Journey117 Director Rants About Orphan Care and Orphanages

19 Oct

Are orphanages a good thing or a bad thing? Aren’t there great orphanages out there that are a good option for children? Should churches and organizations invest in orphanages around the world….or is there a better way to care for the fatherless? Lori Resmer, Journey117 director, recently blogged about orphan care and how she believes the Church is doing it all wrong. Check out her thoughts here.

A Closer Look at Human Trafficking

3 Oct

Guest blog post by Katy P., Team Haiti 2012

Parents, imagine having to sell your child for food or to get out of poverty. Imagine your child being taken by either someone you know or a stranger and forced into doing unimaginable things that are pornographic, or in human trafficking, etc. I know this is hard to imagine or even think that this would happen to your child, but unfortunately this happens every day to millions of children all over the world.

Human trafficking has been described as: the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring or receipt of persons: by the threat or use of kidnapping, force , fraud, deception or coercion, or by the giving or receiving of unlawful payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, and for the purpose of sexual exploitation or forced labor. Trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation of children can take many forms and include forcing a child into prostitution or other forms of sexual activity or child pornography. Child exploitation can also include forced labor or services, slavery, servitude, the removal of organs, illicit international adoption, trafficking for early marriage, recruitment as child soldiers, for use in begging, or for recruitment for cults.

When people think of traffickers, they normally think of strangers, and most of the time it is strangers, but other times it is a family member or a neighbor.  Many parents, especially in poor countries, sell their children to pay off debts or gain an income, or they may be deceived concerning the prospects of training or a better life for their children.  They may sell their children for labor, sex trafficking or illegal adoptions.  Unfortunately, victims of trafficking are later used to traffic other women and children, because that is all they know how to do. Continue reading

Child Soldiers: Examining the Solution

26 Sep

Guest blog post by Amanda F., Team Haiti 2012

When you think of a soldier what do you see? I picture a tall, strong man. He is a fearless fighter for his government; a positive exactitude, defending freedom and rights of the people of his country. That is not the case for child soldiers around the world. A child soldier is defined as, “a person under the age of 18 who directly or indirectly participates in an armed conflict as part of an armed force or group.” This definition is very cut and dry, but the life of a child soldier is so much more than that. Some children carry assault rifles, machetes or grenades on the front lines, while others are used in “combat support” roles as messengers, spies, cooks, mine cleaners and sexual slaves. These children have not only been robbed of their childhoods, many have personally experienced or witnessed executions, death squad killings, disappearances, torture, arrest, sexual abuse, bombings, forced displacement, destruction of their homes and massacres.

A 14 year old, abducted in 2000 by the Revolutionary United Front, in Sierra Leone said, “I’ve seen people get their hands cut off, a ten yer old girl raped and then die, and so many men and women burned alive, so many times I just cried inside my heart because I didn’t dare cry out loud.” (http://www.un.org/cyberschoolbus/briefing/ soldiers/index.htm) This ongoing trend of child soldiers is tragic and heartbreaking. According to recent investigation, the number of children who have been coerced or induced into armed forces as child soldiers is around 300,000.  The youngest child soldiers are around 7 years old, the average age of a first grader in America. Over 50 countries currently recruit children under 18 into their armed forces and no one is spared; over 1/3 of these children are female. Continue reading

Leaving My Comfort Zone

21 Sep

Blog post by Emily B., Team Haiti 2012

My journey to the point of going on this trip to Haiti really began when I first learned about the new job my dear friend Emily Hilburn took. It’s been such a blessing to see how God’s used her in this ministry, to pray for her and to support her.

A little over a year ago, my office got a flyer from OATH (Oklahomans Against Trafficking Humans). Since then, I’ve done research on human trafficking right here in Oklahoma City and have seen first-hand what the local Church is doing to help this sad and heart-breaking situation. I had no idea it was so prevalent! Anyway, while this isn’t an orphan issue per se, we’ve been learning in our Journey 117 conference calls that it is an ‘orphan causing issue.’ Through all this, I can see how the Lord’s been preparing my heart for going on this particular trip to Haiti.

My final decision to actually go on this trip was through God totally opening the door wide (and through Emily’s suggestion and hinting that I should go). Work schedule worked out, Emily will be leading our team, and the day I decided to go, I happened to read that day’s Operation World email about a country to pray for – Haiti!

For me, this is a step of obedience. This is very much out of my comfort zone – but since when is the Christian life supposed to be comfortable? The Bible says Jesus cares for the orphans…so I should too! He’s challenging me in new ways, and I’m seeing His heart for orphans pretty much daily now…we haven’t even gone on the trip! I have no idea what He has planned after this trip, but I trust Him and know He’ll use this. It will be hard to go for only a week, but I hope and pray there will be life-long changes while we’re there (for the Haitians we meet and for the members on our team)…or at least seeds planted. I’m thankful we’ll be helping existing ministries that will still be there after we leave.

These little ones we’ll come in contact with are precious in God’s sight…He loves them more than any of us can ever imagine!

Emily resides in Oklahoma City and will be serving with Journey 117 in October on Team Haiti.

Pondering the Word ‘Orphan’

19 Sep

Blog post by Katy P., Team Haiti 2012

When I think of the word ‘orphan’, there are a lot of words that come to mind. Two of the dominate words are: starving and parent-less. There are a lot of orphans that are starving and have no parents, but there are also orphans who have to deal with much more terrifying and deadly things than that. Poverty, child labor, HIV/AIDS, sex trafficking, etc. are not the first things that come to mind when I think of orphans….but they should be.

Knowing that children all over the world face these kinds of terrible things makes me want to help them in any way possible. One of the reasons I am going on this trip to Haiti is to see firsthand what these kids go through on a regular basis. I want to be able to come back with a better understanding and know how to tell others what is going on and how they can help. I not only want to help with their everyday needs of clothing, food, and supplies, I want them to know that there is a loving, caring God who loves them unconditionally. He will be there no matter what happens in their lives.

On my first trip to Russia, I got to work with orphans. At one of the orphanages there were rooms with babies who never got held; they were fed by their bottles being propped up by pillows and they lay in their cribs all day staring at the ceiling. There was another room with kids that were disabled; they had all kinds of toys, but they were not allowed  to go anywhere because of their disability. In that room there was one little girl who had no legs, so she would scoot to me using her arms.  She was so happy. Another boy had no arms or legs, so he would roll to me. Still there were other rooms I could not go into because those were the rooms with the “sick” kids. I was never told what the symptoms were; all they could tell me was that the kids were very “sick.” Seeing and hearing all they went through really got to me and broke my heart. It got me thinking of what I could do and how I could tell others about how they could also help.

I realized that I am happiest when I am helping someone else. Whether it be somewhere in another country or right next door, I love working with kids. I can walk into a restaurant, store, church and anywhere else, and have a child smile or wave to me and it makes my day. I love to smile or wave back and to know that my smile or wave has made their day. It is one of the best feelings in the world.

A lot of people ask me “Why Haiti” and I honestly don’t know how to answer them. God has opened this door for me and I am going to step through it. Although I don’t know what is going to happen on this trip, I know that God has it under control, and I can’t wait to see how God is going to use me for His glory.

Katy resides in Oneida, KY and will be serving with Journey 117 in October on Team Haiti.

To Really Follow….

17 Sep

Blog post by Vivian M., Team Haiti 2012

Earlier this year I went on a retreat where I was asked two questions:

“What does it mean to be a disciple of Jesus?”

“What does it mean to follow – really follow – Him?”

Examples were then given of how different individuals answered these questions and their lives are a reflection of that. It was the last one that struck me. A picture of a girl only a couple years younger than me standing with her family in a middle class neighborhood flashed onto the screen. This girl had left all that was familiar to care for orphans in Africa and had been there for the past 4 years. Many of the other examples were older men and women that I didn’t identify with, but this girl – it was a little to close to home. This was my first push that I needed to step out of my comfort zone and do something.

Within the next couple weeks, a woman in my small group started talking about the adoption process her and her husband were going through to adopt a little girl from Ethiopia. She shared about the difficult situation of so many of the children in Ethiopia and how this is what God had led them to do.  Push number two.

I began to educate myself about the real situations of orphans worldwide and my eyes were opened to issues of child labor, child soldiers, sex trafficking, gender inequality, HIV/AIDS and other diseases that affect this population.  I did not know what I supposed to do, but I figured the first step is to understand the problem and God will let me know what is next. He did. Soon after, I learned about World Orphans through some family that went on a Journey 117 trip to Uganda.

While I am still figuring out what it means to be a disciple of Jesus, I have figured out that as I grow closer to God, I start to care more about things that are important to Him.  This trip is the next step for me in following Jesus and I am so excited for ways that God can use me!

Vivian resides in Virginia and will be serving with Journey 117 in October on Team Haiti.

Aligning Paths for Service in Haiti

15 Sep

Blog post by Amanda F., Team Haiti 2012

If someone asked me a year ago where I would be today, I would have never dreamed that this would be the answer. I am so thankful for the series of events that have lead me to the most exciting and rewarding experience of my life. The road to this place in life has been rocky and broken in places but, in the end, God has always shown himself.

I was raised in a Christian family and grew up going to church every Sunday. It was the norm for our family and I went because it’s just what we did. Throughout life I had the basic foundations of Christianity instilled in me, but I never had a real relationship with God. Around June 2011, six months after graduating college, I kept hitting roadblock after roadblock as I was trying to get jobs and move onto the next step of my life. I finally realized I couldn’t do life alone.  My brother and sister-in-law, whom I was living with at the time, are very strong Christians and sat me down one day to stress how badly God wanted me. For once, I listened. I began going to The Rock shortly after and have been growing more and more in my faith ever since.

Shortly after I started attending The Rock, I decided to start the Foundations courses to learn more about the faith I had claimed for so long. I had been praying and praying for God to make this giant church seem smaller and to help me gain strong Christian friends. It was the final day of the four-week course and, although I learned a lot, I hadn’t yet found the answer to that prayer. At the end of class a girl my age came up to me and introduced herself. She said that she held a small group at her house and, after hearing part of my testimony, she felt God urge her to invite me. She felt we had a lot in common. I was elated! After joining the group and becoming closer to this girl, she revealed to me that talking to a complete stranger was completely out of her comfort zone and the only reason she had the guts to talk to me was because she felt lead by God. Continue reading