Be Not Troubled

Be Not Troubled

And ye shall hear of wars and rumors of wars: see that ye be not troubled: —Matthew 24:6a

Last night as my dad, my brother, and I drove home from prayer meeting, we started talking about ISIS and the Ebola outbreak. My Dad pointed out how the media likes to emphasize the frightening aspects of world events. It creates a lot of hype and gains attention because people get scared.

Peace seems to be a lost art in our culture. Between the frantic pace of life and pressures coming from every direction, we struggle with stress, depression, fear, and the overwhelming notion that there will never be enough hours in the day to get everything done! We constantly try to do things in our own strength. Like the famous story of Peter, we take our eyes off Jesus and look at the waves, and we begin to sink as soon as we do.

I share these things here because, when we love and care for the fatherless, the vulnerable, the hurting people in this world, it is easy to feel overwhelmed by the waves. By the enormity of the situation. My heart breaks when I hear of the innocent children being slaughtered by ISIS. I don’t understand why God allows such things to happen.

Many people a lot smarter than me have tried to tackle that question. Why does God allow such horrible things to happen? ou probably know the answers that such evil exists because of mankind’s free will and the problem of sin. For some people, those answers are enough. Others continue to wrestle with the issue.  I’m not going to try to expound on that question. What I do what to encourage is that you don’t allow yourself to be overwhelmed by the troubles.

In 2001 my family watched two movies, Luther and Hotel Rwanda, in the same week. Watching two movies in one week is extremely rare in our house. I remember both movies because I wrote about them in my journal. Both movies were hard. Both depicted the massive slaughter of innocent people. After finishing Hotel Rwanda I wrote in my journal,

Yes, my God is big enough for holocausts and personal enough to tend to my personal hopes and fears. God is what makes Hotel Rwanda different from Luther. In one, triumph is dependent on the spirit of man, which is proven to be wicked. In the other, all rests on God. Man’s task is simple [to say], “I am yours. Save me.”

This is the truth I come back to over and over again when the tragedies of the world begin to feel overwhelming. When I hear of children trafficked, abused, and dying without families and my heart grieves for them. When I feel helpless.

Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? and one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear ye not therefore, ye are of more value than many sparrows. — Matthew 10:29-31

You and I are very small pieces in the grand puzzle of the universe. And, yes, problems like orphan care are too big for us. But they are no too big for God. So next time you feel overwhelmed or insignificant–next time you feel like you can’t make a difference–remember that God is orchestrating things. When we surrender our fears and our lives to him and allow him to direct us, he can fit us into the right place on the puzzle. Orphan care is important. It’s good to be educated about it. But it’s not our focus. If we’re not careful, it can become a wave pulling our eyes away from Jesus. Don’t let that happen. Keep your eyes on Him. If You walk where He leads you, you’ll make a difference and you’ll have a lot more peace on the journey.

What troubles you? Do you think looking at Jesus instead of the storm would help you find more peace in the midst of difficult situations?

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Orphans, Fundraising, and Teens (part 2)

Orphans, Fundraising, and Teens (part 2)Last Friday we explored the idea that teens are actually in a pretty good place to financially support orphan care and adoption. We also examined five ways teens can raise money to help orphans. If you missed that post, check out Orphans, Fundraising, & Teens (part 1). This is part two of the Teens and Money series.

~*~

Fundraising might be a scary word to you. To be perfectly honest, it scares me too. I’m the type of person who prefers to do things on my own. Being self-sufficient makes me feel confident and secure. Asking for monetary help makes me feel vulnerable and needy.

This year I got bumped out of my comfort zone twice. The first time was at the beginning of the year when my brother and I were encouraged to send out letters informing church family and friends that we hoped to go on a missions trip and asking if they would like to partner with us. I didn’t want to do it, but after encouragement from my parents, I did. In a few short months, all of our expenses were covered.

This month my family and I were awed again as friends, family, acquaintances, and strangers poured their support into a Kickstarter campaign for my novel, Counted Worthy.

My point in sharing these stories isn’t to prove that I’m good at fundraising. I’m not saying you need to send out letters or run a campaign to raise money for orphans. What I would like to share is two lessons I learned from these two experiences.

1. Have a partnership perspective.

In my initial balking stage about sending out letters for our missions trip, I stumbled across an article that really made me think. In the article, several missionaries answered the question, “Is there any way other than begging for support?” One missionary said,

You do the work for them, you keep them informed and you pray for them. On the other hand, they pay for your joint ministry, they pray for you and your joint ministry, and they help you recruit for your joint ministry. The word supporter should be replaced in our vocabulary and also in our attitudes with the word partner.

another said,

[It] is not about “donors” giving and missionaries receiving. It recognizes that both missionary and financial partner give into the ministry and both receive blessing, joy, and reward in return.

2. Many hands make lighter work.

Over the course of the two fundraisers I’ve worked on this year, it’s been amazing to see how quickly contributions pile up. My Kickstarter campaign drew 53 backers who pledged an average of $33 each to raise $1,775. Whether you are raising or contributing money, even small amounts can make a big difference.

How can you apply these lessons?

So, how can you apply these lessons? Raising money to contribute to orphan care and adoption is a lot different than fundraising for a missions trip or running a Kickstarter campaign.

  1. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Whether you’re running a basic fundraiser, setting up a craft sale, or learning to sell items online, don’t be afraid to ask for help! That might mean asking people to give financially. It might mean asking your friends to make crafts with you or help you run a table. It might mean asking a parent or adult to teach you how to list things on Amazon. Christians are called a family for a reason. All the members are meant to work together.
  2. Encourage adopting families to ask for help. Adopting families think the same way the rest of us do. They feel the same inhibitions about asking for help. If you know a family who is adopting, be enthusiastic about offering help. Try to reassure them that they’re not imposing or being a drag if they ask for help.
  3. Don’t underestimate your impact. Everyone’s role is important. You might not be able to adopt yet, but your prayers and encouragement vital components of bringing orphans into families. You might not be able to go overseas to work in an orphanage, but the people who are overseas need people here to spread the word about their work. Even if you aren’t able to donate large sums of money, remember that many hands make lighter work. You’re making the load that much lighter for everyone else involved.

Do you have any thoughts or personal experiences in this area? Can you think of any other practical applications of the lessons I shared in this post?

Orphans, Fundraising, and Teens (part one)

Orphans, Fundraising, and Teens (part 1)

Part one of the Teens and Money series.

As teenagers, many of us bemoan our lack of cash. How can we help with money intensive orphan care activities like child sponsorship, charity donations, and adoption support?

These concerns are valid, but we miss an important part of the picture when we focus on this line of thought. We forget to realize that most adults don’t have excessive spare cash either. What’s more, adults have to worry about paying for bills, supporting families, paying mortgages, and so much more. As teens, most of us don’t have those responsibilities yet. We’re also rich in something most adults aren’t. Time.

Yes, I know. We’re all busy. We have sports practice, school, homework, party invitations, maybe even a part time job. Even with all that, we usually have more time. We know we can be more productive if we really try. That homework might go faster if you skipped the social media rabbit trails, and while parties are fun, we don’t have to say yes to all of them.

So, it turns out that we’re not in such a bad place to be financial supporters of adoption and orphan care after all. We have fewer responsibilities and more time. To top it off, most teens have more energy than adults. Just check out this verse from Proverbs.

The glory of young men is their strength: and the beauty of old men is the gray head. –Proverbs 20:29

So how do we turn our relatively free and energetic teen years into opportunities to support orphan care and adoption? Here are some ideas for how you can raise money.

Five Ways You Can Make Money for Orphans5 Ways You Can Make Money for Orphans

  1. Normal teenager jobs. It seems like the majority of industrious teens have turned to jobs like lawn mowing, babysitting, leaf raking, and snow shoveling as early sources of income. When people know their money will be going to a charitable cause, they’ll be even more willing to hire you. You can go beyond these “normal” ideas as well. Several of my friends have earned good money cleaning houses, teaching music lessons, and tutoring. Put your skills to work!
  2. Craft Sales and Etsy. Several years ago when friend of ours were starting their second adoption journey, a few of my friends and I put together a craft sale so we could help with their expenses. It wasn’t fancy. We sold hair scrunchies, paper boxes of candy, and Christmas ornaments at our homeschool group’s Christmas party. The $50 we earned didn’t look like much against the $30,o00 adoption fees, but when lots of people give small amounts, it piles up fast! Gifts of Grace is an etsy shop run by teenager Emilie Hockman. She’s currently donating her earnings towards an adoption.
  3. Fundraisers. I often see sports teams and charities hosting car washes and bake sales to raise money. There’s no reason teens can’t use one of these tried and tested fundraising techniques. One neat idea I’d love to try someday is a gift wrapping station around the holidays. So many people dislike wrapping Christmas presents. How cool would it be to do gift wrapping instead of car washing?
  4. Selling Door-To-Door. Don’t panic. I did this when I was pretty young (11 or 12) and had a lot of fun with it. Being a young person can be an advantage for this. People are less likely to turn away a fundraising teenager than an adult doing door-to-door marketing. I used Dutch Mill Flower Bulbs when I did it years ago and earned around $250. I’ll bet an older teen with a more strategic approach and charitable cause could earn a lot more. A quick Google search reveals lots of other fundraising companies providing items like chocolate and gift wrap instead of flower bulbs.
  5. Sell on Amazon or Ebay. Rebelutionary Megan Cupit wrote an article explaining how her family started selling books on Amazon and giving the proceeds to the Bible League. They raised more than $1,000 in just five months. You can read her article to find out how they did it.

Does the large price tag attached to orphan care and adoption scare you? Have you done any fundraising activities to raise money for orphans or other causes? Do you think you can implement any of the ideas presented in this post?

Do you have any questions about raising money to help orphans, how to chose who to donate to, or anything else related to this topic? Ask in the comments below and I might devote a future post to your question!

Work with a Smile

Work with a Smile

With good will doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men: —Ephesians 6:7

At the beginning of July, my brother and I had the opportunity to go on our first missions trip. If you missed reading my first post about the experience, it’s titled Encountering the Fatherless. The main purpose of the trip was construction. While giving the team instructions, the missionary in charge said something that really made me think.

He told us that one of the most valuable things we could do was work with a smile. He told us to smile while we were making cement, cutting rebar, and playing with the kids. Why? Because when the people see foreigners not only working voluntarily, but doing so cheerfully, they wonder why? They ask why strangers would be so happy to come and help people they don’t even know. In turn, those questions would give the missionary an opportunity to share the gospel.

I think that concept is true throughout life. When people observe Christians working, serving, and worshiping with joyful hearts, they ask questions. Begrudging service is not attractive to anyone. We are to be lights in a dark world, and our smiles are tools to help that light shine brighter.

…he that giveth, let him do it with simplicity; he that ruleth, with diligence; he that sheweth mercy, with cheerfulness. —Romans 12:8

But this I say, He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully. Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver. —2 Corinthians 9:6-7

Missions Trip_2Working with a smile can be applied effectively to serving orphans. When we talk about orphans, does the joy of serving the Lord by helping the fatherless bubble out of us? Our smiles can show that others that we’re not doing this because we’re duty bound to it. We don’t love orphans simply because God told us we have to. We care because we love God and he loves them. We are happy to serve. We are investing of ourselves cheerfully.

All of these things can be communicated by working with a smile. People will take notice when that type of joy starts flowing out of God’s servants.

But let all those that put their trust in thee rejoice: let them ever shout for joy, because thou defendest them: let them also that love thy name be joyful in thee. —Psalm 5:11

Do you serve the Lord cheerfully? Is your joy visible to those who see you? Have you ever had something special happen because you were working with a smile?

But I’m Unqualified

UnqualifiedI think the feeling of being unqualified is one of the biggest things that paralyzes teens who want to make a difference. Actually, it probably extends beyond the teen years because I’ve read adult writers on adult blogs talking about the same thing. This feeling can be especially hard to deal with when it comes to orphan care.

The more I learn, the more complicated everything relating to orphans becomes. If you follow what’s going on in international adoption at all, you know what I mean. Is it more important for children to stay in their country of birth than to have a family of their own? When should biological families be encouraged and helped to keep their children and when is it best for the child to be surrendered for adoption? How do you help poverty stricken people financially without degrading their self-esteem and penalizing work?

So many questions and uncertainties surround orphans. The majority of adults, even the ones deeply involved in orphan care, don’t have the answers and solutions. If they can’t “fix” things what can we expect to do?

Sometimes I feel uncertain writing posts for this blog. It’s so easy to get something wrong, break some bit of etiquette I’m not aware of, step on toes concerning a sensitive topic. I know that friends and peers whose families have adopted read this blog. They know so much more than me on a much more personal scale. I worry about hurting their feelings or getting something glaringly wrong and making it clear that I don’t know what I’m talking about!

I appreciated a comment in Becoming Home, by Jedd Medefind. He said,

Even a glimpse of all this complexity can be paralyzing. Like the risk adverse investor in Jesus’ parable of the talents, we may be tempted to bury what we have to offer and not get involved at all. But Jesus minced no words in condemning that approach. He called it “wicked and lazy.” Instead, God calls us to act despite the risks. Understanding that helping can hurt gives us much-needed caution and humility. So we begin with learning, listening, planning, and only then, finally, action–always ready to recalibrate when we discover the mistakes we’ll inevitably make.

Just like every other area of life, we’re bound to goof up somewhere, somehow. It’s kind of like final exams in school. You study hard but you don’t understand everything. A lot of the complexity escapes you (or at least it escaped me…good for you if you understand all of it). You’ll probably get some of the questions wrong. But you don’t skip the test just because you’ll probably make a few mistakes. You prepare as best you can and, when it’s time to take the test, you do the best you can. Afterwords you look over what you got wrong, learn from it, and use it to do better next time.

I think that’s how we should approach the world of orphan care. Don’t avoid it just because you’ll probably get something wrong. If I goof up here, one of my lovely friends with more experience will probably send me an email pointing out the mistake. I’ll be embarrassed, but I’m sure they’ll be loving about it, and I’ll know better next time.

The bottom line is, don’t do nothing because you don’t understand it all and are bound to make mistakes. Learn what you can, do what you can, and fix what you’re doing wrong when you find out it’s not right.

Do you feel unqualified to help orphans? What mistakes are you afraid of making? How can you prepare and take action anyway?

Delighting in Orphans

Delight in OrphansDiscussing orphans and orphan care often becomes depressing. There are so many seemingly insurmountable problems, so much suffering. Even our reasons for caring about orphans as Christians often sound dreary. We “grieve for what grieves God’s heart,” which is a good thing, but my tendency (and, I expect, that of others as well) is to get stuck in the enormity of the problem. Philippians 4:6 says,

Be careful for nothing; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

Being careful (or anxious) doesn’t do anyone much good. It doesn’t help us or the orphans we are concerned for. But God takes things a step further in Psalm 40:8,

I delight to do thy will, O my God…

These words were spoken prophetically about Jesus, but I think they apply to us as well. How can we delight in doing God’s will by serving orphans? How can we keep from becoming anxious and overwhelmed?

God’s got it under control.

…the poor committeth himself unto thee, thou art the helper of the fatherless. –Psalm 10:14

We have all heard the phrase that God loves someone more than we do. He loves our family more than we do. He loves our friends more than we do. Well, he also loves each and every orphan more than we do. While we see numbers, He sees the intimate details of each child’s life. I can’t explain why so many of these children suffer so much and are never rescued. But time and again I come back the understanding that I don’t need to understand. As Corrie Ten Booms father once explained to her,

It would be a pretty poor father who would ask his little girl to carry such a load. It’s the same way, Corrie, with knowledge. Some knowledge is too heavy for children. When you are older and stronger, you can bear it. For now you must trust me to carry it for you.

Our job is to do what we can, but we don’t need to try to carry a knowledge too heavy for us. Surrendering that anxiety to God can free us to serve more joyfully.

Orphans are fearfully and wonderfully made.Psalm 139-14

I will praise thee, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvelous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well. –Psalm 139:14

Just like every other person, orphans are marvelous, wonderful creations of God’s hands. As a homeschooled student, I’ve attended many homeschool conference. Many times I’ve heard speakers encourage parents to step back from the incessant concerns, problems, and challenges of raising their children, and take time to delight in their kids. To appreciate their talents, their strengths, their potential. I think the same is true of orphans. We get bogged down in the magnitude of the problems and forget to be amazed and inspired by  the care God put into making them. The way their hands move, the smiles that cross their faces…everything about them is a miracle crafted by the hands of God.

Orphans are a blessing.

Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God. –Mark 10:14

Lo, children are an heritage of the Lord: and the fruit of the womb is his reward. –Psalm 127:3

The concept of children being a blessing has largely been lost in our culture, yet the Bible is quite clear that they are. Orphans are no exception to this rule. They are gifts to be treasured and loved.

As you seek to partner with God’s heart by helping orphans, don’t become discouraged. Delight in doing the Lords work instead of letting it become depressing and overwhelming.

And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not. As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith. –Galatians 6:9-10

Do you take joy in serving orphans? Can you find God’s hand at work in their lives? Can you share any examples of  delighting in orphans?