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7 posts from September 2009

September 30, 2009

Burnside Writers Collective Interview

I'm thankful for this great interview done with Bryan Catherman on Don Miller's Burnside site. Hope you enjoy it!

AN INTERVIEW WITH AUTHOR TOM DAVIS

BOOKSFEATUREDSOCIAL JUSTICE — BY BRYAN CATHERMAN ON SEPTEMBER 28, 2009 AT 12:00 AM 

Tom photo B&WI met Tom Davis a few years ago at K2 Church in Salt Lake City, Utah. I was there to check out the cool warehouse-church with the beach sandal billboard; Tom was there to tell the church about suffering orphans, young girls entering the sex-trade, and a generation decimated by HIV/Aids. Three minutes into Tom’s story, the billboard became insignificant.

Tom Davis is the author of Red Letters: Living a Faith That BleedsFields of the Fatherless: Discover the Joy of Compassionate Living,Confessions of a Good Christian Guy: The Secrets Men Keep and the Grace that Saves Them, and his latest book is a work of fiction titled, Scared: A Novel on the Edge of the World (advertised on this site). He’s the CEO ofChildren’s HopeChest, encourages us all to drink Saint’s Coffee, and daily lives James 1:27.

Bryan: Tom, you went from a post-modern church planter in Texas to an advocate for orphans all over the world. What sparked the change?

Tom: In the mid-’90s I started making trips to Russian orphanages. The kids I met in those places changed my life forever. These orphans stopped being statistics and became human beings. They were beautiful kids filled with hopes and dreams for their futures but without help, there was no way to fulfill them. Most of them were forced to leave the orphanage at fifteen to sixteen years of age. 15% of those kids would end up committing suicide in two years, 70% of the girls would end up as prostitutes and 80% of the boys would end up on the streets or in jail. Those statistics shot an arrow through my heart. I couldn’t walk away and do nothing.

Bryan: What has been the most rewarding moment of your ministry?

Tom: Only one?! I met this little girl named Valya in Russia. She had a terrible story about being severely abused by her father who was later killed. Her mother was an alcoholic and blamed her for her father’s death. She was so upset with her she beat her incessantly until one day she couldn’t stand to look at her anymore and dropped her off at an orphanage. Valya never heard from her mother again.

This little girl was so amazing. Talent and beauty radiated from her life. Her dream was to enter college and play the flute. This was impossible because she could never afford it. We were able to buy her a flute, help her with her education, and take her to St. Petersburg to see the symphony and a ballet!

Bryan: What do you find most challenging about your ministry for orphans?

Tom: The need is always greater than our ability to meet it. We go into villages in Uganda and people are eating cow dung and boiling grass to survive. That kind of desperation is overwhelming. With the help of our partners, we meet those needs only to find out there are fifty villages within a few hundred miles just like it. We keep going, by God’s grace, helping as many as we can.

Bryan: It has been said that America is becoming more homogenized, often influenced by our media and entertainment outlets rather than the circumstances of our neighbors. If you think this might be true, what does it mean for orphans around the world? Has this hurt or helped? (What are the effects of say, Bono’s One Campaign or the movie, “Orphan”—no matter how bizarre the twisted ending might be?)

Tom: I hate making blanket statements, so forgive me in advance. Media has numbed most of us into thinking that people starving in Africa and girls in the sex-trade industry are just stories made up in Hollywood. The sensory overload causes people to shut down because they hear it all the time and many people think others are handling the issues.

Every single Christ-follower, has a biblical obligation to get involved in helping the poor. There are over two thousand versus in the Bible talking about poverty and many are commands for us to help those in need.

Bryan: Where do your see your ministry for the orphans in five years? Ten? Twenty?

Tom: I’ll do this the rest of my life. The goal I’ve set for myself and Children’s HopeChest is to care for one million orphans over the next thirty years. There are over one hundred and fifty million orphans in the world and trying to reach them is a daunting task. But if we can reach a million, a generation, then that generation will reach themselves. One million will reach one hundred and fifty million.

Bryan: When given the opportunity, what do you tell the churches you visit?

Tom: I tell them about how passionate God is about them caring for widows and orphans. If “pure and undefiled religion is caring for widows and orphans,” (James 1:27), then every single church on the planet must to be involved in orphan ministry.

Bryan: What lessons do you feel the American Church should learn from your ministry and experiences overseas working with orphans?

Tom: Every time I go overseas I fool myself into thinking it’s about me helping them. Although that’s true, I end up receiving way more from them then I’m able to give. Being with the poor is one of the greatest activities on earth. As Mother Theresa said, “When I’m with the poor, I’m with Jesus.”

Bryan: In what ways can someone get involved, from the lowest level to the highest?

Tom: Contact me at tdavis@hopechest.org or check out the Children’s HopeChest webpage atwww.hopechest.org. We’re all about involvement. We’ll take you overseas, get you connected with orphans and entire orphan villages. We’ll even show you how you can help a child for the rest of their life, for less than you spend on coffee each month. You can even buy coffee that fights poverty at www.saintscoffee.com. For every pound you buy, you feed an orphan for a month.

Bryan: Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Tom: Helping the poor, the widow, or the orphan changes your life forever. There isn’t a better way to connect with the heart of God. In Matthew 25 Jesus talked about how significant these acts are in the kingdom of heaven. God turns to the righteous in eternity and says, “Well done, good and faithful servant. I was hungry, and you gave me something to eat. I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink. I was naked and you clothed me, sick and you came to me, in prison and you visited me.” Those are the words I want to hear.

Twitter users, follow Tom Davis @cthomasdavis.

September 17, 2009

Think Child Sex-Trafficking Doesn't Happen in the US?

This will be sickening to everyone who reads it. The terrible thing is how close it comes to home. I'm glad I just finished a book on this issue, so people can get involved and make a difference. 

From MSNBC News - Thanks to Bob Mudd for the info.

Millionaire gets 8 years for sex with orphans

PHILADELPHIA - A wealthy Russian-American car exporter was sentenced to the maximum penalty of eight years in prison Wednesday for procuring girls for sex from a St. Petersburg orphanage in Russia.

Andrew Mogilyansky, 39, of suburban Philadelphia raped one girl on her 14th birthday and a 13-year-old in her first sexual encounter, the victims said in letters to the court.

A civil lawsuit accuses Mogilyansky of helping finance an online child-sex ring and developing its English-language Web site to attract international customers."I still feel his repugnant breath. I hate him," one of the victims, now 18, wrote in a statement read in court.

Friends from Mogilyanksy's days at Columbia University also testified, describing him as a brilliant man of high character. His wife called him a loving husband and father. And a defense psychotherapist concluded that he is not a sexual predator.

But the victims wrote that he left them pained, depressed and unable to trust men since the assaults in 2003 and 2004.

Mogilyanksy received the top of the sentencing range negotiated as part of his plea to four "sex tourism" counts.

U.S. District Judge Mary A. McLaughlin decried "this business of going abroad to have sex with young girls." She found the defendant's accomplishments impressive but called his crimes "grave."

"To take young teenagers from that orphanage to an apartment and have sex with them is a grave criminal act," McLaughlin said.

'This isn't me'
Mogilyansky had lived in Richboro northeast of Philadelphia with his wife and their three toddlers until his bail was revoked following his arrest in December.

"This isn't me," Mogilyansky told the judge. "It wasn't until after I was arrested that I looked myself in the mirror and said, 'How could I have done this?'"

Prosecutors at the bail hearing estimated his wealth at $5 million to $10 million, and said he earned $750,000 a year.

September 16, 2009

Book Clubs - A Special Offer

I've noticed that many of you are ordering multiple copies of Scared on Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com. Thanks so much for that, by the way! Many of the reports coming back from people say that the book has transformed their lives in amazing ways. Glad God is using it to change the way you see the world.

For a limited time I would like to make a special offer to you as a "thank you." I'm offering book clubs a live one hour interview with your group over the phone about the book. We can discuss themes, settings, the reality of evil, or whatever topic you choose. Please send me an email at tdavis@hopechest.org or leave a comment and I'll get back with you right away to set something up. So excited about this! 

Here's a picture from a recent book club event. Can't wait to hear from you.

BookClub

September 14, 2009

A Woman Left for Dead on the Side of the Road - A tear-jerker

From our team in Uganda: 

Ngariam

Today we went to a village called Ngariam. Ngariam is made up of people who have been traumatized by a nomadic tribe of people called the Karamajong. The Karamajong over the past 50 years have burned their huts and fields, raped their women, abducted some of their children, stolen their cattle and killed anyone who got in their way. To add to that, this area is in the middle of a food crisis. (For those of you who participated in our fund drive for Feed the Forgotten…this is one of the sites where we were able to send food back in June, although there were people who died one day before the food was delivered).

This was the first UNSPONSORED site we visited on this trip and the difference was astounding. These children showed visible signs of malnutrition – yellow eyes, discolored skin and hair, distended bellies. They were literally in dirty rags and they were a kind of dirty you have likely never seen. There was absolutely no sign of hygiene. They had open sores on their bodies that were oozing with infection. They had to walk FAR to find water (although they had a water pump nearby that had been broken for months…we were able to give them $80 to fix the part so that the 5,000 people in the camp could have water again - $80!!). To say that sponsorship makes a difference is a gross understatement.

Children were shaking our hands while kneeling on the ground. It felt so strange to have someone literally bowing to me. They were shy at first…some ran away from us crying. I’m sure for some of them it was the first time they’d ever seen a white person, so I can only imagine what must have been going through their mind. There was a major language barrier since no one knew English. We had several people with us who translated and I have to say that as cheesy as it might sound I found that love truly transcends any barrier. I was able to give smiles, hugs, back rubs and sing with the kids. We taught the kids to sing “Jesus Loves Me”…Sarah and I led the song and hand motions while they repeated the words. Rita then translated to the children what they were singing. That was SO important to me. More than anything on this trip I have just wanted to communicate and show these children that their Father in Heaven loves THEM…He knows their names. While I might have encouraged them momentarily ultimately they need to know that there is a God in heaven who cares for them and walks with them always. I want them desperately to know the truth of that. People come and go and will disappoint them, but as Lamentations says “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, His mercies never come to end”.

So, I left them praying for that truth to be planted deeply in their heart. But now that I have seen their situation I am responsible for more than that. These people are in DIRE circumstances and situations. The fact that there were children running around with gaping wounds in their head with no means to care for it just devastated me. I pictured my little girls running around in pain and with festering sores and infection while I stood by helpless to do anything. I cannot imagine that being the norm like it is in Ngariam.

So, as I was taking all of this in, one of our team leaders asked my friend Sarah and I if we would be willing to go help an older woman they encountered. Of course we went. I had no idea what we were walking into. This woman’s name was Mary Ida and she was elderly. We were told that as some of our team members had been walking through the village they encountered this woman lying literally face down in the dirt. They actually thought she was dead until they saw her head move. There were other village women walking by her yelling at her to pull her dress down because parts of her body were exposed. This woman was not able to move and was receiving no compassion from the people around her. Since the guys didn’t know if it would be appropriate to help her they went and got Sarah and I.

As Sarah and I approached her my heart just broke. There she was lying in the dirt – literally a pile of skin and bones. Her bones were protruding from her skin. Part of her toes were gone. She had gaping holes where her toes met her foot. Her legs and hands were swollen. Her hands had wounds and sores on them. She laid there blinking at us. Our travel partner, Rita, asked the women around her what her story was. Apparently she suffers from jiggers which are worms that make their way into her feet. They have left her with infection which has made it almost impossible for her to walk because of the pain. Her hands suffer from something similar. Her husband is dead as all are all her children. Her son’s widow tries to care for her as she can but has no resources to give her what she really needs. She said Mary was traumatized by all the loss in her life and the fact she is alone.

The first thing we did was pray for her… we asked for God to be present with her and to bring her comfort and peace. We then asked if we could move her into her hut so we could care for her. Apparently her hut was in disarray so they led us to another hut that literally had nothing in it. It had a thatched roof and a dirt floor. Two women from the village picked her up and carried her into the hut for us. We only had one pair of gloves so Sarah said that she would be the one to actually tend to her wounds. We only had a first aid kit with us so we laid Mary on the floor while she groaned in pain. We had a bottle of water which we gave her to drink. I’ve never seen someone gulp water down like that – she was SO thirsty. We had a bowl with water to lift her feet into. Sarah gently washed her feet which were bleeding and covered in flies…the whole time Mary was crying out in pain. It was probably the most heart wrenching thing I have ever been a part of in my life. Sarah kept saying, “I know, Mary…I’m sorry it hurts…I’m just trying to help…God help Mary”. After Sarah washed her feet we treated them with anti-bacterial ointment and wrapped them in gauze to protect them as best we could. It was just a bandaid on a much larger problem but it was all we could do. We did the same for her hand which had open, festering sores.



I wanted to cry through the whole thing. I wanted to turn and run. But I knew that Jesus would be right there where we were doing what we were doing. He was using us to wash her feet, to hold her hand, to bandage her wounds, to whisper words of comfort, to say her name, to pray for her. I felt God’s presence in that little mud hut – it was palpable.

And you know what? When we finished Mary looked up at us and actually smiled then laughed. She laughed. Here was this lady that literally could have been left for dead in the dirt with the African sun beating down on her LAUGHING! The way that she looked up at us when we were finished is something I will NEVER, EVER forget. I think I saw Jesus looking back at me.

One of the things I wanted most of all from this trip was to glimpse God in a new way. I glimpsed Him today in Mary. We probably spent 30 minutes with Mary today and they may have been some of the most important minutes of my life. As badly as my heart hurt for Mary I know God’s heart hurt for her so much more than mine. He felt her pain and loved her so much He sent us to her on this day to love her, to touch her, to BE Jesus to her.

I really can’t put words to what I feel in my heart right now…it’s simply overwhelming – overwhelming that God allowed me to be a part of Mary’s life today…overwhelming that there is such suffering in the world while this would be unthinkable in America. But I’ll save that as well as what I saw with the children in Ngariam for another post. For now, I just want to be in this moment. 

Thanks to Amy Savage for this post.

September 11, 2009

An Orphan's Faith

We have a great team in Uganda right now, led by Greg McElheny and Vince Giordano.  I just received an email from one of our team members, Ben Savage, from Cincinnati Ohio. I had to share it with you.  Please join me in prayer for this team as they visit carepoints throughout the Teso Region over the next few days. I hope to update you with more stories as they come to me.

"Today I walked into a world unlike any other that I have experienced.
I arrived two days ago with a team from Children’s HopeChest to visit
orphan communities in the hopes of creating connections between our
world of plenty and their world of want.   As we drove through the
towns, I witnessed a bizarre mixture of beauty, despair and hope.  The
landscape was truly astounding.  There were many imaginative and
hardworking people who had used what little resources that could
muster to create businesses that were showing signs of success.  The
next sight I would see would be a child naked, in a ramshackle mud hut
with no one to care for them.


In this strange stew of images we pulled into Rapha Community School,
a community that is sponsored by a church in Florida through
Children’s HopeChest.  We were greeted by 150 children in white shirts
and orange smocks.  The children were not exactly what I expected.
True, their situation was more dire than any I’ve seen, but the
children shone like the sun.  Their smiles were bright and filled with
pride and dignity.  The children greeted us individually and thanked
us for coming.  I only wish my children acted this respectfully.
After we toured the community, we were escorted to their schoolroom.
The room consisted of a small map of the world, a few old posters and
rough hewn benches.

The children sang a welcome to us.  They danced and recited Gods words
to us.  I was challenged and changed by all of this.   And then there
was Sarah, who read Matthew 6 aloud.  Sarah, who, from all earthly
perspectives should be disabled with despair for her future spoke of
faith.  She is an orphan who has depended on God to deliver food,
shelter and all other earthly needs.  She had suffered loss and pain
that people in my community would have spent countless dollars on
therapy to recover from, but today Sarah spoke to me of faith.  She
read

HopeChest Uganda Vision Trip Day 2 (2 of 7)

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will

eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more
important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at
the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns,
and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more
valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to
his life?
"And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field
grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon
in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God
clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is
thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of
little faith? So do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What
shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' For the pagans run after all
these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But
seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things
will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow,
for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of
its own.”  Matthew 6:25-34

To hear a lovely child of God with a gleaming face recite those words
to me was the high point and most devastating moment for me.  The
thought that Sarah, who has good reason to worry about tomorrow would
unassumingly speak those challenging words to us fairly contented and
well fed Americans destroyed me.  That we worry more about the news
from Hollywood than the desperation found around the world was nothing
short of life changing.  While our culture is so consumed with anxiety
and fear, here was little Sarah exemplifying faith and courage.  She
read the words but I could see that she felt them too and that she
felt them deeply.

I have always loved that passage and thought about it as a cute
phrasing of my simple faith. But today I heard it as a life mantra
that was spoken from the core of this small framed girl.  It was the
throwing down of the gauntlet.  And the question that confronts me now
as I sit in my Ugandan hotel and Sarah sleeps in her mud hut is “What
will I do to respond?”  I have been blessed - not so much that I am
rich in my own community necessarily, but I am insanely rich in a
global context.  I have also been exposed to enough of the
difficulties that these communities face that I can no longer hide
behind ignorance.    Do I truly believe that these children are more
valuable than my cable television?   I am the “I want my MTV”
generation.  As Africa burns I live in comfort and ease while I CAN
make a difference in the lives of others but will I choose to? What
sacrifice have I been willing to make to help fulfill God’s promise of
care to others?  I will live differently from this day forward.
Have mercy on me God, though I truly don’t deserve it.  I have for too
long ignored your call to love those who are broken and abused.  Help
me capture and hold onto the conviction, sorrow, and joy reflected in
Sarah’s eyes today.  And thank you for showing me a picture of your
heart through these broken but not forgotten children in Rapha.  I am
devastated and changed.  Thank you, sweet Lord."

September 10, 2009

Swaziland Food Update

2

"Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see."  Hebrews 11:1. This picture reminds me of this verse. This is one of those moments where our faith becomes visible in the form of a hungry child eating an nutritious meal. But we didn't have this photo when we started the February Food drive back in early 2009.

All we had was faith.

Back in February, you contributed over $13,000 to provide food for our kids in Swaziland. I just recieved this report from our partner, Kids Against Hunger about that shipment:

Our shipment of (3) 40' containers arrived in Durban, South Africa after a month at sea. Over 840,000 Kids Against Hunger meals were then transported by train to Matsapha, Swaziland. Our mission partners feed 2700 children a day at 30 care points throughout the country.

Thank you again for your generosity and faith. Kids Against Hunger is considering another shipment of food toward the end of the year. You can support this by donating online at the link below. Please note "Swaziland Food" in the notes.

We are also drilling wells, developing carepoints, and advancing discipleship. We now have nearly 1,000 children with committed sponsors. Thank you for being part of an amazing journey with Children's HopeChest. I hope to bring you more and more photos of how your faith turns into God's love for the orphan.

DONATE ONLINE

Help feed our kids in Swaziland.

September 01, 2009

Help Me Title My Second Novel

Hey everyone! I really, really need your help.

My first novel, Scared - A Novel on the Edge of the World, has hit the bookshelves. It's getting rave reviews, you can read about 33 of them by clicking HERE. The second one is finished and will release next year. The working title is Sacred, and digs into the darkness of the child sex-trade industry in Russia and run by the mafia. 

There is some concern that Sacred is too close too Scared and may cause confusion. So here's what I need: Vote on one of the titles below, including Sacred. If you have a suggestion for a title that isn't listed, please tell me. Leave a comment below or email me at tdavis@hopechest.org. I only have 48 hours to do this and get the results back to Don, my publisher.

Thanks so much, this means a ton to me. By the way, if your title is chosen, your name will appear in the thank you section of the book!

1. Sacred

2. Consecrated

3. Priceless

4. Broken

5. Untouchable