Kidstown International

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

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!