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7 posts from August 2009

August 27, 2009

A Story from the Fields: Matt & Melody

I love it when the dream of rescuing a child becomes reality! In the latest edition of Fields of the Fatherless, I devoted an entire chapter to the adoption stories of two couples. One of those couples, Matt & Melody Monberg, just finally passed court, and are on their way to Ethiopia in just a few weeks.

Throughout the two year process that has brought them to this point, they have faced the ups and downs, twists and turns, joys and defeats that come with the adoption process. I encourage you to read their last couple posts on their blog to get a sense for how God worked miracles in the face of uncertain obstacles. It involves a missing government official, a 6-hour drive through the Ethiopian countryside, and a last minute court date with a picky adoption judge.

Matt & Melody also helped organize the Ethiopian Formula Drive we did back in May that raised over $12,000 to buy formula for the babies living in the transition home. One of those babies is Desta Grace, their daughter pictured here.


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I had the privelege of taking Matt to his first orphanage in Russia. But it wasn't until the second orphanage that God grabbed his heart for orphans. I remember standing in the snow as the cold winter air was blowing in our faces outside of Neya orphanage. Matt, with tears in his eyes (and no socks on, only house shoes), was broken by the injustice and the abuse he saw in the faces of little Russian orphans--orphans who were not unlike his own children.

Matt's been on our staff for the past six years, and in that time has sponsored three different children in Russia.  He, and those kids, are not the same.

When you allow God to use you as a sponsor--as a voice for an orphan--the journey often takes you to unexpected places. Matt & Melody are just one of the families who have taken up the call to care for orphans, and now are within weeks of bringing Desta home to her forever family.

In the last weeks, they are tidying up all the details and getting ready to travel. I know they would appreciate your prayers and your support. You can find out more about how you can support them on their blog.

You can give directly to their adoption fund here, or come to their open house fundraiser by RSVPing here.

August 24, 2009

Give a Child a Sponsor: Bridge 600 Campaign

I'd like you to give a child the gift of sponsorship for a one time gift of $25 to Children's HopeChest.

Right now, we have 600 kids waiting for sponsors in Ethiopia, Uganda, and Swaziland. Over here in the U.S., we have 600 sponsors ready and waiting for those kids.

Over the next 60 days, our team is working furiously to get all 600 orphaned children enrolled in sponsorship with their sponsor families in the U.S. This is a huge opportunity to impact hundreds of orphans right now.

What we need is a bridge to connect them. Can you help us? Here's what we need...

  1. We need one temporary employee to manage the production of child packets for the next 60 days.
  2. Our field staff need additional funds to get the kids profiled AND continue discipleship ministry at the same time.
  3. We are coming out of the "summer slump," which makes this a challenging time financially.

Help us build a bridge for one child with a gift of $25, or more if you are able. Every dollar you give to this campaign will go straight to making sure we get that child to his or her sponsor as fast as possible.

DONATE NOW
(Put "BRIDGE TO 600" in the notes)

For $25, you'll give an orphan someone who will pray for them, write letters, and give financially. Every $25 gift can turn into countless prayers, dozens of heartfelt letters, and hundreds of dollars in continued support for orphans. Can you make that investment of $25 today?

I'll be bringing you the stories of how sponsorship with HopeChest changes lives. If you have your own story, leave a comment.

Please pray for each of these 600 kids and their waiting sponsors. When you give $25, you give that gift of sponsorship now, and far into the future.

Thank you for building the bridge with Children's HopeChest.

August 13, 2009

Book Giveaway: Scared by Tom Davis - What Are You Scared Of?

My good friends over at the ezine, Wrecked.org, are giving away four copies of my novel, Scared. All you have to do is leave a comment about what you're scared of on their site by clicking HERE. Of course, I'd always prefer you buy the book from your local bookstore, but if finances are tight, here's you're chance to win a copy for free. And, if you don't like it there's a "Good Read" guarantee by the publisher who will gladly send you another book! :) Thanks everyone, you're the best!

wrecked.jpg

August 11, 2009

Girl, 9, Details Rape in Congo to Photographer.

The issues dealt with in my novel, Scared, are reality for many young African girls. Two of my friends, Sarah and Josh, just sent this article to me from CNN.com. It's the true story of what happened to a little girl in the Congo that is very similar to Adanna's life, the main character in the book. Read it, you'll be heartbroken:


CNN) -- The young girl whispered in a hushed tone. She looked down as she spoke, only glancing up from her dark round eyes every now and then. She wanted to tell more, but she was too ashamed. She was just 9 years old when, she says, Congolese soldiers gang-raped her on her way to school.

The young girl on the right says she was raped by Congolese soldiers. She was just 9 when it happened.

The young girl on the right says she was raped by Congolese soldiers. She was just 9 when it happened.

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"These two soldiers nabbed her, put a bag over her head and pulled her into the bushes. She explains it as, 'They got me,' " says Sherrlyn Borkgren, who spent a month in the Democratic Republic of the Congo late last year.

Borkgren, a wedding photographer and freelance journalist, traveled to the war-torn region of eastern Congo after being awarded the ShootQ Grant, a $10,000 award to free photographers from everyday life to pursue a project that raises awareness of an important global issue.

Borkgren pauses when she speaks of meeting the girl. "She was obviously very traumatized to repeat this out loud, and I don't think she had repeated it to anyone." The young girl lied to her about her age when they first spoke.

"She said she was 15 when she was raped," Borkgren says. "I figured she probably wanted to say she was 15 because it's more acceptable than to say, 'I was 9 when they raped me.' "

The United Nations estimates 200,000 women and girls have been raped in Congo over the last 12 years, when war broke out with Rwanda and Uganda backing Congolese rebels seeking to oust then-Congo President Laurent Kabila. Rape became a weapon of war, aid groups say.

"It is one of the worst places in the world to be a woman or girl," says Anneke Van Woudenberg, a senior researcher with Human Rights Watch who has spent the last 10 years focusing on Congo. "These are often soldiers and combatants deliberately targeting women and raping them as a strategy of war, either to punish a community, to terrorize a community or to humiliate them."

Most times, the women are raped by at least two perpetrators. "Sometimes, that is done in front of the family, in front of the children," Van Woudenberg says. She sighs, "What causes men to rape -- I wish I had an answer to that."

Against this backdrop, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, one of the world's strongest voices for women's rights, traveled to Congo as part of her whirlwind trip to Africa. Video Watch Clinton detail expectations for Africa »

Clinton arrived in Goma in eastern Congo Tuesday where she is to meet with rape victims during her visit. "I hope that here in the [Congo] there will be a concerted effort to demand justice for women who are violently attacked, and to make sure that their attackers are punished," Clinton said Monday after a tour of a Kinshasa hospital.

Human rights groups are eager to see if Clinton pressures Joseph Kabila, president of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the son of Laurent Kabila, to do more to pursue charges against top army commanders accused of rape.

"Soldiers have committed gang rapes, rapes leading to injury and death, and abductions of girls and women," a report released last month by Human Rights Watch says. "Their crimes are serious violations of international humanitarian law. Commanders have frequently failed to stop sexual violence and may themselves be guilty of war crimes or crimes against humanity as a consequence."

Van Woudenberg says punishment, unfortunately, is all too rare for sex crimes. "If you rape, you get away with it," she says.

According to the United Nations, there were 15,996 new cases of sexual violence registered throughout Congo in 2008. Nearly two out of every three rapes were carried out against children, most of them adolescent girls, the Human Rights Watch report says.

A paltry 27 soldiers were convicted in military courts last year. Under the current court system, the military handles accusations of rape against its soldiers -- something aid groups say must be changed for real accountability.

Since January of this year, aid organizations say there's been a surge of violence against civilians as a result of Congolese operations against Rwandan Hutu rebels, some of whom are believed to have participated in 1994's Rwandan genocide. The fighting has left more than 1.8 million people displaced in the volatile region, according to the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees.

Aid groups have started to see an uptick of rapes of men this year, although women and girls remain the primary targets. "The brutality has increased on a huge scale," Van Woudenberg says.

She says she interviewed one 15-year-old girl who was held in a hole for five months and gang-raped nearly every day. She had gone out shopping when soldiers approached.

"They asked me to take off my clothes, and I did. There wasn't much I could do," the girl told her. "They took me into the bush. I stayed for five months with these people, and when I came back, I was five months pregnant."

Van Woudenberg adds, "Gosh, the brutality against the women and girls is unimaginable."

Congo has taken some measures to try to curb the sexual violence. In 2006, its parliament passed a law criminalizing rape, with penalties ranging from five to 20 years. Penalties are doubled under certain circumstances, including gang-rape and if the perpetrator is a public official. Kabila's wife, Olive Lemba Kabila, has launched a public campaign speaking out against rapes of the nation's women and girls.

The army has also started a zero-tolerance campaign in which commanders have emphasized to troops that they must respect human rights and protect civilians from harm, according to the U.N.

In May, the United Nations handed over the names of five top military officers accused of rape. Two of the senior officers are now detained in the capital of Kinshasa and the three others must report to authorities under close observation. "It's expected that a trial could happen soon," said U.N. spokesman Yves Sorokobi. "It certainly is a big development. ... It's important. It's significant."

Still more must be done, aid groups say, starting with the establishment of a special court made up of Congolese and international judges and prosecutors to investigate rape allegations.

Borkgren, the photographer from Eugene, Oregon, says she went to the Congo after having a dream in which two women yelled at her to "come over here." She won the grant and traveled there for four weeks, beginning in November of last year. She hitchhiked her way around the country, something she now admits was "a little bit stupid."

She says she once came face-to-face with soldiers when she was shopping at a market by herself. One of the men said he wanted to "take me up to his camp." She still can't shake the looks of the local women who were there.

"That was interesting," she says. "When the soldiers were harassing me, the women looked ashamed of the soldiers. And when they saw me tell them, 'No, go away,' the women looked at me quite surprised."

Eventually, she found the girl who touched her heart -- "the great, great kid." Borkgren first spoke with her father, who was initially reluctant to introduce her to his daughter. He explained that the family had gone to authorities, only to be ignored.

Borkgren says that when she met the girl, they got along instantly. At times, the young child didn't know how to describe what happened. "She would say, 'I don't understand what it is, and I don't know what words to use.' "

"It just turned my heart to think that here's this little girl who doesn't even have the words to describe what happened to her, and has to live her life having had this violence put upon her. Just this thoughtless violence that she didn't deserve or ask for. It's so inhumane."

Her images capture a glimpse into that world, of savagery and lost innocence. The soldiers and rebels carrying out the rapes, she says, are misguided people who need help. Caught in the middle are the innocents: women, girls and fathers struggling to get justice.


August 06, 2009

Orphans Living in the Highest Rate of HIV Infection in the World

Make a Difference - From Brandi's Blog.

Swazi Update!

Thank you, thank you for stepping up to the plate!!! Of our 230 kiddos at this carepoint in Swaziland, we have had people step up to advocate for 140 of them! This means we still have 90 kids. . .90 precious little ones who need someone to BE THEIR VOICE!!!

Ad-Vo-Cate

To speak, plead or argue in favor of

1. One that argues for a case; a supporter or defender

2. One that pleads in another's behalf; an intercessor

Will you use YOUR voice, YOUR influence to make a difference in children's lives? You can "sign up for" a certain number of these kids. . .say 10, 20, 25, 50 of them. We'll give you their names an profiles and you can be in charge of finding them sponsors! This way, you can literally make an eternal difference in the lives of these kids!

Who will do it?????? I had 250 people read my blog yesterday, I've had 5 step forward. WIll you????

**email me at brandi@kidslake.org or leave a comment. . if you leave a comment make sure I'll have some way to answer you though!!!

August 03, 2009

"From Ashes to Africa" Review

Ashes to africa

I had the privilege of writing the foreword for Josh and Amy's  memoir, From Ashes to Africa.

Ashes is a poignant journey through dating, love, marriage, infertility, adoption, and redemption itself. Each of those deserves its own book. Somehow, Josh and Amy condense these everyday realities into one cohesive story.

Josh and Amy wrote the book together, alternating between their voices and perspectives. It's like having a conversation with two people who play well off each other.

Ashes takes you to the bitter heart of infertility in a way that will bring tears to your eyes. They don't dwell there long, and eventually bring you face-to-face with the biological mother of Silas--the boy they adopt from Ethiopia. 

The book is so full of gems like this, you will find you've finished the book almost before it's started. Fortunately for their readers, both the Bottomlys are blogggers, and Amy runs an online sponsorship community to sponsor children in Ethiopia for Children's HopeChest. They are both amazing people who are living out what it means to be the hands and feet of Jesus.

I strongly encourage you to pick up a copy of their book and get connected to their blog . Get your copy of the book here.

August 02, 2009

The Most Comprehensive Online Interview I've Done

A special thanks to C.J. Darlington for the interview she just posted online at www.titletrakk.com. It includes music and podcasts currently in my Ipod. What in yours?! Hope you enjoy it!


Tom Davis Interview

by C.J. Darlington

"I’m a firm believer that everyone who claims to follow Christ is called to bring the Kingdom of God to earth. That means when we bring justice where there is none, we feed the hungry and clothe the naked. " -- Tom Davis


Tom Davis is an author, consultant, and the president ofChildren's HopeChest, a Christian-based child advocacy organization helping orphans in Eastern Europe and Africa. Tom holds a Business and Pastoral Ministry degree from Dallas Baptist University and a Master's Degree in Theology from The Criswell College. Scared is his first novel, but he’s previously published several nonfiction books, including Fields of the Fatherless, and Red Letters.

When did you first realize you wanted to write books?

I stumbled into it. There was a story I wanted to tell about God’s heart for the poor, the widow and the orphan. So I called a friend of mine who had ties to the publishing industry and I quote, “If I wrote a book and it stunk, could you make it look good?” The truth is I didn’t feel like I was capable of writing a good book at all. The only writing experience I had was writing theology papers in seminary. The short story is that Fields of the Fatherless was self-published and sold 70,000 copies.

Before you wrote your first novel you wrote several nonfiction titles. What was it that compelled you to write fiction?

I’m the CEO of an incredible organization called, Children’s Hopechest. Our focus is to helps orphans and widows in Russia and Africa, and to bring reality to James 1:27. We are inundated with statistics telling how horrible the world is. I know so many people who are overwhelmed by those statistics and feel powerless to do anything. I wanted people to read a story about a young orphan girl caught in a terrible humanitarian tragedy and experience life through her eyes. That’s what Scared does. It puts the reader in a position to feel what it’s like to go hungry, to be abused, to fear for your life.

This girl, Adanna, is loosely based on a real girl. Could you tell us about the real Adanna and what drove you to tell her story?

She’s a real girl living in Africa - beautiful, talented, sporting a smile that melts your heart. Her story is a tragic one like so many African girls. Both of her parents died from AIDS and her uncle took her in to his home, forcing her to be a slave. She was abused by him but nobody knew the extent until she was rescued. Her first few days at the community center we help support, she would wet herself during Bible studies and meals. The staff thought the poor thing had never been potty trained but on closer investigation by the doctor, they found she was incontinent because she had been raped so severely. Her story broke my heart in pieces. Then I heard similar stories everywhere we went. As difficult as I knew it would be to recount these stories, I knew it was something people had to be aware of.

Scared by Tom DavisThe novel reads incredibly well---not at all like someone’s first foray into fiction! How did you teach yourself to write novels?

Thanks for saying that! I’m still teaching myself how to write, I am but a novice. Nobody bothered to tell me how difficult it would be to write a novel. I just jumped into it without realizing the amount of work it would take. I’m really more of a speaker, a verbal storyteller. There were some great people who helped coach and mentor me along the way. One of them was Lisa Samson who is a good friend and incredible novelist.Moira Allaby also helped me with the gaps in the story. Her editing skills were invaluable. I’m a firm believer that you need others to help you turn the book from something good to something great. Being able to bounce ideas off of someone and talk through character development was very helpful to me.

What was the hardest part about writing Scared?

There came a point in the book where I couldn’t let one more terrible thing happen to Adanna. The thought of these kids going through this kind of pain was a lot to bear. The truth is they go through things that are even worse than I wrote. I wanted a scene in the book where Adanna was forced to sell her body in order to feed her younger brother and sister. It happens all the time in Africa. I couldn’t do it.

Share with us about Children’s Hope Chest, maybe a little of its history, as well as the goals of the organization.

Hopechest was founded in 1994 by helping orphans in Russia. After the fall of communism, nothing was being done to help the millions of children who were institutionalized by the state. Most of the kids were kicked out at fifteen or sixteen and they didn’t have the ability to survive. In fact, 70% of the girls ended up in prostitution. The idea of Hopechest is to help these kinds of kids have the chance at the kind of life a family kid would have. We help to meet the same needs for orphans that you and I would meet for our own children - food and clothing, but also loving relationships, medical care, and perhaps most important, an education. We also specialize in helping kids make the transition out of orphanages and into young adulthood.

I love your answer to the question so many of us have, “Why doesn’t God do something about all the bad things happening in this world?” Could you share your response here with our readers?

God does do something. He sends me and you. I’m a firm believer that everyone who claims to follow Christ is called to bring the Kingdom of God to earth. That means we bring justice where there is none, we feed the hungry and clothe the naked. With God’s help we engage ourselves in issues that matter like poverty, starvation, disease and abuse. We aren’t allowed to sit by and do nothing. As Edmund Burke said, “the definition of evil in the world is when good men and women see injustice and do nothing.” We are a huge part of the answer to the problems plaguing our world.Fields of the Fatherless by Tom Davis

Because you didn’t experience a father’s love growing up, did you find it hard to accept God’s love? How did you come to realize He did indeed love you?

It was incredibly difficult. I’ve recounted most of the story in my book released by Thomas Nelson entitled, Confessions of a Good Christian Guy. This was the single most difficult issue for me to deal with. I couldn’t understand why a loving God, my heavenly Father, would allow so many horrible things to happen in my life. After a number of shipwrecks in my life I went to Christ for the Nations Bible School in Dallas, Texas. For the first time I genuinely understood God’s love for me through worship, prayer and digging into my Bible. Before that, I understood His love, I heard about it, but at CFNI I experienced it.

Tom, do you have any advice for guys like yourself who grew up without good fatherly role models but want to be great fathers themselves?

Find a mentor, an older man who possesses the kind of traits you want to exist in your own life. For me, that person is Wes Roberts. He is a true gift to me.

What authors or books have had the most influence on you as a writer?

C.S. Lewis, G.K. Chesterton, Malcolm Muggeridge, Ravi Zacharias, and F.W. Boreham have shaped my life and theology. Pick up almost any book by them and I’ve read it. The ones impacting me most would be: Can Man Live without God by Zacharias, Orthodoxy by Chesterton, and Chronicles of Wasted Time by Muggeridge.

Tom DavisWhere is your favorite place to write?

Alone somewhere in the mountains of Colorado. As you can imagine, my life is extremely busy with seven kids and running an international non-profit. I have kids on the Olympic Development Team and ones who travel for sports tournaments all over the county. I’ll take any time I can get to write. I’ve learned that I have to make the best time now matter when or where I find it. Late at night in my office, early in the morning at the office, in the car on the way to soccer games, or at a local coffee shop. So, I’ll put on my noise-cancelling headphones and some Baroque music and transform any environment into a place I can write.

What do you know now that you wish you’d known when you first started writing?

From a fiction standpoint I would taken a creative writing class on point of view and character development. I still hope to do that!

I hear there’s another novel in the works! We’d love to hear about it.

There is! Scared is the first book in a series of three. The next, Sacred, will be released in the spring/summer of 2010, and is centered around the child sex-slave industry. The story takes place in Russia where the Russian mafia controls this disgusting billion dollar industry. The other main character, Stuart Daniels, finds himself thrown right in the middle of it and he’s forced with answering this question, “Do I walk away and pretend this doesn’t exist or do I force myself to do something about it?”

Who is Tom Davis?Red Letters by Tom Davis

The easiest way to explain myself is talk about who I am, not what I do. I am the father to seven amazing children. Two we’ve adopted from Russia and the other five are home-grown kids! We love to spend times in the mountains of Colorado. We moved here from Dallas eight years ago and love it. I’m also incredibly passionate about helping orphaned and vulnerable children as well as people who are broken and struggling. My wife and I have always had someone else living in our home we were trying to minister to one way or another. I love the beauty of God’s creation, a great book, and a hot cup of tea on a cold day, and spending time with my wife.

What are two things people might be surprised to know about you?

I’m saying it below, but I love to cook. It’s a cathartic activity in my life. If I’m having a rough day, or just want to relax, I’ll cook a huge meal – from scratch!

Number two, I’m an ordained minister.

When you’re not writing, what do you enjoy doing?

Mountain biking, snowboarding, cooking, and watching my kids soccer games.

What did you eat for breakfast this morning?

Coffee, the breakfast of champions. It drives my wife nuts, but it’s my staple diet.

Three things always found in your refrigerator:

Cheese, Orange juice (not from concentrate!), and grapes.

Saints Coffee LogoYou’re next in line at Starbucks. What are you ordering?

First, I drink Saint’s Coffee (www.saintscoffee.com), coffee that fights poverty! But if I were in a Starbucks line it would be a grande coffee of the day, no room.

What’s left unchecked in your “goals for life” list?

Well the last one to be checked off was to write a novel! Still on the list is to help one million orphans in my lifetime, go on a cruise with my wife, and to see Les Miserables on Broadway.

When was the last time you cried? 

Ouch, this is not a guy question. In a worship service at our church a few weeks ago. Certain songs just get me!

Three words that best describe you:

Passionate
Visionary 
Loyal

What’s currently in your CD player/iPod?

Coldplay – LeftRightLeftRightLeft
Coldplay – Viva La Vida
U2 – No Line on the Horizon
Lots of Classical Music, especially Baroque.
Brian Doerksen – Holy God
Brian Doerksen – Prodigal God
Hillsong United – Across the Earth: Tear Down the Walls

Podcast – Speaking of Faith by Krista Tippitt
Ravi Zacharias – Let My People Think
Fr. Thomas Hopko – Speaking the Truth in Love
Dr. Gregory Boyd – Woodland Hills Church