A Compassion Ministry of First Evangelical Free Church

Saturday, November 6, 2010

From the Heart of a Child

Dinner conversation at Panda Express was about Orphan Sunday tomorrow:

Dayna~What's an orphan?

Mom~An orphan is a boy or a girl who doesn't have a mommy or a daddy.

Dayna~So was I an orphan?

Mom~You were, but you aren't anymore!

Dayna (to Dad)~Were you an orphan?

Dad~No, I wasn't an orphan.

Mom~Did you know that there are over 143 million orphans in the world? That's why we're telling people about it at church tomorrow.

Dayna~What can I do to help an orphan?

Mom and Dad share several ideas.

Dayna~Can we go buy some clothes now to send to Gutian (the orphanage where she once lived)?


Panda Express was conveniently located near Wal-Mart. A half hour later, we were walking out with warm clothes for older boys and girls, several pairs of thick socks, some fun baby toys and knit winter hats. We have to restrain Dayna from packing everything up tonight!

I'm so glad to see her generosity.

So...what can you do?

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Christianity Today

I received this from Elizabeth Wiebe at the Christian Alliance for Orphans. Exciting news!

We wanted to share with you some rousingly good news. As we’ve anticipated for some time, July’s edition of Christianity Today is centered on adoption and orphan care. Four different articles help sound a clarion call to the Church: God cares passionately for the orphan, and His people are called to do so as well. Although the articles won’t be posted online until later in the month, here’s a preview of them from today’s Alliance blog post from Jedd Medefind.

July’s CHRISTIANITY TODAY: Why Every Christian Is Called to Rescue Orphans

It’s a beautiful thing. For Christians who yearn to see the Church grow impassioned for the Gospel and the orphan, the newly-arrived July edition of Christianity Today is little short of thrilling. The cover declares, Abba Changes Everything: Why every Christian is called to rescue orphans. Inside, the framing introduction to the magazine is headlined, “Adoption is Everywhere. Even God is into it.”

That the leading print voice of evangelicalism in America would choose to make orphan care and adoption the center of its July magazine underscores what many of us already knew: God is stirring His people to again be known as those who “defend the cause of the fatherless” (Is 1:17).

Page 18 begins a tremendous article by Russell Moore, which gave the magazine its cover language, “Abba Changes Everything.” I’ve heard Dr. Moore articulate this message from the podium, via radio and over the dinner table, but I must admit I felt my heart expand against my ribcage as I read this fresh expression. Beautiful and heartbreaking; daunting and inspiring; and profoundly rooted in the ultimate reason for it all: the Father-love of our God revealed through the Gospel.

Page 23 starts the cover story, “Coming Alongside Parents: Churches are getting real about adoption’s challenges—and helping families after the child arrives.” It shares the experience of Summit VI and highlights the robust growth of orphan ministry within churches. Writes author Carla Barnhill, “…[T]he Summit drew more than 1,200 attendees, most of them ministering to orphans through their home churches. Watching those gathered, I knew this was not my parent’s generation.”

Finally, page 52 carries a list of list and descriptions titled “My Top 5 Books on Orphan Care” that I had a chance to provide: Russell Moore’s Adopted for Life, Dr. Karyn Purvis’ The Connected Child; Melissa Fay Greene’s There is No Me Without You; Tom Davis’ Fields of the Fatherless, and Doug Sauder’s The One Factor. (Several others came to mind after I’d submitted that I wish I’d included as well, but five was the limit).

If you can, pick up a copy of CT from the newsstand today. If not, all these articles will come available online over the month ahead, and we’ll post them on the Alliance blog as they do. In the meantime, advocates of the orphan care take heart: God continues to build both passion and action in His Church for these children He so deeply loves.

Elizabeth Wiebe

Director of Outreach and Member Services

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

A Heartwarming Response for "Forgotten" Children

I received this message this morning on Facebook from a college friend I haven't seen in 15 years. I love her heart and that she gets Christ's call to care for orphans.

I was brainstorming while listening to KLOVE and driving today trying to think of how I can make a difference. I have also had all the orphans around the world on my mind since following Sofia and a number of families on their journeys.

Do you know if the various adoption agencies have ever sent various therapists into the orphanages? I was thinking it would be really cool to band together a group of therapists including Music Therapists, Physical Therapists, Speech Therapists, Occupational Therapists, and Infant Educators to go an visit the orphanages for a period of time and work with the children. It would also be cool to organize fundraisers to leave equipment, materials, etc that could be left for those children to utilize.

I am familiar with Reese's Rainbow, are there other agencies like this that would be open to exploring some options. I don't know if adoption is right for our family or not but doing our part to reach these children by providing interaction and some hope through Music Therapy and other therapies would be a cool new avenue that would open the eyes of many to the world of adoption and what these orphanages are like. Any suggestions? I would love to shoot for doing something next summer.

Friday, June 25, 2010

What to Expect

This was posted on a public forum by Amy Eldridge, from Love
Without Boundaries, and I thought it was worth sharing!

I most definitely wish there was a way to educate ALL adoptive parents about the
truths of institutional care, however I have come to realize in my daily work
that there are just as many parents who are not online reading everything they
can find on adoption as are.

There are hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of parents out there who have no
idea what life is like for a child in an orphanage, and who head overseas to
pick up their "China doll" only to be handed a baby who is unresponsive, thin,
unable to eat? and on and on and on. While adopting my son last month, I walked
several times over to the White Swan to talk to parents, and over and over I
spoke with moms and dads who had no clue whatsoever about the issues their kids
were having. I heard so many times things like, "she won't eat solid foods"
(oral aversion), "she has no muscle tone" (muscle atrophy from lying in a crib
all day), "she won't smile" (pure grieving from being taken from her foster
mom). I guess since I live China 24/7, I assume everyone adopting does, too,
which is not the case.

I talked to at least a dozen parents who didn't even know their child's
orphanage name, and while I gently said "you might want to memorize that for
your child's sake", at the same time I was trying to process how many parents
get all the way to China without ever reading about post-institutional issues.
It was sobering to me.

Babies in the NSN (non special needs) as well as the SN (special needs) path can
have issues with attachment, motor skills, emotional issues and more. I think
all of us on the WCC (Waiting Children China) list acknowledge that, while also
acknowledging that all children (whether bio or not) can have these same issues.
Living in an orphanage of course increases the odds.

I think the easy out is to say that agencies have to do more, as well as social
workers, but I do think that most of them do try to give information to the
parents but often parents don't want to hear it or else think it won't happen to
them. Again, I am often surprised to talk to parents leaving soon and to realize
they are not prepared. One family was adopting from our foster care program, and
when I told them that the child was DEEPLY attached to the mom, the father said,
"guess she might cry for an hour or so then?" An hour or so? She had been in
foster care for over a year! I tried to explain that this little girl was about
ready to lose everything she had ever known, and that they should not expect her
to be sunny, happy, and full of personality after an hour. I told them to please
remember the 72 hour rule.......that after 72 hours they would probably see her
spark, but that she would probably grieve for a long time after that as well.

I think for many adoptive parents, they just don't want to read the "bad stuff",
and so I do think that ultimately it is the parents who are at fault for not
doing more to educate themselves. There certainly are books galore out there
about post-institutional issues. I equate this to when I was pregnant with my
kids and I would read "What to Expect When Expecting", and I would get to the
C-section part and always skip it. Each and every time I would jump to the next
chapter as "that wasn't going to happen to me". Well, on my fifth baby, when
they were rushing me in for an emergency C section, I sure was wishing I had
read that section earlier! But at that point in the OR, while they were
strapping my hands down to the table, it was too late, and so I felt complete
panic when I could have been prepared. I think adoption from China is very
similar to giving birth...it is much more rosy to only read the happy stories on
APC, but I now encourage every family I meet to read the harder ones as well,
because if you are the family who is handed a child that is limp and listless
and who looks autistic, what you have learned in the past will help you make the
right decision for your family during those very emotional first few days.

I have been called many times in the last few years by parents in China worried
about their children. I agree that having a support network to help you through
the initial time is essential. Everyone should go to China with at least one
phone number of someone they can call if they are panicked upon meeting their
new child. I remember feeling so alone when I was handed my daughter and she was
so tiny and limp. Because our foundation often helps with the kids who have been
disrupted, I am aware that sometimes there are children who have much more
serious issues than originally reported and that is such a hard thing for a
parent to get to China and then discover their child is truly autistic or has
serious mental delays. I think everyone on both the China and international side
would agree that it is absolutely wrong of an orphanage to not be honest in
their reports, and no one would excuse that, but I also know without a doubt
that the majority of kids who are disrupted are just suffering from
institutional issues and would catch up quickly in a loving home. It is always a
very sad day for the orphanage and everyone involved when a child that they know
is absolutely fine, but perhaps thin and grieving, is returned by their new
parents for being "delayed".

I think far too many people believe their child's life is going to begin the
moment they meet them. The truth is, and everyone must realize it... a child's
life is going on RIGHT NOW in China, and all of their experiences are shaping
who they are. The vast majority of aunties that I have met in China are such
kind and caring people, but it absolutely is not the same as having a mom and
dad at your beck and call. I have had new parents call and say "we didn't think
living in an orphanage would affect her at all", and those statements truly
puzzle me. How could they not contemplate life in an orphanage?

Walk through Babies R Us and you will see every gadget known to man to make our
children's lives here as ideal as possible. Now Americans have two way video
monitors, so that when baby awakens not only can mommy see when to immediately
rush in and comfort him, but she can talk to baby so that he doesn't even have
one single second where he feels alone. How many new parents would have a
newborn and then put that baby in a crib 22 hours a day on their own? How many
would only feed their baby, even if they were really crying hard, every 8 hours?
Or prop the bottle in her crib and then not watch to see if she ever really ate?

Of course no one would do that...we feed newborns on demand, comfort on demand,
love continuously... and whether people want to recognize it or not, that is NOT
the life of an orphan in an institution. ...even when the aunties are as good as
gold. I remember one night when I took some volunteers in for the night shift in
an orphanage, when normally just a few aunties are working. One mom looked at me
with tears in her eyes as she slowly realized that it was absolutely impossible
with just two hands to feed every child, to comfort every child, to soothe every
baby who was crying. She said her heart was aching to realize that her own
daughter most likely had many, many times where she cried without someone to
comfort her.....and she told me that for the first time she finally understood
why her daughter had such a deep seated fear of being out of her mom's sight.

The aunties are trying their absolute best, but that doesn't equal mother/child
care. I remember being in an orphanage in the north this past winter and the
aunties were so proud of how they had 6-8 layers of clothes and blankets on
every baby to keep them warm. They were swaddled so tight that they couldn't
move, but it was freezing in the orphanage and so the aunties wanted the babies
to stay as warm as possible. What alternative did they have? It really was
freezing there..I was cold in my wool coat, so the babies couldn't be up and
about with just 1-2 layers on, with the ability to move their arms and legs. To
stay warm they had to be immobile, and so of course all of those kids have weak
muscle tone. But the aunties were truly trying their best, and when a parent is
given one of those beautiful children on adoption day, I am sure they will go
back to their room with concern and say "she can't sit up by herself..she can't
put weight on her legs". That is absolutely the truth, but she also survived 10
degree weather in a very cold province and she will catch up soon enough with
parents to encourage her.

To not acknowledge that living in orphanage circumstances can cause lower body
weights, low muscle tone, inability to make good eye contact is very sad to me.
Can it be overcome? Most definitely! The one thing I have learned over and over
again about the kids in China is that they are fighters and survivors. But for
some reason, people seem to want to ignore these issues in public forums.

Recently, one of our medical babies that we had met several times in person was
adopted, and we all knew that this child was a "spitfire". When the family
arrived and spent a few days with her, they decided she was too much of a
handful for them and they wanted to disrupt. She absolutely was not what they
expected. When they called their agency, they were told they had two choices:
adopt the child, bring her to the US, and change their expectations of what they
were hoping for, or adopt the child, bring her to the US and the agency would
have a family waiting at the airport to adopt her locally. Option three of
leaving the child in China was never once given. I admire that agency so much,
as they were thinking of the child and the child alone. The family followed
through with the adoption and handed the little girl to a new family upon her
arrival in the US. As horrible and tragic and emotional as it was for everyone
involved...I still feel this was the right decision for the agency to make. It
was done in the absolute best interest of the child, who had waited a long, long
time for a family. I wish more agencies would advocate for the rights of the
child, instead of always seeming to give in to the parents, especially in those
cases when they know with absolute certainty that nothing is permanently wrong
with the child. Recently with another disruption, the agency I spoke with told
me that it was "easier" to just get the family a new baby.

Sometimes easier does not equal right. The first baby who was rejected has now
been labeled "mentally challenged" even though the agency knew the child was
really going to be okay.

I think all of us, who do realize that delays occur and that babies can usually
overcome them, should be these children's advocates by continually trying to
educate new parents on what to expect in China. By helping them be better
prepared, we just might help stop a disruption in the future. I love Chinese
adoption with my whole heart, and it is my life's work? but I also want every
family who goes to get their baby to go with their eyes open and to be as
emotionally prepared as possible, for the child's sake.

Amy Eldridge, Love Without Boundaries

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Practical Help

In starting an orphan ministry, I have heard countless people say, "Oh, I could never adopt." And I share (as you will hear often on this blog) that this is okay. God doesn't call everyone to adopt a child. But he does command us to care for orphans. It is our hope with this ministry that we can mobilize our church and community to find ways to care for orphans. If adoptions follow, then God's hand is that much more evident.

Today, our family had a chance to do a very practical thing the help orphans. Some attenders of First Free might remember our daughter Dayna sharing last November about giving up her scone dollar and sharing it with children in Africa. We had the opportunity to actually package the food that was shipped to the children in Sierra Leone. That food left the US on Christmas Eve and arrived in Sierra Leone on Valentine's Day.

Today, Tina Schmidt and Erica Stone, the ladies who started this orphanage, paid a visit to Omaha. We had the privilege of meeting these remarkable ladies and packaging food again. In two hours, 30 boxes of food were packed. 36 packages of food per box. 6 servings per package. That's 6,480 meals!

1 box costs $54 and serves 216 meals. Put another way, 1 person + $100 + 2 hours of time=feeding one child for a year. Wow! Most Americans can't feed their family for a week with only $100. What a great, practical way to help orphans!

For more information on the ministry of The Raining Season and their orphanage, "The Covering", please visit http://www.therainingseason.org/ or visit their blog at http://www.savetheorphan.blogspot.com/.

For more information on Kids Against Hunger (the Omaha chapter has "adopted" this orphanage and a large percentage of their packaging events goes directly to The Covering), visit http://www.omahakah.com/.

Lincoln has a chapter as well. They work with the Orphan Grain Train, and many of their meals are sent to Haiti. http://www.kahlincoln.org/

Saturday, March 13, 2010

A Heartbreaking Choice

I have a friend who is a missionary in East Asia. This morning he visited the hospital after a cold that wouldn't go away. While there, he witnessed an infant girl (one month) with apparent health issues being left. Abandoned. My friend is also an adoptive father, and while he has heard of these situations, this was the first time he witnessed such an event.

I can only imagine the heartache those parents much have felt as they made this decision. A decision that many in the Western world view with incredulity and often judgment. What helplessness to know that you can't care for your child, and her best chance in life is to be left alone in hopes that another will find her.

Please pray for these parents. Their hearts must be broken beyond words today. And pray for this little girl. Pray that she finds the medical help she needs and that God would orchestrate the next steps in His plan for her life. As for me, I'm going to hug my own daughter a little closer tonight, and pray for the man and woman I may never meet who made a very similar heartbreaking decision almost five years ago.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Heart Gallery

Walking through the foyer yesterday, I was touched by the stories of so many children right here in Nebraska. We have the privilege at church this month of hosting the Heart Gallery, an exhibit through the Child Saving Institute.

I looked into the eyes of these children, mostly older or in sibling groups, and saw precious lives created in the image of God. Children who need to know the love of a family. Did you look into their eyes? Did you see their hearts?

I saw children who really want to learn how to play an instrument, or who enjoy talking on the phone with biological siblings who have been adopted into other homes. Children who excel at school; some who are outgoing, and others who are more quiet and reflective. Children who are unique individuals, looking for someone to celebrate their individuality and help them bloom into amazing adults.

I also saw kids who have never really been able to be kids. Some who have carried the weight of the world on their shoulders. I looked into eyes that have seen more than children should ever see.

The Heart Gallery isn't intended to tug on your heartstrings. It's not meant to make you feel guilty. At Hope for Children, it is our desire that your heart would be stirred to do something on behalf of children who need families. Maybe you could choose one child and pray specifically for them. Maybe you could contact one of many organizations that helps orphans and foster children and find out what you can do to help. Maybe you could even bring one of these children into your family.

Not all of us are called to adopt, but we are all commanded to care for these children. If you haven't had a chance yet, make sure you visit the Heart Gallery in the foyer this month, or visit it online at http://www.nebraskaheartgallery.org/heartgallery.htm.