Teens in Action: Lizzie for Compassion

AngelMany thanks to Lizzie for writing this delightful guest post.

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I have heard “orphan” defined as a child who has lost one or both parents by death or abandonment.  Angel (name changed for privacy) is a young boy living in Indonesia.  He is an orphan, whose father abandoned him, his mom, and his little sister.  Angel’s heart hurts.  The pain of his father leaving has left his heart scarred.  He has had to grow up and be the “man” of the family and age seven.  His mom works hard, yet she cannot make enough money to survive.  Sometimes, she does not have enough money to pay rent.  Hopelessness weighs down on her, but her spirit is not crushed.  She trusts in Jesus.

She reminds Angel that “Daddy Jesus” will always love him and be with him.  She is an active member of her local church and encourages her children to read the Bible.  Her life is not easy, far from it!  She has to search for work and make tough decisions.  A few months ago, she decided to move to a different town in hopes that she would find a better job there.  Sometimes, I imagine, she cries out to God and wonders why her husband left, why she can’t pay rent, why she works so hard for so little return.  Yet, she tries to be strong for her children and trust God’s plan and timing.

Angel respects his mom and even admires her.  He loves her and wants her to be happy.  Angel is also a Compassion sponsored child.  His local church partners with Compassion to help meet his physical needs (through medical check-ups and education), socioemotional needs, and spiritual needs.  In fact, through Compassion and his local church, he not only participates in Bible studies, but also receives character education.  Angel is learning to be a man of God even though he is young.  He is being encouraged to not run away from difficult situations and to look to Jesus for strength in those times.

Angel writes me letter because I am his correspondent sponsor through Compassion (someone sponsors him financially and asked Compassion to find someone else to write him, which ended up being me.).  He tells me about his struggles, joys, hopes, and dreams.  I write him letters, too, and encourage him that his Heavenly Father will never leave him.  Although I am just a teen, I am able to encourage an orphan.

Venu
As others have said, we are too young to adopt or foster a child.  But each of us can do something.  Maybe you can encourage an orphan through letter writing or even sponsor a child through Compassion…..like Venu.  Venu will be five years old in five days on May 16.  Because his parents died, he lives with his grandparents.  They work as day laborers when work is available.  But, their income is not steady, and they often do not have enough money to meet their needs.  Compassion partners with a local church in Venu’s community in Bangalore, India, to provide him with a safe place to play, learn, and grow.  I do not know Venu’s story.  You can learn his story, will you?

Sponsoring Venu is a $38 a month commitment, which is just over $1 a day.  If you would be interested in sponsor Venu or getting to know more about him, please e-mail me at lizzie4compassion@gmail.com  Or, to see other orphans in need of a sponsor through Compassion, please visit compassion.com/sponsor_a_child/child-search-results.htm?cboOrphan=Yes

Being a correspondent sponsor is a commitment to write to the child at least three times a year.  To request a correspondent child, go to compassion.com and contact them via phone or e-mail.  Be sure to be specific in your request if you would like to write to an orphan; otherwise, you will be assigned a random child.

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Teens In Action: Earrings for Life

Earrings for Life

This ministry first came to my attention through a post on The Rebelution. As I was brainstorming ways of making Teens in Action posts more regular here on TIO, Brooke’s ministry popped to mind, and I messaged her on Facebook. This post is the result. Hope you enjoy what she has to say. Don’t forget to check out the earrings!

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When I was asked to write this blog post, the first thought that came into my head was “Me? What? Why? I’m not an author, surely I can’t blog!” But as I continued to think about what I wanted to write, I was reminded-that’s just it. God does not call the equipped, but equips the called! So, here’s a little bit about when God called me.

I am only sixteen now, but when I was eleven, I started making earrings. Because I was (and still am!) a little entrepreneur, I immediately thought of the basic idea to sell these hand-made earrings and give the money to my local crisis pregnancy center, which helps young women experiencing unplanned pregnancies. I began by selling a couple of pairs to my family—it was not much, but it was something, and I praised God for each dollar raised. After promoting my ministry, which I named Earrings for Life, through my church, I was able to raise about $100 in the first year, and I remember being absolutely thrilled!! And that was just the beginning….

To be honest, I would have never been able to dream about all of the things God has done through me. Fast forward almost five years from that day I started selling earrings, and I am still blown away. So far, God has used me to raise over $3,000 just by selling earrings for $5 per pair! I have gotten the amazing opportunity to speak at small meetings, large gatherings, and churches. Gratefully, I have been featured on a website where over seven thousand readers were able to learn about Earrings for Life! AND now I am being asked to write blogs, which is pretty crazy and so humbling!

I chose to raise money for crisis pregnancy centers because it is an organization that is very close to my heart. Young women and couples choosing to kill their children just because it was not their plan hurts me. These sweet little children had so much promise and future…but their mother decided to do what was most convenient for her. The awesome thing about the centers I donate to is that not only do they come alongside young mothers-to-be and encourage them to save their children’s life, but they also provide counseling, parenting classes, and financial aid.

In James 1:27, it says the following:

“Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”

To me, living out this verse means to come alongside unborn children that have no one to fight for their lives and say to their mothers that these children are worth it. They are alive and deserve to live long lives!

Thank you so much to Leah, for allowing me to write for her awesome blog! If you would like to help support Earrings for Life, the most important thing you can do is pray for the ministry! Also, please check out the Facebook page–Earrings for Life—if you are interested in either contacting me or buying earrings. In addition, you can email me at earringsforlife@gmail.com. Thank you so much, and God bless!

~Brooke Graham

Sometimes when we don’t feel we have much to offer, we don’t do anything. But story after story shows that God can take our little and multiply it beyond anything we imagined. Can you think of some Bible stories where God took something small and turned it into something big? Share your thoughts and encouragements for Brooke below!

Valentine Card Challenge

make one cards, for one child, change one life

Today we’re featuring a guest post from Crista Moriah at Uniquely Fashioned for His Glory. Some of you may already know about her challenge from her blog or her post on The Rebelution. As a commenter on The Rebelution said, this challenge is a brilliant way to turn one’s focus away from self and channel it into service this Valentines day. But, instead of continuing to talk about it myself, I’ll let you read what Crista has to say.

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Jesus broke my heart into so many tiny pieces when I learned of the imprisoned children of Uganda.  I read over my dad’s shoulder the story of how a ministry Sixty Feet was born to serve these orphans and bring them restoration and hope in Jesus’ name.  My life has never been the same since.

He captured me with a love that mirrored His.  It was fearless, bold, dreamed big, and knew no boundaries.  It was willing to do anything to be a voice, to defend these kids, taking the stance of an advocate.

You might say I fell in love with a country, a people even while they stretched oceans apart from me.  Jesus was my Matchmaker, pairing me up with who I needed.  Only He could arrange something so perfect.

A few weeks ago, He leaned in close.  Whispering a whimsical, beautiful idea gently to my heart: Cards.  Bright, hope filled messages that would serve to spread His love to the world.  To orphans.

On my first trip to Uganda, cards brightened the day of many lives in the prisons.  I knew how much they would mean to these orphans.  It made me realize just how tender, how compassionate is the heart of our God.  The Father to the fatherless, Helper of the orphan reaching down with a simple way to tell them “I love you.” My heart thrills at the thought.

That’s what brought about this Valentine Card Challenge: 1,400 Cards by Feb. 14th.

 There are approximately 200 children in each prison and 7 prisons exist in Uganda.  That means in order for every child to receive a card, we need 1,400.

Please be the balm of healing to these broken hearts.  Share God’s love letting it spill out of your hearts and onto the pages of just one card, for one child, to change one life. We are called to do this. God calls anyone who considers the helpless blessed.

This is my Valentine Card Challenge to you.

Will you take it, for one?

Here’s what to do:

1. Make a simple card(s) with the John 3:16 verse written out, and “God loves you” or in Lugandan you could put “Jesu Okwagala”; sign your name. Please have your brothers & sisters make one, your friends, parents, family, people at your church.  Anyone can help participate to meet our goal.

2.Write “Valentine Card Challenge” on the back of the envelope. (If you have a lot of cards, just send it in a large envelope or box. )

Address & send to the ministry SixtyFeet:

Sixty Feet Inc.
2451 Cumberland Parkway
Suite 3526
Atlanta, Georgia 30339

3. In order to keep a tally, please comment on this post or under “Contact Me” telling how many cards you sent in.

Also, please feel free to share this on your own blog, through email, Pinterest, whatever you like.

That’s it!  Three simple steps that can change the world with God’s love.  All it takes is ordinary people willing to do what He asks of them to make an extraordinary difference in the lives around them and across the globe.

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So, what do you think? Will you send a card (or two … or three … or more)? Let me know if you do!

Kang’s Heart of Hope

Kang's Heart of HopeLast month, a post on my friend Marli’s blog caught my attention. She shared a post about Timothy, a little boy in China who has both Downs Syndrome and a heart defect. Marli’s post linked through to the original post, written by Hannah “Jiejie,” a young woman who knows and loves Timothy. After reading the post, I contacted Hannah to see if she’d like to post about Timothy here on TIO. She replied that Timothy had received the full funding for his heart surgery, but she would love to post about another little boy. Here’s that post.

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I was chatting with my parents via Skype when my mom told me, “There’s a new little boy at the orphanage. He seems to have a heart defect.”

When you think of orphans and orphanages, maybe the first thing that pops into your mind is a row of cribs filled with babies. This is an accurate picture. But when I think of orphans I see another image; the two, three and four year-olds who are abandoned. These are the children who have known a family, and who have been loved and treasured by their parents, but when the medical needs became too much, or when the heart defect was diagnosed and a life-saving surgery quoted at way more than the family could ever expect to borrow from relatives, hope was abandoned and the children left alone at the orphanage gate.

This is Kang’s story. I know nothing of his birth parents. I know little about why he was abandoned, but I can guess.

Kang is almost three. His lips are blue, his fingertips are blue, he is weak and he is small. He has little strength to do anything. Kang has a very complicated heart defect. I can only image that his parents took him to many doctors and most of them probably said that there was nothing that they could do – only big hospitals in the city have the expertise to do a surgery that would repair Kang’s heart. Maybe they took him to one of the bigger hospitals in the city? Maybe the hospital gave them an estimation of what the surgery would cost. They must have cried-ugly that night as they watched their little boy sleep peacefully without a clue that his parents were about to make a decision that would change his life and his story forever.

Kang_1 Kang was abandoned just a few months ago. He is almost three, y’all, almost three. Think about your own two year-olds. Are they aware that they have a mommy and a daddy? Do they understand that you are there to take care of them and meet their needs? They do! And so imagine what Kang’s little heart must have done when he woke up and found himself away from the family he had known and surrounded by the chaos that is a toddler room in an orphanage. Busy nannies scrambling to meet the needs of dozens of children… crying children who just want to be held… fighting children who have learned how to get their own way… quiet children who know that no one will come.

And so Kang’s broken heart that couldn’t provide his body with the oxygen it needed, broke again.

We worked with the orphanage and they were able to get him taken in to the local hospital for some tests. The doctor said that surgery was necessary, but impossible. We took the results to some of the excellent cardiology hospitals in Beijing, and the surgeons said that surgery could be done. They suggested that they could repair his heart with one major operation, and that it would cost $20,000.

Taking a deep breath we stepped back… wow. That’s a lot of money. We looked at some other hospitals and applied for a government grant. The government rejected Kang’s application, saying that it was too late, he should have had surgery years ago and that there was no hope.

I don’t know about you, but the thing that gets me riled up the most is when somebody says that there is no hope. I think that the hairs on the back of my neck visibly stand on end. And so when the government rejected Kang’s application and refused to fund his surgery because they said he, “has no hope,” I decided that we have to do something.

Yes, it’s true, Kang’s surgery is complex and there is a chance that he will not survive. But do we have the right to make this decision? Do we have the right to choose not to give Kang his only hope of survival? Where do we place our trust?

Kang’s surgery will cost between $16,000 and $20,000 USD. This is a lot of money, but not if we stand together, a little here and a little there. It will add up. Are you willing to take the risk, to give Kang hope? His life is worth it.

Kang_2 (1)

Kang is currently being cared for by Little Flower Project’s baby home in Beijing. His fundraising page is here.

Will you stand with me?

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I hope you didn’t mind the slightly-longer-than-usual post today! If you have time an inclination, I’d really recommend checking out Hannah’s blog, Loving Dangerously. It’s a lot of fun to read through.

If you have any questions for Hannah (or me, of course!) please leave a comment. Comments are always awesome! 😉

Guest Post: Letting Go

Balloons

Today’s guest poster is Jesse. He’s a TIO member with personal experience in foster care side of caring for the fatherless. When he asked how he could help, I asked if he’d be willing to write a guest post about that experience. Here it is. (And, no, the title of this post has nothing to do with Frozen. Just in case you now have a certain song playing through your head.)

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Is it really worth it? To pile on love and adoration, only to know the one you love will soon have to leave? Is it worth it to completely give all you have to someone who you quite possibly might never see again? Is love worth the tearing and pulling apart that comes when you open your home to a situation like this?

When this little guy first came into my life I totally welcome him way down deep into my heart. I would stay up late, sometimes begging him to just go to sleep, other times wishing he wouldn’t drop off so fast. I would love to hold him in the back of church, totally reveling all the attention we would get, never dreaming about the day it would actually end. I guess I’m great at living at denial in that way.

I knew when my parents first mentioned foster care that the child would most likely end up back with his or her parents. I knew that, but refused to accept it. Now I have to. This awesome little guy just turned two, and we are really good friends. There’s nothing like coming home from work and having him run up to me yelling my name, or cranking on the tunes and watching him dance and try to air guitar like his favorite foster brother. These are good days, golden days. But soon, they will end. He will go back to live with his mom, and I can’t stop it. All I can do is pray more desperately than I have ever prayed in my life. I never knew how hard it was to let go until I had to do it. He is her child after all. But I learned a long time ago that reason does not stop pain. The pain is necessary, in order to heal. Which brings it around. Is all this pain, all this hurting worth it?

In a word, totally. In a thousand words, well just look at a picture of him and you will see what I mean. The chance at changing a life forever is worth the pain. Because he has had a stable first two years of his life, he has a much better chance at a stable adulthood. The shot at making a real difference in not only the life of a child, but also his mom and her family. Not to mention the real, epic, lasting changes and experiences I have gained on this journey.

So, is it hard? Yes, heart rending, one of the hardest things I have ever walked through. Is it worth it? Yes, probably one of the most satisfying things I have ever walked through, knowing that we as a family and myself as an individual are doing God’s will, and reaching out to the hurting, the broken and the fatherless. So if you could gain anything from my feeble attempt to put down what races thru my head, let it be this, never let anything stop you from what God is telling you to do. God speaks thru different ways, but He always speakers thru His word. And one the largest and most recurring themes in the bible is serving the fatherless and the widow. Even the ones right in our own country. May God be with you as you go regardless of the pain, regardless of the hurt and possible failures. For the voiceless

–Jesse

Do you have any personal experiences like Jesse? Do you believe the difficulty of caring for the father

Teens In Action: Project 27

Kitanda ProjectHello everyone! I’m back with another teen who is making a difference in the lives of orphans. (If you missed last week’s Teens In Action post,  go over and read Blankets of Love at some point.) Abby found TIO through The Rebelution and shot me an email to say she liked the website and blog. She also mentioned a ministry she and some girls for her school run. I found her story inspiring, and I hope you will too. Here’s Abby.

“Religion is that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” James 1:27

After studying Romans 12, a call to a transformed and sanctified life, my peers and I were challenged to respond to the call of James 1:27. Praying for an open door through which we could serve, the Lord directed us to Agape Children’s Ministry. We knew missionaries who were stationed in Kenya, Africa with Agape Children’s Ministry. The focus of the home to is rescue street boys and girls from the homelessness and wondering of street life in Kisumu, Kenya (www.agapechildren.org), and present the gospel to the children. We began supporting this ministry through a program labeled the Kitanda Project, as Kitanda is bed in Swahili. Through this project, we raised monthly donations in order that a child would be supported safely in a ‘bed’, which included not only a place to lay his head, but also all other physical, educational, and health needs.

We all were excited to get to work for the needy and orphaned! Through car washes, bake sales, and jewelry sales we raised more than the amount of money we needed. God taught us how to serve others, sacrifice time, and pray for the needs of the unredeemed. Captivated by the mercy and grace of our Savior, we were awed by His abundant blessing on our Project. Continuously money poured in, and we were able to support the ministry far beyond our commitment. As I reflect on the goodness of our God through this learning process I can’t help but become overly excited because of the Lord we serve! God used little middle school girls with hardly a clue about fundraising and commitments to bring about His plan for the orphaned.

Isaiah 1:16-17 says: “Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your deeds from before my eyes; cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause.” We have learned that caring for the orphaned, the widowed, and the unredeemed is really a call for cleanliness on behalf of the believer’s life and heart. Once we have made our hearts right before the Lord, then we are able to serve, pray for, and become involved with orphans and missions. Our prayer is that on this road to answer the call of James 1:27 and Isaiah 1:16-17, we first prepare our hearts before our Holy Father.

As we continue the legacy of the Kitanda Project, we have taken on a new name, Project 27, based off of James 1:27 and the call for cleanliness in the last 27 books of Isaiah. We would be blessed if you lift us up in prayer as we pray for wisdom and guidance on how to live righteously and serve others.

I am so very thankful for the work, time, and effort Leah has put into this site! What a blessing it was when I came upon her website and her mission and heart for orphans. We don’t know how blessed we are to have the resources God has made available to us. Let us respond to God’s call of righteous, clean living! There are plenty of opportunities to serve; thank you Leah for organizing this precious mission and devoting your life to God’s call for the orphans.  

I also asked Abby how people can donate to Project 27, and this is what she said.

Thanks for your encouragement! The best way to donate to our project is to send a check, since we do not have an online account as of right now. Checks can be made out to Southside Christian School (my school where we have Project 27) with “kitanda project” in the memo line ( we have not yet changed the name officially). They can be sent to 2028 Orton Rd.

It’s so encouraging to me to hear stories like Abby’s and see that teens who care can make a difference. And I hope reading what other’s are doing will give you ideas for how you can take action as well. Have any thoughts or comments? Want to ask Abby a question?

Teens In Action: Blankets of Love

Uruguay1Cathy Vollenweider contacted me a while back to share about her ministry to orphans in Uruguay and wondered if it might be something of interest to share on TIO.  I was so excited to hear about her heart for Uruguay and to learn about her ministry. Her story is perfect for TIO. Stay tuned to learn about another teen’s ministry to orphans next week. And now, here’s Cat.

God has given me compassion for children in one of the smallest and most secular countries in South America: Uruguay.  In Uruguay, many children are abandoned, abused, and unwanted.  Uruguay’s crumbling family unit and hurting children are related to issues such as legal prostitution and nearly impossible adoption, leaving a huge percentage of innocent Uruguayan little ones living in orphanages and hungry for love.

In spite of the darkness that pervades, God is bringing about a glorious change through His people there.  An example of such is the Stallings family.  They moved to Uruguay from Colorado specifically to love and mentor Uruguayan orphans (go to http://www.fieldsofthefatherless.org to see more about their mission).

I am coming alongside the Stallings’s to help these little children know that they are loved, through prayer and through a project called Bracelets4Blankets.  The Lord, by His generous grace, is using this project of selling friendship bracelets to raise money so that the Stallings’s can give winter blankets to the orphans that they have relationships with.

Uruguay is in the southern hemisphere, so their winters go from June to August.  Time is limited to complete this project!  Bracelets are $5 each.  All donations will go to the Stallings’s ministry, who will use it to give blankets to the orphans.

Uruguay2

To read more about my passion for Uruguay: either keep reading, or follow this link to my blog (both posts are different).  If you would like to give $5 to help keep these orphans warm this winter, follow this link. After donating, click the yellow button that says “Return to the Bracelet Project” (or something like that) to be redirected to a blog page containing an order form, where you can tell me your preferences for the bracelet (or follow this link to go directly to the project’s page – it explains in more detail how the donation/ordering process works).

Uruguay3So, why do I have a passion for Uruguay, specifically?  I really have a hard time with this question, and it is something that I have wrestled with myself.  I have asked, “why? Why does my heart ache for those in a far away country that I had not heard of before?”  And I’m still not sure of the answer, but I do know that the passion He has given me is real.

The Lord simply put a passion for Uruguay on my heart.  In February of 2013, I had been praying intensely about the direction in which God wanted my life to go.  During a conversation with my older brother, he wondered out loud why mission trips to Uruguay are unheard of, and as we began searching for the answer to this question, the people of this little country captured my heart.

I have never been to Uruguay; merely a year ago I had only vaguely heard of it.  Yet I have a compassion and broken heart for the people of Uruguay like I have for nothing else.  The only way I can explain it is that this is a God-given passion.

Sometimes, the hurt that I have for Uruguay seems unbearable, and sometimes I feel like giving up.  Those times, I hold onto what Christ did for me, and I remember that my life is “hidden with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:1-3), and that my fingers are His anyway.  How could I stop them from doing the work He has given me?  So I make bracelets.  Please join me in this work – I know that united we can accomplish anything, and I believe that God will do something amazing beyond imagination.

Uruguay4

Does anyone have questions or comments for Cat? Were you inspired by the story of a fellow teenager doing what she can to make a difference in the lives of children? Thank you, Cat, for the article!

TIO Featured on The Rebelution

orphan
That’s right! Teens Interceding for Orphans has been featured on The Rebelution blog. Not sure what The Rebelution is? It’s what Alex and Brett Harris call the movement started by their book, Do Hard Things. If you haven’t read Do Hard Things, you need to. It’s a great book with the tagline, “Teens Rebelling Against Low Expectations (aka The Rebelution).” The blog has over 7,000 followers, so it’s pretty exciting to have TIO featured there. If you found TIO through the post, please leave a comment to say hi! If not, go read the article!

A Baby by Christmas (part 1)

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Me and Hannah

My friend Hannah and I met through a mutual involvement in the One Year Adventure Novel. Actually, to be technical, our characters met. But that’s another story for another time and you probably wouldn’t understand anyway. Anyway, somewhere along the line I learned that Hannah was adopted and that’s when we started talking. These days I regularly forget the fact that made us start talking to begin with, but I was thrilled when she sent me this article. Welcome to an open domestic adoption. And now let me introduce Hannah.

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On multiple occasions throughout the course of my life, I’ve been asked the question “What’s it like to be adopted?” My reply is always, “What is it like to not be adopted?”

Often, when people talk about adoption, it’s about international adoption. International adoption is beautiful and incredibly important, but some of us adoptees had much more humble beginnings. We are “domestic.” There is a huge need for international adoptees to find their forever families, but, at the same time, the need for domestic adoptive families is also massive.

Older children, younger children. Infants. Some through the state, others through private agencies, there are many of us. We’re “given up” for many reasons—finances, we were unexpected, drug or alcohol addicted parents, the list goes on.

I am from an entire family of adoptee children. We’re all domestically adopted, and this is my part of the story.*

 —

My parents were married twenty-five years ago. They wanted children, but struggled with infertility issues and couldn’t get pregnant. So they turned to adoption. Two fell through, breaking their hearts. It hurt my mother so badly. She couldn’t imagine going through another Christmas, another Mother’s Day, another birthday, without having a baby of her own. They’d been married almost five years when finally, one Sunday, my parents went to the altar and prayed. What was the prayer? A baby by Christmas (come to find out later, the week they prayed was the week the first handful of cells that formed me, came into existence).

Not too long after, my mom’s cousin said she knew of a young pregnant woman who already had a toddler, and couldn’t support two children, so she was looking for an adoptive family for this new baby. Things started falling into place. A homestudy, paperwork, letter to the birthmother, et cetera.

The young woman, Kara, picked my parents as the adoptive family. They met in December, a month before I was born, in a hotel lobby. Kara was so tiny she didn’t even look pregnant. My parents were excited, even though I wouldn’t arrive until January. The three of them cried together in that hotel.

God surprised everyone and I was born in December, a week before Christmas. Mom got her Christmas baby after all, and there were more tears in the hospital when I was taken home. During my hospital stay, Kara tried to leave me in the nursery, so she wouldn’t get overly attatched…that failed. She ended up holding me the entire time before my parents arrived, and my birth grandmother crocheted me a blanket while sitting with Kara.

The years passed. I grew up knowing I was adopted, and not thinking it strange. It was just the way things were. It’s never bothered me even though I have often been curious—Mom and Dad have always been open about it, adding more details as I became mature enough to understand them, and letting me know that if I wanted to meet her, someday I hopefully could.

Three years ago, the cousin that knew my birthmom said a mutual acquaintance of hers and Kara’s had messaged her on Facebook, saying something about how he’d recently seen Kara and wondered how Hannah was doing.

That threw us all for a bit of a loop: he remembered me? That meant Kara must talk about me. Either that or he had a good memory.

Was this a Segway for me to meet Kara? Did I want to meet her? We decided it might be. And I decided I really did want to meet her. So we asked my cousin to write the mutual acquaintance and find out if my birthmother might be interested in meeting.

She was, and so was my birth sister, Kristy, who is two years my senior. We got into contact and set up a dinner-date at Don Pablo’s (nothing like Mexican food for nervous stomachs, right?).

Mom was a ball of spazzing, nervous energy. I stayed calm until right before it was time to leave for the restaurant. Then I freaked out, but knew I wanted to meet them badly enough that I wouldn’t allow myself to talk me out of going.

The drive was nerve-wracking.

And you’ll just have to come back tomorrow for the rest of it. 🙂

*Names changed to protect privacy

Ideas for Teens

If you’ve never visited Beauty from the Ashes, go take a peek. Or, even better, stay a while once you’re there. I don’t remember how I found Karen’s blog, but it’s a gem. The stories in the blog archives are pure gold. I couldn’t stop reading. What an excitement to have her write a blog post for TIO!

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Karen and little girFor the past 9 years I’ve made Kiev, Ukraine my home. What started out as an 8-month adventure turned into vision and a calling surrounding the orphans of Ukraine.

While in Ukraine I’ve traveled to dozens of orphanages, participated in humanitarian aid distributions, been an advocate for adoption, assisted with the adoption process and have organized summer camps and hosting trips for orphans and at risk kids. Through these experiences God has opened my eyes to deep need throughout Ukraine and burdened my heart for specific children.

Due to my location in Ukraine and my presence in the ‘blogging world’ I often get emails asking for practical ways people can get involved. Sometimes people have a heart for helping and loving orphans, but lack ideas for how to put their desires into action. This is especially true if you are young and perhaps lack the resources to travel and are not at a place in life where you can adopt.

So the question remains: what can we do from home to make a difference?

In order to make this as practical as possible I’ve generated a list of ideas for you to prayerfully consider as you ask the question, what can I do for orphans?

Educate Yourself
Sounds pretty straightforward right? There is an overwhelming amount of information on the Internet today surrounding the number of orphans, the plight of orphans, statistics on orphans, ministries that are helping, and even ministries that are hurting. Honestly, it can be overwhelming! But it is hard to speak with authority and conviction on a topic if we don’t know much about it. So spend time getting to know the reasons behind the number of orphans in various countries, and learn more about ministries that are working around the world. Talk to missionaries and those that work with orphans or who have adopted. Ask lots of questions so you can get a sense of the greatest needs.

Advocate
After you know what you are talking about (see above :)) and you have a better understanding of the needs of children around the world you will be able to share with your friends and help them develop a heart for orphans as well. Find an orphan ministry whose cause you believe in and promote what they are doing. Share their links on Facebook, re-post videos advocating for kids, sometimes it is amazing what we can do with the click of a mouse!

Give Creatively
Think of ways to raise money for a ministry you see making a difference. But don’t just ask for money, think of ways to get other people involved too. Think of giving campaigns you can do as a youth group or in your school. Make things and sell them, bake things and sell them, hold a party or a dinner as a fundraiser, put together Christmas shoeboxes for orphans overseas, adopt a local foster family that needs extra help. Really the ideas are endless! It’s time to get creative!

Pray
Such a simple word, but easier said than done! Prayer is mysterious at times, and yet we know we are instructed to come to the Lord in prayer, and he hears us! I have seen God move mountains countless times for orphans in Ukraine. The first time I went to an orphanage was in 2004, and there I met a little girl named Ira. I committed to praying for her and that she would have a family. 2 years later that prayer was answered and Ira was adopted! It is amazing to see how God hears our hearts when we intercede for his children. There are several websites that feature pictures of children living in orphanages that you can be praying for:

http://doorwaystohope.org/pray
http://reecesrainbow.org/

Remember the needs are closer than you think
You don’t have to travel across the globe to help orphans. Currently the US foster system has about 400,000 children in its registry. This number represents kids in your own community. Find out if there are ways to serve as a lunch buddy or mentor to a foster child in your community.

Do you know any foster or adoptive families in your church or neighborhood? Sometimes people forget that the hardest part of adoption is AFTER the kids come home. Think of ways you can support and serve these families. Offer to make a meal, help with house or yard work or childcare.

As you can see, there are LOTS of ways to get involved in answering the Biblical call to love and care for orphans. Some of them take creativity and others perhaps just leaving your comfort zone! Find a friend and get started!!

~Karen

Do you know any post-adoptive families? Have you educated yourself about any specific countries or orphan care topics?