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December 2010 Enewsletter
NOTE FROM PAUL PENNINGTON
Executive Director and Co-Founder, Hope for Orphans
Ears to Hear
During this time of year, as we see the excitement and magic in the eyes of our children and grandchildren, if you’re like me, it takes me back to those days of my childhood when Christmas was full of wonderful food, grandparents laughing, speculating about presents and the warmth and comfort of knowing you had a family that loved you. In short, for me growing up and being at my Mam Maw's house at Christmas meant feeling safe and loved unconditionally.
As we are now the ones charged to help a new generation see and know that a baby came into the world to give us life, we should stop to remember there are millions of children who won't have such an experience, much less a family, this year. It’s staggering to think that more than 16 million children under the age of 18 in Africa alone have lost one or both parents to AIDS.
Hope for Orphans believes that the Spirit of the Most High God can mobilize thousands and thousands of churches to touch orphans around the world. We know this because we have seen what He can do through just one church and just one family…one child at a time.
God accomplished a lot of amazing things in 2010 through the ministry of Hope for Orphans. We were able to go near the orphans of Haiti and help almost 25 come home to families after the horror of the January earthquake. We have seen more churches launch orphans ministries. We have seen the seeds of orphan ministry on the college campus come to life and students saved through going near the orphan. Hope for Orphans Kids is bringing vision to children in churches across America. But still it is the stories of specific children that stick with me and show me that God is truly at work.
When Yang Wen Sha was born in China, there was a problem. She could not hear. Soon she was in an orphanage, but through God’s providence, there were Christians at the orphanage caring for her. A few years later, our friends Dr. Andy and Trisha Wells connected with Yang Wen Sha through a Hope for Orphans contact. Dr. Andy is an ENT, and with his help, Yang Wen Sha was able to receive the specialized hearing aid that she needed. It was not just a coincidence that Andy and Trisha came into the life of this child. You see, God had been working on Andy and Trisha’s hearts for some time about adoption, and now they dared to pray and ask, “Could Yang Wen Sha be our daughter?” They had ears to hear how the Lord wanted to use their lives.
In a story of divine intervention (which perhaps we can share one day through this e-newsletter), the Lord did what only He can do and in July of this year, Yang Wen Sha became Kari Christine Pennington Wells. She now lives in a beautiful home in Augusta, Georgia with the forever family that God chose for her. I sort of think maybe in her little 5-year-old mind that when the Wells welcomed her into their family, she could hear the angels singing in her ears.
Our ministry is about providing the vision, resources and onramps for millions of Christians to step forward to love the fatherless. This month, we have an amazing opportunity to grow our ministry. A donor has agreed to match, dollar for dollar, all gifts to Hope for Orphans received before December 31st. If the Lord leads, please help us help more churches to bring the Hope born in Bethlehem to more orphans in 2011 than ever before.
Happy New Year.
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Celebrate What God Has Done
This year, we again want to showcase a few church orphans ministries that are caring for orphans and waiting children in amazing and sometimes innovative ways. We asked some of the ministry leaders from each church to share the highlights of 2010 with us. Join us in worshipping God together as we thank Him for all the ways He has worked through His people on behalf of these precious children.
Calvary Church – St. Peters, MO
The highlight of 2010, according to Open Arms’ Kim Smith, was its November drive for Operation Christmas Child. In 2009, the church collected 668 boxes, and in 2010, they surpassed 1300. For four Sundays in a row, the pastors at all three campuses talked about the impact this ministry has on children. One of the church’s very own children, a 13-year-old girl named Maria, who was adopted from Russia three years ago, shared with the children and teen Sunday school classes about how she received a box from Operation Christmas Child herself when she lived in an orphanage. She recounted that it was her first and only gift she received there. Now, each year, she saves all of her money year-round to fill as many boxes as she is able. The teens at Calvary Church filled 300 boxes themselves as a service project. One young girl went to her neighbors for help, collecting over 30 boxes herself. In 2011, Open Arms plans many more exciting opportunities for their church to get involved, including their Defending the Fatherless Conference in April and a Christmas Eve dinner for youth who have aged out of foster care. For more information on how God is using Calvary Church and Open Arms, please click here.
Oakwood Church – Hartland, WI
The highlight of 2010 for Oakwood Church’s Mission: Hope, according to Marci Burkhart, was their return to the Jelgava Orphanage in Latvia this past Summer, where a team of ten, seven of whom were part of the 2009 team, served the 65 children living there. In addition to just spending time with the kids, encouraging them, and sharing God’s love with them, they ran a Vacation Bible School, took the kids bowling, and to the Baltic Sea. Having been at the orphanage the summer before, the kids recognized them on arrival and greeted them with smiles and hugs. Mission: Hope created a program called SPARK Hope (Serving Praying and reaching Kids) that connects one orphan from the orphanage with a family at Oakwood, which commits to praying for that child throughout the year, as well as writing letters and sending a Christmas gift. They hope to replicate that program in other orphanages in the future as God leads. They plan to return to the Jelgava Orphanage in 2011. In fact, says Marci, their team is already forming for that trip. Not only that, but three families (including the Burkharts) are adopting a total of six of the kids from Jelgava in 2011. For more information on how God is using Oakwood Church and Mission: Hope, please click here. For more information on how God is using Oakwood Church and Mission: Hope, please click here.
Cherrydale Baptist Church – Arlington, VA
The highlight of 2010 for the Orphan Care Ministry at Cherrydale Baptist Church, according to Kaari Vasquez, was their annual Adoption Luncheon, which was held in November. The ministry team brought in speakers, and the luncheon gave an opportunity for prospective adoptive parents to meet those who have already adopted and learn more about the process, issues, etc… About 50 church members attended. Two families shared how God had touched their lives through domestic adoption and foster care. Kaari shared that though they know God will continue to work through that event, they have already had a few families begin to inquire about adoption, and one young newlywed has shared that her husband had become a Christian while in foster care. Among the activities planned for 2011 include a Bible Study on God’s Heart for Orphans, and a possible summer trip to an orphanage in China. For more information on how God is using Cherrydale Baptist Church and its Orphan Care Ministry, please click here.
First Baptist McKinney -- McKinney, TX
The highlight of 2010 for The Journey, which is the adoption, foster care and orphan care ministry of First Baptist McKinney, was Orphan Sunday, according to Mark Baker. The morning message was on the Christians’ role in the lives of orphans, and that evening, they hosted a viewing of Answer the Cry. As Mark puts it, it was one of The Journey’s “first ‘outside of normal church hour’ events.” Ministry leaders were praying fifteen minutes before the event that someone, or anyone, would show up. “The first couple walked in, and the steady stream of people continued…by the time we started, we had well over 100 people in attendance for the event. It is amazing to see, given the opportunity, how God’s people are ready and eager to be the hands and feet of Jesus for the Orphan.” With the momentum The Journey was able to build through that event, God has continued to grow the ministry, and helped them to gain even more support from Church leadership. The Journey’s ministry team hopes to hold a community seminar in 2011 to educate people about the needs of orphans in Collin County, and they are looking for ways to impact the lives of emancipated foster youth as well. For more information on how God is using First Baptist McKinney and The Journey, please click here.
One of the greatest rewards of being a part of this ministry is hearing how God is using churches to care for and love orphans. We count it a blessing and honor to partner with many of these churches as they seek to live out God’s call to bring hope to children around the world. We pray that God will continue to use our ministry to encourage and help churches in 2011. To learn more about how God is using churches to love and care for orphans, visit the Hope for Orphans Strategy Library by clicking here.