World Without Orphans 2014 Highlights
The Spirit of adoption is at work around the globe. Every time an orphaned or abandoned child is taken into a safe and caring family, we are one step closer to a world without orphans. The challenge is still huge, as over 6 million children are waiting for a new home, and many more millions need urgent help. But the hope is there and it is growing. Family after family, church after church, and country after country join the growing global effort that reflects God’s heart for the fatherless.
The World Without Orphans movement is privileged to be a part of this effort. Throughout the year, the WWO Facilitation Team traveled to 26 countries all over the world to cast vision, share experiences, build connections, assist national leaders, and provide training. We also rode bikes, climbed mountains, and did other ‘crazy’ things. Why? It is because we all share the passion to see every child in a loving and caring family, regardless of his or her age, health condition, race, or location.
Below are just some glimpses of what had taken place in 2014. It is not the work of one organization or one person. There are hundreds of individuals, organizations, and churches that share the vision and are committed to action. And their number is constantly growing. George Abaidoo, a pastor from Ghana, summed it up really well after one of the conferences: “I’m so excited about this movement. It has changed my perception, and for that reason I am revising the objective of my ministry concerning orphans and I’m going to champion this movement in Ghana.”
It is also a work done in collaboration with many other movements, networks, and initiatives. But even more importantly, it’s a part of God’s work through the Body of Christ.
There is a role to play for each of us. Thank you so much for being a part of God’s vision for a world without orphans, or welcome if you are just getting started!
Botswana - Canada - Columbia - Ecuador - France - India - Japan - Kazakhstan - Kyrgyzstan - Mongolia - Nepal - Romania - Russia - South Africa - SAOS - South Africa - TAWO - Tajikistan - Tanzania - Ukraine - USA - Chicago - USA - New York
The Kabi family in Kathmandu have 14 adopted children, from the poor village where Mrs. Kabi was raised. Returning to visit the village, with her husband, this Christian Nepali couple discovered abandoned orphans living in caves.
This was the heart behind a January 2014 meeting of 68 pastors and Christian leaders in Kathmandu, caring about the plight of orphans in their country and seeking God's direction. At that conference, they started Nepal Without Orphans movement, with the vision to find homes for all adoptable orphans in their country in the next 10 years. In the past 12 months, Nepali Christians have embraced this calling with vision-casting conferences across the nation; assisting more families to adopt and care for orphans; and bringing together 2,500 Nepali Christian children to pray for orphans in their country and globally.
About a hundred mission leaders, church planters and key facilitators gathered in Patna, Bihar from Jan 15-17, 2014 for the Transform World Bihar Summit. The WWO team brought to enthusiastic Bihari participants the vision of a Bihar Without Orphans. With the average female lifespan at 54, and male at 52 less than a decade ago, thousands of children in Bihar are either orphaned or semi-orphaned early in life. Tuberculosis, leprosy and kala-azar are killer diseases in the state, where infant mortality and maternal mortality rates are among the highest in the world. It was refreshing to see a real owning of this vision, to re-consider the way orphan care is typically done in institutions and a plea was made to consider the godly exhortation that God himself “places orphans in families” (Ps 68:8).
In February, three former orphans from Ukraine took on a daunting feat – climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro, the highest freestanding mountain (19,341 feet) in the world. Sergei, Slava, and Andrei didn’t tackle Mt. Kilimanjaro for the adventure of it – they climbed it to promote adoption and foster care in Africa! Over the past few years, these boys have seen a drastic increase in the number of adoptions within Ukraine, including themselves! Through this incredible climb and by sharing their stories, they hope Christians in Africa will also be motivated to adopt. The climb, especially on the summit day, was quite challenging for everyone, but Slava in particular was not feeling well. At one point, still a few hours away to the top, everyone thought that he should go back with a guide. But Slava didn’t want to give up and eventually made it to the summit, joining others in prayer for God to raise families for children in Africa. Among those who reached the summit on February 21st also were Gennadiy Mokhnenko, the father of the three boys, and Ruslan Maliuta, International Facilitator of the WWO movement.
In Tajikistan, there are limited opportunities to share the message of James 1:27. The country has very strict religious laws and from that point, very limited forums for sharing the message of WWO and the orphan. However, we were able to do training of trainers in critical areas of orphan care: Trauma and Life Skills. In April, 2014, Lynn and Ruby Johnston conducted training programs for orphan care in the country, working with those persons who are ministering to children, and other NGO leaders, pastors, etc. around the country and area of the sessions. Local trainers were left with three new curricula that they can conduct in the country. In addition, they were instructed on how to develop the Life Skill training across the country and given materials to help in doing this. Trainers were coached during the events and will continue to receive coaching on-line and will have a return of training events in the Spring of 2015.
Chicago in May became the location of several important events. The first one was Collaborate: a forum for global leaders that was co-hosted by the Christian Alliance for Orphans and WWO. It was designed for those who are either leading national orphan care movements in their countries or desire to begin one and presented a great opportunity to share experiences, make connections, and learn best practices.
Then, the CAFO 2014 Summit drew 2,600 foster and adoptive parents, orphan advocates, pastors and leaders from 35 countries. It was a privilege for the WWO team to participate in workshops, panel discussions, and speak at a plenary session. Then WWO Facilitation Team also met for one day to share updates from various countries, evaluate progress, and plan for next steps.
In Canada, foster care systems are in crisis and adoption and foster care is notably difficult for most families to navigate, making it discouraging for people to try. Harold and Wendi Park, leaders of Forever Families of Canada say, "... we are seeing a shift, and have been observing an awakening among families and churches who are largely in isolation from each other. Forever Families of Canada is being birthed out of a profound awakening and calling God has placed on our hearts to network, educate, and mobilize the Canadian Church in caring for waiting children and their families. We are excited that others across Canada are sharing the vision as we set to officially launch in 2015”.
May 2014 was the first 4/14 Window Conference to be held in Mongolia. Many moments were touching, as the conference speakers, workers and others gave challenges for reaching the vulnerable children and orphans. One very special occasion was when a teenage child was assigned to pray for each speaker. This was not “just a task” for the youth, this was a passionate calling to go forth and pray! One of the most touching prayers came from a child praying for her pastor father on stage after he spoke. She said, “Lord make him stronger in faith, faithful in ministry, a good pastor and father.” At the closing of the conference each pastor was assigned to a child, to hand over a lighting candle and declaration from Genesis 18:17-19. Then the pastors prayed for the children. One pastor said, “How can I escape from this responsibility (ministering to children) after reading that declaration and having been prayed for by a child. I will make children my priority in ministry.”
The Transform World Global Leaders’ Summit 2014 in June began with a day in Geneva and then 3 days at a retreat center in Macon, France. 200 Global Christian leaders representing 7 global challenges, 7 spheres of influence and all 10 global regions participated in a 4 D Process of Discovery, Dreaming, Design and Delivery. The Orphan Challenge track was led by Ruslan Maliuta, Karmen Friesen and Anita Deyneka and focused on developing a comprehensive list of important points for the global orphan care movement, which included Scripture, best practices, theology and stories that illustrate these points. It was here that we met George Abaidoo for the first time, and it is exciting to see the development of Ghana Without Orphans as one outcome of this event!
Four years ago a group of dedicated teens under the leadership of Gennadiy Mokhnenko, a pastor and a co-founder of Ukraine Without Orphans movement, crossed Ukraine on bikes to spread the message of adoption. After seeing the success of the campaign, the group decided to ride around the world! Last summer they reached Vladivostok, a Russian city on Pacific Ocean. They have ridden for over 15,000 kilometers, inspiring families to open their heart and homes for the fatherless, mobilizing churches, and engaging media and the government. When a journalist asked one of the riders: “Why are you doing this? It’s so difficult and demanding”, the boy said, “I was an orphan once, but now I have a father and a mother. My dream is for every orphan to experience the same.” Hundreds of children have parents now because of their courageous effort.
Over 100 pastors, leaders and children’s workers attended the Kyrgyzstan Without Orphans Conference, which was conducted in September 2014 in Bishkek. Speakers from Indonesia, Canada, USA, Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan gave challenging messages for the participants to give a new look into their ministry activities – answering the question, “How are you carrying forth the message of James 1:27?” Workshops further challenged participants on how to implement orphan programs into their ministry activities. One such workshop was done by Anton Putilin from Bishkek. He shared with the conference the importance of mentoring and coaching graduating orphans – building a relationship with them – helping them ease into adulthood. One of the main objectives of the conference was to communicate the importance of every child needing a positive, Christ-centered relationship with an adult who cares for them and sees them as God sees them – a treasure and a son or daughter of the Most High God.
More than 250 key Evangelical leaders from all over Colombia gathered in September in the beautiful mountainous city of Medellin. Pastor Edgar Diaz Castano, the Confederation’s President, invited WWO to share the vision for a nation without orphans at the conference. The Colombian leaders were very eager to explore the Biblical foundation for adoption and foster care and how this strategy can be implemented in their nation. A national team under the coordination of Rafael Afanador from Maranatha Foundation has been formed to carry on the vision for a Colombia Without Orphans.
The 4/14 Window Best Practices Summit offered practical insights to more than 1,100 participants from ninety-one countries over the course of six days from October 10 to 16, 2014. Participants presented more than 55 best practices on reaching, rescuing, rooting and releasing children into relationship with Jesus Christ and His ministry around the world. Karmen Friesen shared the need to prioritize the family in our ministry to all children and especially children at risk. Alex Fedorchuk shared the “One Church – One Child” model of churches coming around an orphan to pray and care for them. Jodi Tucker gave a challenge on recognizing own orphan spirit and living as God’s adopted sons and daughters. She then shared the simple best practice of Orphan Sunday that God is using so powerfully around the world. Karmen commented, "It was encouraging to be with so many key leaders that are impacting the lives of millions of children around the world, and Jodi, Alex and I were all amazed at the opportunities God gave to encourage many with God's heart for orphans."
In October 2014, a major capacity building activity took place under the direction of TAWO (Together Africa Without Orphans). This was the first event conducted by the newly organized international African network. Over 70 participants attended a training on Trauma and over 20 identified they were ready to step forward and become trainers for South Africa in this area. South Africa Cares for Life under the direction of Sylvi Bodemer has been coordinating the trainers since the Capacity Building event. She is also the Executive Director of TAWO. We have continued coaching the group through on-line videos and training opportunities. They have a full schedule outlined for 2015 in conducting the training across the country.
Capacity Building in Botswana was conducted with over 50 participants. The event took place at the University of Botswana with participants from across the country. From the event, we identified trainers from both southern Botswana and northern Botswana – with two coordinators for these groups. The training conducted was Becoming Trauma Informed Caregiver/Worker. Ruby and Lynn Johnston prepared three different training curricula for them – and they will begin training the materials in early 2015. Just as with South Africa and other Capacity Building Initiatives, we will conduct on-line video and coaching sessions to continue developing the trainers. Over 20 persons stepped up to become a trainer in the series of Trauma.
For the first time in Central Asia a 4/14 Window Conference was held in in Almaty, Kazakhstan. More than 120 pastors, youth leaders and children ministry workers attended the event including some key Christian leaders from Kazakhstan as well as some other countries in the region. The WWO team had the privilege to share about the importance of focusing on orphans and vulnerable children and to do workshops on practical steps for family-based approach to orphan care. Most participants came up to say that this is mindset change conference, eye-opening and transformational. The commitment to move forward with a new perspective on children and youth is very high.
The Romania Without Orphans Alliance launching conference was a success and is allowing us to expand what God is already doing to mobilize the Church and State to more appropriate action to help vulnerable children in Romania today. The inclusion of several church leaders, a Romanian pop star who adopted, several university professors, expert trainers from the USA, a children's choir of adoptees, and a Romanian Parliamentarian was a great step in creating credibility and further connections to help the movement there reach their goal of a Romania Without Orphans. We pray that the Lord will use this platform to bring about a revival of His Church in Romania and to help the orphans and widows in their distress.
Thousands of people gathered at St. Michael's Square in downtown Kyiv for a special service dedicated to National Day of Prayer for Orphans (Orphan Sunday) on November 9th. The heads of all Christian confessions: Orthodox, Catholic, and Evangelical, shared messages and conducted prayers for children along with First Lady Marina Poroshenko and Roman Korniyko, President of the Alliance for Ukraine witout Orphans. It was very encouraging to see the President of Ukraine, Petro Poroshenko, join the service! For the first time the spiritual leaders of Ukraine prayed together with the head of the state for every child to experience God's love and for Ukraine to become a nation without orphans. After the prayers the First Lady released a white dove as a symbol of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of adoption.
The Consultation was held in order to promote sustained collaborative action within the global church community on behalf of children at risk. The event gathered church leaders, movements’ facilitators, academicians, and practitioners. One of the most prominent themes was mission to, for, and with children. Ruslan Maliuta presented a paper about the prevalence of violence against children and the need of each child to have safe, stable, and nurturing relationships with loving and caring adults. “Participants reinforced the biblically-grounded responsibilities of parents to their children as well as the important role the church can have in meetings the needs that parents sometimes neglect, overlook, or are prevented from fulfilling”, the report indicated. A major contribution of the consultation will be the creation of the Lausanne Occasional Paper (LOP) on Mission With Children-at-Risk.
Vulnerable children and orphans in Japan have been elevated to the church as those needing attention and families. Speaking and teaching on the need for the church to take healing and strengthening of families into the church as a priority was a well received message in Japan in November 2014 by the 300 participants of the 4/14 Window Conference. Speakers from the USA, Canada, Indonesia, Philippines, Japan were all in attendance. Pastor Nam Soo Kim spoke on the urgency of the church to make a difference in the lives of children – to step forward and Reach, Rescue, Root and Release this generation.