Be Thou An Example

Praying Boy

Let no man despise thy youth, but be thou and example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity. ~1 Timothy 4:12

Not to long ago I wrote a guest post for Devoted Generation explaining why teenagers aren’t excused from doing hard, responsible things like caring for orphans. If you haven’t already read it, you might want to do so now. It’s a good companion post to this one.

you probably know that we young people should do hard things, but why is it so important? Why does Paul specifically exhort a younger brother to be an example of the believers? I’m sure there are many, many more reasons, but two have been coming to my mind lately.

Adults Notice Young PeopleKatia with McKennaugh
We all know that adults take notice when teenagers do something that’s a bit above average. They’re more willing to excuse our stumbles and applaud our successes. They’re also more likely to start doing something hard if a teenager is doing it. It’s in human nature to feel challenged when someone younger or with less resources does something positive. I experienced this the other day as I read through some of the backlogged posts on the The Rebelution. Reading about an five-year-old who raised $3,700 for a homeless shelter, an eight-year-old who donated 869 boxes of crayons to kids with disabilities, and a seventeen-year-old who gave up everything to follow Christ made me go, “whoa, if they can do all that I should be able to do at least as well.” A lot of times adults have the same reaction to teens doing hard things. If we’re doing our best to help orphans with the means we have, adults are sure to add their hitting power to the game.

Refreshing Those In The BattleKitanda Project
Okay, so teen involvement can help encourage others to get involved, but what about those already working to help orphans? Helping orphans is hard, emotionally draining work. The complications, huge need, and overwhelming scope is exhausting and scary to even think about. Consider how hard it must be for those who have devoted their lives to helping these children. These are the adoptive families, the Christian social workers, the missionaries, the orphanage staffs, the speakers, the fundraisers, the awareness raisers, the lawyers…the list goes on and on. These are the people we need more of. The people who are our heroes. But their work is difficult.

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

Go ahead and smile a little. The wording of verses like this always amuses me a little too. But the truth this verse communicates is so applicable. We young people have the energy, enthusiasm, and optimism that so often gets lost over a lifetime of thankless work. Stress, heartbreak, and unreached dreams can leave adults feeling worn and cynical. Young people who want to encourage them and jump in to work with them might be just what they need. These people have the experience we lack, and we have the energy they’re running out of. Sounds like a perfect opportunity for team work, don’t you think? Remember Moses praying for the armies of Israel in Exodus?

And it came to pass, when Moses held up his hand, that Israel prevailed: and when he let down his hand, Amalek prevailed. But Moses’ hands were heavy; and they took a stone, and put it under him, and he sat thereon; and Aaron and Hur stayed up his hands, the one on the one side, and the other on the other side; and his hands were steady until the going down of the sun. ~Exodus 17:11

We can be like Aaron and Hur to the adults already in the battle.

Being young closes some doors in the world of orphan care, but it opens others that will never be available to us again. Let’s not waste the opportunities we have now wishing for the ones we’ll have later!

What can you do to encourage people to help orphans by setting an example? How can we encourage those already working in orphan care? Share your thoughts!

P.S. The pictures in this post are linked to stories of teens in action and ways teens can help. Just click the pics to explore!

Cause to Celebrate, Cause to Fight

Romeike

The Romeike’s Can Stay!

There’s a lot of disagreement in the world of orphan care and adoption, but almost everyone agrees on one thing. When possible, it is in the best interests of a child to remain with their biological family. Prevention is the best way to keep a child from being an orphan. The American foster system tries to reunify families when possible, and organizations work in other countries to allow poverty stricken families to keep their little ones. People understand that the government makes a poor parent. Or do they?

Homeschooling is not allowed in Germany. This law essentially puts government control of children above parental rights. To make matters worse Germany puts their anti-homeschooling sentiments over the well understood importance of keeping children with their families. If families try to protect their children from the enormously secular German public school system, the German government will remove the children from their parents. These children are not in abusive, neglected, impoverished, or harmful situations. They have loving, happy families.

If governments know how to raise children better than loving parents, why do so many studies reveal a decrease in brain development among institutionalized children? Why do high percentages of graduates from government care programs end up in crime, prostitution, and poverty? The statistics and studies are clear. Raising children isn’t a job for the government.

Romeike2The Romeike family fled to the US after suffering persecution for homeschooling their children in Germany. They were granted asylum by US courts and settled quietly into their new lives: until members of the American government appealed the already settled case, and began attempting to throw the Romeikes out of the country. These officials almost became responsible for adding six more children to the millions of orphans in the world. Thankfully, last night we learned that the Department of Homeland security has announced that the Romeike’s can stay! This family will remain together, the way a family should.

However, there are still children being orphaned because of this issue. Children being snatched from their stable families by overbearing governments. Children being subjected to the documented trauma of being removed from their parents for no good reason. Families like the Johansson’s whose son has been in foster care for years simply because his parents homeschooled him .

These situations have been recognized as human rights cases. They’ve been recognized as parental rights cases. But they also deserve attention by people in orphan care. Across the board, people who care for orphans seek to prevent children becoming orphaned in the first place. From efforts to reunify families with children in the US foster care system to sponsoring poverty stricken families around the word to keep them unified, making sure children remain with their parents whenever it’s safe is a priority in this field.

Families whose children are being removed for no good reason need people to fight for them. Learn how you can help the Johansson’s  by visiting the Johansson Resource Page and How to Help the Johansson Family.

30 Ways to Care for Orphans

30 Ways in 30 DaysI recently read a book titled Orphan Justice (great book, click the link to read my review of it). Anyway, I found a series of posts on the author’s blog listing 30 ways to help orphans. Many of them aren’t suitable for teens, but it’s always good to be informed in case you get into a conversation with someone older. I’ve marked the opportunities that look possible for teens to get involved in.

  1. Become a Prayer Champion
  2. Start an Adoption Fund at Your Church (Possible for teens.)
  3. Educate Your Local Church (Possible for Teens)
  4. Get Families to Share Stories (Teen Friendly.)
  5. Check out the Heart Gallery (Great teen friendly idea.)
  6. Understanding the Importance of Scripture in Orphan Care (Teen friendly!)
  7. Host a Sponsorship Sunday
  8. Investigate Current Church Mission Work (Very possible for teens.)
  9. Host a Foster Care Prayer Vigil (Another good opportunity for teens.)
  10. Do Something About Human Trafficking
  11. Provide a Regular “Night Out” to Foster/Adoptive Families (Possible for teens to participate in.)
  12. Give to a Microfinance Ministry (Check out number 16 if you have limited funds to donate from.)
  13. Host a Regional Conference
  14. Community Based Care
  15. Balance Your Ministry
  16. Rethink Adoption Funds (If you ever feel discouraged about not being able to donate much monetarily, read this article.)
  17. Start a Special Needs Ministry
  18. Start a Book Club (Teen friendly opportunity.)
  19. Start an HIV/AIDS ministry
  20. Be Nice! (Very possible for teens. :))
  21. Safe Families for Christians
  22. Start a Backpack Ministry (This option is definitely viable for teens.)
  23. Educate Yourself on the Complexity of International Orphan Care
  24. Become a CASA/Guardian ad Litem
  25. Adoptive Parent’s Missions Trips
  26. Become a Mentor (Not sure how old you have to be for this, but it might be available for 18/19 year olds)
  27. Become a Respite Care Provider
  28. Start a Support Group for Safe/Foster/Adoptive Families
  29. Become Certified as a Foster Parent
  30. Adopt!

This is just a great list both for personal use and to share with others. Each link goes to a blog post giving an overview of the opportunity and linking to more resources.

Which of these opportunities most excites you? Which choice would be most practical for you to act upon?

Loving Katia (part 2)

Katia with dadMiss yesterday’s post? Read part of McKennaugh’s story here –> Loving Katia (part 1).

~*~

My prayers were answered when, after months of advocating, Katia’s story finally fell into the right hands. The Russell family read a poem that I had written about her in an Above Rubies e-zine and contacted me for more information. I sent them a long email about a child thousands of miles away with medical complications that I couldn’t even pronounce. They prayed. God answered. And the Russells started the year long process of adopting Katia. There were home studies and paperwork, dossiers and passports and fundraisng. When at last they got to Ukraine, they found Katia in an even worse condition. She was seven now. She was still fifteen pounds. After each visit they had with her, the Russells wondered if there would be another. Katia lay in her crib, seizing. But she lived. She was the weakest person that I have ever met but, somehow, she was by far the strongest, too.

Katia - homeKatia made it to the US. She was immediately admitted to a hospital here. Seizure medication, surgery, food. Food. Katia doubled her weight and grew four inches in 4 short months. Her blind eyes began to see. Casts shaped her legs, slowly, so they could bend. Her hair grew out and she has a mother to do it up in bows. She has three siblings always darting in to kiss her. She has a daddy to hold her. Now she is no longer a unwanted orphan child. She is someone’s daughter. The change is very visible. She is beautiful.

Every time I talk to Katia’s mother, Heather, or see a photo of this little girl, I think, “I came so close to giving up.” I had spent many endless days–months–trying to advocate for her and find her a family. For the longest time, it had come to nothing. I wondered within if I should give up. But I didn’t. I thank God I didn’t, for my words finally reached a family. I think that nothing in the world feels as good as knowing that you changed someone’s life. That you, with perseverance, helped a child leave a place where they were destined to live a life in a crib. I’m trying to say this in a way that doesn’t sound like I’m trying to collect credit for myself, because I’m not. I just want to say that anyone can make a difference…even a 14-year-old girl with Ukrainian soil on her feet who decides, “God wouldn’t want this child to die without hope. I can’t wait around for someone else to speak for her when I’m supposed to.” I wasn’t anyone special. I just knew that Katia deserved to have a childhood like I had had. It took a lot of time, effort, love and, most if all, a lot of God’s help. The point of this post is that teens can make a difference and that includes you. You can change someone’s life. All you have to do is try. Go for it.

~McKennaugh, age 17
Katia - after

Want to help a Ukrainian orphan? Yuri, a seven-year-old boy, is being adopted from Katia’s orphanage. I met him while I was there and he was the sweetest child. I was able to find him a family only recently and they are trying to raise funds so that they can bring him home. Visit the following link and consider donating to his adoption fund:  Hope for Yuri.

Have you ever seen before and after photos like this? (I haven’t!) How does this story touch your heart?

Partner with His Heart (part 2)

Turner Kids Hopefully you didn’t miss part one of this interview, but if you did, check it out here –> Partner with His Heart (part 1).

What were some of the most helpful things people did for you during your adoptions?
It was so nice to have friends and family who were supportive of our adoptions. I was actually nervous to tell people we were adopting 11 year old twins- but getting a positive response from our loved ones meant so much to us! The adoption process could be long and emotional, just hearing a friend express interest in the process really helped me through the ‘waiting game.’

Practical help, including friends and family donating to our massive tag sales, friends helping me organize benefit dinners, and especially watching my other 3 children while we were traveling overseas. It was also a huge blessing having people coming to my doorstep with meals after we arrived home. On many occasions I was brought to tears by people’s love and generosity during the whole process. And most importantly…prayer! Even though that is the unseen aspect, it was felt the most! I knew people were praying for our family, for the children being adopted, for our children already home, and for my husband and I. I truly believe our adoption experiences were held together by those who were praying for us.

Is there anything you wish people would not have done that they did?
Turners - In EthiopiaOn several occasions I winced at statements and questions asked to my daughters that I knew would make them uncomfortable. I have even heard someone ask them which country they like better! The key is sensitivity. Everyone is excited the child is finally home and they expect that every child will feel the same way, but in reality adoptions stem from trauma and loss. I was surprised to even hear that baby’s adopted right from the hospital will experience this loss. Some people expected that the girls would just automatically be thrilled with America and all the ‘stuff’ we have. We have found that even though our children have been hungry and gone without food, they still miss the food that they were used to. We think we have access to so much great food and yet, we were surprised to find that they were picky and do not like a lot of our foods! International adoptions come along with culture shock for children. We can not believe that our culture is better than any other’s. These children will miss their culture.

Do you have any suggestions for teens who want to help orphans and start adoptions?
Turners - J and HYou are never too young to make an impact in an orphans life! It was my 4 year old daughter–who remembered life in an orphanage–that pleaded with us to “go back and get more kids…they don’t have a mommy and daddy!” My five year old son was a huge catalyst telling us all the time that we should adopt more kids. Your voice is important–your friends and family are hearing what your saying. By reading books on the topic and doing research you can be a wealth of knowledge to families who express interest in the topic. It was Steven Curtis Chapman’s young daughter who had a burden for orphans and would often write letters to her parents asking them to prayerfully consider adoption. God then worked in her parents hearts and, after their Chinese adoptions, the Chapmans started one of the largest orphan care ministries in America, touching thousands of lives….which all started from a young teen praying for orphans.

If you regularly earn money you may choose to support an orphan monthly. At www.helpkorah.org you can choose a child’s profile who is waiting for a sponsor. I know 2 young teens who even decided to ‘share’ sponsoring a child–they split the cost between them monthly. And of course, Prayer! I remember when I was 18 years old–God put the country of India on my heart- it was a heavy burden and I spent hours reading about India. God would wake me up in the middle of the night to pray for the people of India whom I have never met before! BUT…10 years later when we decided to adopt a little Indian girl, I knew that those tears of my youth were not poured out in vain. I was interceding on behalf of my daughter’s country–possibly her young birth parents–without me ever knowing any of that at the time! Your prayers and petitions on behalf of the millions of orphans around the world will be heard in the throne room of heaven…do not grow weary in doing good–you are shaping a child’s destiny!
Turner Family 3
Has God laid a specific country on your heart the way he put India on Mrs. Turner’s heart? What makes you passionate about that country? Do you have any questions sparked by this interview?