Stories & UpdatesEdwin’s Story – Dreaming Big in Guatemalaby Reece Anderson

At the age of 7, Edwin and his two siblings were taken to Casa Shalom orphanage in Guatemala after their mother fled the country during a time of civil war and their father was involved in a tragic motorcycle accident.

Before coming to Casa Shalom, he had never been to see a doctor. Edwin loved to play soccer, but he struggled to catch his breath and keep up with all the other children. As part of the intake process, Edwin received medical care, and a life-threatening heart condition was discovered that required immediate surgery.

After multiple surgeries and years of recovery, Edwin was able to experience life to the fullest and participate in sports after school with all of his friends. There was still an emptiness in Edwin’s heart that he carried from losing his family, but God was able to do an amazing work in Edwin’s life.

Having every excuse to settle for mediocrity and to live in a place of bitterness and depression over what was a very traumatic childhood, Edwin decided instead to have joy. God promised him a future and a hope.

After High School, Edwin was able to attend University and live at the Casa Shalom campus for a few more years. His dream for many years was to save up enough money to start a business, so he studied Business Administration. Once he obtained his degree, he got a job as a teller at a local bank and saved up enough money to import a car from the United States and re-sell it for a small profit.

Using the knowledge and tools that he learned from University as well as Casa Shalom, Edwin has been able to build a thriving business that now also employs other former Casa Shalom children including his little sister.

He dreams about a day when his country heals from some of the wounds still left over from the civil war and economic hardships of the past. He believes that God will continue to use him to make a difference in the lives of more young adults who need a hand up and a chance to work and earn a living.

On November 10th, 2017, Edwin travelled to Texas to attend the World Without Orphans Gala where he was presenting with the 2017 Innovation Award.

The Father’s Love in Action in Uganda

by Reece Anderson

Serving Orphans Worldwide is excited to add a new ministry to the growing list of homes that we support in East Africa. The Omwana House in Uganda is a program of Parental Care Ministries and they provide a loving home for abandoned and orphaned infants and toddlers. We want you to meet a three year old little boy named Arnold ­— adorable with a beautiful smile and filled with the potential and love God has placed in him.  He lives in a mud hut in a village in Uganda.

His mother abandoned him — and his father leaves him at home every day while he is out looking for work.  How could he possibly survive, much less thrive? When the local authorities heard that Arnold and his siblings were home alone, they stepped in. They brought Arnold to the Parental Care Ministries Omwana House. “Omwana” is Ugandan for “baby”.

 

The team at the Omwana House prayed for Arnold, provided nourishing food, medical care and loved on this child knowing he had a Jeremiah 29:11 purpose for his life.

Today Arnold is a thriving, happy, even entertaining child.  He is a natural born leader and is looked up to by the other children. He is six years old and goes to one of the four Parental Care Ministries primary schools. We are thankful for the way that the Lord meets the needs of the babies that He brings to the Omwana House.

 

About The Omwana House

When Jesus said “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you” (John 14:18), He was revealing the work of the Holy Spirit through the lives of His people. This Scripture comes to life at the Omwana House, a loving home for orphaned and abandoned babies in Uganda.

The Omwana House is a safe haven where the helpless can turn for hope. Whether children were orphaned at birth or faced with the trauma of abuse or neglect, our goal is to welcome them with love and care.

 

Story by: Heather Allen – Parental Care Ministries

Education. Putting the Power of Possibility Into the Hands of a Child.

by Reece Anderson

The written word has the power to set people free. Throughout human history, God has given us a narrative that reveals our creation story, our past, and even our future in Christ Jesus. When the persecution of the early church and 1st century followers of Christ wasn’t enough to squash the spreading flame of the gospel, the enemy attacked our ability to access and read the Bible. For hundreds of years, nobody except an elite few had access to scriptures and text to read and study in their own language.

Literacy is a gift that sets captives free.

One of our biggest focus areas around the world at each home is education. We fight for the education of every orphaned child around the world because we believe that education puts the power of possibility into the hands of an orphaned child.

UNESCO estimates that there are approx. 120 million adolescent children without any access to a basic education. Most of these children have been orphaned or abandoned.

One of our homes on the front lines of this crisis is Bethsaida Home for Girls in Tanzania. In certain parts of East Africa, only 1 out of 5 girls ever attend high school, and those figures are much lower when you consider the orphaned population of children.

In a culture where girls are told they need to prioritize everything else above going to school, many of them are just trying to survive. Studies have shown that when girls attend high school, their chance for early pregnancy and other major risk factors goes way down!

Despite the fact that all of the 150 girls at Bethsaida have experienced a lot of trauma during their short life-times, there is so much joy in their hearts and they are loved!

Joy of the Father

by Reece Anderson

The name Abi means My Father. In the Bible it is the name of the Prophet Zechariah’s daughter, who became the wife of Ahaz, King of Judah.  Even though she is only briefly mentioned in the Bible, Abi was certainly a woman of God. Relying on the teachings of her father, Abi stayed true to her creator in spite of her husband’s godless decisions as king. If it had not been for the wisdom of their son Hezekiah, who listened to the Lord, Judah would have been conquered. Hezekiah obviously did not learn to listen to the Lord by following the example of his father. It was his mother Abi who, true to her name, clung to the fatherhood of God and sought to do his Will.

At Casa Shalom Orphanage in Guatemala there used to live a little girl named Abi. Abi was brought to the home by the child protection system at only 4 months old. There is little known about Abi’s biological family except that her mother abandoned her, and her elderly grandmother was in no condition to care for a baby.

Abi’s full name is Abigail which means ‘Joy of the Father’. Abi knows nothing about her biological father, and even though she was treated with love and care at Casa Shalom, she did not have the opportunity to know a father’s protection or provide her father with joy as a child. It is easy to assume that her name has little meaning. After all, Abigail is a common name. Her mother may not have known the meaning when she chose it, but God knew. God doesn’t make mistakes or believe in coincidences. In Proverbs 16:9 it say, “In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps.”

Even so, Abi’s name seemingly did not make sense for many years. In fact, because of the culture and regulations in Guatemala, lots of time passes and Abi still did not have a physical father to bring joy. There is a law in Guatemala stating that only those who are both Guatemalan citizens AND residents can adopt Guatemalan children. While this law was most likely created with the safety of the children in mind, it has caused their likeliness of adoption to be next to none. In addition to this, Guatemalan culture as a whole does not highly value adoption (although that is slowly changing). These factors together gave little hope for Abi to be adopted and even less hope the older she got. As everyone knows, the older a child gets, the less likely they are to be chosen.

Then, unexpectedly, a local pastor and his wife stepped in and decided they would become Abi’s forever family. Imagine her heart, protected against hoping for the impossible, suddenly pried open. Every year that passed, a board had been nailed over the door to her heart slowly draining it of hope. The first one was placed there by government regulations. The next one hammered on by culture. Then, year after year more were added with age. But now, at the age of nine, one little heart has been saved from being hammered shut. She probably felt fear, her world was changing. Then she probably felt hope, a refreshing dose running through her veins. But then, Abi must have been filled with joy. At last! Abi’s name makes sense. She not only has joy in her life, but now she is the joy of her father.

While this may seem like Abi’s destiny, it is arguable that Abi’s name had already been fulfilled. For those nine years while Abi was awaiting her father to arrive, she was being taught about another Father, her heavenly Father. Through those years, when Abi had no physical father to bring joy, she realized that she could give her joy as worship and gratitude to her heavenly father. Abi, just like the Abi in the Bible, stayed true to her name and clung to the fatherhood of God, seeking to do his will and bringing him joy. We are incredible thankful to Casa Shalom for being the vessel that introduced Abi to both of her fathers. Now Abi is experiencing a new kind of life with her new family. While many things have changed, one thing has stayed the same. Abi is still the joy of her father in heaven and now she is the joy of her father on earth as well.

 

Story by Abbie Russell – SOW Marketing Intern

Hope in the Himalayas

by Reece Anderson

Kathmandu is a city full of stray dogs.  Wherever you go in the city, you can be sure to find a myriad of these stray canines, ranging in different sizes and demeanor.  They show an indifference to social status, choosing to house themselves amongst both the poorest of the poor and the few wealthier communities in the city.  Their pervasive existence is the source of many jokes, especially among English ex-patriots, who have suggested the ancient city change her name from Kathmandu to Dogmandu.  As dusk approaches in the warmer months, the dogs can be heard calling out to one another throughout the city’s long nights.  Whether the canines’ conversations be cordial or aggressive, their communication does not lessen until the dusk of the following morning.  Not surprisingly, the dogs seem to become much quieter as the cold deepens in the winter months.  Whatever the cause of their incandescent barking seems to become irrelevant in the face of the harsh, dry winter months.

While the dogs’ barking can be monitored with regularity, Nepali society’s engagement with the animals is less consistent, varying with the differing personalities of the Nepali people.  Most choose to shoot the dogs when they come in close proximity.  Others—likely operating with some degree of reasonable fear—choose to avoid the dogs by walking on the other side of the street or fleeing from them when necessary.  Still, some choose to offer kindness to the dogs, perhaps by buying them some crackers from the street corner or offering the dogs their personal leftovers. Regardless of one’s personal preference towards the dogs of Kathmandu, all Nepalis unite one day of the year to cast off their contempt. On the second day of Tihar, a four-day religious festival, Nepalis will search out the stray animals and invite them into their homes to be worshipped.  On this day, the dogs of Kathmandu are given foods, venerated and dressed with orange marigolds and tikkas.

Nonetheless, outside of this one day, most simply express a common disdain for the creatures.  My initial reaction to the dogs was to follow suit with the general population and loathe the dogs.  I had just moved to the country, and their barking only seemed to catalyze the lack of sleep that comes from jetlag.  While I had little knowledge of the country prior to moving there, I had recently become aware of the relatively large number of street children in the city.  A newfound awareness of these children’s existence was enough for me, a recent college graduate, to defer graduate school one year, move to Kathmandu, and explore how I could aid these children.  I had no prior experience to assist me in this venture, nor anything tangible to offer the children.  I did, however, know they existed, and that was enough for me to pack my bags and move to a city full of annoying dogs.

 

As I attempted to aid these children, I quickly learned that it was a drastically more difficult task than I initially presumed.  A couple of failed attempts of starting a feeding program for street children and the ensuing discouragement from my failures led me to rethink my method.  In these contemplations, it did not take me long to learn of the vital role of patience in helping others.  Rather than implementing a “good idea,” a feeding program, I found that I had to first engage in learning the street child.  I had to know what made them tick, how they thought about the world, and how they viewed themselves.  I wanted to know their individual stories and future aspirations.  With this in mind, I went out to all the street children I could find and attempted to simply live with them.  In doing so, I quickly discovered that each child could not simply fit under the same, all-encompassing category of “street child.”

They were all unique; each with a different story.  Many had lost their parents to some form of death.  Some had fled abusive, violent family settings.  Others left their families in villages to come to the “big city” in pursuit of various vain promises of education and work.  Most, however, were merely abandoned by their parents, unware of what their story truly was.  The children formed themselves into various communities to aid one another in survival.  The children are generally raised by children who have likewise been raised on the streets.  As each child is unique, so is their community.  The Hindu street children live and beg completely different from the Muslim children.  Similarly, the Indian children, who at some point migrated to Kathmandu, live and beg altogether differently than the Nepali children.  Furthermore, while each’s story is distinctly their own, the children do share some common qualities. They are all forced to beg for survival.  The youngest ones are much more willing to trust than the older ones, and all are willing to break a smile when given enough time.

 

Nonetheless, each is spoken of under the all-encompassing category of “street child.”  This is who they are, their identity.  Many Nepalis will often refer to them as “khate,” a derogatory term meaning “plastic collector.”  With this term, the child is marked by society.  He or she is a khate.  The only positive thing the tattered clothed child can do for society is collect the trash littered by others.  Other than that, the child is a mere nuisance, leeching from an already struggling economy.  In this regard, the street children of Kathmandu are treated not much differently than the dogs of Kathmandu.  Some Nepalis choose to shoo them.  Others choose to show kindness to them by buying them a pack of crackers or giving them some Nepali Rupees.  Even the kind do so with caution, knowing that giving to one potentially result in being swarmed by others.  Most, however, choose to simply avoid them, perhaps viewing the child with an implicit disdain.  The street child’s life is essentially that of the dog’s life.

This is the livelihood of the children, and as they are raised in this environment, they grow to believe that which has been spoken of them.  Society’s perspective of the children becomes the child’s perspective of him or herself.  He or she is a khate.  To the child, he or she is intrinsically less than the rest of society, playing the same role in society that the dogs do.  Most believe that they are as valuable as stray dogs.  This perspective is why providing benevolent assistance is such a difficult task.  You can give the child food, water and shelter, but as long as the child views him or herself as beneath society, he or she will act and live as one who is beneath society.  I spent the majority of my time and efforts in an attempt to gradually curtail this self-perception of the children.

After doing this work for several months, I was invited to the Serving Orphans Worldwide’s Himalayan Home in Kohalpur, Nepal.  As I anticipated interacting with the home’s children, I prepared to engage with them in a manner similar to how I learned to do with the street children.  If I am being honest, after spending months with street children, I travelled to the home with low expectations for the children’s wellbeing and self-understanding.  After all, the term “orphan” shares many of the same semantic qualities with “street child.”  They both have loss familial support, and as I presumed, they both suffered from the same psychological effects of that abandonment.  My plan was thus to engage with children, who viewed themselves as less than the rest of society.  However, upon arriving at the home some 10 hours west of the capitol city, I encountered something unexpected.  While I am sure each child had their own potentially-traumatic story, there was an unavoidable sense of optimism in the atmosphere.  I anticipated seeing downcast demeanors but instead found the children laughing, smiling and playing.  Rather than despondence, I found hope.

This hope was—and still to is to some extent—indescribable.  It permeated all of the children’s actions.  When they played, there was hope.  When they cleaned, there was hope.  When they concluded their days with supper and evening prayers, there was hope.  And this was no vain, ordinary hope; the hope that they possess is a divine hope.  This hope is not one necessarily fixated on the life that follows this one; instead, it is founded in who they are.  As the children come into the home and begin to be raised, they are taught one simple truth: God loves them.  The child begins to truly believe that he or she is truly a child of God, one loved by a heavenly Father.  This truth is the source of their hope, which fosters into joy and love.  Thus, the child is far removed from khate.  The term has no application to the child in the home. The mere presence of a divine love truly melts away any connection to a lowly worldview. The child is loved by a heavenly father.  He or she can laugh, sing, play and dream in a new and distinct way. They act and grow from a place of love.

When you pray for the 150 million orphaned children of the world, these children’s acceptance of divine love is the first fulfillment of your prayers. When you give financially to a Serving Orphans Worldwide home, you are not merely providing shelter, food and education for children, you are providing the child with an environment that fosters a new identity.  Your involvement in Serving Orphans Worldwide plays a major role in taking a child from khate to a child of God.

 

“To bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor.” Isaiah 61:3

Learn More about our partner home in Nepal by CLICKING HERE.

 

Story by Coleman Bailey

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