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7 posts from August 2008

August 28, 2008

Thinking Differently About Orphan Care

I'm loving these lively discussions!

Since the topic of 'solving the orphan crisis' is coming to the surface over and over in the comments, I think it's important to define a few terms. Russ made the comment that "orphan care is a band-aid...the only real solution is beating the sources that cause orphans like extreme poverty and preventable disease."

The predominant strategy for eliminating poverty and preventable disease has been foreign aid. The West has spent 2.3 trillion dollars over the last 5 decades of foreign aid, but we still have not managed to get 12 cent medicines to children to prevent malaria deaths, or get $4 bed nets to poor families, or $3 medicines to new mothers to prevent 5 million child deaths. Why? Something should tell us that's the wrong approach.

In my experience of hundreds of trips overseas, I have seen entire communities transformed because of orphan care. I have seen kids who had no hope for survival not just exist, but thrive. I have seen young girls living safe and going to university instead of becoming prostitutes.

Foreign aid is a top down approach which ignores the power of individuals (like Hanna from Addis Ababa and her network of foster care homes for orphans in Ethiopia) to provide bottom up solutions. My friend Lyston calls these people "creatures of invention." They are the women like Gugu from Swaziland who asked the 13-year-old prostitutes in her community what they needed to escape the sex trade. They answered simply, "A school." The next day, Gugu started a community school under a tree for these girls (Gugu's carepoint is not sponsored me if you're interested in getting involved here). They are pastors like Walter from Swaziland. God told Walter to "look in his own pocket" for the resources to help orphans in his community. So, he stopped paying for his own kids to go to school so that he could feed 500 orphans using the help of widowed grandmothers to cook and serve.

Walter, Gugu, and Hanna teach us about what true orphan care is. Orphan care is not a sponsorship program. It's not a feeding line, a mission trip, or a humanitarian project. It's holistic care that meets the needs of what a child would receive if they were in a family, ie, medical care, education, food, clothing, shelter, love, etc. That eliminates issues like extreme poverty and preventable disease.

I wouldn't call that a band-aid.

True orphan care gets people involved in communities, releases compassion in a way that makes a real difference, and helps to solve the bigger issues behind the orphan problem. I believe we can do this by helping communities (churches, companies, and organizations) take responsibility for communities in poor countries filled with orphans. Everybody, every church, every business, can "adopt" a Walter, or Gugu, or Hanna. The results transform children of the lowest state in their societies into men and women of great dignity and compassion. This happens when we roll up our sleeves, and get behind the work that is already being done to eliminate the orphan problem by these great men and women. The West does not bring the answers. We can bring the money and the compassion to keep this work growing and expanding. It's what Children's HopeChest does. Our goal? Engage 12,000 communities in the US and Europe to sponsor 12,000 communities, reaching 1,000,000 orphans. If you reach 1,000,000 orphans, you've just empowered an entire generation to reach itself. The 1,000,000 will reach the 150,000,000.

August 27, 2008

Is Adoption the Best Answer? Part 2

There were so many great comments to the last post on the validity of adoption, I had to continue the discussion. Thanks to all of you who so thoughtfully expressed your hearts and opinions.

One of the roots of this discussion is the whole "Adoption vs. Orphan Care" issue. I've always felt like adoption as 'the' answer is short-sighted. Think of the millions of dollars good organizations have spent on trying to promote adoption. And the results according to the article? The numbers of adoptions have decreased every year from 22,884 in 2004 to 19,400 in 2007. Seems to me this money could have been better spent by keeping the 25,000 children starving to death everyday alive. Don't get me wrong, each child that has been adopted has been given an tremendous gift: a family, a hope, and a future. But adopting 19,400 a year in the US won't put a dent in 150 million orphans.

I agree with many of you, those of us who have adopted need to do whatever we can to help the 99.9% who are left behind. When we adopted our daughter Anya, there were 100 kids left in the orphanage. I couldn't turn away from them and do nothing. If fact, the desire to help them is what led me down the path of doing what I do today. This same heart you are expressing is the reason we are opening ministry in Ethiopia. If we could all come together around an orphan issue as big as what's happening there, we could make a significant impact in the lives of 1000's of kids. Then those 1000's, through holistic programs of education, spiritual development, etc., could become the leaders in their country and change the face of the nation.

The answer, I believe, is orphan care. When you do that right, people get a heart for adoption, but they also get a heart for orphans in general. Once they fall in love with those kids and they are no longer statistics, they are in a position to use their circles of influence to make a difference. This is why I'll live the rest of my life helping to empower others to engage in orphan ministry.

I'm glad we're in this together!

August 26, 2008

Is Adoption the Best Answer?

This issue comes up over and again in relation to what is best for an orphan. I know this is a hotly contested issue, but I wanted to post this article because it brings up some good points. Although it focuses on Ethiopia, the issue applies across the board in any country. I am an adoptive father myself, so I wrestle with what is right in regards to this. Read it, and tell me your thoughts:

Editor's note: Americans are adopting fewer orphans overseas except in one country: Ethiopia. But social workers are saying adoption is not the best solution to Ethiopia's problems, reports NAM contributing writer, Shane Bauer. Bauer is a freelance journalist and photographer based in the Middle East and Africa.

Is adoption actually the best strategy for improving the lives of the orphaned children?

Most of Ethiopia's estimated one million orphans have extended family members who, if they only had the money, Tewodros said, would care for the child. Here's where the idea of adoption as a last resort gets tricky: It costs $20 per month to support a child with a foster family in Ethiopia. More often than not, the foster family is one of the child's relatives. An American parent adopting a child through Better Future Adoption will spend between $14,170 - $18,170 in fees and travel costs, according to the Web site.

"To solve the problem of orphaned children, we need solve the problem of HIV," said Teshager Shiferan, director of the Dawn of Hope Ethiopia Association. His organization is an association of people living with HIV/AIDS, the main cause of orphaned children in Ethiopia. Of the country's one million orphans, 700,000 have lost their parents to the disease.

"We can't solve the problem of orphaned children in Ethiopia by sending them abroad," Shiferan said. "We need to focus on the prevention of HIV/AIDS." Ethiopia, he said, is headed in the right direction. Three years ago, the government began offering free anti-retroviral treatment (ART) to 150,000 HIV/AIDS victims. That is still a small fraction of the estimated 1.2 million people living with HIV/AIDS, but it is already showing results: according to him, the number of people dying from HIV/AIDS in Ethiopia has been declining.

"The implication is clear," he said. "An orphan is someone whose parents died. If you increase the number of people who get ART, you decrease the number of orphans."

Dealing with HIV/AIDS might be a long-term solution to curbing the problem of orphaned children, but people like Tewodros are invested in dealing with the immediate problem of kids without parents.

As of late, he's been coming up against the government, which has recently been increasing restrictions and implementing policies that would keep children in the country. For a child to be approved for adoptions, new stipulations require documented confirmation of the death of both parents or the serious illness of the single living parent.

Tewodros said the reason for the policy change is to crack down on child trafficking, but for him, it just creates headaches. Three of the children at his orphanage are waiting to be adopted, but the government has been refusing to approve it, because the children's father is still alive. "We go to the ministry again and again and the government won't give us permission. Their father is a poor man and he can't take care of them," he said.

Tewodros admits that adoption isn't always the best strategy, but like non-profits the world over, he is restricted by funding. The money is in adoption, not in keeping children in their country with their families.

Doing the math, it would cost roughly $5000 to fund the care of 20 orphans by their extended family. While that amount is 26 times the average yearly income of an Ethiopian, it's about a quarter to a third of the amount an American would pay to adopt a single child from the Rohobet orphanage. Read the entire New America Media article here.

August 14, 2008

Passion Africa and Red Letters Fishing

This past weekend I had the privilege of speaking at The Passion Africa event in Ft. Collins. A very interesting group of people who found each other via the internet who have one passion in common: Africa. I was very impressed with how they organized and supported each other. The event raised money for an orphanage in Liberia, and is the vision of Kami Johnson. Not everyone had a passion for Liberia, but they were all there to support her vision. If the body of Christ could only operate in the same way. I can't tell you the number of times I've heard the phrase, "Let's leave our egos and logos at the door." Only to have egos and logos become the centerpiece. If there's anything we should be able to rally around and leave our personal agendas behind, it's the cause of the orphan. Passion Africa does exactly that and it was refreshing.

After the event, Daniel Clark and I took off with the guys from The Red Letters Campaign, Russ, Sam, and Jamie to the mountains. We strategized for some time about Ethiopia and how to empower people connected with us to make a difference in the lives of the poor. Then we went fly-fishing! Thought you would enjoy a couple of pictures.



August 12, 2008

The Death of a Young Missionary

Craig was in my home. He danced with my daughter. He was a wonderful man of God. But he was killed a few days ago. This post was taken from Seth's Blog.

It's been a season of sorrow in my daughter Estie's life. So when she called up crying last night, I wasn't surprised. But this was different - she'd just gotten the news that her close friend Craig Gallegos, whom she met on AIM's First Year Missionary program in Mexico was killed. The news devastated her as I'm sure it did many. Craig was an original. He died giving one of his young disciples a ride home on his motorcycle. Since he only had one helmet, he gave it to his friend. When they crashed, the helmet saved his friend's life (read article here).

Estie remembers Craig in her email to me below:
He liked to laugh, he liked to be intense. The last time I talked to him in May he asked me how I was and I told him I was "Loving life!" "That's what I like to hear!!" he said back.

He would swing dance with me, pray with me, try pick up lines on me (which I hated), argue with me about whether or not drinking was biblical, and would even let me cry on the phone with him when I needed to at 2am in the morning! He gave like he would never run dry. He nicknamed me "Fuerte" while in Mexico.

Craig would always ask me how Leah was doing, because he knew I was burdened for her. When I was nannying in Colorado he drove five hours to come see me. He danced with little Gracie Davis, and laughed when she said, "Dance with me, boy!"

One time he and I decided to try to live off of ten dollars a week between the two of us, so we could see how life was for the Mexicans. I lasted one day, he never stopped giving me crap for that. When in Dallas he took me out to a nice dinner and bought me flowers and an orange gorilla that I named OG, which he would always ask if OG was doing ok when he called.

I used to joke that I wanted to marry an Irish man, he would act disappointed and say, "That rules me out." Since he is half Mexican. Last year he texted me saying, "Guess what! My name is Scottish (close to Irish) and it means rock!" I then let him know that I would make an exception for him, all in good humor of course:)

Craig was a rock, to the core. He loved and lived hard. He poured his life out into the youth in his area and was sold out for Durango Colorado. We used to call each other and sing the song "Here I Am Once Again" to each other. Craig couldn't sing at all, but he tried:) While in Mexico on a mission trip he tried to teach me the song. We had no recordings of the song just the notes, but he taught me it until it sounded halfway like how he remembered it. But he would always make fun of me saying I never played it how it was actually supposed to be played.

Heaven just got a whole lot more exciting on July 21st, I can't wait to see Craig's smile again, or to hear him make fun of my laugh. And hopefully he'll still have some bling bling on his ear acting like the big shot that he was.

August 11, 2008

Follow me on Twitter

Yes, fellow Twitterites, I finally swallowed the Twitter Kool-Aid. You can follow me here, my username is @cthomasdavis. Mike Todd, who was responsible for getting me on Facebook, told me about this months ago. Honestly, I thought it was ridiculous. Then @gailhyatt pushed me over the edge and the final straws were my Red Letter Campaign buddies, @russw, @samhenry, and @jamie_wallace. (the @ is Twitter language.)

But now, well, I love it. Len Sweet is on Twitter too, and this is what he said to me today in an email: "I couldn't resist the language of "follower," which I've been arguing for the past 10 years needs to be our major category and interest rather than "leader," a word that really isn't found in the NT but "follower" or "mathetes" appears almost 300 times." I love his insights regarding theology and life. Check out his webpage here. That's what Twitter is about so I hope you follow me!

August 06, 2008

Famine Starves Ethiopian Young

On October 8th I leave with a small assessment team to Ethiopia. Children's HopeChest is opening ministry here and we will have a Vision Trip you all can go on in March of 2009. This region is currently being devastated by another famine and hope it will get better any time in the near future is dismal. Two bad harvests, little rain, and rising world food costs around the world are literally killing tens of thousands of Ethiopians. This new CNN video on Ethiopia is shocking, please watch it. Then, think about what you can do to help. Here are some ideas:

1. Reduce the amount of food you purchase for dinner and give the difference to an international charity feeding the poor. Have your kids participate in the process so they understand the value of living moderately. You can give directly to 5 for 50 and mark it "Ethiopia" and it will go to this food crisis.
2. Eat leftovers for lunch at work instead of going out. When you do, pray for those without food today and think about other ways you can help others.
3. Stop throwing away food. When you know something could go bad in your fridge, commit to eating that FIRST. Use the money you save towards alleviating starvation in the world.
4. Pray, pray, pray for Ethiopia.