Making Notecards: A Few Ideas

Making Notecards (2)The idea of using cards as a tool for ministry keeps popping up here on TIO. First the post on being a correspondence sponsor through Compassion International and now the Valentine’s Day Card Challenge. In a day of e-mail and instant messaging, the extra time and thought that goes into a handwritten card can mean a lot–both to orphans and the people working on the front lines to care for them. Homemade cards put a cherry on top. Who doesn’t like to receive a handwritten, homemade card? To make things even better, there are very few barriers teens must surmount to participate in this type of ministry.

But wait. It might not be so easy. Card making requires creativity and crafting supplies, right? To some degree, yes. Every time I think about making homemade cards, I think of my friends’ special tools for stamping, embossing, precision cutting, inking… the list goes on. I own none of that. My card making supplies consist of scissors, cardstock, and some templates from an old Klutz card making kit. [Handmade Cards, the Klutz book/kit I’m talking about would be an easy way to get started (though rather expensive for a new kit with all the supplies).]

Lest you become paralyzed, as I often am, I pulled some easy ideas from Pinterest to get you started. If you don’t have rubber stamps, don’t worry about adding words. Also, a lot of cards use raised features for added pizzazz. You can just glue the raised pieces flat, or you can buy a package of them inexpensively on Amazon.

~*~

Teddy Bear
View on Pinterest
If you click through to the directions for this card, you’ll find the nose is embossed, but cutting a paper nose out and gluing it on would be just as cute! And you could draw the eyes on instead of stamping them. Isn’t that little guy adorable?

Piano Keys
View on Pinterest
How hard would it be to cut and glue white and black paper to make this cute pattern? Even the hearts would be easy to cut out and clue on!

Button Down Shirt
View on Pinterest
You might have a hard time finding an envelop for this one, but making it looks like a breeze.

Heart Bunting
View on Pinterest
Take out your needle and threat for this one. It looks like the cards sold on Etsy might use fabric hearts, but you could sew paper to make a bunting just as easily.

Flower Garden
View on Pinterest
If you don’t have little 3-D stickers, you could use buttons or just paper circles for the center of the flowers.

Snowman
View on Pinterest
If you don’t have ribbon for the scarf, just use paper! Same for the beads the eyes are made of. To be honest, less dramatic 3-D might be easier to mail (and less likely to break in the mail) anyway.

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Think these ideas are still too complicated? You could always cut old calendars into card-size rectangles, glue white paper to the non-picture side, fold, and write. Or you could quarter fold printer paper and draw or trace your own picture directly onto the paper. The possibilities are endless.

If nothing handcrafted appeals to you, revert to store brought cards. To be honest, that’s what I use most of the time. A handwritten note in a store brought card is way better than no note at all!

Do you have more ideas for great handmade cards? Do you know of any children, adoptive families, or orphan care workers who could use a handmade card to brighten their day and encourage their hearts? Leave a comment to share your ideas!

 

5 Ways Teens Can Help Orphans (an overview)

5 Ways Teens Can Help Orphans (an overview)Last week I posted a request for feedback from the readers of TIO. I wanted to know what you do and don’t like about the blog, and what you would like to see more of. (I still do want that feedback, so please stop by that post and leave a comment!) One reader said she prefers posts that include specific ways to help. I agree with her! That’s what I would want too. It’s also the type of post I have the hardest time generating. If you have ideas in this area, please share them with me!

In the meantime, here’s a quick review of some ideas that have been posted here in the past.

1. Advocate and Pray. Every other week, Monica posts a new child who is orphaned and need prayer and support. There is a prayer chain you can click on and sign up for a fifteen minute prayer slot for that child. You don’t have to pray the whole fifteen minutes (though you certainly could if you wanted to!). By signing up, you simply commit to pray for that child sometime during your slot every day for two weeks. This is such an easy way to get involved, and it’s so important. I’d love to see more people participating in this ministry. You can also use these posts as a springboard to advocate for specific children. One of the powerful things about the internet is how fast information can be sent from person to person. You can harness that power to help orphans by asking others to pray and consider finding ways to help the specific children shared.

2. Fundraise. Helping financially can be a sore spot for teenagers. With little or no steady income of our own, helping orphans through financial means can seem like a closed door. But it’s not! Earlier this year I did a series of posts titled Orphans, Fundraising, and Teens (Part One, Part Two, Part Three, Resources). Whether you want to help a family with adoption expenses, sponsor a child, support a ministry, create care packages, or send presents, fundraising can open those doors to you.

3. Help TIORunning this blog takes a lot of work. If you feel that it is effectively helping teens help orphans, you can help orphans by helping out with TIO. I’m always grateful for help, and hopefully you would bless others through your efforts.

4. Write Letters. A post about being a correspondence sponsor for Compassion International recently met with a lot of enthusiasm from readers of TIO. To borrow the old saying, there is a lot of power in the pen. Writing letters to orphans, children living in poverty, or the missionaries ministering to them can be a great way for teens to get involved.

5. Be a Catalyst. Use your enthusiasm to get other’s involved! Brainstorm with people at your church for how you can join together to help orphans. The Bible says that God’s people are a body. Each member plays a different role, and all the roles are essential in caring for orphans. Your role might just be to exhort and encourage others to start doing.

6. (Surprise! An extra.) Support Teens Already HelpingThis past year, TIO was privileged to feature several young people who are working hard to help orphans. If you’re struggling to “reinvent the wheel,” why not throw yourself into helping someone else? I think you’ll discover some pretty exciting possibilities if you visit or re-visit these stories.

This is by no means a comprehensive list. It’s just a review of things ideas already covered on this blog.

What other practical ways could teens get involved? Do you know of “any teens in action” that we could feature here? I need your help finding them!

Your Feedback Here

YourWell, here we are at the beginning of a new year. Many of us have made resolutions or are working to create goals for 2015. My goals are to read my Bible every day and read at least one book a week. I’m also trying to write the rough draft for my next book relatively quickly. As I prepared to write a post for today, I was going to cover another topic in the Matthew 6:21 series. But, as long as we’re all thinking about goals, I’d like to hear your feedback about this blog.

TIO has been around for a little over a year now. Many of you started following it and participating in the discussions soon after it started. Others have discovered it only recently. I’d like to know what you hope to gain from reading this blog. Are you looking for encouragement? Bible studies about orphan care? Specific opportunities for you to get involved in? Updates on existing ministries? More “waiting children” to pray for? More information about adoption? Help understanding how kids become orphans and what happens to them after they become fatherless?

As a side-shoot of that, what’s your favorite feature on the blog right now? Do you like the Advocate & Pray posts best? Do you like a specific theme for the Friday posts? Did you have a favorite post or series from this past year?

How do you think TIO could improve?

As many of you know, I started TIO because of my own frustration as a young teen struggling to find orphan care opportunities available to me. I want this to be a place that you can find solutions to your own desire to learn more and get involved.

Please leave a comment with your feedback! It doesn’t take that long to jot down a few thoughts, and I’d love to know how to make this blog even more helpful to you. Thanks!

The Power of Time

The Power of Time (1)

For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. –Matthew 6:21

Several weeks ago I posted part one in the Matthew 6:21 series; a group of posts exploring the reasons and ways we form connections and become dedicated to certain causes. Part one was The Power of Knowing and looked at how an intimate acquaintance with people and missions affects how invested we are in them. This post will focus on how important the treasure of time is.

Time is one of our most valuable resources because it’s not replenishable. Once a minute is gone, we can’t get it back. As Job said,

Is there not an appointed time to man upon earth? –Job 7:1

The Bible tells us to be good stewards. Time is definitely something that is important to manage well in order to be a good steward. (I’m pretty sure all of us are aware of areas where our time manage could improve!) God puts a high value on time.

See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise. Redeeming the time because the days are evil. –Ephesians 5:16

Redeem the time. Redeem means to rescue from loss. To buy it up. To not let it go to waste.

This week many of my friends are in or preparing for finals week at college. They are very aware of the value of time right now. College students across the country would pay money to get some extra time to prepare. Which leads to the main point of this post.

When you think about college students, how do you separate the serious scholars from the kids who are at school to party? How they spend their time, right? It’s a pretty safe bet that the kids who aren’t studying for their finals don’t place a very high value on their test scores. But guess what? The students spending hours pouring over text books and fighting exhaustion to polish their papers have a very strong interest in the grades they will get.

The same concept applies to the rest of life. You will be invested in the things you choose to dedicate time to. (Side Note: The time investment=dedication thing doesn’t seem to work as consistently with activities you are forced into.) As a very simple example, my mom likes jigsaw puzzles. She has a much stronger sense of achievement when she finishes a 1000 piece puzzle than when she completes a 300 piece puzzle. Why? She invested a lot more time in the bigger puzzle. To give another example, I’m an author. When I write a novel, I care much more about its success than I care about the success of a three page short story I wrote.

You can see how this applies to “serving the least of these.” When you care about orphans, you invest time into learning and serving them. The more time you spend, the more important it is to you.

Many times we view a lack of money as a huge barrier to helping orphans. But really, time is even more valuable than dollar bills. Even if you have an income, you must invest time to earn it. If you don’t have a job, that time is available for you to use in a different way. Just like putting effort into knowing orphans is an important aspect of serving them, consciously dedicating time to service is of great value.

God has given each and every one of us treasure. He’s watching to see what kind of stewards we will be. How will you manage your time? Where does your treasure say your heart is?

The Power of Knowing

The Power of Knowing

For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. —Matthew 6:21

Over the past few months, I’ve been contemplating what causes us to become invested in certain people, organizations, and causes. What makes us form emotional attachments or diligently pursue something when there are few positive emotions present? As I’ve been thinking about the subject, Matthew 6:21 has continuously popped into my mind.

Usually when I see that verse, my first thought is “treasure = money.” But that’s not necessarily the case. There are many things that we value. Over the next few posts, I’m hoping to do a series of blog posts examining different “treasures” and how they affect our attitudes towards orphans and ministering to orphans.

This particular post has it’s roots in a video one of my best friends shared with me about a month ago. The Courage Home video introduces viewers to two young American women and the eleven special needs orphans they are fostering in India.

As I told my brother earlier this week, I knew as soon as I saw the video that I was a “goner.” That realization actually confused me a little. As much as I love orphans, the special needs spectrum usually overwhelms me. Because of this, special needs orphans and ministries that reach out to them rarely captivate my attention. The Courage Home grabbed not only my attention but my interest and enthusiasm. Why?

I think it’s because they are known. The children at the Courage Home are not pictures with a brief, descriptive bio. The posts made about them are not put together by representatives living far away. They’re not being explained by aid workers who only spent few days with them. Instead, these children are introduced through the love, concern, and knowing of their foster moms.

That thought reminds me of a poem titled A Woman of no Distinction. It’s about the woman at the well, and the recurring phrase of the poem says,

For to be known is to be loved,
And to be loved is to be known.

I have such respect for people like Tori DiMartile and Nikki Cochrane because they have left their homes, family, culture, and comfort to know and love these children. I am grateful for them (and others like them) because they make it possible for others to know and love as well.

Their work is a beautiful picture of the gospel. Jesus left his place in heaven to come to earth and know, experience, and love humanity. By that process, he became the bridge between heaven and earth; the mediator between mankind and the Heavenly Father.

Jesus understood our need to be known. Instead of being a benevolent but impersonal God, he took the form of a man.

For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. —Hebrews 4:15 

We form connections by knowing. Not just knowing facts and figures, but knowing hopes and dreams, personalities and habits, hurts and joys. We put more effort into getting to know people we like, and the people we become closest to are often the ones we love the most.

If you want to help and understand orphans more effectively, strive to know them and the people working directly with them. Even more importantly, throw yourself into knowing God more fully and allow Him to give you His heart for the fatherless.

Can you think of any ways to know the fatherless? Can you think of other “treasures” that guide our hearts?

P.S. Louise, the current Advocate & Pray child, is from the Courage Home. Consider joining the prayer chain and sharing the post to help her fill her sponsorship needs!

Read more of the Matthew 6:21 Series.

Just Buy Diapers

Just Buy Diapers One of the ladies in our church is a weekly volunteer at a local crisis pregnancy center. She has a huge heart for the ministry accomplished there, and is very invested in the needs of the organization. Last month, she arrived at church with the announcement that the center was in desperate need of diapers. She told us what sizes were needed and asked anyone willing to purchase diapers to bring them to church the following week. Several families did, but she wasn’t able to make it to church that morning, so I volunteered to drop the diapers off.

When I opened the door to the crisis pregnancy center, I was greeted by a very excited and thankful volunteer. She gave me a big hug, and gushed over the diapers. I left feeling warmed and happy about the delivery.

So often when we are faced with huge problems like abortion, starvation, HIV/AIDS, overcrowded orphanages, and all the other painful problems of sin, we become overwhelmed. Standing at the base of such huge mountains, we feel insignificant and unable to make a difference. Delivering those diapers last month reminded me that we often make helping too complicated. Sometimes all it takes is diapers.

When we look at mountainous problems and become overwhelmed, we forget something very important. I’m reminded of the story of David and Goliath. The Israelite army looked at the huge, intimidating, Philistine warrior and quaked in their boots. They knew no man among them had the power to defeat the giant. Then David showed up. He listened to Goliath mocking the people of God and responded with righteous indignation.

And David spake to the men that stood by him, saying, What shall be done to the man that killeth this Philistine, and taketh away the reproach from Israel? for who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should defy the armies of the living God?

Instead of being intimidated by Goliath, David wanted to be God’s tool to take away the reproach of Israel. He knew that God’s people should stand up to this Giant who mocked them. When Saul told him he wasn’t big enough, old enough, or trained enough to take on Goliath, David was ready with a bold answer.

Thy servant slew both the lion and the bear: and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be as one of them, seeing he hath defied the armies of the living God. David said moreover, The LORD that delivered me out of the paw of the lion, and out of the paw of the bear, he will deliver me out of the hand of this Philistine.

David wasn’t intimidated by the size of the problem, because he was focused on the size of his God instead of the overwhelming size of his opponent. He was telling Saul, “This enemy of God has insulted the people of God. The Lord has helped me defeat problems before. This giant isn’t too big for God to conquer.”

A song I enjoy says, “So when you come to face a mountain so high, One glimpse at God brings it down to size. Satan will flee, you’ll gain victory, when you compare it to Him.”

A stone taken from a brook made a big impact (no pun intended), when God’s power was behind it (1 Samuel 17). A boy’s lunch of five loaves and two fish fed thousands when blessed by Jesus (Mark 6). The early church turned the world upside down when fueled by the Holy Spirit (Acts 17:6). Who’s to say that our small contributions to big problems–like diapers for a crisis pregnancy center–can’t make a big difference when guided by the Lord?

So next time you feel overwhelmed by a problem, remember that small things become big in God’s economy. Instead of focusing on the problems, focus on walking in God’s will, and He will accomplish whatever He desires through you.

What problems seem overwhelming to you? Does recognizing the size, power, and wisdom of God make that problem seem more manageable? Are you able to trust God’s will about issues that are important to you?

Orphan Care in Times of National Disaster

Orphans & National DisasterOn October 3rd, as the news began to swell with reports on Ebola, I made a post about how Ebola is affecting orphans. I didn’t actually have a lot to say on the subject. I shared the few things I’d learned about the impact of the virus on orphans and reminded you that the yellow journalism that makes up our news can’t be blindly trusted. Despite my unoriginal content, that post has been getting quite a few hits. That’s not really surprising. Everyone is thinking about and therefore Googling Ebola. It’s been interesting to track the search terms that lead people to TIO. Here’s the phrases used today and yesterday:

  • How to adopt an ebola orphan
  • How to adopt african orphans from ebola
  • Children of ebola how to help
  • Ebola orphans adoption
  • Ebola orphans pictures
  • Adopt ebola orphans
  • Ebola orphans
  • Any groups helping ebola orphans

Like I said. The post has been getting quite a few hits. I’m sure that you noticed a trend as you read the search terms listed above. Over the past two weeks, the searches leading to my blogs have increasingly been about adoption. It’s wonderful that people are aware that Ebola orphans need help, but helping during times of upheaval is a delicate process.

If you’ve been following this blog for any length of time, you’ll know that international adoption is near and dear to my heart, but I wrestle with seemingly opposite ethical issues involved in the process. If you follow me elsewhere on social media, you might also know that I’ve been (very) slowly trying to slog my way through The Child Catchers. To be quite frank, I wholeheartedly dislike the book. I disagree with much of what the author has to say and find her manner of presenting her content frequently offensive. However, as I mentioned to my brother this week, she raises some very valid points.

One of the stories shared in that book gave me a lot of food for thought. The author shared how, after the earthquake in Haiti, the US went into a Haitian adoption frenzy. The efforts to airlift orphans out of the country and onto American soil were spearheaded by well-meaning, but often uninformed individuals riding the wave of media attention. Now, sometimes drastic times call for drastic measures. When a situations like the Haitian earthquake or Ebola occur, it’s entirely appropriate to pull out all the stops to save lives and minister to people in need–especially orphans. That wasn’t the part that got me thinking. What did bother me was reading that many children with surviving parents were whisked out of the country without proper documentation. Children whose biological parents still wanted them. Some of those kids were adopted into the US and never returned to the parents who never surrendered them.

My point is, by all means, search for ways to help Ebola orphans. Be persistent about it. Don’t let children suffer and die and go uncared for. But at the same time, learn from the mistakes of the past. When a country is in turmoil, mistakes are easy to make. Mistakes that can permanently sever families and do children more harm than good.

If you’re one of the people coming to this blog after searching, “how to adopt an Ebola orphan,” please keep this in mind. Adoption is a wonderful, beautiful thing. But handled in the wrong way, it can cause a lot of pain and grief. Please, do not grow weary in well doing, but be wise as a serpent and harmless as a dove in your quest to help.

What do you think? Have you found any ways to help Ebola orphans? Does your church support a missionary in a country affected by Ebola? Have you learned anything about this “national” disaster or any other disaster that could guide you in helping orphans in an informed way? How has the Ebola scare affected you personally?

Father of the Fatherless

Father of the FatherlessLast Friday, my brother and I attended a small Bible study/discussion group that a friend of ours is trying to get started as an outreach. The topic was, “What is our purpose.” It was an interesting discussion. After a brief overview, the guys starting batting around Bible verses and talking about how each of those verses could be applied to determining our purpose in life.

The conversation started with the basics (serving God) and briefly touched on the memorized, Westminster Catechism answer before moving into deeper waters. What verses in the Bible give direction for how to serve God and live our lives? After a while, one of the guys mentioned Isaiah 58:6-8, which says,

Is not this the fast that I have chosen? to loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free, and that ye break every yoke? Is it not to deal thy bread to the hungry, and that thou bring the poor that are cast out to thy house? when thou seest the naked, that thou cover him; and that thou hide not thyself from thine own flesh? Then shall thy light break forth as the morning, and thine health shall spring forth speedily: and thy righteousness shall go before thee; the glory of the LORD shall be thy rereward.

That verse made my brother think of Galatians 2:9-10 and Psalm 68:5.

A father of the fatherless, and a judge of widows, is God in his holy habitation. –Psalm 68:5

A father of the fatherless is a phrase my brother and I have talked about a lot. Several years ago, we heard a lecture by Eric and Leslie Ludy titled, The Power of the Poured out Life. In that lecture, they talked about how God is a father to the fatherless through us. That as the Lord’s representatives here on earth, we are his hands and feet to bring this verse to life.

That’s an important responsibility. It’s also one I’ve wrestled with. Many people use that verse to support adoption. The beginning of verse six goes on to say,

God setteth the solitary in families:

I agree with the people who use this verse as a foundation for pursuing adoption. There are children around the world who desperately want and need families. But it always felt like there was more to it. After all, only 1% of orphans will ever become available for international adoption. Of course, there are Christians in every country who could be the fulfillment of this verse for the children there, but such a purely human interpretation still felt lacking.

As my brother mentioned that verse on Friday, one of the other men nodded and said,

…don’t just be “a” father to the fatherless. Be THE Father to them.

That comment grabbed my attention and held it. I’ve been thinking it over ever since. He’s so right. Adoption gives orphans a physical father, and that’s wonderful. I firmly believe the Bible supports that. But there is, indeed, more to it. We are to represent The Father to those around us. Leslie Ludy addressed the concept of secular humanitarian efforts versus Christ-centered outreach in a blog post titled True Rescue Work.

Some people accuse Christians of adopting simply as a way of proselytizing. They claim we care more checking off a box on our Christian achievements list than we do about helping needy children. But that’s not true. Carrying for orphans as a Christian should be a beautiful combination of both physical and spiritual. Giving orphans a physical father is a wonderful thing, but representing The Father to them is so much more. It goes even deeper.

In Ephesians 5:25, God tells husbands to love their wives as Christ loves the church. It’s not a perfect comparison, but I think that’s the idea behind representing the heavenly Father to orphans. It doesn’t erase the need to provide physical parents to children who need them, but it opens the doors even wider. It calls us to a greater level of love and excellence. It calls us to represent The Father even to the children who can’t be adopted. It allows us to be part of the calling even if we’re not in the position to adopt. Isn’t it a beautiful, sobering privileged to represent our Lord here on earth?

Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: —2 Corinthians 5:20

What do you think representing The Father to the fatherless looks like? Do you agree that Psalm 68:5-6 is talking about more than physical parenthood? What are your thoughts on this subject?

Video: I Like Adoption

I found it! Last week I mentioned a video clip that was part of a series my chapel used for adult VBS this year. I couldn’t find it on YouTube, so I shared a different video. Well, yesterday I was scrolling through my Facebook feed and an adoption page I follow shared the video I originally wanted to share with you guys. Check it out!

Video: The Wahl Family Adoption

This past summer, our church did an experiment with an adult VBS program. I was helping with the kids program, so I didn’t see most of the videos shown. However, the week before VBS, we previewed one of the adult lessons. It just so happened that the one we watched featured an incredible story about a family who had adopted several children. As I was trying to come up with an idea for this post, I thought of trying to find and share that story. Unfortunately, I haven’t found it yet, (I’ll let you know if I do.) but I did find this story from Focus on the Family. 

 

P.S. Not quite sure what a CASA is? The initials stand for Court Appointed Special Advocate, also known as a Guardian Ad Litem. You can read more about it here.