Easter and Orphans

Dear Kidstown Friends,

Easter is a meaningful and special time for all of us, but it holds extra special meaning in the context of orphan ministry:

Easter is a message of hope. Who else more needs hope than an orphan?Lupeni orphan1

Easter is a message of adoption. Who else more needs to know that they are part of a family than an orphan?

Easter is a message of life. Who else more needs the assurance that their life has meaning and purpose than an orphan?

In the wake of Easter this year, will you take a moment to pray for your sponsored orphan: that God will reveal to him/her the priceless Easter truths of hope, adoption, and life?

Thanks in advance for your prayers, for your support, and for your heart of compassion for these kids.



Items for Prayer

Dear Kidstown Friends,

Central to any Kingdom endeavor, whether at home or abroad, is the need to PRAY! Prayer can be the most effective and powerful way that we can help...if we'll simply believe that and engage it. In John 15:5 Jesus tells us that "apart from Me you can do nothing". So let's join Him, via prayer, asking Him to move on behalf of the many that we have been given opportunity to help.

A few key requests to lift up:

Asha Griha - group shot1. God continues to bless us with orphan children to help. Pray that God will move hearts and raise up the needed sponsors (either individuals, churches, or businesses) which will commit to supporting these kids with finances, with friendships, and with prayer.

2. An orphanage leader from India writes, " Please pray for our grown up children and their walk with the Lord. We continue to guide and encourage them on a daily basis to trust and follow the Saviour. We not only want to raise up good leaders but also good followers of our Lord Jesus Christ who can be witnesses (to others)."

3. Kidstown sponsors are very important. You are the backbone of this outreach. Well, one of our sponsors is suffering, having lost a spouse to cancer. Will you pray for this sponsor: that God will be very near, will give comfort and strength, and will show Himself in a greater way than ever before?

picnic 4. Two Kidstown teams have recently returned from India (thanks to all of you who prayed for our health, safety, and effectiveness in the work!). A third team is in the process of preparing to go overseas at the end of the month. Will you pray that God will unite this team, help them to grasp the vision of what He has given us to do, help them to reach out with Christ's love to the kids, and deploy them as advocates upon their return?

Be encouraged with Mark 11:24. Many thanks for PRAYING!

God is at Work

The time in India was a full and productive one, and now the long journey home is about to begin. So many people that we have met, so many stories to absorb, so many examples of love, service, and Christ-like humility. And the children? They are kids just like our kids. They like to laugh, play, and are curious, just like our kids. They have hopes and dreams, just like our kids. The only difference is, these kids have suffered…many of them a lot. In their few years of life many of them have experienced more suffering than most of us ever will. It’s into this suffering that Jesus has come. He is at work, reaching out to these kids with His love demonstrated in daily food, clothing, shelter, and care-takers that truly love them. He is at work, conveying to them through the actions and words of His people and Word that He wants a personal relationship with each one of them. He is at work, raising up the next generation of witnesses to go out as salt and light to those around.

Looking back over the last couple of weeks, if there is one thing that I could boil it all down to, it’d be this: God is at work. Everywhere we went, from the urban megacity of Calcutta to the backwaters of Sikkim, God was there, growing His Kingdom one life at a time. His strategy is simple: deploy those who are willing and obedient, and who trust Him to bring the results in His time and in His way. It’s through the slum-dwelling child who fearlessly chose Christ in the face of a possible beating or riducule. It’s through the man they call “mama” whose heart was broken for those little ones affected by HIV/AIDS. It’s through the wife who sold her necklace and ring so the orphanage could go on for yet another month. Each sacrifice, each act of faith, each step forward in faith is a brick that God uses in building His Kingdom.

What about us? Most who are reading this do not live in India, but God still beckons you to join Him in building His Kingdom there. Your faithful financial support and prayers re-fuel the vision of the orphanage leaders, enabling them to do what God has asked them to. Your outreach to the children by way of letter-writing speaks truth to them that they are special, loved, and have intrinsic God-given worth. Your advocacy on behalf of orphans to family and friends makes you a “helper of the fatherless”, one who surely will receive a reward. Your prayers that God will send these kids to others with the Gospel will surely be answered.

God is at work. He becons us to join Him.

An Expression of Christ

Dear Kidstown Friends,

Calcutta, India is a massive city which sits on the banks of the Ganges River in NE India. It's metro population is said to be over 14 million, making it the third largest city in the country. Population density is extremely high, and infrastructure struggles to keep pace. Poverty and pollution are rampant. It is estimated that 2 million of Calcutta's inhabitants are homeless, living on the streets, eeking out whatever existence they can. A late-night transfer from airport to hotel will give witness to hundreds of people asleep on the sidewalks of this vast city.

Not only does Calcutta struggle with poverty, pollution, and the homeless, it also is a place of deep spiritual darkness. Reverting to its original name "Kolkata", Calcutta is a city dedicated to the evil and bloodthirsty Hindu god "Kali" ("Kolkata" is a derivative of "Kali").

India, as a whole, is largely dedicated to Hinduism, a dark and confusing religion which ascribes deity to millions of gods and believes in endless cycles of birth and rebirth on ones way towards being unified with the ultimate impersonal being...which is likened to a drop of water merging into the ocean. Inherent to Hinduism is the caste system which categorized people from high to low, based upon a belief that some people emanate from the head of god (highest caste), others from the torso, others from the abdomen, others from the feet, and others....well, they don't emanate from god at all and thus are classified as "out-castes" or "untouchables". Sadly, vast millions in India fall into the "feet" and "untouchable" castes and there they stay, living a deplorable and humiliated lives, unable and unwilling to break free.

Amidst this mass of humanity, grinding poverty, and deep darkness Jesus showed up. Not just yesterday...He's been here a long time...but we surely saw evidence of Him yesterday. You see, in the midst of this traffic-jam of evil that the enemy has created here in Calcutta, God is at work. Alongside a busy street, there is a small compound. Enter the compound and a story unfolds, a story of wonder, a story of hope, a story which points to a God whose compassionate nature is revealed in the service and faith of a few dedicated people.

This compound is home to 27 children, most of which are infected with HIV/AIDS. Those which are not have been similarly affected by the social stigma associated with a parent who is, and as such have been rejected by family and community. Want to talk about out-castes? This is probably as low as it gets. Not only are these kids viewed by society in this way, but they also bear the reproach of a dreaded disease, making them true castaways.

Remember Kevin Costner in the movie "The Guardian"? A US Coast Guard rescue swimmer, Costner would risk his life to save others who were adrift in angry seas. Likewise, God has been The Guardian for these kids, reaching out and rescuing them and giving them a new lease on life.

Unlike high-profile social initiatives in the West which often receive government or private sector funding to operate, this little orphanage receives no regular support of any kind. For the last six years they have functioned on faith alone. Someone will come by with $125, and another with $50. Another will come by with fruits and vegetables. Others will volunteer their time and talents. And that's how God has sustained them these years. The orphanage leader tells the kids, "We have nothing, but we have everything in God." Wow, what faith.

As I sat there listening to this orphanage leader as he shared a miraculous story of overcoming personal fear, his love for the kids evidenced by a life of sacrifice, it dawned on me in that moment that we were witnessing an expression of Christ. When life doesn't get any lower, its then that Jesus is often most evident. Its in the darkest night that light shines the brightest! And He was there yesterday, in that room, revealing Himself through this orphanage leader's exemplary love and service to "the least of these".

A story to leave you with: the orphanage leader shared how three kids have died over the last few years from AIDS-complications. One boy was nearing the end, his body infected not only with AIDS but also with Tuberculosis. The orphanage leader picked him up and held him in his lap...he was so light, just skin and bones! He held this boy whose body racked with disease, whose life was flickering out, and just wept. Friends, that is a true expression of Christ.

From Orphan to Church

Morning dawned cool and cloudy at the mountain Tourist Lodge at which we were staying. After coffee and morning prayer, we were ready for a busy day. And lots of driving. Around lots of hairpin turns. And covering lots of vertical feet of road (the total up-and-down vertical feet we covered in just one day was 19,000 feet)! Why all the fuss and effort? To visit a small orphanage called the Adonai Home.

The Adonai Home is tucked in a river valley in a remote part of North-eastern India. One doesn’t just “drop by” this place…you need to make a concerted effort to get here. In addition to the aforementioned mountain roads, restricted entry to this area as well as some significant road work made the journey slow, tiring, dusty, and bumpy. But we arrived, and the effort was worth it.

Wrapping up a delicious Indian dinner, a fascinating story began to unfold as we listened to the orphanage leaders tell their story. Both coming from Bhuddist backgrounds, God met them along the way and after turning their lives over to Him, He subsequently sent them to this remote valley to be His ambassadors. When they arrived in this place about 12 years ago there were no Christians at all. Not one. Imagine living in a place where there are no churches, no Christian radio stations or bookstores, no single person who understands what you mean when you say “Jesus”. But that’s exactly what they walked into.

But God had a plan. He pointed them in the direction of the town slums, a poverty-stricken sub-community living along the banks of the river. Among the slum-dwellers, God then pointed out one specific child. They took him in, began to care for him, love him, and teach him of a God who created him and had a greater plan for his life than picking up garbage along the river’s edge.

The seed fell on good soil and took root and this child became of follower of Christ. Over the course of time he began to visit his family in the slums. During one of these visits he firmly stated that no matter what he would follow Jesus. The boy’s father and mother marvelled at this deep resolve and conviction, and before long they too decided to follow Christ.

Now, several years later, there are 14 families that have trusted in Jesus as their Savior. God is growing His church! And the thing is, He did it not by way of a famous evangelist or polished presentation, He did it by way of one neglected child! One child with a soft and believing heart is what it took to launch a church in an area enveloped in spiritual darkness.

Wow…what a story, and what a lesson to us: God can use ANY of us to accomplish His purposes. What He looks for is a receptive heart, faith to follow, and courage to decide. May God inspire us by this story and help us to follow Him with the same courage and faith as this little child.

From the Rising of the Sun

Visits to India are never boring.  On the contrary, they are filled with a broad spectrum of experiences guaranteed to keep one on their toes!  Ours began a couple of days ago as our giant B-747 alighted in Delhi at about 1AM.  We had logged 17 hours of flight time that day and so were glad to finally reach our destination.  The (comparitively speaking) fresh night air greeted us, and after a brief night’s rest at a nearby hotel, we headed back to the airport to resume our journey eastward to West Bengal.  As we sauntered to the gate, you can imagine our surprise when we glanced up at the monitor and saw “cancelled” next to our flight!  What ensued was a strange combination of frustrated passengers, organized chaos, and a divine Hand in the mix.  Believe it or not, less than three hours later all 50 passengers had been rebooked on another airline and we were on our way!

Today we began our day with a visit to the Haamro Ghar Children’s Home, which is perched on the side of a mountain at an elevation of nearly 5,000 feet.  33 kids live here, coming out of backgrounds of severe poverty, neglect, or worse.  At the Haamro Ghar they not only have found better care, but they have found a new home, and are beginning to grasp their new identity in Christ.  As we shared a devotional time with these kids, they led in a Nepali song which I recognized as “From the rising of the sun, to the going down of the same the Lord’s Name is to be praised.”   There was something special about that song, at that time, in that context.  Behind the kids the morning sunlight crept over the mountains, casting light and warmth into the room.  Similarly, the light of Jesus was casting light and warmth over these kids…kids who once lived in darkness but now had light because of Him…kids that we hope and pray will take that same Light and share it with others who still shiver in the shadows of a life without Jesus.  And so, as the song says, what more can we do but praise His Name for what He is doing for, in, and through these kids?

You know, it’s exciting to see God at work.  Not only that, but it’s just as exciting to know that He becons us to join Him.  All He asks is that we avail ourselves and allow Him to plug us in!  Today, from wherever you are, you can join in God’s compassionate endeavors by helping to bring practical help and hope to orphans who so desperately need it.  You can join in God’s evangelistic endeavors by praying for the salvation of these same orphans, by encouraging them in their faith when you write letters, or by helping to resource spiritual emphasis endeavors conducted at the orphanages.  You can also join in God’s missional endeavors by earnestly entreating the Lord of the Harvest to send these kids back to their own villages one day with the Gospel.  Or, you can join God in all three areas!  Why not?  The choice is yours…a great ride awaits!

Blessings on each of you today.

To India - Please Pray!

Dear Kidstown Friends,

Over the course of the next few weeks there will be alot of Kidstown activity on the India front.  We are excited about this, but also are aware of some of the challenges and potential risks that lie ahead and as such we ask  you, our Kidstown family, to cover us with your prayers.

1. The Activity.  Eleven of us will be travelling to India this month, not all together or at the same time, but staggered over the course of the next two weeks.  One group (seven persons) will be spending a week at an orphanage engaged in intensive ministry, including a Vacation Bible School which will target 22 of our orphans and 100 or more local kids as well.  A second group (two persons) will be spending time with the leaders and kids at another orphanage, learning more about the area, vision for the ministry, and how to best support the work.  The final group (myself and one other person) will be travelling extensively, visiting 10 different orphanages over the course of the next 15 days.

2. The Opportunity.  Of one thing we are sure: God is active in India.  He is already there, at work, and is allowing (all of) us the opportunity of joining Him!  So as we go, we don't go with fear but with anticipation!  Our prayer is that He may use us to amplifly what He is doing, so that more kids may be helped...evangelized...discipled...and then released as agents of Light to those still in darkness!

3. The Cover.  Any military offensive would be hindered without adequate artillery covering, which is crucial for providing safe passage to the troops below.  And that's just what our 11 "troops" need from you!  We need your prayer cover so that we can travel, engage, discern, encourage, and accomplish all that God has for us.  So, will you pray?

On behalf of all of us, many thanks!  Stay tuned to updates, photos, and even an occasional YouTube video!

New Year Re-focus

Dear Kidstown Friends,

As we enter 2014, we can with anticipation look forward to what God has in store for us!  He is at work, and He is asking us to join Him! 

Any successful business-man, marksman, or fighter-pilot knows that a clearly defined objective is key to success.  Same holds true for us at Kidstown.  And, the good news is that God has indeed given us clear focus and a specific objective! 

Lupeni61. Reach out and help orphans in practical ways.  This is the backbone of what we are about here at Kidstown.  Providing for food, clothing, shelter, medical attention, education, and one-time needs.  Also befriending the children and praying for them.  This is the compassionate facet of our "objective". 

2. Share Jesus with them and help them to grow in their faith.  In addition to giving children a "cup of cold water", we also want to give them the "Living Water"!  We want them to know Jesus, accept Jesus, and grow deep in their walk with Jesus.  Prayer is key to this process...something each of us can do!   This is the evangelistic facet of our "objective".

3. Recognize their potential of being salt & light among their own peoples...and then pray for this!  God loves these kids, wants to see them helped in practical ways, and wants to see them know and grow in Him.  But He also wants to send them out as His witnesses in their own societies and among their own peoples.  As we pray in this respect, we agree with Matthew 9:38, and with confidence we can believe God to answer.  This is the missional facet of our "objective".

Compassionate...Evangelistic...Missional.  This is what God has called us to be, and the objective which He has challenged us to achieve. God wants to do great things FOR, IN, and THROUGH orphans!  Let's join Him!

God bless each of you this New Year 2014!

Breaking the Cycle

Our team was greeted this morning by a Pacific Northwest type of day: gray skies and a light, endless rain. This turned to snow. At least one inch of the white stuff came down on the picturesque mountain city of Brasov, in Southern Romania.

Known formerly as Kronstadt due to the large Saxon population which lived here prior to and shortly after WWII, Brasov architecture reflects its Germanic heritage. With surrounding forested hills, the famous Black Church, and the well-known Bran Castle (once belonging to Vlad Tepes, aka Dracula, thanks to Bram Stoker), Brasov is a sure stop on any tourist's agenda.

A short distance from Brasov, however, perched atop a small hill, is a village. In that village God is at work, using two people to bring change to a community. Our primary focus, of course, is kids and as such our reason for visiting this community was to reconnect with a small orphanage which we have partnered with for the better part of the last decade. 25 kids live here. Most are under the age of 10. Most are there because their parents either didn't want them or couldn't take care of them.

As we sat with the orphanage leaders, discussing various topics as we munched on schnitzel and potatoes, a story emerged...a brilliant story...a story which, if done well, has the potential of changing a destructive dynamic. A story that I hope will be replicated in many orphanages.

The story is called "The Dream of Kati's Doll". Boiling it down, this is a well-thought-through and concerted effort to teach kids about responsibility, family, and stick-to-it-tive-ness. The concept: little girls and boys from the orphanage are paired up (mom and dad). They are given a doll which they "adopt" as their own child. They make clothes for the doll. The "dad" makes a crib for the doll to sleep in. They pray with the doll and take it to church. They even take the doll on vacation. They work together to care for the doll, just like real parents should. After six months, Stage II of "Kati's Doll" is initiated: the kids are given a second doll. Now the first has a sibling. Psychologists are monitoring the kids to see how they are reacting and responding. This effort is due to run for at least one year.

Why is this such a brilliant idea and effort? Because it is breaking a cycle! You see, most of these kids are in an orphanage because their parents did not own up to their responsibility to be parents. They walked away from a precious gift God had entrusted to them, leaving their child to live and grow in an orphanage. That destructive model of abandonment that the kids in the orphanage know...and unless re-scripted, that is likely the model that they will follow when they grow up and have families of their own.

The "Kati's Doll" effort is trying to do just that: to re-write the hard drive in the emotional CPU of these orphan kids and to enter a different code, one which values family, togetherness, and responsibility, and which repulses at the thought of abandonment.

I sat there today and marvelled at this plan...and how God might (will!) use it to change the course of these kids' lives, to create future men and women who understand what it means to be responsible parents, and to deploy a future generation of Romanian young people who are dedicated to, and value, family.

Wow. Brilliance. God at work: through gifted and sensitive leaders, in young and tender lives, and for a better and stronger next-generation.

Want to help? Why not say a prayer, right now, that God will bless the seeds that are being planted in the lives of these kids, that these seeds will take root and grow, and yield an abundant harvest.

"Kati's Dream". Great idea, God!

On Mission!

At 1:15am, a few nights ago, we caught the train. We were tired. It had already been a very long day, and the heat and humidity added to the feeling of fatigue. We finally settled into our bunks for a few hours sleep as the train headed down the tracks. We almost slept through our stop, but fortunately managed to get off in the right place! After a shower and breakfast we were ready to go again. Our destination was one of our supported orphanages which is located in an area which is tough to get to.

We arrived safely. It was hot, very hot, and humid. But we enjoyed the time dedicating a new girl's dorm and a new kitchen/dining facility that Kidstown had contributed towards. Then, as is often the case, the kids had a little program which included singing songs and quoting Scripture verses.

There was one girl in that group...she was maybe 9 or 10 years old. Come to find out that she is from a very special tribe in that region. Why is her tribe so special? You see, in that specific region, there are 24 distinct tribes. Of these, 14 have been evangelized, while 10 have not. This means that 10 are in complete darkness...they have not heard the name of Christ before nor are there any Christians among them. But this little girl, she is from one of those tribes!

The orphanage leader has a heart of compassion towards these kids. He wants them to have a home, to be loved, and to have a normal childhood. He also desires that each of them know Jesus and that they have a personal relationship with him. At the same time, however, this orphanage leader lifts his eyes and looks beyond the walls of the orphanage. He recognizes that there are still 10 tribes in his area that need to hear about Jesus, and he wants his orphan kids to be the ones to do it!

Do you see the connection here? A leader with missional vision. A child from an unreached tribe. A God who cares for the orphan, desires a personal relationship with her, and who also desires to deploy her in His service in order to reach a whole tribe that is lost in darkness. Wow...that's cool!

This is what one would call multi-layered ministry! It's of God's design, and we have the privilege of joining him through our financial help of these kids, by reaching out to them with friendships, and by praying: both for their salvation and also that God will send them back to their own people one day with the Gospel!

Thanks again to all of you for your prayers and support. We appreciate all of you!