Staying Focused

If you're like me, there are times when life seems to weigh heavy, when the valleys seem more than the peaks, when discouragement seems to eclipse joy. It's during these times that we can lose focus. Focus of what's important. Focus of who we are and what we are to be about. Sometimes, like David exemplified in Psalm 77:11, we need to stop and remember - remember who God is, what He has done, and what He has given us to do! This can get us back on track.

Helping orphans. That's the essence of Kidstown. Reaching out to kids with practical help such as food, clothing, shelter, clean water, and beds. Sponsoring children, writing letters, sending money for Christmas gifts, and pitching in to buy them pigs or chickens...any of this ring a bell? This is the compassionate side of who we are and what we are about!

God made these kids. He loves them, and wants a relationship with them. Each of them has a choice to make: will they engage that relationship or reject it? Our prayers can influence that outcome as we ask God to move on their behalf. We are concerned about the salvation of these kids. This is the evangelistic side of who we are and what we are about!

Life exists outside the walls of the 50 orphanages we support. But its characterized by spiritual darkness due to the many people who are waiting to hear the Good News. Our orphans have heard it, and God now wants to deploy them outside to share the Light-giving message that Jesus saves. This is the missional side of who we are and what we are about!

Compassionate. Evangelistic. Missional. This is what God has called us to be and to do here at Kidstown. Easy to forget sometimes, but critical to remind ourselves of. We want to stay on-track, in-focus, and in-synch with His purposes for us!

Putting it into practice:

1. Been thinking about sponsoring an orphan but keep putting it off? Why not select one today and begin the journey of helping a needy child? (Meet the kids at www.kidstown.org/children)

2. How about scribbling a letter, card, or postcard to your sponsored orphan? No need to write much, just a few lines conveying your love and concern (and perhaps including a family photograph) will go a long ways!

3. Committing to praying for your orphan (or for all the orphans), that God will draw them into relationship with Him and then launch them out as His witnesses will surely bear fruit!

Thanks for taking the time to join me in refocusing. Good to do that from time to time!


Praying for our Kids

Dear Kidstown Friends,

We have the opportunity not only to help our orphans in practical ways, but also to
pray for them. God can do far more than we can ask or imagine (Ephesians 3:20) and
He beckons us to engage on our knees for the sake of these little ones that He
created, loves, and has such great plans for. A few key requests to pass along
today:

1. Pray for our orphans' physical, mental, and emotional development and health.
Especially during the summer season it can be very hot and, in India and Nepal, very
wet due to the monsoon rains.

2. Pray that each child will discover Jesus in a real and personal way, that they
will grow in their faith, and that they will move forward in accordance with God's
plan for their lives.

3. Pray for the orphanage leaders: that God will give them strength and
encouragement, that He will provide for all their needs, that He will give them
wisdom and love, and that He will sustain their zeal and passion for this ministry
that He has entrusted to them.

4. Pray for our orphanages in India and Nepal, some of which are beginning to feel
heightened levels of negative pressure, from the surrounding society, due to their
Christian faith. This is due in part to a right-wing Hindu movement that is
currently underway.

5. In a special way, please pray for one of our orphans which has been hospitalized
due to unknown severe abdominal pain and vomiting. Pray that God will give the
doctors wisdom, and that He will bring this young lady back to full health soon.

Thanks for praying!


A Cave and a Bottlecap

Over the last two weeks I've had the opportunity to visit 16 orphanages in Nepal and Romania. The countries are different, the languages are different, the food is different. But ironically, many of the stories are the same.

The stories of kids coming out of situations of severe poverty, broken families, and abandonment. The stories of kids who are unwanted and unloved, and who have seen and experienced far more tragedy than anyone their age ever should.

Take for example, Gigi, Gabriela, and Ionut. They are happy kids, running around, playing, loving summer BBQs, and trying to capture the camera's shutter. These kids seem like normal kids, and to a degree they are. But it wasn't always so.

You see, not long ago these kids lived in a situation so miserable that it may be difficult to accept it as true. They lived with their mom and dad in a small village. Their parents were unemployed, save for occasional manual labor or scraping out a few Romanian Lei in whatever other ways were possible.

Their living conditions were anything but luxurious. For a time (try to wrap your head around this) they lived in a hand-dug hole in the side of a hill, with a sheet of plastic to cover the opening and to provide protection from the wind, rain, and cold.

Their nutrition was akin to their accommodations. So meager was the children's food intake that teachers at the local school took it upon themselves to gather food for the kids. One day, when the kids came to school, a teacher asked them what they ate the day prior. One child responded that his mom had milked the dog, and each of them had received a capful.

Not only was their economic, living, and nutritional situation abhorrent, but, adding injury to insult, their dad was an alcoholic. This was a habit which was surely exacerbated by the grinding poverty which was their daily existence.

But instead of directing his frustration in a healthy direction, such as working hard to support his family, he turned to the bottle, and to violent outbursts against his wife and small children.

One day he returned home, very drunk. Seeing his wife, two small children in her arms and one in tow, his rage trigger was pulled. Grabbing a wooden pole from the garden, he made for his wife with the intent of beating her with this his weapon of choice.

Recognizing the approaching threat, she fled to a neighbor's for refuge. He followed. In a brief altercation between the two, she was able to wrest the pole away from him and, with one well-placed blow to the head, killed him. And all the while the children watched.

From this hell the children were rescued, placed into the safety and care of a Christian orphanage which is committed to caring for children, to sharing the Gospel with them, and to helping them to be and become all that God has planned for them.

But this process takes time. Kids like Gigi, Gabriela, and Ionut are shell-shocked when they arrive. So bad was Gigi's trauma that he was unable to speak. But with patience, love, and persistence, Gigi's speech returned, and the three children began to come out of the shells into which they had so deeply withdrawn.

The road ahead may not be easy for them. How does a child (or an adult for that matter) process such things as they have experienced? But, with the dedication of the orphanage staff, mixed with God's mercy and grace, we believe that these kids' futures will be (and are!) bright.

How can you participate in this process of bringing life out of the destruction in these kids' lives?

1. You can pray. Your prayers will move the hand of Him on their behalf, bringing the hope and healing that they so desperately need.

2. You can reach out. A simple letter or postcard once or twice a year can make a deep and lasting impact on these young people, conveying a message that you care.

3. You can faithfully and generously support. By standing financially with our orphanages, you become an active participant in their three-fold mission of rescue, restore, and release.

4. You can participate for the first-time. If you have been reading and watching from the sidelines, maybe today is the day to step into the world of a kid like Gigi. Sponsorship is an easy and effective way to help. We have many kids that are waiting for a family like yours to to reach out and care for them. To meet some of our kids, please click on www.kidstown.org/children.

These are lives we are talking about. They are worth investing in. Thanks to each of you for doing just that.


The Chicken Challenge

Dear Kidstown Friends,

Northeast Romania is beautiful: gently rolling hills, lush forests, narrow tracts of corn, wheat, or berries, and small, picturesque villages tucked away here and there adjacent to the winding road.

It is in one of these little villages that our story unfolds. Stephan and his wife are from this area: born and raised. Stephan worked for years as a forest ranger for the area's forestry and wildlife department. Fox, wolves, deer, and even wild boar were part of his sphere. He and his wife led a simple but good life. They had three children, now grown and gone. They faithfully attended the local church, serving in various ways. They have the gift of hospitality, opening the doors of their home over the years to guests from around the world.

P1000920 They are now retired. But to them that doesn't mean endless games of golf and lounging in arm chairs. To them it means "re-gear" and "re-focus" and they are diligently endeavoring to serve the Lord in other ways such as reaching out to seniors in an old folks home,...and raising chickens for orphans.

About an hour-and-a-half from Stephan's home is the city of Botosani, a 75,000 strong community not far from the borders of Moldova and Ukraine. Tucked back on a side street is the Casa Ioana, a Christian orphanage led by Cristi and Alina, a wonderful, dedicated couple who are giving 100% effort to serve the 18 kids in their care, to love them, to educate them, to raise them up in the ways of the Lord, and to prepare them to be productive Romanian as well as Kingdom citizens.

Somewhere along the line Cristi met Stephan. Cristi had a need: kids that need nutritious food so that they can grow and develop normally. Stephan had a solution: he offered to raise chickens for the orphans, using his land, time, and experience to generate crops of healthy birds which, in turn, will bless the kids!

In Matthew 25:35-36 Jesus said, "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 needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me."

Stephan is doing just this by using his time and talents to give orphans something to eat. And as noble and heart-warming as this is, the lesson here extends to each one of us as well. We are called to live life not only for ourselves. God calls us to reach out and help others. Exactly who, where, and how may vary, but the important thing is that each of us actively engages in sharing the love of Jesus with others in practical ways.

P1000905 Maybe this means sponsoring an orphan in India, or giving funds so that a chicken farm can be started at another orphanage here in Romania. Maybe it means coordinating with a group in your church and sending a care package to an orphanage in Nepal. Again, the important thing is to find a way to reach out, and then to do it!

This is part of our calling. Part of who we are. Sharing His love with others, just like Stephan is doing. The chicken challenge: are you up for it?


Orphan to Orphan

Dear Kidstown Friends,

Meet Vasile. He is one of our orphanage directors in Romania. Not only is he a committed Christian and father-figure to over a dozen orphans, he also has a unique story which I think you'll like to hear.

P1000833

You see, a long time ago Vasile and his three siblings lived a normal childhood. One day, however, their mom died due to cancel. Not long after their dad fell into a well and likewise perished, leaving four orphans behind.

Two of the kids went to live with relatives. Vasile and his older brother each went to live with a local pastor. Sounds OK, right? It would have been except that Vasile's pastor treated him as a servant instead of a son, even relegating him to live in a barn for the next four years!

At the end of this time, both Vasile and his brother were moved to a large
government orphanage to live. Vasile was 10 at this time. This orphanage housed 1,200 children, and although vastly inferior to the life he once knew with his mom and dad, was ironically superior to living in a barn.

The next four years were spent there at the orphanage. Having been given the gift of the Gospel before the death of their parents, Vasile and his brother endeavored to keep the flames of faith alive. They would sneak out of the orphanage each Sunday morning, escaping to the nearby church so they could worship. On their way back "home" after the service, they would stop by the roadside and say a prayer in anticipation of what awaited them when they returned.

Monday mornings at the orphanage often resulted in Vasile and his brother being singled out, ridiculed for their faith (remember that this was during the time of Communism in Romania), and finally being beaten by both orphans and orphanage staff. The hardest part of all, however, was that never a smile, never an encouraging word, were ever cast Vasile's way by the staff.

But they endured. And held to their faith. Vasile grew up, moved on with life, and started a family of his own. Then, in 1995, God brought an opportunity his way to which he could not say no: an orphanage of his own.

Things were coming full circle. God was giving Vasile a chance to pour into another generation of kids who, like him once upon a time, were suffering much. And so he embraced the opportunity. But instead of housing these kids in a barn, he gives them a clean, safe, and happy place to live. Instead of ridiculing them, he instead points them to Jesus and encourages them to follow Him. Instead of scowling at them, he draws them close, assuring them of his love for them.

Full circle. The pain and suffering Vasile experienced God used for good, and continues to.

When you think about our orphanages, think about the kids. But think also about those behind the kids. It's these extremely high quality people, like Vasile, that we have the honor of working alongside with! As you think of them, why not whisper a prayer on their behalf? That God would strengthen them, help them, sustain them, and enable them to carry on the important work He has given them to do. Many thanks!


Shaken and Unshakable

P1000468 We live in a world of uncertainties. Uncertain political situations. Uncertain economics. Uncertainties in the natural realm, such as the earthquakes in Nepal. Life is full of uncertainties. And yet, in the midst of all these, there is One who is certain.

P1000742 Yesterday, while sitting in a church in Western Romania, we witnessed two of our orphans declare publicly their commitment to follow Jesus by way of baptism. And as they did, they took a step in the direction of Him who is unshakable.

I think there is a lesson for all of us here: to realize that the world we live in is very unstable, very uncertain; yet the God we serve is very stable and very certain! Psalm 62:6 says, "He only is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be shaken."

P1000745 May we all be encouraged and challenged to, like our Romanian orphans, put our trust and faith in the One who will never fail us, never falter, never shift or shake. If He is our Center, our Foundation, our Fortress, then no matter what storm or trial comes our way we can say, along with David, "I shall not be shaken"!


Video from Nepal

Dear Kidstown Friends,

A short video for your viewing, from the on-the-ground in Kathmandu, Nepal.

Thanks for caring and praying for the people of Nepal.


Saved by a Ladder

Dear Kidstown Friends,

It was about 11:00 pm. I had just fallen asleep after travelling from the Middle-East to Nepal when I was roused from my slumber by a magnitude 5.0 tremor which had set my room to rocking. I grabbed my shoes, glasses, and passport and bolted for the door...what a great welcome to Nepal!

This tremor, however, was only one of over 270 aftershocks* that have plagued this small Himalayan country since the big 7.8 Gorkha earthquake hit on April 25th. Most of you have read the reports and seen the news coverage and know that the damage was extensive and the impact on the people traumatic.

P1000430 Yesterday we had the opportunity to visit two areas in Kathmandu which were especially affected by the quake. Old buildings and shoddy construction seem to be common denominators. Newer buildings which have been built with rebar and cement seem to have held up far better.

As we strolled through one of these areas, snapping photos of the rubble, a man stopped and informed us that THAT pile of rubble was his house. He was inside, up on the third floor, when the big shaker occurred.
P1000425 The age of his home and its substandard construction was bad enough up against such a large earthquake. But what made things worse was the seven-story building next door that kept banging up his home as it swayed to and fro with the quake. Finally his home gave way, a place where likely he grew up, where his parents lived, and maybe even his grandparents lived. It simply collapsed into a pile of rubble.

P1000543 Remember that I told you the owner was inside, up on the third floor? He recounted how it felt like he was in an elevator. As the building collapsed he dropped 20 feet straight down with it! He surely would have been crushed to death save a strong wooden ladder under which somehow he managed to squirm as the building moved and swayed. That ladder took the brunt of the falling bricks and timber, and although temporarily buried alive, this man lives today because of that ladder.

This is only one story among the thousands of incredible, heart-wrenching, or extremely sad stories. Questions abound. Why did this happen? What do these people do now? Many have lost their homes, some have lost family or friends, others have lost part or all of their means to earn a living. Few have home-owners insurance, or a robust savings account from which to begin again. What do they do?

Another man we met pointed out his house...a ruined, unfixable mess of brick, wood, and rubble. It was only afternoon, yet he had already begun drinking, perhaps unable to cope with the memory of what was, the reality of what now is, and what in the world he is supposed to do now.

P1000552 And then there is fear. Just as lethal as the swaying and bumping of an earthquake is the trauma it causes and the fear it instills. The real culprit behind the fear that is running rampant in Kathmandu was not the 26th of April quake, but the 7.3 earthquake which hit on the 12th of May. It is that 2nd quake that has instilled fear deep inside, so much so that people have (and continue to) live in tents outside their homes or in open fields, some with what appears no real desire to move back inside even though their building stood up fine to the quakes. How do you combat fear? My little taste of the 5.0 tremor the other night was enough to validate that the emotion of fear is a very real thing!

So - what is our response to this foundation-shaking event here in Nepal? I think that the best, most effective, and greatest way we can help the Nepali people is to continue to pray for them. God reveals Himself as a rock, as a fortress. He is unshakable, even if the ground here in Nepal is not. May the Nepali people turn to Him and find in Him the safety and peace they so desperately seek.

Thanks to all for praying and for caring.

*http://www.seismonepal.gov.np/


Headed to Nepal

Dear Kidstown Friends,

Many of you have followed the recent tragic events in Nepal, have expressed concern, have lifted this country and its people up in prayer, and have generously given so that we can assist in the relief and reconstruction efforts. Sincerest thanks to each of you.

I am writing to you from seat 22A on a KLM flight headed to Amsterdam, then Dubai, with final destination Kathmandu. The visit in Nepal will be brief. The primary objectives: assess structural damage to the orphanage facilities, and encourage the orphanage leaders. Kidstown is partnering with seven orphanages that were affected by the earthquakes, and even now, according to a report received yesterday from one of the orphanage leaders, the kids are sleeping in tents outside the building due to the on-going after-shocks that continue to ripple through the Kathmandu valley.

Thanks to you, we have already sent a financial relief package to all of our partner Nepal orphanages as a way of helping them to compensate for increased costs of food and fuel caused by the earthquake. We also will be distributing water filters and medical supplies to help in the present as well as in readiness for any future tremors. And, as we gain a better idea these next few days of damages to facilities, we will aim to dial in relief funds to assist in the reconstruction efforts.

God has given all of us the opportunity to play a part in the Nepal earthquake story. Our part may be small, but let’s just be faithful and do our part well.

Will try to send an update from Nepal soon. Please continue to pray for Nepal, its leaders, the general population, the orphanages, and all the aid workers. Thanks.

Sincerely,

Matthew


7.3 Aftershock Hits Nepal

According to news sources as well as our on-the-ground source in Kathmandu, this
small Himalayan country is once again scurrying into the streets in a state of panic
after a 7.3 magnitude earthquake struck Nepal at about 12pm local (Nepal) time today (12 May)
(means about 3am EDT). The epicenter was about 50 miles east of Kathmandu (whereas
the April 25th quake was about 50 miles west).

According to the BBC at least 54 people in Nepal and India have died and 1,000 have
been injured; a four-story building also reportedly collapsed in Kathmandu (likely
due to having been structurally weakened by the April 25th tremor).

No reports from any of our orphanages.

Will you please pray for Nepal?

1. For God's presence and peace for the Nepali people.
2. For a settling of the seismic movement that has plagued this country over the
last few weeks.
3. For protection for our orphanages.
4. For God's purposes to be advanced amidst this difficult time.

To read more: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-32701385

Thanks for your interest and for praying.