Scripture provides a generous display of God’s heart for the orphan, along with His invitation for each of us to participate: Come. Defend. Give. Help. Look After. Rescue. Share. Sustain. Testify.
Thanks to Vineyard Columbus and the all-volunteer More4Orphans ministry, there is a time and a place to let these words take shape in our lives – changing each of us, and the landscape of our world’s orphan crisis, forever.
More4Orphans Summit 2014 gathered people from at least 10 states and more than 50 churches to do more for the 400,000 American children who live in foster care and the approximately 153 million children worldwide who are orphans.
I heard incredibly moving testimonies. “Live, little girl, live…” These words from Stephanie Fast, survivor of abandonment and abuse, believer in the awesome sovereignty of God, still ring in my ears. “How do you join God in what He is doing? You love someone,” said Alen Auguste, who grew up in the foster care system and now serves Vineyard Columbus as a youth pastor. “All along, this story and this journey has not been about [our church], but rather about what God can do through us when we function as the body of Christ,” offered Darlene Rudrick as she and Gwen Higaki shared the story of how their churches combined offerings to build children’s homes in Cambodia. “Where we put a period, God puts a comma. Mmm. Mmm. Mmm. You can’t tell God what to do,” preached author and pastor Bishop W. C. Martin. His story is one of the premier foster adoption stories in America.
I had a hard time choosing from 50 breakout sessions, with topics like “Orphan Care and the Church,” “Why Should I Foster, Why Should I Care?” and “The Reluctant Dads Panel.” I witnessed so many sweet connections at the exhibitor tables representing local, national and international organizations including Christian Alliance for Orphans, Big Brothers Big Sisters of central Ohio and Both Hands. I prayed and worshipped and appreciated the art that was auctioned to benefit adoption and outreach.
I was stretched, broken, encouraged and empowered and I was in good company. The responses from attendees are as divine and diverse as our Father’s call. Families are planning mission trips together; college students are signing up for internships to provide educational opportunities in children’s homes around the world; individuals are reaching out to foster children through mentoring; some are filling out adoption paperwork; groups of friends are raising money by helping widows, running in races and selling baked goods; others are starting orphan care ministries in their churches; and more.
I have heard the words, “What a wonderful opportunity! I love that the focus is on God calling us and not over-emphasizing one group.” One attendee wrote to me, “This conference helped to reaffirm what God has already been stirring in my heart – to care for the orphan through fostering. Thank you for providing a space to process, network, pray, dream and invest.” A dad confessed, “Cost has been why I’ve dragged my feet on adoption. This weekend reminded me it’s God’s money, not mine. And, he’s directing me to use it on adoption. My fiscal frame of reference was wrong.” And my new friend Kristina beamed, “Awesome, incredible, motivating, life-changing event. I traveled from Cincinnati and took off work for this event – best investment of my time.”
Musical guest Audio Adrenaline took the stage on Friday night. Through their Hands & Feet Project, they serve orphans in Jacmel, Haiti. During their opening song, images of joyful, purple-drenched children splashed the main screens, the building shook in reply to 100-decibels of heart-pounding worship and our walls absorbed the words, “Boys become kings, girls will be queens, wrapped in Your majesty”. This place became Holy ground as His invitation was accepted, not if, but “when we love the least of these.” Lord, let it be so. And more, Lord.
If you or someone you know is interested in learning more about foster care, adoption or orphan care, attend an upcoming More4Orphans meeting at Vineyard Community Center or connect online at Facebook.
Christy Gammon is a member of Vineyard Columbus and volunteer with More4Orphans.
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