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


Memorial and Encouragement

Dear Friends,

Alesd - Tamas Tari Today I received the sad news that one of our orphans (actually he was already grown-up and left the orphanage) died recently due to blood cancer. This comes as a shock to all of us. John (name changed for privacy) would have turned 23 years old next month. The first time I met John was in the year 2000...he was only 8 years old at the time. Over the years we saw him grow up into a young man (see photo on left: John in September of 2010). Only about 18-months ago did he "graduate" from the orphan home, moving out to begin life as an independent adult.

And now, just as life should be ramping up for John, it ended. Why? We don't know. That answer is held by the One who knows all things. But two lessons we can take away from this sad occurrence:

1. Live your life to the fullest each and every day. Keep things in perspective, love well those close to you, enjoy the blessings of each day (even the small ones!), and reach out to others, sharing a bit of God's love with them. Remember, we are not assured of tomorrow...we only have today. So..."live it up" today!

2. Be assured of your eternity. The Bible is clear that now (while we live on the earth) is the time for each of us to decide about our eternity (see Hebrews 9:27, John 3:16-18). Once we cross the line from life to death, our decision cannot be reversed. Being sure of our eternity is of utmost importance.

So, a sad day today with the news of the passing of one of "our kids". Let's take this opportunity to grieve for a moment for a life cut short, but also to be challenged to live life to the fullest and to be sure of our eternity.

Thanks, and God bless each of you.


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!


Romania VBS - Faith & Fun!

Dear Kidstown Friends,

There are many deterrents to spiritual growth. A key one to be wary of is: stagnation. How do we know if we have stagnated in our walk with God? Bible stories that once brimmed with life are now dull and boring. Scripture passages that once elicited attention now lull to sleep. Worship of God which once elevated the soul now has no impact. Stagnation: a danger each Christian should be on the look-out for.

One way to avoid stagnation is to experience the Gospel in new and fresh ways. It is here that we can discover God in ways that we never knew, or have long-since forgotten. It is here that golden nuggets of truth can be grasped and key insights surface.

In our work with orphans, we hold dear the opportunity to share Jesus with them and to help them to grow in their faith. But, like us, they also struggle with stagnated faith. They, like us, sometimes need a spiritual jolt to get going again. What a better way to do this then to create a summer experience focused on faith and fun?

IMG_0929 A team from the Seattle area has recently traveled the 5,600 miles to Timisoara, Romania where they will spend this week focused on a Vacation Bible School. 30-40 youngsters will arrive to camp in about a day...and the fun will begin! Games, bonfires, and late nights will all be part-and-parcel of this camp experience. But more importantly than all the fun will be the re-painting of the Gospel message for them. They will see and hear the Good News from a new vantage point, giving the Holy Spirit opportunity to work in their hearts and lives!

You can help in this endeavor by praying. You can pray that the kids will have ears to hear. You can pray that God will help the VBS team to be focused and Spirit-led. You can pray for an atmosphere of peace. You can pray against any distraction or disturbance that might hinder the important work. Thanks in advance for participating in this way!


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!