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