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USA (MNN) -- The ministry work now spans Eastern Europe, Latin America, Africa, India, and the United States. But even after a decade of serving orphans and vulnerable children, Orphan Outreach remains focused on one single mission. “When we founded Orphan Outreach, we really had one goal,” shares Tiffany Taylor Wines, Director of Marketing. “That was to have a ministry that glorified Jesus Christ, a ministry that was rooted in God’s heart for the orphan, a ministry that would live that out in the way we cared for children around the world.”
Firmly RootedWhen Wines looks back at the past decade of ministry, she’s humbled. When the first conversations took place in a single-room office with a card table and folding chairs, the team never thought about the number of children that might be served. What mattered was quality care was being provided. Wines says, “Right now, we’re serving 5,000 children annually through orphan care, through family preservation programs, through foster care, [and] through funding adoptions. All of our programs are firmly rooted in the Word, they are poised to make a huge impact in these children’s lives.” Orphan Outreach began its work in 2007 in Guatemala and Russia. Soon, ministry efforts had expanded to Latvia, Kenya, Honduras, and India. In 2016, Ukraine was added to the list of countries supported by the Texas-based ministry. Each year, new opportunities arise to expand support to other countries, yet Orphan Outreach stays focused on slow growth and deep investment. "The needs are overwhelming, all over the world,” reflects Wines. “One huge role Orphan Outreach is playing in the orphan care movement is lending our voice to advocate for the children and also to come alongside people, to help them with their projects because we can’t be everywhere all the time. So advocacy and sharing our knowledge with other ministries is huge for us.”
Growing DeeperThe theme for the 10th anniversary year is 'Firmly Rooted, Growing Deeper'. Wines says, “Our whole goal of reaching out is to make a real difference. And for us, making a real difference is focusing our efforts to be both grateful for the roots we’ve planted over the past 10 years, but also to continue to invest fully in the ministries we partner with, while looking for ways to expand those ministries. And we want to continue to lend our voice to serve the needs of children all over the world, not just in the countries where we are working.” Ministry partnerships take time to establish, and the roads aren’t always smooth. Orphan Outreach has maintained its focus on what defines quality partnership, and continues to use the same measures it crafted when the ministry began. “We always want to see people who want to go deeper, who want to improve their practices, always wanting to do really good orphan care, whatever that looks like -- if it’s family preservation, or adoption funding, or foster care. Whatever it is, excellence is expected, transparency is expected, and a willingness to work together to solve the problem is expected. This is about ministries like ours working with churches, working with individuals -- lots of individuals -- to make a difference.” National ministry partners range from children’s homes and transitional programs to schools and community care efforts.
Making a Real DifferenceIn the decade Orphan Outreach has been serving orphans and vulnerable children, the ministry has witnessed a wealth of information -- and misinformation -- shared in books, on websites, and through social media. Foster care and domestic adoptions are increasing in several countries they serve, which is cause for celebration. But efforts to empty orphanages without adequate screening and wraparound care have resulted in many children being returned to unsafe family situations. “Looking over all the years I’ve been in orphan care -- and I was involved even before Orphan Outreach -- there are trends that come and go,” reflects Wines. “But I think for Orphan Outreach, it goes back to our mission statement. Everything we do has to be focused on glorifying Jesus Christ while we minister to these children in four different ways: their physical, emotional, spiritual, and educational needs. We have to keep our focus on what our mission statement is and not get off-track, because it’s hard work. “Part of going deeper is you’ve got to dig, and that digging is hard work sometimes to get deeper in relationships, deeper in Christ. It’s not always easy, but we’ve found by sticking to the hard work, the Lord glorifies that. Like I said, when we started the ministry, we never thought about numbers -- and there are huge numbers: 147 million orphans! We know the number is staggering, but what we’re trying to do is, with excellence, work on people’s relationship with Christ by making significant, long-term impact on the lives of children.”
The Need for PartnersAs Orphan Outreach celebrates a decade of ministry, Wines is thankful for those who have come alongside in offering up their time, talent, and treasure to ensure quality care is provided around the world. But there is need for more individual and church partners. “We are looking for people that want to make that same personal commitment of having an impact in a child’s life, so sponsorship is a huge way people can continue to come alongside us. Sponsorship provides the critical funds for us to make a difference in the lives of children. We’re looking for people who want to get involved, go on mission trips, sponsor a child, make a long-term commitment to the programs we have so we can go deeper and make a deeper connection to these children.” When it comes to the most basic of needs, Wines says nutrition is essential. “You can’t educate and provide programs for a child without them eating, and we feed 1,311 children nutritious meals. In order for them to even function, they have to be fed first. It’s like Christ, meeting their needs first. He would heal them or feed them, and then He would explain why He was there. We do a snack in our program in Chimaltenango, and to feed a healthy snack to 42 children is $450 a month. That money has got to come from somewhere, so we are always in urgent need for money for just the basics like that. The governments are not providing any funds.” And the need doesn’t stop when an orphan ages out of traditional care. Wines’ voice shakes as she recounts the story of one of the orphan graduates Orphan Outreach supports in Russia. “I can also think about the girl in Russia who has had to leave the orphanage system because now she’s 18-years-old. She has no family, and she’s facing a living condition which is horrendous, like a dump. And if she doesn’t get the $5,000 to renovate her apartment , she’s most likely going to be the statistic -- living on the street and dead within a few years of graduating the orphanage. The needs are dramatic on both ends of the scale. “Every dollar is precious to us. We do everything to operate with the highest integrity, to make sure those funds are used exactly how the donor has designated. The money is going to ministry programs. Our whole focus is on making a difference for these children, so when we say that’s where the money’s going, that’s where it’s going. We try to do as much as we can with as few people as possible. You know, we really can only do that work because God is there with us.” In addition to partnering with Orphan Outreach through the use of time, talent, and treasure, Wines says the prayers of faithful friends are Orphan Outreach’s lifeblood. As the ministry moves into its next decade of service, she asks that those prayers be focused on the heart of service. “Pray that we continue to be rooted in Him, that our faith is strengthened, that we grow deeper in relationship with the children, deeper in the communities we’re working in so we’re making a deeper difference in the lives of these children.”
Join Orphan Outreach and serve orphans and vulnerable children by sponsoring a child, joining a mission trip, or partnering with one of their ministry programs.
USA (MNN) -- The issue of human trafficking is one that makes people uncomfortable. Bethany Christian Services’Senior Vice President of Clinical Operations, Kris Faase explains, “The idea for most of us that people, our brothers and sisters, would be trafficked is abhorrent. That’s what makes us so uncomfortable. It seems so unreal and dissonant with what we value, as Americans.” However, trafficking is happening in our communities, right under our noses, and it makes us feel the weight of responsibility to do something about it. That’s mainly because of the people traffickers seem to target. “When we talk about trafficking, we’re talking about someone who is vulnerable, who has been taken advantage of, and are often tricked or seduced into a relationship where they’ve then become trafficked.” More specifically, 60 percent of runaways who are victims of sex trafficking had been in the custody of social services or in foster care. Faase says, “Traffickers look at foster children because they’re vulnerable. Foster children have been placed in a foster family because of abuse and/or neglect. While we know there are many foster families that care deeply and want to take care of kids, it’s still, by definition, a temporary family.” January is Human Trafficking Awareness Month, meant to raise awareness among Americans that human trafficking does not just happen in other countries, but in states and communities across the United States. In fact, says Faase, "The biggest day of the year for human trafficking in the United States is that sort of 'All-American' Super Bowl Sunday. It’s happening here, in our communities, right underneath our noses. It’s here.” Sex trafficking falls under the umbrella of human trafficking, a form of modern-day slavery. The U.S. Department of Justice reports that an additional 300,000 American children are at risk of becoming victims of commercial sexual exploitation. In spite of the bleak picture, Faase says there are solutions. “One of the things we do is have a very strong foster care program, but we also do work in family preservation, to keep families strong, to keep them together, and to offer them that protection that kids need.” There is a growing need for families willing to open their hearts and homes to children and teenagers who have been removed from their families because of neglect or abuse. These children need a loving family who will walk with them during a time of crisis and welcome them unconditionally into a caring home. Plus, there are older foster children who are nearing 18, a time when they’re in a kind of “No Man’s Land” between being a self-supporting adult and being a child. Only for these kids, says Faase, there’s no support net, which makes them especially vulnerable to traffickers. “Another thing we do is with our Community Center for Transformation, right here in Grand Rapids (Michigan). It’s a program that looks to meet the needs of kids who are aging out of the foster care system, therefore, kids who have no permanent family.” Why is this part of the solution? It brings community to them. “We’re bringing these kids into a program where they develop not only life skills and job skills, but they also develop community, and that community provides that protection that family does, in many ways.” The final piece of this puzzle is the spiritual picture. Often, the abuse a child survives creates a deep emotional scarring which can lead to behavior issues, and eventually, bouncing from home to home. While the hope of Christ doesn’t guarantee a perfect transition for foster families, it does equip His followers with ways to live and answers for some traumatic hurts. Faase reminds us, “We’ve just celebrated Christmas; the coming of the Light that was Christ, and that is Christ. We’re called to be light. The hope of Christ comes, I believe, when we are the light, when we, through our love and compassion, reflect the light that God has graced us with and we reflect it into the darkness.” We, as the followers of Christ, are called to be prayer warriors, to be grace warriors, and to fight hard for those who can’t fight for themselves. Awareness means more than just gathering information -- it also means sharing the facts, getting behind a group making a difference, or getting involved personally to make a difference. A final thought on this call to action -- William Wilberforce, who pioneered the end of the Atlantic slave trade, said this: “Of all things, guard against neglecting God in the secret place of prayer.”It reveals a casual disregard for the sanctity of human life -- by determining that the worth of a person has a dollar value.
International (MNN) -- You don’t have to be a missionary to have a heart for the Great Commission. In fact, you can be mission-minded and motivated wherever you are. But what does that look like? Matt Morrison of e3 Partners, a ministry dedicated to spreading the Gospel, says having a heart for missions becomes evident in every area of your life. “To me, what I really believe it is, is living intentionally, living in such a way that you’re not just focused on what your job is that day or how to manage your relationships that day, but really seeing what God wants to do through those relationships, through your job in your life.” In other words, you’re using your sphere of influence to propel the Gospel forward -- whether that's at work, home, or in your neighborhood. However, there are many challenges to keeping this perspective day-in and day-out. “It’s kind of like Peter stepping out of the boat. You know, he starts to notice how big the storm is and how big the waves are and gets his focus off Jesus and he starts to sink — I think the same thing starts to happen with our focus, we get to that place where we’re just seeing all the waves crashing around us, we get our eyes off Jesus, and then suddenly we’re not so intentional about doing something with the opportunities and the passions that God’s given us.” Morrison says we can often find ourselves in survival mode -- just trying to get through the day, defending our own interests. But God has called His people to live offensively for His Kingdom. “I think we sometimes think God blesses us with certain things in life for our enjoyment, but that’s not really the case. He’s blessing us with those things so we can use them,” he explains. So the question is, how do we begin to use the gifts God has given us for His glory, and to tell others about Him? Morrison says it’s about intentionality. He shares three steps to begin that journey.
PrayPrayer is a huge part of mission work. In fact, many people believe it is the most important component. Morrison says, “What we have found overseas is that prayer is everything.” Recently on a short-term mission trip to Germany, Morrison and the team spent the first few days walking around the community, praying for opportunities to speak to the refugees there. “What I noticed is every day we came back out on the mission field and it seemed like the ground was just getting a little bit looser, it seemed like the people were becoming a little friendlier, and it seemed like opportunities were opening up.” Eventually, they were having deep conversations with refugees who wanted to know more about Jesus. “I honestly believe, had we not started all of that with prayer, there’s no way we would have experienced that harvest at the end of the week. The prayer was basically the foundation to everything else we did that week.” Similarly, ask God to show you how you can get involved in the Great Commission. “Just let God use those opportunities, use those passions, those giftings that He’s given you. Because He’s built you in a very specific way and He’s going to use you to impact the world in a very specific way. So just, basically, offer those up to the Lord and say, ‘Lord, take these passions, take these longings, these giftings, these talents, and Lord, just use them,' and you’ll be amazed at what He does from there.”
Start localIf you’re wondering what action to take next, it’s a good idea to start with the opportunities around you. Check out the local ministries in your community or through your church. Take classes on how to share the Gospel relationally and effectively. Take time to investigate something you’re passionate about. These starting points will help you build upon the intentional ministry Morrison is talking about.
Pray againHis final advice is to pray about whatever situation or cause God is calling you towards. Pray that He would give you opportunity and show you how He wants you to help. This could be people at your work, in your community, or women overseas who are caught in human trafficking. Ask Him to help you take the next step.
Short-term mission tripsPerhaps your next step is go on a short-term mission trip. E3 Partners has many trips all over the world each year dealing with a variety of humanitarian work, in addition to Gospel outreach. These trips are usually about 10 to 12-days long. They are shorter than many other short-term trips, but they also give people enough time to learn about the work going on in different parts of the world. For many, Morrison says, these types of trips amplify the call God is giving them to enter the mission field. “What we’ve found, especially for college students, is they’ll go on one of these mission trips thinking they’re called to missions, and then God just really amplifies that call, He really makes it a lot clearer in their lives.” Another thing these mission trips accomplish is they inspire people to make a real impact. Recently, e3 surveyed people who had gone on a short-term mission trip and those who had never been, asking them what they expected out of a mission trip. “There’s a very distinct change in priority. We noticed people who have never been overseas in a mission setting, they would say, ‘I’m looking for a great experience, I’m looking for great personal discipleship, I’m looking for a life-changing experience or the chance to meet new cultures.’" For those who had gone and served, however, the expectation was completely different. “They want to go to a place where they can start to make a bigger impact. They want to go on a trip that’s well organized so that they can make sure whatever they’re doing over there has a long-term effect.” To learn more about upcoming mission trips with e3 Partners, click here. You can also find resources about how you can be involved with mission work through prayer, giving, and going.