Stories & UpdatesJoy of the Fatherby 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

The Power of a Mother’s Love

by Reece Anderson

How Mama Warra Nnko is changing the lives of orphaned children in a remote village of Tanzania despite all odds.

Roughly three hours from the nearest city, Karatu is surrounded by some of the most breathtaking displays of scenic terrain that you will ever see on the African continent. The northern horizon of this village is blocked by the Ngorongoro Crater, which looms in the distance a plush, green mountain. It once boasted volcanic glory, but is now a dormant home to a host of wildlife that attracts tourists from around the world.

South of Karatu lies Lake Manyara, which was said by Ernest Hemingway to be the loveliest lake in Africa. Between the Ngorongoro Crater and Lake Manyara is several hundred kilometers of rolling hills and valleys. Out of this pristine countryside arises the mud huts and grass roofed homes of Karatu’s villagers.

Karatu is a busy village, crowded with men on bicycles and motorcycles, women carrying goods on the tops of their heads, and children playing in the streets. The people of this region mostly come from the tribe called Iraqw, a tribe of Tanzania historically known for their agricultural and irrigation skills.

Although their surroundings are exquisite and their lives seem pleasant from an outsider’s perspective, Tanzanians face enormous struggles. Approximately 68% of the population of Tanzania lives below the international poverty line of $1.25 per day. HIV is widespread, having orphaned more than 1.2 million children in Tanzania. In Karatu, a shockingly large number of people turn to alcohol to ease the pain of their circumstances, only creating more problems, broken homes, and abused or abandoned children.

Superstition and deeply rooted traditional beliefs add to the Tanzanian struggle, especially in small towns like Karatu. Witchcraft, taboos and folklore have a strong effect on the majority of the villagers in Karatu. If a ritual requires it, they will go so far as to abandon or harm a child. Perhaps, the worst alleged curse is one that affects the family of a mother who has had a child outside of marriage rituals. It is said that the mother of the child will bring a curse to the entire family. This leaves many mothers with a devastating choice when her baby arrives: keep the baby and face family and societal exclusion or abandon the child to avoid “curse.”

In 2003, a pastor and his wife from Arusha were visiting a church in Karatu. They spent the night in a local hostel where they had planned to rest and then make the three hour drive back the next morning. The night was cold and rainy. During the night, Warra heard a faint sound at the door of their guest house. She walked to the door and opened it. There lay a helpless baby boy. The child was only a couple of months old. Warra scooped the child into her arms and brought him in to her husband. The child was deathly ill, most likely due to being left in the cold rain, so they rushed him to the nearest hospital. Warra never left the child’s side that night. The next morning her husband insisted that they had to leave for Arusha. But, Warra gave the doctors money and told them that when the child was better to let her know and she would come back for the child. Warra remembers how grieved her heart was on the way back to Arusha. For days, she wept over this child and that someone would reject such an innocent and beautiful baby boy.

Several days later, Warra received the heartbreaking news that the child had died. But, that night would live in Warra’s memory for the rest of her life. That night added fuel to the fire in Warra’s heart to rescue orphans. Because of what they had seen in Karatu, Warra and her husband decided to move from the city Arusha to the tiny village of Karatu and begin what is now known as Shalom Orphanage.

Shalom began in a tiny little room not far from where the orphanage exists today. Warra and her husband faced extremely challenging circumstances when they started this work. They had little room, little help, and no money. At times even her husband found it difficult to understand Warra’s relentless passion, and cautioned her that this mission carried tremendous responsibility and garnered little return. Yet, for 10 years God was faithful to Warra and Shalom Orphanage.

Today, Warra is known to most as Mama Warra. 65 orphans call Shalom Orphanage their home. The vision Mama Warra had to care for the most vulnerable in their society has spread like wildfire in Karatu and impacted the community, the region, and even a few government officials in Tanzania.

But, Mama Warra’s greatest impact is not legislation or cultural influence or community support. It is in the smallest moments of joy, love, and laughter with the children she cares for. Many of them have suffered unbearable circumstances in their short lives. Stories of rape, physical abuse, abandonment, and loss are not uncommon amongst these children. It is because of this that Mama Warra makes an unrelenting effort to remind these children that they are loved.

“They are not orphans. They have a family, they have a home, and they are loved. That will always be here for them,” Mama Warra says. “They will always be able to call Shalom their home. They will always have a mama waiting to see them. We will always have room for them in this home.”

In the evenings, local villagers and passersby along the road can hear the sounds of worship ringing out from Shalom’s evening chapel. Mama Warra leads 65 children in songs about Jesus and His love and a testament to God’s ability to restore and redeem all things fills the Tanzanian sky. It is as immeasurable, as awe-inspiring as the African night sky itself.

Story and Photography by Josh and Mia Baker

A Future and A Hope: Greta’s Wedding

by Reece Anderson
The State of Rajasthan in the northern part of India is known by many as the “State of Kings.” When most westerners picture the colorful streets, people, and customs of India, Rajasthan is usually what they envision. It is a state of extremes. Behind the colorful culture, bustling cities, and serene rural villages, there are many people without hope.
In a country where approximately 80,000 children go missing each year and millions reside on the streets to fend for themselves, only a small percentage of these orphans will ever have a chance to live in a loving home and realize their full potential.
Greta was orphaned at the age of one along with her two siblings. At that time, there were no living relatives or foster families who were able to take in Greta and her sisters. For many in India, Karma demands that the orphans, the poor, the disabled, and others dealing with a crisis must shoulder their burden alone. (Based on supposed sins committed in a past life)
Luckily, there was a Christian orphanage willing to take Greta and her siblings in. It was there that she grew up in a home with food, clothing, the opportunity to get an education, and adult mentors who could share the Love of Christ.
Today, Greta is a beautiful young woman who serves as a house mom at El Shaddai Rescue home. She has dedicated her life to giving other orphaned children in India the same opportunities she had. On April 14th, 2017, she married the love of her life Kuldeep in front of 150 gusts with a huge wedding celebration! Kuldeep also has a unique background…He was brought up in a very rural part of Northern India in an un-reached people group where the Gospel has not fully reached. After coming to Christ through some miraculous connections, he now works as a driver for the tour bus company that acts as a source of income for the ministry.
The ultimate goal for all of the Serving Orphans Worldwide projects is sustainability. We wanted to share this story with you, and let you know that it is because of you, that Greta’s story is even possible. When we reach out and influence the condition of one orphan, it has a ripple effect that changes many lives for generations to come!
This newly wedded couple have decided to continue working together with El Shaddai Rescue home for years to come. Let’s hope the best for them and their future!

 

Family is Forever

by Reece Anderson

There is no doubt that orphaned children are among the most vulnerable populations on earth. With nearly 160,000,000 children who do not have a family to call their own, it is difficult for anyone to ignore this crisis. 

If all of these children were to come together, they would make up the 10th largest nation in the world. While the scope of this crisis is overwhelming, there is only one organization in existence today with the current global network, number of people, resources, and mission to do something about this tragedy. That organization is the Church.

As Christians, we have a biblical mandate to care for widows and orphans and serve “the least of these.” There are few things that should grieve our hearts more than knowing that there are literally 160 Million children without a forever home, a family, and in many cases, basic needs, clothing, an education, and adult mentors who can share the Love of Christ.

The best case scenario for each one of these children is adoption into a family. I have heard it said that if each church had just one family that could adopt an orphan, we could end the orphan crisis in our lifetime. I also know that there are many more Christians than there are orphans, and for the first time in history, we live in a generation with global communication and networking capabilities to reach out to others hurting on every continent.

Even though the statistics look grim for the vast majority of these children, we will never give up! Serving Orphans Worldwide exists to Rescue, Train, and Sustain struggling homes and connect these children with Christian families when possible. For the 99% of orphans who will not be adopted this year, we want to do everything we can to meet their physical, emotional, and spiritual needs by the time they reach adult-hood.

If you or someone you know is considering adoption, we would love to hear from you and connect you with some resources to help you along your journey. There is nothing more rewarding than putting the power of possibility into the hands of a child so that they can reach the potential that God has for them.

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