Following My Heart to Haiti

13 Sep

Blog post by Andrea H., Team Haiti 2012

Putting my journey into words is a difficult task for me because I feel as though I could write a novel about it. I have been through many different life experiences to bring me to where I am today.

Since I was very little I have always had a passion for children and youth. As I have grown up I have continued to surround myself with children working with youth sports, babysitting and volunteering for many different city youth events. When it came time to make a decision on what I wanted to major in and choose as a career for the rest of my life, I chose teaching. I always dreamed of being a teacher, and a few years down the road in college I realized that special education was the specific area that I wanted to focus on. I realized I wanted to work with children with special needs because during my volunteer hours that I had to do to receive my bachelor’s degree, I became aware of the vast need for teachers and advocates in this area of concentration.

There are so many children and families that are overlooked and not helped in the way they should be. The more time I spent with these children the more my heart started to melt for them. I truly have a special place in my heart for all children but more importantly those children that are in desperate need of help. Continue reading

Update from the Field: Team Ethiopia

28 Jul

It’s 11 pm here in Ethiopia and our team has, for the most part, finally settled down from an exciting and exhausting day at our ministry site.  For the past two days we have been working (and by ‘working’ I mean laughing, singing, and playing with beautiful Ethiopian children) at the Hope for the Hopeless orphanage and drop-in center.  This ministry model is set up to rescue street children (which number around 5 million in Ethiopia alone) and seeks to provide them with food, shelter, education, and the hope that can only come from a relationship with Jesus Christ.

Unlike our first ministry site, the children at these two sites are mostly unable to be adopted due to licensing restrictions by the Ethiopian government. Instead, given the limited resources this organization receives from sponsors and small church donations, HFTH literally trains up the next generation of Christian Ethiopian leaders by supporting these street children through the rehabilitation of the drop-in center, through the education and care provided by the orphanage site, and finally through foster care programs as well as vocational training classes and university.

These children…..stole our hearts.  After two days of attempting to be the arms of Christ to these children, we found that they taught us more about our Savior and his love than many of us had discovered in a lifetime.

Tomorrow we will attend church for the first time at the new World Orphans church partner, Keraneyo Bethel Church.  Please pray for us as we meet the members and children of this ministry as we will be visiting and planning activities with them later in the week.

Praise God that all our team is in great health and spirits and we thank Him for all that he is doing in our hearts!

More updates to come! Thank you all for your prayers and support.

All for Him,

Blake Baxter
Team Ethiopia 2012 Leader

Update from the Field: Team India

27 Jul

Journey team members unwinding with guesthouse staff after a long day of ministry with the children.

Today we visited one of the churches where 10 orphans live with the pastor.  We spent the morning singing songs, telling the story of the Lost Sheep and the Prodigal Son and playing games and doing crafts with over 100 children (both the orphans and many children from the neighborhood).  The church family was very gracious and we were able to learn a lot about the life of the church and their involvement in orphan care.  Lunch was very good (a tad spicy for a few people on our team).  When we left we were happily exhausted!  God is teaching us so much on this trip! Thank you for your prayers!

Please pray for:
– More churches in the area to begin orphan care ministries as there is still such a great need.
– Peace and good relations with the government officials and the church.
– Joy and energy as we try to keep up with 100+ kiddos every day who have WAY more energy than we have ever even thought of having.

Here are some individual, personal updates:

Anna: thank you for praying for us! Saludos Chata ojo derecho operado

Sarah: This has been the most incredible day! The kids have so much joy and energy, it’s impossible not to smile. Thank you for your prayers and support!

Mark and Kyle: Organized chaos at its greatest today! Thanks for your prayers. Please keep them coming!

Christina: Today was so great! The children were adorable and loved us taking pics of them and were so welcoming. I am so grateful to be able to spend today with them Thanks for the support. Keep praying! Lots of love to you all from India!

Mandy:  What an awesome day with the kids.  Spent around five hours playing with nothing more than some blow up beach balls and jump ropes and had a blast!  Thank you for your prayers!  Sending you all  my love and big hugs!

Jessie: The first day at the orphanage was so amazing! I feel so blessed to have the opportunity to be here and experience all of this. The children are so precious.. it was so hard to leave them! Love you all so much!

Laura: There was so much energy and so many smiling faces today!  It has been a great experience so far.  We have learned so much about the culture and people here.  I can’t wait to see what is in store for tomorrow! Thank you for praying for us!

Lauren: Today was absolutely wonderful, one of the best experiences I’ve ever had.. this makes me even more excited for what’s in store for the rest of the week. Playing with kids, singing with them, eating lunch with them, and hugging on them.. nothing better! Thank you for your prayers!

Erin: Thank you to all of my friends and family for your love and prayers. You are missed! My highlight of the day was connecting with a 3 or 4 year old girl who was really sweet.

Aaron: Thanks for the prayers. This is such a eye opening experience.  I am enjoying the trip. THANKS SO MUCH!

Chrys: We are having a blast!  Kids, kids everywhere!  God is so good, and we’re grateful for the opportunity to be blessed by this experience.  So excited for tomorrow and praying God goes ahead of us and prepares an opportunity to share His love with all we come in contact with. Thank for your prayers!

Emily: Lori, this has been a great trip! I call dibs for next year! Mom and Dad, miss you guys lots.  Every time I experience something new here, I can’t help but wonder if you guys experienced the same thing.  Team unity has been great and I’m excited to see what God does through each of these people!

Thank you for your prayers!
Emily and Team India!

Turning the Page on Poverty

24 Jul

Blog post by Joe C., Team Ethiopia 2012

Poverty is at the root of so many of the injustices around the world and causes the most vulnerable in our society to be pushed further and further into the dirt.  The Bible is so clear that we caused this grave situation starting with the first choice to eat from the wrong tree.   The statistics are staggering, to the point that we’ve generally ignored them because they are so large that most of us have no frame of reference to understand them.  We can’t possibly put faces, names or identities to all those who suffer in poverty.  Although, if you go to www.poverty.com they will put faces to the people who died in the past hour from hunger.  Then you can put a name with a face.  If you watch for 24 hours, you will see on average 25,000 people died of hunger related causes in that time.  So many preventable diseases and medical conditions causing death are related to poverty, so many children sold in to slavery, prostitution or abandoned as orphans stem from people living in poverty.  The numbers are overwhelming, the reality is overwhelming, to the point where many of us get angry and bitter, we get hopeless and ineffectual or we get apathetic and ignorant in order to protect our sanity against the reality.

The Bible however, is also clear that this isn’t just a big punishment and blame game that God is playing with us because of fallen state of our species.  After he gave us the boot from a perfect creation without poverty, he said you’ll have to work hard, but I’ll provide what you need.  He actually didn’t send us into an impoverished world.  Poverty.com also says, “yet there is plenty of food in the world for everyone.”   Continue reading

The Lord Will Answer Them

23 Jul

Blog post by Erin B., Team India 2012

Have you ever experienced what it is like to live in a trash dump? I haven’t and don’t want to imagine having to live that way but I have seen it first hand in Uruguay, South America. It breaks my heart to see the elderly, 4 year olds, and entire families digging through trash together to see if they can find something to sell so they will have food to eat or money to survive on. To me, looking out over a trash dump with humanity wandering about it screams of hopelessness, lack of joy, and desperation. It looks like death. The landscape is bleak. Poverty is a huge problem worldwide. The bible says that we will always have the poor among us in Matthew 26:11, “The poor you will always have with you, but you will not always have me.” God’s heart is to answer the poor as Isaiah 41:17 says: The poor and needy search for water, but there is none; their tongues are parched with thirst. But I the LORD will answer them; I, the God of Israel, will not forsake them.” God promises He will not forsake the poor and needy.

Orphans are impacted in a great way by poverty. Every 15 SECONDS, another child becomes an AIDS orphan in Africa. Every DAY 5,760 more children become orphans. Every YEAR, 2,102,400 more children become orphans (in Africa alone). 143,000,000 Orphans in the world today spend an average of 10 years in an orphanage or foster home. Approximately 250,000 children are adopted annually, but… Every YEAR 14,050,000 children still grow up as orphans and AGE OUT of the system. Every DAY 38,493 children age out. Every 2.2 SECONDS, another orphan ages out with no family to belong to and no place to call home (http://thirdworldorphans.org/gpage39.html). Having orphans in the world promotes poverty because orphans lack the resources they need to have good health care, nutrition, and protection. If poverty is dealt with, there will be fewer orphans because parents will live longer due to less disease and hunger. Orphans will also have better care if they are not living in extreme poverty.  Continue reading

It’s Hard to Think of a Crime More Hideous

21 Jul

Blog post by Gemma W., Team Ethiopia 2012

Criminal, sexual exploitation of children – also called Human Trafficking – is the newest, most profuse and fasting growing form of slavery that the nations of this world have had to combat in nearly a decade.

Despite the numbers, which appear to be growing, Michelle Banchelet, the head of UN Women, says, “it’s difficult to think of a crime more hideous and shocking than human trafficking. Yet, it is one of the fastest growing and lucrative crimes.” So it’s not surprising that human trafficking is estimated to be a $32 billion industry.

This is not just an issue in the third world countries. This monstrosity takes place in industrialized countries, as well. Trafficking is now affecting 161 countries worldwide. They’ve estimated somewhere between 600,000 to 800,000 people are trafficked across international borders each year. Of those victims, roughly 80 percent are female, and 50 percent are children.

It’s the runaways and other at-risk youth that are the prime targets for pimps and traffickers. They’ve mastered the art of manipulation and deception in order to exploit these victims in the commercial sex industry. It could be as simple as a “job offer” to be a nanny for a wealthy family overseas. Once the victim is reeled in, threats and violence will be enough to keep her there in most cases. After all, the life expectancy of a child prostitute is only 7 years.

Gemma resides in Canada and will be serving with Journey117 this month on Team Ethiopia. 

A Touching Story from Uganda

20 Jul

Deborah, recent Journey 117 Uganda team member, shares about an orphan that captured her heart and reminded her of when she was 8 years old in a children’s home growing up…..

Safe In His Arms

While on my mission trip to Uganda I was working at a baby home feeding babies and loving on the littlest, sweetest orphans. I wanted to hold them all and just felt like I could have spent the whole 10 days there. A volunteer came into the nursery and asked if one of us could check in on a child that had been brought in that day. She said she was worried about her and felt bad leaving her. I immediately volunteered and headed to the isolation room. They kept them in there away from others until they could be checked out and cleared by a doctor. What I saw when I got there broke my heart. This child was in a dark room crying so hard she was hyperventilating. The sobs where gut-wrenching. I immediately picked her up and tried to console her. She clung to me with a death grip and continued to sob. I tried rocking her in my arms and rubbing her back and softly saying, “It’s ok, it’s ok.” The sobs kept coming and my heart kept breaking for her.

As I was turning around in this small room I saw the sign on the door that read “Isolation.” I was taken back by that because when I was 8 years old I was in a children’s home in an isolation room for three days. It was one of the hardest times of my life, and to this day I tear up when I think about it. I was traumatized more by that than any abuse I had ever endured. After the second night there I was at a breaking point. I thought I was going to go crazy if I didn’t talk to someone. So I cried out to GOD. I said, “If you are real, please come. I need you now and I can’t bear to be alone any more.” In that moment of desperation I felt HIS presence. It was if peace entered that room and I felt that HE wrapped me in HIS arms and instantly my tears stopped and I fell asleep singing “JESUS loves me” to myself. I have never doubted if GOD was real in my life because I knew from that moment on that HE was real. Continue reading