It was August 19, 2008, just over one year ago that a group of interested Willow Creekers met at my house to check out the possibility of banding together to serve orphans and vulnerable children. When I reflect back on what God has done in the past year, all I can say is "Wow!".
This posting is not a celebration of programs we've started or children we've served, contacts we've made or successes we've achieved, though all of these things have happened. It's a celebration of God's goodness, His leading, His faithfulness and His provision while using imperfect servants like us.
For me, this has been a year of seeing God in a new light, discovering his heart and passion for children, especially orphans and children in vulnerable situations. I've discovered his heart for adoption and realized that not only do I have adopted children, but I AM an adopted child of God. That I was an orphan with no voice and no direction and no one to nurture me until I met my heavenly father who adopted me and gave me a voice, gave me direction and welcomed me into His family for eternity. Indeed my heart has grown closer to God as I've discovered His love for us, His adopted children.
This past year has also been a year of connecting with some incredible people from churches, ministries and organizations that are on the front lines of serving orphans. With each new connection I am energized and inspired by the movement of God, working through His people. It has also been a wonderful experience to be connected with Willow Creekers, whether paid staff or volunteer, who are so passionate about the work of God. I am so proud to belong to a church where "the least of these" matter and where my passion and desire to serve orphans is supported, encouraged and celebrated. I am thrilled to have the opportunity to be a part of expanding a vision of serving orphans, adoptive families and foster families.
As you read about the activities that have taken place this past year, I hope it will remind you as it has reminded me what a good God we have and that apart from Him we can do nothing.
Our first initiative was the Lydia House Safe Families program. To date, we are in contact with all the Willow Creek/So. Barrington (WCSB) Safe Families and have monthly support meetings so that they can be supported, encouraged and educated while they foster children. We also have a support team that is available to provide respite care, logistical items and childcare during the monthly meetings. Our prayer is that a solid core of SF will be built, and many more WCSB families will consider becoming foster families.
In November and December, a group of us hand-made and personalized 175 Christmas cards for orphans in Nicaragua being served by OrphaNetwork (O.N.). Our hope and prayer was that these cards would somehow let them know that God loves them and is watching over them, even in the midst of their circumstances. We were also able to partner with O.N. to print and laminate for them hundreds of pictures of children in a community where they serve. The pictures will be used at an outreach event at a local church and for spreading the word about the work of O.N.
Four of us from A Voice for His Children (AV4HC) had the privilege of attending the Christian Alliance for Orphans Conference in Dallas, TX last spring. God stirred the hearts of many others who prayed for us and donated enough funds so that the four of us could go. It was an eye-opening, heart-melting, God-connecting time for all of us. We were educated, inspired and challenged. One of our team members, Brooke, was so moved by the Heart Gallery display at the conference, that she is now working on starting one here. The Heart Gallery is a display of beautiful portraits of children in foster care that are adoptable. It raises awareness and breaks some of the stereotypes of children in foster care. It also gives God a chance to tug at people's hearts as they look at the beautiful portraits and open their hearts to considering adoption.
We started the AV4HC blog where people can come to be inspired, supported, educated and learn about serving opportunities. Through the blog we have been able to rally some advocacy opportunities so that people could sign petitions and call Senators and Congressmen to have them support legislation that specifically pertains to orphans, adoption and vulnerable children. With the help of the International Justice Mission (IJM) several of us were able to meet personally with our Congressmen to discuss a bill that seeks to combat child trafficking.
In May we celebrated National Foster Care week by holding a prayer vigil where we prayed for foster kids, foster families, social workers and our DCFS system.
This summer we piloted a 5-week study called "Considering Adoption". My husband and I led the group with three other couples. It was a rich time of going deeper to discover God's heart toward orphans and adoption, and to facilitate discussions about adoption in each of the families. We are now recruiting additional adoptive families to lead the study in their neighborhoods. We have also designated a follow-up 1-day workshop for families that have decided to adopt and need more information to take the next steps.
I pray that each of you who reads this will prayerfully consider how God is calling YOU to serve orphans. We'd love for you to become a part of what God is doing for His children through "A Voice for His Children". Please check back soon for opportunities for you to serve in November as we celebrate National Adoption month, and Orphan Sunday on Nov. 8th.