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Can Conferences Change the World?

Five Reflections after the International Wholistic Missions Conference Like many others, the Faith to Action Initiative has a vision to change the world and see all children raised in loving families. Over the years, participating in conferences has been a main strategy in pursuing this vision. After facilitating a workshop track on orphans and vulnerable children at the 2017 International Wholistic Missions Conference (IWMC) in Phoenix, Faith to Action reflected on the opportunities of conferences, such as IWMC, to support our efforts to change the world. 1. Overcoming competition to explore opportunities for partnership. One of the benefits of conferences such as IWMC, is that they allow people and organizations to get their message, name, or product recognized. However, this can create a sense of competition. This year, the IWMC [...]

Five Lessons Learned Through Global Church Partnership

Global church partnerships are an exciting idea, but pursuing a genuinely reciprocal relationship across the world can be challenging. Pulpit Rock Church in Colorado Springs, Colorado, has been partnering with World Orphans for three years to support a local church in Leku Keta, Ethiopia in caring for the vulnerable children there—single or double orphans living with one parent or without a birth parent in an informal foster family. Local volunteers in the Leku Keta Kale Heywet Church visit these families regularly to check on the children and their family’s overall wellbeing, provide support, and recommend services. They receive “home-based” care, including education provided by the church or financial support for local schools, food stipends, medical support, and training for parents. The last three years of partnership have served as a [...]

Noonday Collection: Strengthening Families through Fair-Trade Business

If you were to journey across the ocean to Uganda and enter a lively artisan workplace filled with the sounds of chatter and fluttering fingers rolling colorful paper beads, you would meet Olivia. Olivia’s story is not unlike those of other women in the room. Just two years ago, Olivia was a single mother unable to find consistent employment. Out of sheer desperation, she was on the brink of sending her beloved daughter Rachel to an orphanage. Herself an orphan and survivor of exploitation, Olivia felt that she had no other options that would provide Rachel with the care and education she needed. It was in her moment of greatest despair that Olivia met Jalia and Daniel, the couple that leads a group of Ugandan artisans who partner with Noonday [...]

Reaching Vulnerable Teens Through Life Skills and Mentoring

When someone envisions orphan care and adoption, it is likely that images of babies and toddlers come to mind. However, across the globe, the group that most often remains overlooked and largely at risk are the adolescents who are on the verge of aging out of orphanages or foster care. These youth are at risk of never having the opportunity to experience the importance of being part of a family. For nearly 12 years my context has been the government-run orphanages of Ukraine and the former Soviet Union. Upon moving to Ukraine in 2004, I visited several large government orphanages that left my heart aching for these older kids who had seemingly been overlooked. Although I quickly became an advocate for adopting older children (children 12 and older), I knew [...]

Following God’s Lead: My Journey into Family-Based Care

Journeys in life rarely take a straight path, and my journey into orphan care is no exception. Yet, God promises that if we trust in Him, he will direct our paths (Proverbs 3:5–6). In my case, God’s directing was a U-turn. In 2010, I signed up to go on a short-term mission trip to serve at an orphanage in Zambia. Five years later, I found myself in Uganda empowering local churches to support vulnerable children and their families, advocating for family-based care rather than the use of orphanages. When I signed up to serve at the orphanage in Zambia, I believed this was my opportunity to live out the command in James 1:27 to “visit orphans.” Excited as I was to experience “true religion” firsthand, God had a different plan [...]

Building a Children’s Home? Ten Thoughts to Consider

In our work with Casa Viva, we have the privilege of interacting with a variety of people around the issues of children separated from their first families. We are deeply aware of our shared calling and common motivation to care for children in need. As people have come to us seeking insight on the particulars of 24/7 care, a list of reflective questions to consider has been slowly taking shape. We share them with you as a way to begin the dialogue on what is best for children when they need a safe place to sleep. These are not necessarily hierarchical but are presented as thoughts for consideration and discussion. Are we listening to the children? It’s quite important that we begin with the children, and that we listen when [...]

The Threshold Is a Sacred Space: The Casa Viva Story

The story of Casa Viva is a story of children, family, and the local church. As the founders, we can see that it stretches from our childhood summers visiting grandparents in Nebraska to our present work in Costa Rica caring for children through local families and the local church. We are well aware that our parents created homes that were safe and delightful. Our memory of family when we were children is deep and rich. Our motivation to get involved with the issues facing children and families around the world is embedded in the collective past of our strong family heritage. Everyone has a story that weaves with their work. Our love of family brought about a desire for children everywhere to know and experience the love of a family [...]

Listening Hearts. Shifting Focus. Five Tips for Hurdling Over Alternative Orphan Care Conversation Starters

Watching the Olympics, I find myself mesmerized by the skill, timing, and rhythm of the hurdlers. With ease, they keep their momentum moving forward until the finish line is in sight. But what happens when their tempo is suddenly interrupted by an injury or when another athlete unexpectedly comes into their lane? They fall down—sometimes in pain or defeat. Have you ever felt like you are stumbling over a hurdle when talking to someone about a topic that is important to you? Even if you think you know the perfect conversation starter, awkward silence, unsure words, and feeling unprepared in the moment can make us feel like a fallen athlete. As you approach the hurdle, you send up a quick prayer for words that are wise, educated, and humble, and [...]

Foster Care in Panama: Our Journey

Growing up in the U.S. I dreamed of moving to Africa to start an orphanage. But I met and married my husband at a young age, and in 2008 we moved to Panama City, Panama, with our then three-year-old daughter. Our new Panamanian church had a volunteer program that involved holding babies and playing with children in local orphanages. When I signed up I didn’t know anything about institutionalization (what a mouthful), attachment disorder, or alternative care. It didn’t take more than a few visits to see the children were not thriving. They didn’t respond like their peers living outside the orphanage—children called me “mama,” asking to be held, but I was a complete stranger who didn’t even speak their language! My weekly visits didn’t provide the attachment and care [...]

Two Stories of Transforming Good Intentions into Best Practices

“Be brave, be fierce, be visionary. Mend the parts of the world that are within your reach. To live this way is the most dramatic gift you can ever give to the world. Consider yourselves assigned.”                           ~Your Assignment by Clarissa Pinkola Estes Even without reading her words, many impassioned young people have taken the poet’s assignment to heart. When these individuals are confronted with the brokenness of the world, seldom are they content to ignore it. There comes a deep desire to restore what is broken. For many, Christians in particular, this desire is manifested in a calling to care for orphans. We hear statistics that there are 132 million orphans* in the developing world. We read verses like James 1:27 and are inspired to act. [...]

A Place to Call Home, A Person(s) to Call Family

Millions of children in Africa are growing up in orphanages, residential care centers, and children’s homes. Most of these institutions identify themselves as “homes” and “family” to these children. But are these residential care institutions really “home” or “family”? I grew up in an institution, and it didn’t feel like a family and I didn’t have the feeling that I was home. On the contrary, the place gave me a feeling of emptiness, uncertainty, and confusion. My two siblings (younger sister and older brother) were taken to a hospital, then to an institution after our mother was killed. On her back was our youngest sibling, who was a few months old and who died with her. I had three other siblings whose whereabouts at that time I never knew. When [...]

Family First: A Global Partnership Between Roblealto and Bethany Community Church

Roblealto Child Care Association puts families at the forefront of its work with vulnerable children in San Jose, Costa Rica. Roblealto supports a holistic approach to restore at-risk children to loving and supportive relationships with their parents and provides resources for parents to achieve self-sufficiency for their families. Roblealto’s programs include four child care centers throughout San Jose, group homes, and a youth alumni group to support and empower youth leaving their programs. Child care centers seek to prevent separation of children from their families and strengthen family support systems. They provide a quality education for children and a wide array of supportive services from a team of a child psychologists, social workers, nurses, and more. Parents and children commit to an individualized treatment plan designed to empower them toward [...]

The Role of Parent Education and Support in Strengthening Families and Improving Child Well-Being

We all know that parents and other individuals responsible for the daily care of children (usually referred to as “caregivers”) need good parenting and caregiving skills to support their children’s healthy development and well-being. Most parents and caregivers do fairly well raising their children without receiving any parenting education or external support. However, some do need it. This is particularly important for parents and caregivers with little education, who don’t have access to health and social services, and who are dealing with different stressful situations in their family, such as poverty, disability, substance abuse, domestic violence, illness and death, and stigma and discrimination. Young and inexperienced parents and caregivers, and those who are very old and no longer have the energy or skills to deal with the challenges of raising [...]

One Step at a Time Toward a World Without Orphans

A World Without Orphans—it’s a huge dream that lives in the hearts of thousands of people who believe that every orphan should live in a loving family and work toward this great goal daily. I sincerely believe in it too. And I know that the church is capable of solving this problem through welcoming the fatherless and motherless into their homes and working with crisis families. Although the idea of a church caring for every orphan (we like to call it one church, one child) is simple and clear, it’s not so easy to make it a reality. Behind each statistic is a unique child, a story. And unfortunately, too often, trauma. Children who have been traumatized through separation, neglect, abuse, multiple placements, losses, and institutional living are different. Their [...]

Lectio Divina: Listening to God’s Heart for Children

The Faith to Action Initiative works to educate and mobilize Christians to respond to the needs of orphans and vulnerable children, upholding the vital importance of family and community. In doing so, we engage with a variety of different Christian traditions with the goal of working together to care for children and families in collaboration and unity. Evidence-based research, case studies, and learning from fellow orphan care practitioners are vital to growth in this field. As Christians, we have the additional dimension of being guided by a faith that leads us to action. We believe that it is of the utmost importance to create space to listen to what God has to say about His heart for orphans and vulnerable children and the unique roles we can play in caring [...]