By / Nov 7

Free, downloadable bulletin insert for use by your church on Orphans and Widows Sunday. 

In the days and months following the Supreme Court decision in Dobbs, pro-life
organizations redoubled their efforts to care for vulnerable mothers and infants.
One of the ways that churches can step into this new post-Roe landscape is by creating a culture of adoption in their churches. Below are some ways to help minister to families considering adoption or walking through the process.

Celebrate adoption

Never stop celebrating and championing orphan care. Adoption is not the only answer to fulfilling James 1:27, but for some children it is exactly right. In the church, we need to be intentional about celebrating adoption and championing adoptive families in healthy ways in order to send a clear message that adoption does not have to be perfect to be something that we affirm and praise the Lord for.

Allow for grief and sadness in adoption

Just because adoption is good doesn’t mean that it is always all good. Give people the grace to experience the full range of emotions around their adoption, including pain and difficulty. There is no one right way to feel or experience the layers of emotion around the broken relationships and sad stories that are part of adoption. Just sitting with our hurting friends in their grief can be more powerful than any words we have.

Provide resources

Years ago, researchers did a survey of Christian adoptive families, and what they found was striking. They discovered that the first place they want to go for help and resources, and the last place they are likely to turn to, is their church. When the church becomes among the safest and the best prepared places to care for the uniqueness brought by adoptive families, we become a living picture of the grace of God to a world that is dying to know and follow Jesus.

To see additional SBC event dates, visit sbc.net/calendar.

By / Jul 19

There are untold numbers of children around the world who, for any number of reasons, are without a family and in need of a loving home. Recognizing this need, Americans have proven year after year to be among those most willing to help. As Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a 2022 report, “U.S. families have historically adopted half of all children eligible for intercountry adoption.” We are a country eager to open our homes to children all over the world and welcome them into our families.  

In recent years, however, procuring intercountry adoptions has become exceedingly difficult due to a number of factors. Travel restrictions, war, and the outright suspension of intercountry adoptions by some nations, among other factors, have continued to shrink the number of children brought to America to be united with a forever family. And according to the State Department’s most recent Annual Report on Intercountry Adoption, those difficulties persisted (and in some ways grew) last year. 

What did the report reveal?

Since 2004, intercountry adoptions in America have been in a precipitous decline, a trend that continued once again last year. For instance, in 2004 almost 23,000 children joined a new family here in the United States via intercountry adoption. After years of steady decline, that number dipped to 1,517 in 2022, a decrease of more than 90% in less than 20 years and the lowest in recent history. 

Of the 1,517 children who were adopted from other countries, the largest numbers came from Colombia (235), India (223), and South Korea (141). 

Despite efforts by the State Department to be a leader in promoting intercountry adoptions and to establish mutually beneficial relationships with other governments around the world, several issues have severely inhibited Americans’ ability to adopt children internationally including:

  • Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine; 
  • the suspension of adoption processing by the People’s Republic of China’s; 
  • and adoption prohibitions among countries like the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Kenya, and Latvia 

The report outlines efforts by the U.S. government to help secure American citizens’ ability to “give children the loving, permanent families they deserve.” Nevertheless, it reveals the many significant barriers that prospective families faced last year. 

How should Christians think about intercountry adoption?

The Bible is clear: Christians are called to care for orphans (James 1:27). There are many ways to do that, and one of them is through intercountry adoptions.

We can recognize, as Herbie Newell, president and executive director of Lifeline Children’s Services, has written, intercountry adoption may not be the most appropriate solution for all orphaned and vulnerable children—moving children from one culture to another is no small matter, after all. “But it is the best answer for some.” Adopting children from another part of the world, especially from areas where exposure to the gospel is either limited or barred, is an opportunity not only to unite those children with a loving family but to introduce them to God who is himself a “father to the fatherless” (Psa. 68:5). 

God cares for children who have been orphaned, both here and abroad, and so should we.  

What can Christians do?

Christians have a long history of international adoption support, as does the Southern Baptist Convention, from advocacy efforts to denominational resolutions to expanding our own families through the means of adoption. Much of America’s willingness to welcome children from around the world into their families is owing to Christians and our support for the cause. Today, our continued support is as important as it’s ever been.

Considering the challenges the State Department faces that continue to diminish many Americans’ prospects for adoption and many children’s opportunity to be placed in a loving home, Christians have an urgent responsibility to continue and even strengthen the work we’ve long been a part of. We can:

  • write our representatives, 
  • financially support organizations that serve this cause, 
  • join advocacy efforts, 
  • and, “pray for guidance as to whether God is calling [us] to adopt a child” ourselves (as Resolution No. 2 from the 2009 SBC Annual Meeting states). 

There are innumerable ways we can stop the downward trend in intercountry adoptions we’ve been witness to for nearly 20 years. We don’t have to do it all, but we can do something. 

By / Jun 22

Ten years ago, I was visiting Shelter Yetu, an orphanage in Naivasha, Kenya. A young boy stood alone at the chalkboard, wiping away the day’s lessons with an old rag. The child—an orphan, I was told—sang quietly as he worked. I watched him from the doorway for a few minutes before greeting him in Swahili.

After some small talk about the day’s activities, I asked Boniface how long he had been at the orphanage. “One year,” he told me. Quietly, I asked him the last time he saw his family. I didn’t know—perhaps both his parents had passed away. “Last weekend,” he said with a smile. Boniface proceeded to tell me that his mother worked at a nearby farm and often came to visit him and his brother on the weekends.

So why was Boniface, who was obviously not an orphan, at an orphanage? I learned later that Boniface is the sixth of eight children. His family was displaced during Kenya’s 2008 post-election violence. They spent two years living in an IDP (internally displaced persons) camp before his father left. Eventually, Boniface’s mother found work at a local farm but couldn’t afford to send all of her children to school. So she found help the only way she could—she placed them in orphanages.

I wish I could say Boniface’s story is uncommon. But as many as 80% of children living in orphanages around the world have at least one living parent, and the vast majority have other family members who could be able to care for them if given the support to do so. The underlying reason children end up in orphanages is not because they are orphans—it is poverty. When a family is unable to meet the needs of their children, like education in Boniface’s case, an orphanage is considered a possible solution. 

Setting orphans in families

Does your church support an orphanage? Have you ever taken a short-term mission trip to serve at an orphanage? Does your family sponsor an orphan? If not, have you ever wondered how you or your church could help orphans? 

There is a clear biblical mandate for churches and believers to care for widows and orphans. James 1:27 says, “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” However, our generous and sacrificial efforts to support children through orphanages and children’s homes is not producing the kind of results we have hoped for.

A growing body of research shows that orphanages are not the best place for children. 

  • Research shows orphanages harm children’s social, emotional, and cognitive development.
  • Institutionalization of very young children has a similar impact on early brain development to severe malnutrition or maternal drug use during pregnancy.
  • Young adults raised in institutions are 10 times more likely to fall into sex work than their peers and 500 times more likely to take their own lives.
  • Placing a child in an orphanage quadruples the risk of sexual violence.

Families are vital for the development of children. They need the connection, belonging, and identity of a family to thrive into adulthood. Research shows significant improved outcomes for children who are cared for in their families, foster families, or adoptive families, compared to orphanages and children’s homes.

For these reasons, many countries and organizations are moving away from traditional institutional care (orphanages) to family and community-based care.  Organizations are working to strengthen families so they never need to consider an orphanage as a solution to their challenges. When a child is unable to be cared for in their own families, a foster or adoptive family allows children the opportunity stay in the community and receive the individualized support of a family.

Psalm 68 tells us that “God sets the lonely in families.” Orphans don’t just need food, shelter and education. Orphans need a safe, loving family. 

Today, Boniface and his brother are at home with their family, and Shelter Yetu is no longer an orphanage. Instead, it serves as a rescue center, helping children living on the streets, providing them with rehabilitation services reuniting them with safe, loving families and then working to empower their families. Shelter Yetu is also helping other orphanages transition to a family-based care model, resulting in more children going home. 

As part of my work as the International Orphan Care Consultant for Send Relief, one of my primary objectives is to help advise local churches in the United States on how to best care for orphans and vulnerable children based on biblical principles and emerging research in the field. We want to provide Southern Baptist churches with the tools, training, and advice needed to help you care for orphans in their affliction. Together, we can labor to see more orphans and vulnerable children know Christ’s love through placement in safe, loving families.

By / Oct 6

By the end of September 2020, there were over 407,000 children in foster care. And it’s possible that with the overturning of Roe, even more children might need care in the future. Vulnerable women, children, and families in the United States will need help in a variety of ways, and Christians should continue to lead the way in making that possible. One of the organizations that’s doing incredible work in this area is Hands of Hope, an adoption and foster care ministry serving Indiana. Amy Jo Fox, the Communications and Care Community Director, answers questions below that shed light on practical ways we can join in their type of work wherever we are. 

Eli Pattat: What is Hands of Hope, and how did it begin?

Amy Jo Fox: In 2003, our Executive Director and her husband adopted their son internationally. God first planted the dream for Hands of Hope in Suzy’s heart just as they were pulling away to bring their son home. She turned to see the rest of the children that were staying there—with no toys, no playground, nothing to do, and she knew at that moment that she was being called to do more. In 2010, Hands of Hope became a 501(c)3.

Simply put, we believe the very best place for any child is in a family. Oftentimes, fear and finances are the two things that keep families from moving forward. So, the first thing we did as an organization was adoption and foster care informational meetings. Then, we began providing adoption matching grants and interest-free loans to help financially. The mission has always been the same: to uniquely and deeply love orphans at home and around the world. We educate on God’s heart for orphans and vulnerable children, motivate individuals to get involved, and support those who do.

We place a high value on going deep to change the trajectory of a child’s life. We do this by how we relationally engage with the families, churches, and partners we serve. We try to listen well and understand where they’ve been and where they currently are. We build relational equity and lean into opportunities to develop trust, moving at the pace of relationship instead of outcome.

EP: Your three areas of focus are adoption, foster care, and children’s homes. What does it look like practically for your organization to serve in these three areas? 

AJF: We partner with and support five Children’s Homes in El Salvador, Ethiopia, Ukraine, India and Brown County, Indiana. Each partner is carefully vetted. Through our Children’s Homes sponsorships, over 150 children are provided with safe and loving environments in which they receive necessities like food, education, and medical care. The children we support are victims of poverty, abuse, and/or disease.

As mentioned above, we hold monthly adoption informational meetings for those wanting to know more about or considering adoption. We also provide financial support to hopeful adoptive parents through our matching grant program.

Lastly, our largest area of focus is foster care. We act as a bridge organization, linking the various needs of Indiana foster care with those that want to help. This includes support and providing county Department of Children’s Services offices with basic necessities like diapers or belonging bags for children when they first enter care, real-time needs for at-risk biological families, and community wraparound for foster and adoptive families among other things.

EP: In what specific ways does Hands of Hope educate the church on God’s heart for orphans and vulnerable children?

AJF: Multiple times a year, we offer a virtual clinic to train and equip church leaders and advocates on how to implement Family Advocacy Ministries (FAM). Churches are often full of people that want to impact the lives of vulnerable children, but don’t know where to begin. FAMs provide practical and concise onboarding in order to recruit and equip families to care for children in their homes, serve families in crisis, and advocate for and minister to these families by meeting physical, emotional, and spiritual needs.

We work to mobilize and resource the Church to teach on what Scripture says about caring for orphans and vulnerable children as well as organize and/or host other awareness events to empower people to understand the need. Nationally, 50% of foster families quit fostering after the first year because they do not feel they have the support they need. However, when these families are surrounded by a FAM’s wraparound support model called Care Communities, we see that statistic drastically improve. With Care Communities, we’re able to retain 90% of foster families, helping them foster longer and stronger. 

EP: What are some of the greatest needs you see in families that you serve through Hands of Hope? 

AJF: The greatest needs for the families we serve is summed up in one word: support. They need the support of the Church and their community. Whether it’s a hurting biological family in need of tangible assistance in order to preserve their home or a weary foster family in need of a mentor for their child who is struggling, families in crisis need to know they’re not alone. It’s sometimes easy for us to get stuck in the “they signed up for it” mentality and assume we’re not responsible if we aren’t able to actually bring children into our home through foster care or adoption. These kids are OUR kids, this is OUR problem, these families are OUR responsibility. 

EP: Are there misconceptions about adoption, foster care, and children’s homes that hinder Christians from serving well in these areas? 

AJF: One misconception we often see is around foster care. Many times, people care about child welfare but since they aren’t able to physically take children into their home, they assume there’s nothing they can really do to help. That’s simply not true! Every single one of us can do something.

EP: What are some practical ways that the church can get more involved with organizations like Hands of Hope in serving vulnerable children? And if there aren’t organizations like yours in our states, how can Christians meet the needs of those in foster care? 

AJF: CarePortal or Care Communities are two nationwide programs that give churches practical ways to serve vulnerable children and families. There are also many other next steps like hosting a support group, organizing a foster supply closet, blessing foster children at Christmas, etc.

EP: How can Christians around our country be praying for those involved in or thinking about being involved in caring for this vulnerable population?  

AJF: Pray for everyone to find their specific purpose in how they can help vulnerable children and at-risk families so that every child has a family and those families have support.

By / Mar 23

With the beginning of Russian aggression, the entire population of Ukraine became vulnerable in an instant. An estimated 3.2 million people have fled the country as refugees and millions more are internally displaced seeking safety from Russian attacks. Among those, an estimated 200,000 orphans are infinitely more unshielded today than ever before.

Child welfare in Ukraine 

It’s impossible to keep that many kids safe during a war. They’re already missing thousands of children, and authorities worry they’ve fallen into the hands of human traffickers. The thought of Ukrainian orphans being trafficked and victimized breaks my heart. All three of my own children were born there, and I’ve devoted much of my life’s work to helping vulnerable Ukrainian children. These numbers — the hundreds of thousands of children being transported out of their war-torn home country, the thousands potentially lost to trafficking — aren’t just numbers to me. They shouldn’t just be numbers to you. 

Even during peacetime, vulnerable Ukrainian children face steep odds and a bleak future. Though Ukraine has sought to improve child welfare in the past 15 years, the majority of vulnerable children, or 60-70%, turn to prostitution or crime after aging out of the orphanages at 16 years old. An estimated 20% get imprisoned, and 10% attempt suicide. Children with special needs get shipped far outside Ukraine’s cities to grow up in isolation and developmental deprivation.

If Russia gains regional dominance, child welfare in Ukraine will take a huge step backward. International adoption and ministry services will no longer be possible for the hardest-to-place children, and domestic adoption and foster care will no longer be an option. These children will have no chance at a future with a loving family near home or in America. 

Russia has already used its own orphans as a geopolitical bargaining chip: Russia banned United States adoption back in 2013, a retaliation against American sanctions. Ukrainian orphans could be next. 

How we should respond

Our calling as Christians is to pray for, minister and witness to these children. We must support them — and Ukraine — in any way possible. We can’t turn a blind eye to their needs. Our calling as Americans is to advocate relentlessly for their protection. We have the benefit of being part of a democracy, where the political system responds to our demands. So, make demands. Speak, as I am speaking. Call your representatives and senators. Donate to and amplify the organizations doing the dangerous, on-the-ground work that will save these children’s lives. 

From afar, wars are just headlines and statistics. Maybe they increase the price of consumer goods or delay shipping times. Maybe they dominate the news for a few days before eventually fading into the background again. But it is morally essential that we remember the terrible human cost of war. Families have been destroyed; children have been lost to traffickers. More parents will fall into poverty after the war and have their children taken from them. If Russia manages to cut Ukraine off from international ministry and adoption, these families and children will be lost to a cycle of poverty and despair.

But every one of these children deserves a loving, stable home. Whether they’re children who have been evacuated as refugees or they’re children who remain trapped in the Ukrainian war zone, they need our prayers, our support, and our advocacy. Let’s keep all Ukrainian children safe — whatever it takes.

By / Nov 15

This week, Chelsea Sobolik sits down with Herbie Newell of Lifeline Children’s Services to discuss National Adoption Month, how the church can care for vulnerable children, and how we can be preparing for a post-Roe world.

Guest Biography

Herbie Newell is the President/Executive Director of Lifeline Children’s Services and it’s ministry arms including (un)adopted, Crossings, and Lifeline Village. Herbie holds a Master’s degree in Accounting from Samford University. He joined the Lifeline staff in 2003 as Executive Director. From January 2004 to December 2008, he served as the president of the Alabama Adoption Coalition. Herbie was chosen as a Hague Intercountry Adoption evaluator and team leader by the Council of Accreditation and serves in that capacity currently. Under Herbie’s leadership, Lifeline has increased the international outreach to 23 countries, helped Lifeline attain membership in the ECFA (Evangelical Council on Financial Accountability), and led the creation of foster care ministry. Having witnessed the plight of older orphans on many trips overseas, Herbie’s burden for the fatherless was a catalyst for starting (un)adopted during 2009. He worked with WAKM Companies, LLC, a prominent accounting firm, for many years as an independent auditor before being led to Lifeline.  He and his wife, Ashley, live in Birmingham, Alabama, and are parents to son, Caleb, and daughters Adelynn and Emily.

Resources from the Conversation

By / Nov 15

November is National Adoption Month. Each year, we set aside this month to celebrate adoption in our churches and communities with all manner of meetings, special gatherings, and public acknowledgments. The airwaves are full of commercials touting the gift of adoption and the positive place that adoption has in the lives of so many children and families. 

During this month of emphasis, we are intentional with presenting story after heartwarming story of how God has built families through adoption. The beauty of adoption is on full display, and that is an overwhelmingly a good thing. But I believe that National Adoption Month is also a perfect time to pause and acknowledge that the beauty of adoption does not come without a price. Moreover, National Adoption Month represents an opportunity for the church of the Lord Jesus Christ to put the fruit of the gospel on display to post-adoptive families in some needed ways.

Those of us whose families God has grown through adoption know that while our story is good, we did not become a family without brokenness and difficulty. Oftentimes, at points of emphasis like National Adoption Month, we in the Christian adoption community can have an annoying tendency to gloss over the difficult and sad parts of our journey for fear of ruining the good. A Christ-centered perspective reminds us that we cannot because our story ultimately isn’t about us at all. 

In so many ways, adoption is a mixed bag. God has given us children that we love more than we can ever really express. Our kids love us as their parents, and they love their siblings (although it doesn’t always look like it). We are all thankful for God’s providential hand in bringing us together, but we have also learned as a family that significant days and meaningful celebrations are defined in part by the people who are not there and the questions that don’t always have answers. Milestone birthdays are joyous, but they are also tinged with thoughts of unknown birth parents or siblings and a sense of loss from something that we never truly had. Graduations and achievements are always tempered by a little sadness or drama that we can’t quite put our fingers on but that have come to expect. Most adoptive families know exactly what I mean.

In short, adoption is beautiful, but it is also hard, and both aspects can be embraced without fear or anxiety. As Christians, we can accept truths in tension in large part because of the gospel. As we think about God’s adoption of us through Christ’s work, the gospel is a story that is filled with both great glory and real grief. God provided for our redemption and demonstrated Jesus’ sovereignty over life and death, but our redemption cost Jesus his life. For our part, our response to the gospel is marked by our turning to Christ for the gift of salvation, but it also is the story of how our sinful brokenness and rebellion against God created a debt that only Jesus could pay. 

Although I am not trying to stretch the analogy to exactly equate earthly adoptions with our adoptions into the family of God, I do think that their parallels are noteworthy as we think about how we celebrate adoption. The gospel is the ultimate good news, but it is also good news mixed with brokenness because of how far we had strayed and how much we were in need of rescue. 

How the church can approach adoption

In light of these observations, here are a few thoughts as to how we in the church approach National Adoption Month:

1. Celebrate adoption. Just because adoption is difficult or complex, don’t stop celebrating and championing it. Adoption is not the only answer to fulfilling James 1:27, but it is the exact right answer for some vulnerable children. Adoption isn’t a fairy tale. In the church, we need to be intentional about celebrating adoption and championing adoptive families in healthy ways in order to send a clear message that adoption does not have to be perfect to be something that we affirm and praise the Lord for. As local churches, we celebrate what we value, and Jesus is who we value most. When we appropriately acknowledge adoption in the culture of our churches, we are celebrating the grace and mercy of God on display in his people.

2. Allow for grief and sadness in adoption. Just because adoption is good doesn’t mean that it is always all good. Give people in your family and your church the grace to experience the full range of the emotions around their adoption. There is no one right way to feel or experience the layers of emotion around the broken relationships and sad stories that are part of adoption. When we don’t know what to do, we can always feel free to give the gift of presence to our family and friends touched by adoption without having to feel the pressure of providing solutions. 

I have stopped counting the times that people felt like they needed to say something positive about our family and have told me how grateful that our kids should be to be adopted. Some days, they quite frankly aren’t all that grateful. Yet, I understand that my kids don’t really need to be grateful for death, abandonment, neglect, abuse, or anything else that may have contributed to them being adoptable. The ministry of presence is key when we are face to face with the ongoing pain that brought many families to adoption. Just sitting with our hurting friends in their grief can be more powerful than any words we have.

3. Allow adoptees and adoptive families to not be OK. Sadly, one of the most difficult things that I have experienced in the last 18+ years in the Christian adoption community is how many hurting adoptive families and adoptees feel like they have to put on a front and hide their pain in the church. It’s as if we feel being transparent about our pain and difficulties will give the enemy a victory when, in reality, Satan is reveling in those families that are too ashamed to let people in their local church into their suffering. 

Through adoption, we have encountered pain and brokenness that has at times been too much to bear. Without the prayers and the tangible support of our brothers and sisters in Christ, I don’t know how we would have survived. Perhaps the greatest testimony that adoption has given us is an unshakable confidence in the enduring presence of God through it all. One way to celebrate adoption is to ensure that our churches are a safe place for adoptees and adoptive families to find community and support that mirrors the ever-faithful love of God in their lives. 

4. Provide resources. Years ago, one of the leading family ministries in the United States did a survey of Christian adoptive families, and what they found was striking. They discovered that the top place Christian families want to go for help and resources is their church, but the church is actually one of the last places they turn to for help. This should not be. As Christ’s ambassadors we must do better. 

Lifeline and other ministries like ours exist to come alongside local churches and equip and empower them to care for vulnerable children and families in Jesus’ name. When the church becomes among the safest and the best prepared places to care for the uniqueness brought by adoptive families, we become a living picture of the grace of God to a world that is dying to know and follow Jesus.

By / Nov 4

In December, 127 Worldwide will celebrate a decade of ministry. We exist to connect and equip the global body of Christ to restore hope to orphans, widows, and vulnerable communities. And we work with Christians and churches in the West and with respected, driven, and visionary local leaders in Kenya, Uganda, and Guatemala who are taking care of vulnerable people in their communities. 

God has exceeded every expectation I had for starting a nonprofit organization in 2011. This was certainly not my plan in life. I used to think this was a unique element of my story, but does anyone’s life actually turn out exactly the way that they plan? The last 10 years have been full of  the hardest and simultaneously most rewarding adventures that God has ever invited me to join. 

Recently, someone on our team suggested that I reflect on 10 lessons that God has taught me during 10 years of leading our organization. This list is not exhaustive, but I hope it will be encouraging and useful to you as you seek to live out true religion in the various ways God has called you (James 1:27). 

1. Trust that God will open and shut appropriate doors

As an executive director of a nonprofit organization, so many decisions wait for your input. Many times I have prayed, “God, you know me, and you know where I most need help. Please make it obvious to me what you’d have me do.” I rely on the faithfulness that God has demonstrated in the past to grow my trust that he will open and shut the correct doors in his perfect timing. I have learned to walk through open doors and not to push through shut doors. Sometimes this has not been easy to learn, but my confidence in God’s faithfulness has definitely grown in the last 3,650 days.

2. Self-awareness is key and will keep you humble. 

Vulnerability is somewhat tied to this lesson, too. I have degrees in counseling and psychology, so I have always enjoyed personality inventories to learn more about myself. I’ve learned that you have to be honest with yourself and your team as you consider what is the best use of the time you devote to your work. I know where I am strong, and (just as importantly) I know where I am weak. I make it a goal to spend 80% of my time working in areas where I am the best qualified person on staff to do the task. I want to invest my time wisely in things no one else can do as well. Likewise, I am very aware of the areas where I am not the best person for the job. 

3. Surround yourself with people who are gifted in your areas of weakness. 

This was a lesson that my dad taught me at an early age, but it has been consistently reinforced in the last 10 years. It takes self awareness and vulnerability to admit your weakness. However, this has been a huge shaper of our culture at 127. I am quick to announce my weaknesses and even recommend other people on our team who would be a better fit for some tasks. Just as Paul explained in 1 Corinthians 12, we are one body with many members. We need each other to accomplish our best work. Humbly embrace that you need other people to work to your full potential.

4. Trust your gut

Now this isn’t an “always rule.” We know that the heart is deceitful above all else (Jeremiah 17:9) apart from Christ. Of course, we have to examine what the Holy Spirit might be doing and walk confidently in the way that we sense God leading us. There have been times, though, when the logical solution didn’t feel like the best solution. I have learned what “trust your gut” looks like for me. It is not a card that I play very often, but I have grown in confidence when this tactic is appropriate. 

5. The (lack of) rhythm is going to get you. 

Healthy rhythms in ministry leadership are a must. It’s okay to calendar time for reading, writing, and spending time with God, family, and friends. Boundaries are healthy. Saying no is healthy. Maintaining rhythm in your life and work is crucial. The quickest way for me to spiral downward is to lose sight of the disciplines that are tethering me to a firm foundation. Solitude, prayer, and journaling are just a few habits that encourage routine. Prioritize routines as much as possible. 

6. Stop. Collaborate. And Listen

Technically, these could be three separate directives. Before executing your new and fresh ideas, wisdom and maturity requires you to pause, see who else is doing similar work, and make an attempt to work together if possible. Ask good questions, but then do less talking and more listening. Ministry should not be a competition. Find like-minded people who make you better as you spend time with them. Learning this lesson has been truly life-giving for me.

7. The leader in a group may be the quiet one. 

One might assume that the loudest voice in the room is the strongest leader. To that, I say one of the few French sayings that I know, “Au contraire mon frere!” A colleague once noticed that I direct conversations even though I am usually not the one who is doing the most talking. People love to talk about themselves, and you can learn so much if you learn to ask good questions. Also, if you are quiet until you really feel compelled to say something, then most of the time people will listen intently as you provide evidence to support that you have something worth listening to. 

8. Beware of burnout

Burning the candle at both ends will lead to a puddle of wax. I definitely learned this lesson the hard way. I hit the 7-year wall where I woke up one day realizing that I was spending most of my time doing things that I was not gifted to do and that I wasn’t passionate about doing. I was cranking out essential tasks purely out of obligation. Somewhere along the way, I lost my joy for the work. 

You will always have tasks in your job that you don’t love, but operating the majority of your time outside of your giftings greatly increases your chances of burnout. Compassion fatigue is a real struggle in this work of empowering local leaders who are serving vulnerable populations. Taking time out for rest and self-care is essential to prevent the previously mentioned puddle of wax.

9. Don’t shy away from hard conversations. 

I am markedly more comfortable with conflict and difficult conversations than I was a decade ago, and I am definitely better for it. God can use the process through difficult discussions to make both parties look more like Christ as the end result. Advance, don’t retreat. Spend time building trust and respect among your team and ministry partners. Then, when tough conversations are necessary, you have established a baseline for the message to be received on top of a firm foundation.    

10. Stay in a posture of openhandedness. 

Choose carefully the hills that you are willing to die on. These hills should be few and far between. The last few years have been years of growth and clarity for 127 Worldwide. As God has expanded our team, I’ve had to figure out my nonnegotiables for the direction of the ministry. One of my most important jobs as the executive director is to guard the mission and vision of the organization. It is okay if others are forging a path that looks very different than the one you would have taken. You should expect that. 

What is important is that the team is passionate about the work and equipped to succeed in building their path. The results are up to God. Freedom grows as open hands release people, plans, and expectations. Disappointment comes when we hold too tightly to any of these. Open hands are not capable of holding on to anything, but they can easily receive what God has for you.

I am grateful that God gives us opportunities to grow in Christlikeness through every step of obedience that we take. I look forward to seeing all of the new lessons that await me in the next decade. And I encourage you to pray about what steps of obedience God might be leading you to take. 

By / Nov 1

Of those most tragically affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, the 1.5 million children who lost parents or grandparents worldwide may be the most heartbreaking. In the wake of such loss, international child welfare advocates have bolstered efforts to care for these newly orphaned children. 

Many of those advocates are Christian nonprofit organizations like Faith to Action Initiative (FAI) and Lifeline Children’s Services. Both groups exist to resource churches and communities with what they need to help orphans and vulnerable children in the name of Jesus. 

“COVID has had an incredibly horrific impact on families and children around the world,” Herbie Newell, president of Lifeline Children’s Services. “It’s multiplied poverty, it’s multiplied helplessness and hopelessness.” 

A collaborative movement to care for children

Thankfully, there is a collaborative movement afoot to provide the best care possible. Recently, UNICEF held an annual event in recognition of the 1989 UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. More than 30 years ago, world leaders committed to an international agreement granting children the same human rights as adults. It wasn’t until 2019, however, that the group signed and adopted a resolution that committed to prioritizing family-based care over institutionalized care for children. 

At the event, FAI presented a letter urging governments to acknowledge the significant role Christian nonprofits play in caring for orphans and to include them in care reform efforts. A report from the Better Care Network found that one of the largest groups supporting orphanages abroad are evangelical, Protestant churches. 

Despite that reality, said FAI’s Executive Director Elli Oswald, at times it can feel as if UN reforms are more like mandates than collaborative solutions. “We think it’s important for Christians to share their experiences,” said Oswald. “They [can then] build their ownership over changes that need to happen.” 

In the letter, FAI proposed that countries be required to regulate the funding investment from Christian nonprofits, to ensure their contributions go exclusively toward their family-based care goals. 

A move toward family-based care

The 2019 resolution and move to recognize Christian leadership in orphan care is even more important today, as the unanticipated outcome of a worldwide pandemic left so many without nuclear families. A move toward family-based care on an international level -— through economic support, kinship care, foster care, and adoption — will help create better results for children, who fare better in such environments. 

In the United States, the orphanage is a thing of the past since the 1950s and 60s transition to almost exclusively government-funded foster care as the accepted model of care. But these institutions are still prevalent in many countries around the world. To be clear, orphanages are often the best care available — and are certainly important for children without other options — but institutional care isn’t optimal. 

FAI and other groups ultimately hope to create family-based care options everywhere. In 2019, all member states in the UN committed to moving toward this goal, but the process isn’t quick or easy. While governments have been amenable to working with faith-based organizations, FAI and its coalitions, including World Vision, Bethany Christian Services, and Catholic Relief Services, would like to see Christians get a more prominent seat at the table. In doing so, they could shift reforms to more gospel-centered priorities rooted in the family model God created from day 1. 

Part of this shift, said Oswald, would include reforms to economically and strategically equip vulnerable families before orphancare is needed. Many so-called orphaned children in third-world countries actually have at least one living parent. But because social systems don’t offer them the economic stability they need to continue parenting through struggle, kids often end up institutionalized. Part of orphancare reform would include putting money toward in-tact families who just need a little help to survive hard times. 

Centralizing Christian organizations in conversations about orphancare matters greatly. It puts the gospel front and center and amplifies the voices of those most committed to caring for children with their pocket books and their lives. The Bible calls all Christians to “look after orphans” (James 1:27) — and it’s clear from the Creation story that the family unit is God’s intent for the flourishing of all people (Genesis 1). 

“It’s vitally important that the Church work together to ensure that institutions are a last resort for vulnerable children who don’t have a family,” said Newell. “Adoption is still a great way to live out the gospel, and we’re grateful to work with so many loving Christian families to facilitate that.” 

With so many divisive issues on the line across the world, there’s one that nearly everyone can agree on: keeping children around the world safe, housed, fed, and loved. There is no perfect way to ensure this for every child, but Christian organizations like FAI, Lifeline, and others are doing all they can to make it so for as many children as possible. 

By / Mar 30

At the very core of who we are exists a deep desire and fundamental need for connection, belonging, and security found only within relationships. This eternal truth can be traced back to the very beginning of time.

“Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.’ . . . So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them” (Gen. 1:26-27).

God’s design for connection

The community between the Father, Son, and Spirit is imprinted on the human soul—we bear the imago Dei, “image of God.” As the creation narrative unfolds, God reflects on his creation of Adam, remarking, “It is not good that man should be alone” (Gen. 2:18). God’s response to Adam’s solitude is the creation of Eve, Adam’s partner. The height of joy and depth of trust experienced through loving relationships and secure attachment are fundamentally God’s idea and God’s design. 

More than 2,000 years later, we take our place in history longing for connection—remembering this foundational truth and holding onto this eternal hope for ourselves, our neighbors, our communities, and perhaps most importantly for our children. Yes, God created us to be in relationship—at peace with him, with others, and in our hearts. And yet, with the fall of mankind into sin, we now experience the pain of broken relationships and the vulnerability of isolation. This is the painful reality for many of the children Show Hope seeks to serve—children who have been orphaned. 

It is not uncommon for children who come home through adoption and foster care to have had exposure to adverse childhood experiences such as abuse, trauma, loss, and/or neglect. As these children enter our families and our stories intertwine with theirs, tensions may surface. We must ask ourselves, How do we effectively communicate the truth of the gospel—an invitation into a forever relationship with Christ—to our children who may carry attachment injuries and associate belonging and connection with fear?

As scientific research expounds, our understanding of the human brain is only beginning to grasp the fullness and complexities of God’s design. And as only God could design, the human brain is pliable and can be rewired. Developmental psychologist and advocate for children Dr. Karyn Purvis once said, “Our children were harmed in relationship, and they will experience healing through nurturing relationships.” When we step into the journey of caring for children who have been affected by early loss and trauma, an incredible invitation is extended. We have the opportunity to help rewrite the narrative—to help lead our children to places of emotional, physical, and neurological healing by being the hands and feet of Christ. 

Furthermore, by choosing to love children from difficult beginnings, we are afforded a front-row seat as God’s miraculous work unfolds. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, the sacredness, beauty, and peace of imago Dei is reimagined and reaffirmed as our children become at home with our love. 

Surely, no one person could do this work alone or without the encouragement and support of a wider community. This is why Show Hope’s Pre+Post Adoption Support exists. We understand—as many of you do—that the adoption journey doesn’t end the day a child is welcomed home. Because of the difficult beginnings many of our children have experienced, we must work diligently to help them reimagine home and experience belonging and connection.  

Learn how to build trust and connection with vulnerable children

Families affected by adoption and/or foster care can benefit from Trust-Based Relational Intervention® (TBRI®) methods developed by Dr. Karyn Purvis and Dr. David Cross from the Karyn Purvis Institute of Child Development at TCU, which exists to bring attachment and connection in families. TBRI “is an attachment-based, trauma-informed intervention that is designed to meet the complex needs of vulnerable children.” At its core, TBRI works to promote trust and connection between caregivers and children by addressing physical and emotional needs while also disarming fear-based behavior. 

And, so, while TBRI may be perceived as clinical in nature as it involves the complexities of science, at Show Hope, we believe that at its core, TBRI is an expression of the gospel of Jesus Christ. In Created to Connect: A Christian’s Guide to The Connected Child, Dr. Karyn Purvis, with Michael and Amy Monroe, wrote, 

The longing of the human heart is to connect and belong. We long to connect with our Creator, in whose image we have been made, and by God’s grace such a connection is possible. As relational beings, we also have a deep need and desire to connect with those around us. One of the most important and meaningful human conditions is undoubtedly between a parent and child.

Build a community of support

Another practical step in serving and equipping families and caregivers is launching a support or small group for individuals and parents affected by adoption and/or foster care within your church or faith community. Perhaps you can begin meeting weekly or monthly in prayer, study, and conversation. A great resource to walk through is Created to Connect. This study guide sheds light and goes deeper into the biblical principles that serve as the foundation for the philosophy and interventions detailed in The Connected Child by Drs. Purvis and Cross. 

As part of that support or small group, recruit volunteers who can be on-call to help meet the everyday needs of adoptive and/or foster care families. It can be as simple as setting up a meal train for heavy, busy seasons of life or offering childcare for parents to have a night out for reconnecting. The adoption and/or foster care journey is not meant to be traveled alone. As a local church or individuals, we have the opportunity to come alongside children and families in service and support. 

Find hope for the journey

Show Hope’s new Hope for the Journey Conference will premiere on Friday, April 9, with a broadcast period through Mon., May 31. The conference includes training in TBRI, a new teaching component called The Gospel + TBRI, and Practical Perspectives videos featuring the voices of adult adoptees and foster youth alumni as well as adoptive and foster families. The conference targets parents and caregivers meeting the everyday needs of children impacted by adoption and/or foster care, and remains a resource for churches, agencies, and other organizations as they support and equip the families, caregivers, and the communities they serve. It can be a great opportunity to educate volunteers on the needs of children and families affected by adoption and/or foster care. 

Will you join with us in showing up and showing hope?