Nepal after 12 days

Dear Kidstown Friends,

Ashish Home relief tent It has been nearly 12 days since the devastating earthquake rocked the small Himalayan nation of Nepal. Its effects have been widespread and have greatly affected life, and will continue to do so for months (and even years) to come. According to one source, the death-toll has now surpassed 9,000 and another 16,000 injured. 200,000 homes have been fully destroyed and another 200,000 have sustained significant structural damage and must be rebuilt. About 35% of Nepal's population have been affected, either directly or indirectly. Many lost family members, homes, properties, businesses, and savings. Some remote villages have yet to receive food, water, and medical help.

April 25th was truly an epic disaster that none of us can fully comprehend.

Ashish Home Support for Nepal in the immediate wake was impressive. Media coverage as well as international and local relief efforts displayed a solidarity of concern and purpose. Nepal's Army and Police are to be given much credit, having mobilized most (if not all) of their units to assist their people.

But as the dust settles and the rest of the world begins to forget about Nepal, what does Nepal do to get back on its feet again?

Nepal had a weak economy before the earthquake (Nepal's GDP-per capita ranked 197 out of 230 countries, according to The World Factbook) and struggled with its economic development, infrastructure, and communications. This earthquake has added injury to insult, dealing an economic blow that may take decades from which to recover. The tourism sector, for example, has taken a big hit with visitors cancelling travel plans as far out as October and November. And Kathmandu, Nepal's hub of commerce and industry, experienced a mass-exodus of up to 50% of its inhabitants due to fears of recurring earthquakes, health hazards, and due to folks simply having no other place to live.

Socially, Nepal also will suffer. Already we have received reports of hundreds of children that have been left without parents due to the quake. Malnutrition, waterborne illnesses, and exposure (a special concern with the oncoming monsoon season) are (and will) take their toll.

Seems overwhelming. And it is. But we aren't called to respond to all of these needs; we are called to respond to some of them. And that's what all of us here at Kidstown (including you) are trying to do. Many of you have been faithfully praying and faithfully giving.

Navigating these troubled waters, our plan is three-fold:

1. Near-term relief: we plan to give to each orphanage affected by the earthquake a basic relief package including finances (to help offset increased cost of food and commodities), water filters, and some other basic relief supplies.

2. Long-term reconstruction: we aim to help in the reconstruction effort of orphanages which have sustained significant structural damage. A Kidstown team will be on-site later this month to do a damage assessment of each orphanage affected by the earthquake.

3. On-going prayer for the orphanage leaders, our kids, and the Nepali people in-general.

May not seem like alot, but its something. And if we all do something, then it adds up to alot.

So - we thank all of you for your interest and concern for Nepal, its people, and our orphanages. For those who have prayed: thanks, and please keep it up. For those who have given financially: thanks, and we will try to apply those funds in strategic and wise ways which will help our Nepali orphanages. For those who have not yet engaged in some way: I encourage you to do so. Just because CNN is not showing the dust and rubble anymore does not mean that everything is back to normal over there. You can pray. You can give (www.kidstown.org/donate - "Nepal relief"), or you can engage in some other way. The main thing is that each of us do our part to help our family in Nepal that at this hour needs our help. Who knows, next year it might be us needing their help.


Nepal Quake: "Now what?"

Dear Kidstown Friends,

Most of us cannot identify with a natural disaster which literally and figuratively rocks our entire world. It's likely that most Nepalis, before last Saturday, didn't either. But today they woke up once again to the grim reality of what was, and now what is. The question that surely looms in their mind's eye is: now what? Now what?

Nepal - marginalized peoples 3 Nepal, this beautiful and somewhat romanticized Himalayan country, has more than its share of struggles. A civil war that tore the nation to shreds, and from which it has yet to recover. Ongoing political infighting. Economic stagnation. Widespread poverty. Harsh living conditions and high mortality rates among children in outlying areas. An underdeveloped infrastructure, including roads, medical facilities, and communication. Not to mention the laundry list of social needs: child trafficking, abandoned & destitute children, prevalent sickness caused by contaminated water, and literal starvation in some of the remote mountain regions of the far West. Add to this social, political, and economic melee the hopelessness experinced by most Nepalis due to the widely embraced Hindu worldview and one can see why a 7.8 earthquake can (in almost a realistic sense) be the straw that breaks the camel's back.

According to BBC, the latest figures are over 5,500 dead, 11,000 injured, 70,000 homes destroyed, and 8 million affected (this means that almost 30% of Nepal's population has been impacted by this quake). These numbers are significant, especially when placed into the context of Nepal's already-challenging existence.

Chitwan home So, what do we do with all of this? Is there a way that we can help Nepal during this time, or will we just raise our eyebrows, shake our heads, and move on to reading the next news article? From our vantage point, I would encourage us to do (continue to do) the following:

1. PRAY - This is the greatest way we can help Nepal. God is there already: in Kathmandu, under the rubble, in the remote villages which have yet to see a rescue vehicle, with the children who have lost a parent, with the family which has lost their home. God is there: actively working FOR the Nepali people, endeavoring to bring them practical help and hope through the compassion of others. God is there: actively working IN the Nepali people, urging them to ask the right questions that ultimately will lead them to Him, the source of hope and true life. God is there: actively working THROUGH the Nepali people that are called by His Name - sending them out as His ambassadors of love, care, and concern to those who are at the end of their rope. Back to us: since God is there, why not join Him in what He is already doing? When we pray, we do just that, and our prayers increase His involvement on behalf of the Nepali people.

2. GIVE - Helping others in practical ways is a way to substantiate our concern. Its a long way to Nepal and chances are if you did fly over there you'd probably get stuck in holding pattern over the airport due to the logjam of planes on the ground. But, we have an infrastructure of people already on the ground. People that are already engaged in helping some of the neediest of Nepal's people: its orphans. We are committed to supporting and helping those particular endeavors and now, in the wake of this earthquake, surely these orphanages will need a helping hand to get up & get going again. We have not yet received in-depth damage assessments from the orphanages, but as the dust settles a bit we hope to. Having some financial resources in the wings, however, will enable us to respond quickly when the needs to become apparent. Will you join us in this? For those who have already done so, many thanks.

If you would like to give: www.kidstown.org/donate. Please designate "Nepal earthquake".

On a GREAT note: this morning I received word in regards to the last and final orphanage, and according to our regional director "the kids are absolutely well". This means that of our seven orphanages in the quake zone, ALL seven (except for some structural damage to the facilities) came through the earthquake unscathed! No kids were injured, no leaders were injured! Thank you, Lord.

So, to all the Kidstown family: thanks for your great concern for Nepal and our orphanages. Thanks for praying. Thanks for giving. Thanks for being a family to our family in Nepal.


Nepal Earthquake

Dear Kidstown Friends,

The situation in Nepal continues to be desperate. According to the BBC the death toll has surpassed 5,000, with an additional 10,000 injured, 500,000 displaced, and 8,000,000 affected. There continue to be shortages of food, water, and electricity and the government fears outbreaks of disease. Aid efforts are underway - some on the ground, some inbound - but logjams at Kathmandu's Tribhuvan International Airport is creating challenges. For example, four Indian Air Force planes carrying relief supplies returned to Delhi due to the congestion, according to the BBC.

"Life has come to halt here" writes a Kidstown co-worker. "Transportation is minimum. Stores are closed."

So - the need persists for us to PRAY - that God will be near to the Nepali people during this time; that He will give grace and help; wisdom to the leaders; and that through this tragedy that His purposes will prevail.

Also - if you are inclined to give a financial gift to help the orphanages get back on their feet, please do so by clicking on the big, yellow "DONATE" button at the top-right of this screen and designating, "Earthquake relief". Many thanks.

DSC02910 On the Kidstown front: we have heard from yet another of our orphanages. All are fine, yet the building has sustained some minor damage (left). We are still trying to establish contact with three additional orphanage leaders.

HoH 2 Another of our homes sustained significant damage to their boundary wall, however the main building escaped damage (above).

DSC02897 Fears of aftershocks drove many people, including our orphans, out-of-doors. This photo shows the temporary living quarters established for the kids at one of our orphanages.

DSC02886-1 HoH And yet, even in tough times, kids have a resiliency that allows them to flow with things, and even make the best of them.

So - a sincere thanks to each of you for caring so much for praying for Nepal and its people, and in a special way thanks for your love and concern for our Nepali orphans.


The Widow's Mite

Dear Kidstown Friends,

Many of you are familiar with the account of the "widow's mite", recorded in Luke 21:1-4. Yesterday this took on new meaning for me.

This last Sunday our pastor spoke on Biblical stewardship: the reasoning, rationale, and Biblical basis for the giving of tithes and offerings and their uses within the context of the church. He spoke of God's blessing of, and provision for, His children. He handled the topic well.

As he spoke, however, I felt something shift uneasily deep within my heart. I believe the promises found in Psalm 34:8-10 that the Lord is good, that those who fear Him lack nothing, and that those who seek the Lord lack no good thing. I have experienced the fulfillment of these promises personally. Here's my tension, however: I often travel to places like India, Nepal, or Romania - and I know of many situations where Christians barely have enough to survive...sometimes not enough to even keep their children, thus they send them to an orphanage to live. I'm not saying that God is unfaithful to His Word, but I just don't understand how it all really works. Why does my family have sufficient but they don't?

That was Sunday when our pastor spoke on this topic. Fast forward two days: Tuesday. I'm sitting at the dinner table with my family. Conversation shifts to this topic and my wife and I struggle with it. My daughter, now 11, sits quietly by as she listens to us discuss something which she (and we!) cannot understand.

So - I come home yesterday and notice an envelope sitting on my desk. Curious, I pick it up and begin reading the hand-written script pencilled onto a couple of sticky-notes attached to the front. What these notes conveyed was that, inside that envelope, was some money to be given to a missionary or poor Christian family in India. I discovered moments later that this offering was given by my daughter. I further came to find out that she had deposited into that envelope all of her savings that she had accumulated over the last nine years. She retained none of it for herself. And it that were not enough, later in the evening, with a tear rolling down her cheek, she asked me if she should give more because she knew there are people who have nothing.

Dear friends - this is the widow's mite that Jesus spoke of in Luke 21. Compared to the budgets of many churches and corporations its nothing...but to Jesus, its everything. She gave everything she had, and I guarantee that Jesus will multiply those dollars like he did the loaves & fishes; using her little to do great things.

Why is it that an 11-year-old is teaching me such a profound lesson? Her generosity and her faith have surely surpassed mine. They likewise point to God at work in a young and responsive heart, and He will surely reward her for what she has done.

And He (Jesus) said, “Truly I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all of them; for they all out of their surplus put into the offering; but she out of her poverty put in all that she had to live on.”

May this be a challenge to all of us today. There are lots of people all around us and all around the world that are in need: physically, emotionally, spiritually. God calls us to be generous, the type of generosity that is fueled by faith; faith that believes that God can take the little we offer and can do GREAT things with it to bring help, give hope, and ultimately advance His Kingdom.


A Mother's Prayer

Dear Kidstown Friends,

In 1 Samuel 1:9-11 it says “So Hannah arose…and prayed to the Lord…and said, “O Lord of hosts, if you …will give your servant a son, then I will give him to the Lord all the days of his life.”

Yesterday we left behind the urban sprawl of Hyderabad, India’s fourth largest city of nearly 9 million inhabitants. A leader in the area of technology, Hyderabad occupies center stage in what has become known as the “Silicon Valley” of India. Western tech firms, modern hotels, wide expressways, and a world-class international airport all greet those inbound to Hyderabad. But our journey left all this behind, in favor of a more out-of-the-way destination. Centered in a small village of predominantly Muslim and Hindu families, the Divine Children Home is unassuming, yet is being used by God in great ways. A small, family-style orphanage, the Divine Children Home is “home” to nine abandoned or destitute children; a place where they receive love, care, an education, the Gospel, and a 2nd chance at life.

As we spent time with the children, the leaders, and a few native missionaries (which had come to meet us), a theme began to form. Listening to the missionaries as they related their backgrounds and how they became involved in ministry, I found it interesting that two of them (David and Rama) made mention of their mother’s prayers. Both mothers prayed, in one fashion or another, for their sons to be used by God in ministry. And God heard those prayers and has indeed deployed these men as His witnesses, using them powerfully to shine His light among unreached peoples.

What’s the theme? Simply this: there is power in a mother’s prayer. Many of you sponsor orphans here in India, or in Nepal, or in Romania. In a sense, these orphans have become part of your family. You help supply much-needed financial resources that provide them with food, clothing, and shelter. You reach out to them in friendship, conveying to them via letters, cards, or small gifts that they are loved. At times you encourage them in their faith, assuring them that what they have in Christ is of utmost value and worth. But, can I ask a question? Do you regularly pray for your orphan?

Think about Samuel’s mom (I Samuel 1), or about David’s mom, or about Rama’s mom. They are no different than you. They loved their sons, just like you love your sponsored orphan. They wanted the best for their sons, just like you want the best for your orphan. They prayed to the Lord for their sons…and God responded by using Samuel in a great way, and is also using David and Rama in great ways. These mother’s prayers proved to be very effective!

So, speaking to all you moms out there: you’ve “adopted” an orphan. You know their name, where they live, and a bit about them. Maybe you have their photo on your fridge or on a corkboard. You are engaged at least to some level in their lives. My challenge to you, however, is this: will you commit to regularly praying for them? Will you pray that God will help them today and give them hope for tomorrow? Will you pray that God will draw them to Christ and grow them in their faith? Will you pray that God will help them to become all that He has planned for them (Jeremiah 29:11)? Will you pray that God will deploy them one day as His witnesses and that they will boldly stand for Christ, no matter what their situation, location, or vocation?

The power of a praying mom cannot be underestimated. Too often it is. It’s time to bring it back to the surface and to request all you praying moms out there to do what Hannah did, to do what David’s mom did, to do what Rama’s mom did, and by so doing unleash God’s power and work in the lives of your sponsored orphans, with the anticipation that God WILL do great things for, in, and through them.

Thanks for praying!

Sincerely,

Matthew


Christmas Greeting from Romania

Dear Kidstown Friends,

I just received the below message from one of our orphanage leaders in Romania. What he said needs to be forwarded to each of you due to your dedicated efforts to help our orphans in Romania, India, and Nepal. May the Lord richly bless each of you as you read this.

Lupeni2 "With God's help we approach the end of this year. It rained a lot lately, but now the falling rain turned into large flakes of snow and the sky adorns the decor and prepares the stage for the feast of the Nativity. Children pull aside the curtains of the windows and watch with joy and enthusiasm as the white coat clothes the earth, and then they dress for celebration, find their place on the stage next to the Christmas tree and the moon and stars, singing with angelic voices of praise and thanksgiving to the Child born in a manger.

Lupeni1 Joy continues with the arrival of Santa distributing gifts, healing the wounds of suffering and bringing many smiles on the faces of all. We thank God for their joy, for rooms that are heated, for clothes they can wear, for every-day bread that is not missing from the table. Also, we thank God for you, that you are full of love and compassion for our children in the orphanage and those from poor families. We are confident that one day the Lord will tell you: "Come, ye blessed of My Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. 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.’ May God reward you, bless you, and the feast of the Nativity and the New Year bring you joy and peace."

A very Merry Christmas to each one of you. May the Lord richly bless you, sustain you, and prosper you, so that you may serve Him in the New Year.

Our sincere thanks to all of you,

Matthew, and the Kidstown Leadership Team.


Thankful on Thanksgiving Day

Dear Kidstown Friends,

Today is Thanksgiving Day in the United States, a time when we reflect on what we are thankful for. Family, friends, freedom, and so much more come to mind. This Thanksgiving, I would like to express my thankfulness for, and to, each one of you!

1. To our orphanage leaders: I am thankful for your faithfulness to God's call on your life to reach out and care for orphan children. I am thankful for your commitment, your service, your humility, and for the Christlike example you set for the rest of us.

2. To our sponsor, donors, and prayer-partners: I am thankful for your faith and courage to reach out to help those whom you may never meet in-person. I am thankful for your generosity, commitment to prayer, and for your faithful support of Kidstown. Without each one of you, we could not do what is being done.

3. To our regional administrators in Romania, India, and Nepal: I am thankful for each one of you, for the crucial role you play in administering the work on the ground-level. I am thankful for your sincerity and good-will, and for availing yourselves so that the orphanages can continue to receive much-needed support.

4. To our US staff: I am thankful for your tireless, and often unrecognized, efforts to advocate, administrate, and keep the engine running on the home front. You are investing your time, skills, and efforts to help many kids, and God surely sees and will reward you.

5. To our Kidstown leadership team: I am thankful for your commitment to the Kidstown vision at-large, for your faith demonstrated by your willingness to follow God's lead, and for your unwavering commitment to helping "the least of these".

This Thanksgiving I am thankful for each of you; for all of you!

Sincerely,

Matthew

Dr. Matthew Smith
Executive Director
Kidstown International


To Sponsors: A Special Request

Dear Kidstown Sponsors,

Wanted to take a few minutes to write specifically to you. I've spent the last week visiting a number of our supported orphanages; orphanages which each one of you, through your finances and prayers, are likewise partnering with. The financial support is unquestionably important, for without it these children homes would be hard pressed to carry on. But the emotional component we often tend to minimize.

social needs The children at these homes are like kids anywhere else. They go to school, experience sibling rivalry, and like sports and TV. But these kids have suffered more than most kids, having come out of backgrounds of abandonment or severe poverty, or out of families which simply fell apart. These kids, although receiving love and care from the orphanage leaders and staff, would surely benefit from an occassional communique from you, their family-by-extension. Even a short note written on the back of a postcard is likely to make significant impact in the life of your orphan. So - would you do that? Maybe you can swing by your local RiteAid or Walgreens, pick up a postcard, and scribble a few lines to your son or daughter abroad. We'll take care of delivering it. It'll do wonders, trust me on that.

Love for orphans-001 Part II of my request pertains to the orphanage leaders. These men and women are the true unsung heroes. They labor day-in and day-out, giving sacrificially of their time, resources, and energy for the sake of the little ones entrusted into their care. I have seen the stress in their eyes, have sensed their longing for our encouragement, and even seen desperation bubble to the surface as they struggle to carry out this weighty task. Perhaps we can come alongside them in greater ways. Like with your orphan, maybe you can take a few minutes to write a card to the orphanage leaders. Tell them they are appreciated. Tell them you're praying for them. Tell them that God will not, in any circumstance, abandon them or the work that He's entrusted to them. Will you do that?

On behalf of the kids and the leaders alike, thanks. Thanks for supporting. Thanks for praying. Thanks for reaching out with your friendship and words of encouragement. It means the world.


Prayer: an effective way to engage

Dear Kidstown Friends,

When you hear the phrase, “helping orphans” what’s the first thing that comes to mind? If you’re like me, writing a check tops the list. We are conditioned to equate “helping” with financial support. Don’t get me wrong: supplying orphanages with finances so that shelter, food, clothing, and an education can be provided for the children is much needed and a valuable, effective way of engaging. Financial support is a good thing.

However, it’s not the only thing. Prayer is another facet of orphan ministry, one which has as much, if not more, potential to impact and change these young lives. Prayer is rooted in a belief that God can, and will, act on behalf of these kids. Prayer is an acknowledgment that God can do more for them than we can. Prayer takes orphan ministry to a whole new level as we join God in what He’s doing (and wants to do) for, in, and through these orphans.

I’m a dad. I have two biological kids: Nicole is 10, and Elliot is 7. God has blessed me with these two smart, likable children which have unlimited potential. As I think about them (and the 1,100 orphans which in a way are also my kids) I want the best for them. I want them to succeed, to be happy, and to have a good life. But there are three things which I desire even more for them.

First, that they KNOW God. I want all of my kids, biological and orphan, to have a face-to-face encounter with the living God and to step across the line of faith by placing their trust in Him as their personal Savior and Lord. If they did this…talk about a step in the right direction! You can help…by praying for your sponsored orphan, that God will draw them to Christ, that their heart will be tender, and that they will take that step of faith.

Secondly, that they will GROW in their walk with God. Just like parents enjoy watching children grow from babies into toddlers, then from toddlers into youth, then on to the teen years, and finally into adults – likewise may we long to see our orphans grow in their relationship with Christ. Far more important than good report cards, certificates and diplomas, or high-paying jobs is a genuine, growing walk with God. Again, you can help…by praying for your sponsored orphan, that they will have a hunger for God and that God will help them to grow in their walk with Him.

Thirdly, that they will SERVE God. Mainline culture whispers into our ears that life is about us. God says otherwise. We were never meant to live for ourselves, but for God and His purposes. If all of our kids would choose to live a life of service to God, imagine what He would do through them! He could change the landscape of a village, a region, even a country due to His kids engaging life His way. You can help…by praying that God will place in the heart of your sponsored orphan a desire to serve Him, and that He will deploy these kids (even now) into His service.

To know God. To grow in God. To serve God. I hope that most, maybe all, of you would agree that these embody the highest and the best that we can hope, dream, and desire for our orphans. If so, then we need to pray, for only with God’s help can they come to pass.

Want to engage in effective orphan ministry? Keep writing those checks, but don’t forget to pray!


Cornfields & Orphans

Dear Kidstown Friends,

A few days ago I had the opportunity to speak at a church in South Dakota. The drive to the church took us past thousands of acres of corn and soybean fields. I can distinctly remember one moment, however: the sun was just coming up on the Eastern horizon, glowing red, over a vast sea of corn which extended farther than my eye could see.

"The harvest is plentiful" Jesus said (Matthew 9:37). He wasn't talking about the corn I saw on Sunday. He was talking about the vast numbers of people who don't know Him...the vast numbers of people who are waiting to hear about Him...the vast numbers of people that need a laborer to go to them with the Gospel.

"But the laborers are few." (Matthew 9:37). Of the approximately 600,000 villages in India, the majority are without any Gospel witness. Of the 28 million people in Nepal, maybe only 1-3% are Christians.

"Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out laborers into the harvest fields." (Matthew 9:38). The orphans that we are supporting are from some of these "corn fields". They have contextual understanding and may be the ones that the Lord wants to send as harvesters among these vast harvest fields. Will you join me in praying that God will indeed send them?

Thanks for engaging the the harvest!