Monday, February 23

reLentless Love 2.1: Orphan Care

Bheveni Carepoint Community, Swaziland
Welcome to our reLentless series and Make A Difference Monday Link-up (and GIVEAWAY)! If you are new to our site, you can read all about our seven week lead-up to Easter as we focus on issues around the world, prayer, and fasting here. Also, be sure to check out our GIVEAWAY -- one lucky reader will receive a copy of Red Letters: Living a Faith That Bleeds by Tom Davis simply by leaving a comment below!

This week we're talking about orphan care, both within the U.S. and internationally. The statistics alone are mind-boggling: Did you know that there are 143,000,000 orphans in the world, and another 20,000,000 categorized as "displaced"? Added together, that would make this population the 7th largest nation on the planet, slightly larger than Russia. Because this is such a huge issue and there are so many great organizations committed to helping orphans, we're featuring two interviews this week (one today, one tomorrow) that give insight into orphan care in the U.S. and abroad. 

We know that there are a lot of great organizations out there that are helping vulnerable, often-orphaned children, including World Vision, Compassion International and Wide Horizons For Children. And it should come as no surprise that child sponsorship has become so effective that recent studies show that sponsored children have a greater chance at furthering their education, employment, and becoming leaders in their communities. 

Of the many organizations out there, one of the most amazing is Children's HopeChest. Today I'm interviewing Danielle Brower, whose work with the organization we featured once before. Because we LOVE her and HopeChest and the way they approach sponsorship so much, we asked her to come back and tell us more!

TRE: What can you tell us about this issue?

I volunteer with an organization called Children's HopeChest, whose passion it is to release the incredible potential of orphaned and vulnerable children around the world through partnerships and communities that cultivate holistic transformation and sustainability.

One country we see this transformation taking place in is Swaziland. This small country near South Africa has the highest rate of HIV/AIDS in the world, giving it the unenviable title, “Nation of Orphans.” More than one-quarter of the adult population has been infected by HIV/AIDS, as of 2013. The life expectancy is 46 years of age, which is staggering to think a 23-year-old is middle-aged. AIDS has decimated generations of families, leaving many children orphaned and alone – without anyone to call mom or dad. Because there are virtually no orphanages in Swaziland, these children are literally left to fend for themselves without any means of survival. Young children throughout Swazi are the head of the household, caring for all their younger siblings and other children. Children roam the streets unclothed and hungry, looking for answers and for someone to care for them. 


Our 2014 team was honored to be served dinner
at a friend's homestead
Due to this harsh reality, HopeChest sponsors have created a place for orphaned and vulnerable children to find refuge, a place to be loved and fed – a CarePoint. Children's HopeChest works with local leaders to discover the assets available at each location that can help transform communities and individuals empowering them to become self-sustaining.

TRE: Why are you passionate about this issue? What sparked your interest?

About six years ago, my husband and I read the book Red Letters: Living a Faith That Bleeds by Tom Davis, former CEO of HopeChest. Our hearts were broken and our eyes opened to what life is really like for so many children in Swaziland, Africa, and certainly in many countries around the world. We felt compelled to get involved somehow, someway. We began sponsoring a young lady at Bheveni Carepoint in Swaziland, where over 200 children come daily for food, clean water, and hope. In June 2010, we became the sponsorship coordinators. A few months later, along with a stellar team, we were privileged to spend an entire week with our sponsored girl, meet her friends, and be in her community. 


It was a holy experience I'm not sure I'll ever quite be able to explain. And out of it, God birthed a passion that now seems woven within our very DNA. Despite the desperate surroundings, there is a near-tangible joy in the Swazi people's hearts and on their faces. Their currency is friendship. It's humbling. 

As my husband has often said, we were wrecked. Wrecked for the ordinary. Wrecked for living for ourselves. Wrecked for these little ones who need advocates to stand up and say, "YES! I will pray. I will give. I will go." 

Friends Siphiwe (17) and Danielle are so
thankful to spend time together
Since then we have led four teams of individual sponsors and supporters, all with similar stories of their own.

TRE: How did you get involved and what would you tell someone else who may be interested in getting involved?

Getting involved is the easy part, once you allow yourself to walk a mile in their Swazi shoes and allow your heart to be moved with compassion. Like I said, we felt compelled to just start somewhere after learning the realities. HopeChest provides several avenues with which to support children around the world.

Sponsorship is one of the simplest, yet most effective and life-changing ways to say, "Yes!" For $38 a month, a family here can change the trajectory of a child's life in Swaziland by providing clean water, daily nourishing food, discipleship, prayer, and letter writing. It seems overstated, but we've seen it proven over and over again when we visit the children. Sponsorship makes a life-altering difference.

We personally love HopeChest's approach to sponsorship: it takes into account the specific needs of a child, while also supporting the community the child lives in. We work alongside the local leaders whose vision it is to transform this generation of kids to beat the statistics through growth and opportunities for education.

We're not going there to try to take over, but to truly listen, truly partner with and support their vision for a Swaziland filled with healthy and educated children. Carepoints now exist all over Swaziland, providing not only nourishing food and clean water, but also a safe haven for hundreds of children to play, be discipled, and learn life skills to empower them into adulthood.

HopeChest connects communities (churches, small groups, social networks, or even businesses) in the U.S. and Canada with specific carepoints in Swaziland to provide long-term partnership, support, and growth for everyone involved. And in the 5+ years we've been involved personally, both with sponsorship and the community-to-community model, we see this being holistically effective. The fruit speaks for itself, but the realities are still harsh and more laborers are needed.

So yes, it's sponsorship, but it's sponsorship to the Nth degree. It goes beyond a picture of a beautiful child on your refrigerator. It goes beyond short-term funding. It digs deep into what all of humanity cries out for… relationship. To be known. To be loved. To give love.
 

A family. That is what our online Bheveni Community group has become; gathering as one body around the children of Bheveni and saying, "We will stand up for you so you know you are not alone, and so that you can be given the tools for a bright future filled with hope." I am often still amazed at how God has knit the hearts of our online community together with the Bheveni kids as we watch them grow up. He works behind the scenes and within the hearts of all of us to create hope.

Perhaps that's what he is doing in your readers' hearts -- creating hope -- hope that there is more to live for than what you see in front of you. Hope that you can freely be a conduit of the audacious, reckless, to-the-ends-of-the-Earth kind of love you've received to children who have seemingly been forgotten by anyone but our magnificent Savior. 


I invite you to stand with us on this journey; whether it be through sponsorship, community-to-community support, traveling with us, or through prayer. Advocating on behalf of orphans and vulnerable children is not necessarily the easy route, but it is one filled with such adventure and wonder that only God himself could've dreamed it up. It's one in which God's presence is so evident and real.There's no other place I'd rather be. How about you?

Today Danielle is giving away a copy of Red Letters: Living a Faith That Bleeds to one lucky reader! Simply comment below. And don't forget to visit HopeChest's website and the countries they partner with, including the Bheveni community. Our Bheveni community can be found on Facebook (both our page and group) and Twitter (
@DanielleSBrower), but I welcome one-on-one conversations as well. Email me at daniellebrower@gmail.com and I can help you get connected.

******

This week, in addition to praying for orphans around the world and featuring the work of wonderful organizations like Children's HopeChest and The Forgotten Initiative (more on that tomorrow!), we're giving up a measure of our comfort. Children who are orphaned are vulnerable, their circumstances uncertain. Although we might never know exactly how that feels, we wanted to do something that takes us out of our comfort zone -- so this week, we're committed to getting up earlier than we normally do. If you choose to join us, the exact amount is up to you, whether it be 15 minutes, 30 minutes, or an hour early. In the discomfort of our interrupted routine, may we remember (and pray for!) the children who have had their lives disrupted by their circumstances.

If you're not ready to commit to sponsoring a child, we have another idea of a way to make a tangible difference for orphans -- why not throw a garage sale and donate the funds? Garage Sale for Orphans, an initiative of Help One Now, allows you to pick a project to be involved in (in Haiti, for instance, one of the absolute poorest countries on the planet) that help do everything from combat trafficking to train teachers. According to Help One Now, “There are currently over 59,000 self-storage facilities in the USA and we spend over $22 BILLION each year to store our excess stuff!” I know sometimes it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the hurt and pain and need in the world. But how hard is it to throw a garage sale?

What tangible way can you impact orphans within the U.S. and around the world? Will you become a Bheveni sponsor, put together Journey Bags for The Forgotten Initiative (again, more on that tomorrow!), or throw a garage sale? What other ideas do you have? We'd love to hear! And don't forget -- your comment automatically enters you in our giveaway!





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Make A Difference Mondays is a weekly linkup designed to encourage and inspire us to live each day on purpose—making a meaningful difference in someone’s life in even the smallest of ways. Five women regularly co-host this link-up. Read on to learn more about the vision, mission, and how to link up!

Mission: Our mission is to provide a consistent gathering place for like-minded women to build online connections, share inspiration, and provide mutual encouragement and accountability as we seek to live intentionally and make a difference in the lives of those around us.

Vision: Every Monday we invite bloggers to link up any blog posts that encourage women to live life on purpose, including testimonies or goals from your own life, small acts of kindness or service, creative tips or ideas for showing consideration to others — the possibilities are endless. Our objective is to use our God-given time and resources to his glory! 

Also, just a heads-up: the Make A Difference Mondays team has created a Facebook community group to stay in touch beyond the blog posts AND we also have a new #MADMlinkup group Pinterest board: Make A Difference Mondays Pinterest Board.



An InLinkz Link-up

2 comments :

  1. I love what you are doing here and the precious children you are championing! Visiting today from #RaRaLinkup

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    1. Thanks for visiting, Katy! You won the copy of Red Letters. :) If you could send us an email at theruthexperience@hotmail.com, we'll get it sent off to you.

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