Kidstown International

The Long and the Short

Dear Kidstown Friends,

Kathmandu valley Just a short note of encouragement today to pass along to each of you. As I sat
listening to 25 orphans singing praise and worship songs last night at an orphanage
here in Kathmandu, the idea of a wheat field dawned on me. What do I mean by this?

A farmer can tell you that wheat doesn’t grow overnight. It’s a long-term,
dedicated endeavor. It takes plowing the field, working fertilizer into the soil,
planting the seed, praying for rain, adding pesticides, and finally harvesting the
crop. It’s the same way with our orphan work. It’s long-term. It takes alot of
work, and alot of prayer. Results won’t come immediately, but if we do our part and
trust God to do His, then we can optimistically look forward to a good harvest. So,
may I encourage each of us today, in whatever our part is, to adopt a long-term
mentality and to really “dig our heels in” as we support and befriend these kids
(and pray for them!), all the while asking the Lord to bring about great results?

Then there is the here-and-now. This pertains to the orphanage leaders. They
really do need our prayers. These are front-line people, who are highly committed
to helping these kids. But life is not easy for them. There are lots of
challenges: financial, emotional, relational, spiritual. They likely often feel
alone and discouraged. They need God’s grace, strength, provision, and joy. We can
help effect those as we pray, asking Him to do those things for them.

So, the long and the short. A challenge to leave you with today.

A Lesson from Nescafe

Dear Kidstown Friends,

The time here in Nepal is quickly coming to a close. It has been a full, yet productive time. It is encouraging to see God at work, and humbling to know that He has invited us to join Him in this work. I hope that the last few posts have been helpful, giving you a glimpse of life and ministry here in Nepal.

For the last few days we have been travelling in Southern Nepal, referred to as the “terai” which means “the plains”. Low in elevation, this area grows most of Nepal’s rice, wheat, and barley. Due to its proximity to India, the terai is heavily populated and there is a larger concentration of heavy industry, although (sadly) many of these have failed to make it due to internal political unrest. This area is also quite hot this time of year, and by 9:30am this morning it was already 98 degrees, according to my thermometer.

three-in-oneWe had come to this region to visit three orphanages. All are doing great work for the Lord as they reach out to kids, help them, educate them, and raise them up to be men and women of God. After our visit to the last of the three, we checked into our hotel. On the desk was a hot water pot, a couple of cups, and a single bag of Nescafe “3-in-1” (coffee, cream, sugar). Unfortunately, I could not find the cord for the coffee pot, so couldn’t drink the Nescafe, but…that’s OK because God used that little packet to make me think. So, here is the lesson from the “Nescafe 3-in-1″:

Nepal has many needs. Three have registered a bit higher on the radar for me:

DSCN0407 First: social needs. Lots of social needs! Orphans, child trafficking, marginalized people groups, diseases such as leprosy and tuberculosis, and severe poverty are but some of the social needs that innumerable INGOs (International Non-Governmental Organizations) are laboring to address. In West Nepal, for example, I have seen many aircraft departing from the Surkhet airbase, heading towards remote mountain areas such as Mugu and Calicut with food aid. Conditions in those areas can be so severe that without such aid people would starve.

Second: political drift. In 2006 the civil war ended. The Maoist party secured the majority of the seats in the new parliament and moved Nepal away from being a Hindu Kingdom to a more democratic-style of government. This has afforded an unprecedented window of opportunity for the church. Evangelistic campaigns, church planting, Bible teaching, and Christian-humanitarian endeavors have all enjoyed incredible freedom…and God has blessed by growing His church! However, recent elections in India has seen a fundamental Hindu party come to power. Some anticipate that things will get tougher for Christians in India. This also impacts Nepal, however. Given its weak track record over the last 8 years, the Nepali government is anything but stable, and this means that all is up-for-grabs politically-speaking. Political Hindu fundamentalists here in Nepal will try to capitalize on what transpired in India in order to move things towards their desired end: take Nepal back to being a Hindu Kingdom. Probably don’t need to expand on the ramifications for the church if that happens (remember, during the days past when Nepal was a Hindu Kingdom, church activity was highly restricted). The point here is to recognize that we are in a window of time…a window of opportunity…a window that may close…a window that we need to take maximum advantage of while we can.

DiscipleshipThird: relative shallowness of the Nepali church. Most of you who are reading this will know the meaning of the term “discipleship”. In-short, this refers to our on-going walk with God. It entails learning the Scriptures, applying the Scriptures, and growing deeper in our faith. As referenced above, the Nepali church has experienced significant growth over the last decade. But…those close to the pulse of the church tell us that spiritual depth is lagging. That’s not a good report…especially when a threat of harder times for the church is potentially on the radar.

Nescafe 3-in-1. Three significant needs: social, political, spiritual. One…what is the “one”? This refers to the orphan outreach that God has given us the opportunity to engage. I surely don’t mean to be sacrilegious, but I maybe God is saying to us something like this:

1. There are lots of social needs in Nepal. You can’t meet them all, but you can meet some. Orphan ministry is what I’ve called you to, so do it well. Reach out to these kids, and share My love with them. Feed them, clothe them, educate them, and help them to become productive citizens of this country so that they can participate in building a better Nepal in the future. You can’t meet all the needs here, but you can help one child at a time!

2. The political winds in Nepal are stirring, potentially in a wrong direction. But I have given you a window in which to engage in Kingdom work here in this country. So, while there is time, wholeheartedly give yourselves to the building of the church in Nepal through the avenue of helping orphans. Remember to pray for these kids, and for the leaders, because they constitute the church. And if the day comes when the window closes, you will know that you have done your part.

3. The church in Nepal has grown in number, but it also needs to grow in depth. What better way than to engage children in a day-by-day, bit-by-bit, year-by-year process of teaching them about Me, modelling for them what faith looks like, acts like, sounds like? You have a captive audience…kids that are living in Christian orphanages for 5, 10, or even 20 years! A perfect opportunity to raise up “generation-2” of Nepali Christians which will be deep, strong, committed, and missional. Yes, you may live far away, but you can still pray, encourage the kids in their faith, and take other opportunities which come your way to enhance the discipleship process at these children homes.

3-in-1. A spiritual lesson from Nescafe. Who would have thought it?

Blessings on you as you participate in what God is doing at home, and here in Nepal.

A Double-Edged Sword

Dear Kidstown Friends,

Today as we drove along the highway in far West Nepal, we saw a settlement off to the side of the road. It consisted of maybe 100 small huts (even the word “hut” may be a stretch) baking in the 100-degree sun. This settlement is where the poorest of the poor live, people whose land was taken from them or bought from them at such a low price that they were unable to re-buy and re-start. And so, here they settled. Along the side of the road. In straw, bamboo, plastic, and whatever-else-they-could-find huts. No running water. No toilets. No stores. No electricity. No medical facilities. Nothing but grinding poverty. Oh, and I forgot to mention: no hope either.

DSCN0239

We stopped. We took a few pictures. We commented on what we observed. And then we got back into our air-conditioned jeep and drove away. Something’s wrong with this picture.

The majority (if not all) of those reading this email are what I refer to as “the privileged”. You have a decent place to live. You have food on the table each day. You have some level of financial means. You probably have a car, and a smart phone. You have probably travelled on an airplane before, you know the meaning of the word “vacation”, and you probably are wearing clothes that were bought from a store instead of harvested from a garbage can. Many of you have travelled, some extensively. Many of you have financial means, putting you in the top 10% of the world’s wealthiest people.

You see, we are the “privileged” ones. We have been given much. But “privilege” has another side to it…the second edge of a double-edged sword. This is called “responsibility”. The Bible tells us that “To whom much is given, much is required.” This means that to those of us who have been entrusted with material wealth, social status, or influence a flip-side condition is attached: we are to use those things not just for ourselves…but for others. CV, one of our key Kidstown co-workers in India has so rightly challenged folks to “live for others, not for self”. That’s it…that’s the responsibility that inherently comes with privilege.

Let’s take this back to the orphan world. There are lots of kids here in Nepal, and also in India and Romania, which are barely hanging on. They need shelter, food, clothing, and medical attention. Orphanages are in need of toilets, beds, water filters, and electricity. Orphanage leaders are in need of larger or better-equipped facilities and additional staff. What is our response to this? How does privilege and responsibility play itself out in these situations?

Most of us are already engaging in one way or another. That’s good. But could we do more? Should we do more?

The Remotest Parts of the Earth

Dear Kidstown Friends,

photo As I write this to you, I am looking out the window of this ATR-72 aircraft and can see the sky-scraping Himalaya Mountains for which Nepal is so famous. These mountains are majestic, beautiful, and very remote. We are en route to Western Nepal, to go to a place that is also quite remote. Upon landing, a jeep will take us over two low mountain passes, through dozens of hairpin turns on a single lane road, to a small city in which is located an orphanage that we have had the privilege to partner with for the last several years. And in this orphanage, called the New Life Children Haven, live 44 kids. Many of these kids are from the remotest parts of Nepal: places like Humla and Jumla; areas which are largely inaccessible except via helicopter or foot-path. These kids come from villages forgotten by time and civilization, and whose inhabitants cling to survival, living lives of poverty, hopelessness, and spiritual darkness.

Remote. This is the key word that has been flashing on my radar since I read Acts 1:8 a couple of days ago. In this verse Jesus tells his disciples, “and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.”

Anyone who has travelled to Nepal can attest to that feeling that goes something like this, “wow…this place is remote!” And, yes, it is. But God has called us to be His witnesses not only where we live but also to the remote parts of Nepal. He wants us to reach out to others, sharing His love with them. And so, this is our mission, and many of you are a part of it in one way or another. Together we have the opportunity to impact the lives of orphan kids for the better by giving them food, clothing, shelter, and education. Together we have the opportunity to give them the Gospel as we pray for them, as we encourage them in their faith, and simply as we make it possible for them to live in a Christ-centered environment. Together we also have the opportunity to participate in readying these same kids to go back to their own villages one day as “salt” and “light” as we pray according to Matthew 9:38.

Remote. Yes, Nepal is just that. But we have a job to do here. So, for all of us on the Kidstown team, whether you are an orphanage worker, a sponsor, volunteer, prayer partner, board member, or participant in some other way, may I encourage all of us to pro-actively embrace our calling to be His witnesses to the “remotest parts of the earth” by faithfully engaging and carrying out our part? For orphanage workers: this means daily loving, guiding, and caring for the orphans in your charge. For sponsors: this means faithfully giving, befriending, and praying for your sponsored child. For prayer partners: this means bringing daily to the Lord the lives and futures of these kids. You get the picture: whatever is your part, do it well.

I can still see the Himalaya Mountains outside the window. They are beautiful. They are majestic. They are remote. They are a reminder of our calling to be His witnesses to the remotest parts of the earth. May God bless each of you today.

The Father’s Heart

Dear Kidstown Friends,

A few days ago, as I rode my bike through the vibrant green forest, enjoying the fresh air and warm sunshine, God showed up. He touched a nerve in my heart and it caused me to think, and I want to share some of that with you today.

Each of us is a son or a daughter. Each of us therefore has an earthly father from whom we deeply desire recognition, approval, and love. This is the way God has encripted our emotional DNA, and so we naturally yearn for these things. Jesus also is a Son. He, too, has a Father. Jesus, like us, also longed for His Father’s recognition, approval, and love. In short, we all deeply long for “the father’s heart”: the assurance that our father knows us, loves us, accepts us, is proud of us, and is fully behind us.

How does this relate to our work with orphans? Throughout Scripture we see a repeated theme of caring for, defending, and helping the fatherless (see Deuteronomy 10:18, Psalm 10:14, Psalm 68:5, Isaiah 1:17). It is evident that God’s “father’s heart” extends not only to His own Son, but also to these kids that have no earthly father of their own. And how exactly does God convey His love and care to these orphans? One way is through YOU and ME. We are God’s representatives, sent to do His work, which includes helping orphans.
Love for orphans-001

Take a moment and think about how impactful your father was/is in your life. Now think about the orphans that we are helping over in Romania, India, and Nepal. Some of these kids don’t know who their father is. Some may only have a vague remembrance. Some may only want to forget. In any case, these kids still have that deep thirst for a “father’s heart” towards them.

Do you sponsor an orphan? Why not make it a priority to sit down once or twice a year and write a note to your child? Let your orphan know that YOU know them, and that GOD knows them. Let your orphan know that YOU love them, and that GOD loves them. Let your orphan know that YOU believe in them, and that GOD believes in them. And as you do, your orphan will capture the fragrance of “the father’s heart” towards them.

Thank you, and God bless you.

Matthew

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!

Team Enjoys Visit to Nepal

Another amazing day in Nepal. We started by riding in a cab from our hotel to the Nepal Orthopedic Hospital. The cab was a very small car – meant for 4 people at most. We crammed in 6. Kathmandu is a city of 5 million people so going from one side of the city to another was a real adventure. The streets are shared by walkers, wheelchairs, bikers, motorbikes, buses, cars, trucks and cows. Cows appear to have the right of way and seem to know it as they are in no hurry, unlike the cab driver. I felt like I was riding in on of those little cars doing the figure 8 race at the demo derby. It was crazy – but I loved it. Just keep your arms in the vehicle even though its hot and muggy (no AC). After lunch, we did more painting at another orphanage. More kids, more love, more smiling faces, more joy, and more tears as I count my blessings.

God at work in Nepal

Matt Smith in NepalIt has been a very full and productive two weeks. There have been lots of opportunities and challenges, yet through it all I can attest to God’s faithfulness.

The first wrinkle came even before I left home, while sitting in a restaurant having some “daddy” time with my kids. My cell phone rang, and the message was that the airline had cancelled both my outbound and return flights. This caused a dominoe effect, as three other flights on my return were affected by this cancellation. However, God was good and opened a way for my flights to be re-arranged, giving me an extra day here in Nepal. This, I came to realize yesterday, was of His design as it afforded me the opportunity to travel to eastern Nepal to visit an orphan project which may become a Kidstown supported home in the near future. Initially I had informed key leaders that I would not be able to make the trip due to schedule constraints, but with the cancellation of the flight, a window for a visit opened, and I am sincerely glad to have been able to go and see first-hand another place where God is at work.

Over the past two weeks God has given the opportunity to encourage Masaai church leaders in Tanzania, to visit, encourage, strengthen relationships, and develop infrastructure at six Kidstown-supported homes in Nepal, and to explore the possibility of sponsorship at three additional homes in western, central, and eastern Nepal. The schedule has been extremely full, the roads full of bumps and cows, the airplane rides almost more than one can count, and the food of great variety (I do like “daal bhat” & “chapati” for those of you who are familiar with Nepali cuisine!). But one constant was that in each place visited I was with family. When we have Christ, cultural and ethnic differences take a back seat. Christ is our common denominator and so we instantly know that we are with brothers and sisters in Christ.

God has blessed the Kidstown work here in Nepal. Nepal is a country which has struggled immensely in the past. For decades closed to missionary work, Nepal has now opened its doors, allowing a window of opportunity for the church to freely work. Orphanages have proven to be an effective ministry due to their compassionate nature. However, they also afford the opportunity for the leaders to share the Gospel with the kids, disciple them in their faith, and prepare them for a life of service to the Lord. In a country as needy and spiritually dark as Nepal, we must with fervor engage the opportunities God gives us. It may be only a matter of time, given the political volatility of the government, before the doors once again close to foreign mission involvement. What we do now is therefore of great importance.

For those of you who have a heart for Nepal and for seeing God’s Kingdom expand in this place, I encourage you to join one of our Kidstown teams to visit and to catch the vision of God at work in Nepal. Alvin Starkenburg and Mike Hollander, both part of the Kidstown leadership team and seasoned team leaders, are each planning to come to Nepal in 2012 (Mike in February, and Alvin in May). If you are interested in knowing more about either of these opportunities, please let me know. I assure you that you will leave Nepal a changed person. If you come with an open heart and mind, God will surely challenge you to get involved.

So, for all of you who have covered us with your prayers, I sincerely thank you. There have been times of testing, stress, health challenges, and even physical danger, but your prayers moved the hand of God and He faithfully protected us as we moved from place to place. Thank you for joining us in God’s work in Africa and Nepal. We do this work not for our sake, or for the sake of any organization, but simply for the sake of the advancement of His Kingdom.

God bless each one of you,

Matthew

Dr. Matthew Smith
Executive Director

Nepal Update

Traveling in Nepal is in-and-of-itself a challenging experience. Cows, goats, bicycles, and vehicles of all types vie for space on the narrow roads. The driving experience is heightened when heading up into the hills. The roads become more narrow, the switchbacks a bit tighter, and the horn blows more frequently, warning any unseen vehicles around the next bend that we are coming. Up one mountain, and then down into the valley. Beautiful scenery, complete with terraced fields and thatch covered huts, dot the landscape. Rivers, which in the urban centers would be blackened by garbage and other pollutants, in these remote areas are clear and the water runs blue-green.

At the (literal) end of the road we arrived in Surkhet, a beach-head of sorts in West Nepal for aid groups. From Surkhet thousands of pounds of food aid is airlifted by helicopter and airplane by such groups as the UN World Food Programme, to remote regions where the climate is so harsh that people cannot grow enough to survive.

In is here in Surkhet that Kidstown is involved in supporting the New Life Children Haven, a Christian orphanage that is giving refuge to many children from the remotest regions of Nepal. Solomon, the leader, is a pastor, and will travel for weeks on end into mountainous areas accessible only by foot in order to encourage small churches scattered throughout these areas. During his travels he is approached by people who have heard of the New Life Children Haven, and they often will beg him to take a child or two back with him. Currently 31 children live in the home, and although their life is far from perfect, they are much better off than living in a remote mountain village in desperate poverty.

As we have walked along this journey of caring for orphans, God has increasingly opened our eyes to be intentionally engaged in three main areas:

  1. Practical care for orphans. This is the primary concern of both Kidstown and the orphanages we support. We want to make sure that the kids are housed, receive food and clothing, that they are educated, and that they receive love from the leaders. All of the orphanages are doing well on this front.
  2. Evangelizing and discipling of the children. Helping the children with food and clothing is important, but we also must share the Gospel with them and help them grow in the faith. Many orphanages are dedicated to having daily devotions, involving the kids in church, and encouraging Bible memory. Some of the homes are weaker in this regard, and so we must gently encourage them to keep this as a priority.
  3. Preparing the children for being witnesses for Christ. As Christ-followers, we all have the responsibility to share Christ with others. It is important that the children also are made aware of this, and encouraged to think and pray about being witnesses for Christ both now, to their classmates and friends, and to others that they meet later on in life. Especially in India and Nepal, this idea of preparing the kids to be a light for Christ is vitally important. These countries are some of the spiritually darkest places on earth. About 20% of the world’s population is accounted for here, yet only a very small number of these are believers. These kids have tremendous potential of one day being the ones to take the Gospel back to their own.

So, as Kidstown moves forward, I would encourage all of us, whether our function is board member, orphanage leader, donor, sponsor, or staff member, to be intentional about all 3 areas listed above. All of us, in one way or another, can engage these on a regular basis. God will indeed honor our efforts, for it is His desire that orphans be helped and evangelized, and that they take the light of the Gospel to others.