KI welcomes new Director

About seven weeks ago we informed you that Kidstown was in a time of transition. I am pleased to inform you that things are going well! This is evidence of God’s grace.

Chuck Valley and family Central to this process, of course, is the transfer of the leadership mantle to Chuck Valley, whom we introduced to you in the first press release. I have known Chuck for about 18 years; 10 of these in the context of working together for Kidstown. Chuck and his wife Pam live in the Seattle-Tacoma metropolitan area. They have two grown sons: Brian and Michael. Chuck and Pam are committed Christians, active in both church and community outreach.

Over the years I have watched Chuck develop in his knowledge, skills, and abilities. One thing, however, has remained largely unchanged: his heart for orphans. Anyone who has met Chuck will know that, within 15 minutes of talking with him, the conversation will invariably turn to helping kids. Chuck’s heart brims with this desire! This is evidence – at least in my book – of a divinely planted calling to stand in the gap for “the least of these”.

Chuck is a capable administrator, a good communicator, and an effective advocate. He has learned much about Kidstown over the years, in regards to both its mission and its methods. On this foundational knowledge he will build as he leads Kidstown into its next chapter. There is no other person I would rather have at Kidstown’s helm than Chuck, and as of April 1st, he is officially the new Executive Director of the organization.

I am committed to assisting Chuck as he moves into this role. For the next few months we will be working closely together, and beyond that I have offered to be available as he has need. It is our mutual goal to navigate this time in such a way so as to induce as few “waves” as possible. We want our Kidstown family to feel secure during this process. We covet your prayers, and are thankful to each of you for your on-going support – whether via finances, encouragement, or prayer.

A few logistical points to mention: Kidstown’s mailing address will remain the same. Please continue to send donations and correspondence to the same Bellingham address that you have used all of these years. Our phone number, web address, and Facebook address will likewise remain the same. If you would like to welcome Chuck to the team, or have any questions or concerns, you can contact him at chuck@kidstown.org. I’m sure that he will cherish your encouragement and will want to meet you in-person in the days ahead.

May the Lord bless each of you abundantly for your heart for orphans and for your faithfulness in supporting Kidstown. It has been a blessing knowing and working with you these last 16 years.

Sincerely,

Matthew Smith


Practical Christianity

"For I was hungry, and you gave me something to eat; I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink; I was a stranger and you invited me in; I was naked and you clothed me; I was sick and you visited me; I was in prison and you came to me." (Matthew 25:35-36)

Kolkata (sometimes better known as Calcutta) is a chaotic, huge, and very densely-populated city in NE India. Once a key center during British colonial rule, Calcutta has a rich and important history. William Carrey, the famous linguist and Bible translator, and Mother Teresa also spent significant time here.

But more than the history or personalities that have highlighted Calcutta over the years is the struggle that millions here experience as their reality each and every day. Poverty, pollution, contaminated water, malnutrition, disease, and homelessness all feed into the current of this dark stream.

Among perhaps the most neglected of Calcutta's downtrodden are those with HIV. Ostracized by family and society, how do these people survive? Where do they go? Who will care for them?

Fortunately for a couple dozen such kids, a man lovingly nicknamed "mama" has stepped forward. Once petrified of HIV, he now deeply loves the infected children under his care. This, along with an emphasis on nutrition, rest, and holistic living is bearing fruit and these kids are really blossoming! They are going to school, learning English, playing the violin and mandolin, and making (and selling) crafts. They are just like any other kids.

Practical Christianity. This is what "mama" is living out.

Something is bothering me, however. It's not "mama", or the kids at the orphanage, or the facility. What's bothering me is the line up of HIV infected kids that are waiting for admission to the orphanage. "Mama" looks at me asking for the OK to bring them in, but due to the number of kids that we already are trying to find sponsors for, I hesitated to give him the green light.

Here's the thing: most of us that are reading this have been blessed, at least to some degree, financially. Doesn't mean we are rich, but we're also not living in a Calcutta slum. We have enough to get by, and then some.

Here's the rub, however: practical Christianity points to reaching out and helping the orphan, the hungry, the homeless. Are we doing that? Yes. But could we do more?

That's the challenge I would like to throw out there. We've got the photos and stores of a handful of kids on our website (https://kidstown.org/children). These are kids that need a helping hand, that need a friend, that need some prayer. Not a big thing, but a meaningful thing. Perhaps you will consider helping one of these kids, or forwarding this email to a friend or family member who might?

Practical Christianity. May this be something each of us strives to live out - on a regular basis - and in an increasing manner.


I will not!

For those of you who have been to India, or have read about it, you know that it is a country filled with diversity. The plains of Tamil Nadu, the endless rice fields of Andhra, the rolling hills of Orissa, the majestic Himalayan foothills of Northern West Bengal, the pineapple groves spread across the hillsides in Assam…India is a land of great geographic diversity.

Akin to the geographic diversity are the vast number of cultures and languages that pepper the country. With somewhere around 2,500 distinct people groups speaking some 1,600 languages and dialects, India is truly an ethno-kaleidoscope!

But not only does India possess great geographic and cultural diversity, it is also a land which espouses a great diversity of gods. Hinduism ranks among the top religions in the world in terms of adherents. The caste system, karma, yoga, and reincarnation are all terms which find their source and meaning within the Hindu context. Hindu deities are many, and allegiances to these deities may vary based upon one’s family, community, location, or caste. Pujas (Hindu festivals) are common. During my time here I have had the opportunity to observe in close proximity the playing out of one of these pujas known as the “Durga Puja” – a holiday dedicated to the goddess “Durga”. Worshippers, faces painted purple, move in slow procession down the street, dancing (at times almost in a frenzy), while music blares from a nearby audio system. It’s a disturbing thing to observe.

Most of our orphans in India (and Nepal) come out of Hindu backgrounds. In some way – either recommendation by a local church pastor, divine intervention, or good old-fashioned luck – these kids have somehow ended up in a Christian orphanage. They have been given a second chance at life. Colossians 1:13 comes to mind which says, “He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son He loves”. Life is different for these kids now. They have a safe place to live, caretakers that love them, good food to eat, and good clothes to wear. They go to school, and they hear about Jesus and have the opportunity to begin a new life with Him. Many choose to do so.

Many of these kids have living relatives, and it is not uncommon for a visit “home” from time-to-time. During these visits the kids are reminded of the life they once lived. Nothing has changed for their relatives, however. They still live in physical poverty and spiritual darkness. They continue to faithfully perform the rites and rituals inherent to the worship of their particular Hindu god(s), and they expect their visitors to do likewise. Imagine the shock when the answer is, “No! I will not!”

This is exactly what happened in the case of two of our teenage orphans, brothers who have embraced New Life in Christ, and refused (like Shadrach, Meschach, and Abed-Nego) to bow a knee to a pagan god. Instead, they shared with their family members about Jesus. Wow – what faith! What courage!

These brothers are living their faith outside the orphanage walls. They are the “light of the world” that Jesus spoke of in Matthew 5:14. This type of bold, courageous witness is what we desire of, and pray for, each of our orphans in each of our orphanages. We want to see them go forth one day (even now) as His envoys of light into a very dark world. Doesn’t mean they all will be full-time Christian workers when they grow up. Most probably will not. But, no matter where God sends them or how He uses them, it is our prayer that they will be full-time Christians – brightly shining the Light of the Gospel to those around.

“Shadrach, Meschach, and Abed-Nego answered and said to the king, ‘…we have not need to answer you in this matter…let it be known to you, O king, that we do not serve your gods, nor will we worship the gold image which you have set up.’” (Daniel 3:16,18).

I was inspired by these two orphans that I met, a modern-day “Shadrach and Meschach”. Unafraid to stand up for Christ. Unafraid to say “no” in the face of pressure to bow. Pretty impressive.


News Article - Romania Kids

About a month ago one of our teams spent a week in Romania - learning about the country and culture, visiting several Kidstown-supported orphanages, and sadly, witnessing some of the environments out of which our orphans have come.

Accompanying this team was a reporter from the Tacoma News Tribune, who subsequently penned a story for your reading.

Thanks to each of you for your love for orphans, and for your support of Kidstown.


The Unsung Heroes

Orphan ministry takes special people with a special calling. People who are willing to give up the "normal" life and live the "outward-focused" life that we spoke of a couple of days ago. It takes people who are willing to fight in the trenches for the long haul, enduring stresses, fears, uncertainties, loneliness, and far too often, little-to-no recognition or honor for the work they have done among these children.

These "unsung heroes" to whom I refer are the orphanage leaders - a breed of people all their own. They are the ones who not only sympathize with these little ones that are suffering, but are willing to do something about it. And I'm not referring to giving a child a piece of bread and calling it good, I'm referring to taking these kids into their homes - kids with lice and scabbies, kids with emotional and spiritual baggage, kids which society at-large would rather turn a blind eye to - and giving them love, care, structure, godly modelling, and so much more.

These orphanage leaders are the true visionaries: people who are able to see beyond the filth and matted hair to the gleaming potential of what could become of these kids given sufficient love (and, of course, with God in the mix)!

These are the unsung heroes. And our Kidstown family is privileged to partner with many such heroes in India, in Nepal, and in Romania.

We all believe in orphan ministry. We all want to see these kids helped, given hope and the Gospel, and that they fulfill their God-crafted destinies. But this can't happen without the orphanage leaders. They are the critical link. And so, they need our prayer support.

May I challenge each of our readers: will you commit to praying on a regular basis for our 50 orphanage leaders? That God will sustain them, encourage them, provide for all their needs, refuel their zeal and passion each day, and help them to stay in the fight for the long-haul?

Thanks for your belief in, commitment to, and prayers for our orphanage leaders.


Having an "Others" Mindset

While in-transit very early this morning at the Shanghai airport, I exchanged a few words with a Swiss-Canadian man that was, like me, headed to Calcutta. He has not been to India for about 25 years, and we briefly talked about the changes he might see. I shared that I had been to India numerous times, and briefly about the orphan work that we are involved in, to which he made a comment something to the effect of, “these trips must help break you out of the self-centered living (of the West)”. Interesting statement, and yet, very true.

I don’t know about each of you, but I find it very easy to build life around
myself. My comfort, my security, my wants, my needs, my priorities, my choices, my rights, and on and on. How often do I stop and realize that I’m living this way, and then ask myself the antidotal question of “is this how I’m supposed to be living?” and if not, then what should my focus be?

The answer to this question has been aptly coined by one of our India co-workers who said “live for others, not for self”. Likewise Jesus, when sending out the 12 disciples, is recorded as having told them to preach Good News, to heal the sick, raise the dead, and cast out demons (Matthew 10:7-9). Theirs was not a mission of self-benefit; it was a mission with others in mind: their spiritual, physical, and emotional needs. They were on an “others” mission!

This applies to all of us as well – whether we are in transit to India, in India, or in suburban USA. Each one of us has been blessed in one way or another, and are instructed to pass those blessings along to others (“Freely you have received, freely give” said Jesus). May living with such an outward/other-focus be something that each of us aspires to, each day, in some way. Maybe that means supporting an orphan, or writing a letter to an orphan you already support. Maybe it means reaching out to a hurting family in your neighborhood or church. Maybe it means taking a trip to India in order to “break out” of the “me” mindset. Whatever it is, may I encourage all of us to take an active step in this direction.

After the 12-hour plane ride from Vancouver to Shanghai, the last thing I was
expecting was a spiritual lesson while waiting for my next flight. But one never knows how and when God’s going to show up, and what He is going to say when He does. “Don’t live for self. Live for others.” That’s a pretty good message!


A Day of Extreme Contrasts

Our morning began as usual for our Romania team with a bountiful breakfast at the hotel. I am amazed with the fruit and fresh tomatoes, cucumbers and cheese. We fill ourselves to the point of satisfied fullness.

Soon we are on the road to visit some villages where many of the children in one of our Kidstown homes have come from. We drive through fields of dried up sun flowers and abandoned factories from the communist era. As we turn off the main road towards a small village the laughter in the van quiets as we approach a compound of five small homes within a broken-down fenced area.

We get out of the van as a number children run out and are curious with our presence. We step over the mud as best as possible to avoid our shoes getting covered in mud. The group is quiet as they are not sure if these are homes or small barns for animals. We are proudly invited in to their homes. We greet the families that we meet and tell the how beautiful their children are and we observe the dirt floors and indescribable filth. It is a cold fall day out with no flies or bugs outside, but inside the walls and bedding as well as the one small loaf of bread are covered with flies. They obviously breed inside the home.

We shake our heads at each other in disbelief. How can anyone live like this? But this is a home. We walk into 3 or 4 others just the same. We are trying not to track mud into the home and we realize that the barefoot children and the family do not seem to care as it seem that the floors are just dried mud.
We are not in Africa where we might expect this experience. We are in Eastern Europe only 15 kilometers from the city of Timisoara which has become after the fall of communism, a typical metro European city with trendy fashion and malls with, yes, a Starbucks.

We leave to go buy some food for this family, come back, and hand them maybe months’ worth of food in two bags per family.

As we head back to the city our plan is to stop and have lunch at Casa Otniel, a Kidstown sponsored orphanage. We drive in the gate of a large colorful home and are again greeted by children. This time the feeling is different. We see hope and not despair, we find yards to play in with flowers and fruit trees. The children proudly take us upstairs to show us their rooms and want to pose for pictures of their home. The children serve us an amazing lunch and tell us of their plans for their futures. They want to be teachers or do social work with those that are in need. The children sing to us and as the time there ends we play in the yard with these happy normal-seeming children.

Then as we leave we comment that these children were living in the conditions we experienced that morning. These children were rescued. They have a future.

Thanks for your interest, prayers, and support of these kids and this ministry.

Chuck Valley
VP-Romania/Regional Advocate
Kidstown International