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In honor of May’s Foster Care Month, our friend Mandy Gratton shares her experience fostering seven children under the age of five over the last 3 years. Read on for her reflection:

Foster care has been something I knew I wanted to pursue since I was in college. When I look at the scriptures, I so clearly see the call for involvement in foster care found everywhere in the gospel — through the redemption, reconciliation, and hope Jesus brings in the midst of brokenness, grief, and loss. It’s woven throughout so many stories in the Word. James 1:27 says, “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” This verse made it clear to me where I should be spending my time and resources back in my early 20s. But in my mind, my timeline looked completely different. I thought I would get married, have kids of my own and one day, hopefully, welcome foster children into our home as a family.

It’s funny how we often think we can have our lives all planned out — and we’re proven wrong, time and time again.

My 20s came and went. By the age 30, I started asking myself some really hard questions about why I was waiting to follow my passion to open my home up for foster care. But the only answer I could come up with was centered around fear. I started working through that fear, the inadequacies I placed on myself as a single person, and whether or not I would be able to parent by myself. Within a year, I took the biggest leap of faith to date. I quit my full-time job to pursue foster care full-time and learned about faith through provision and trust in a way I could have never predicted.

I had my first placement of twin baby boys within a couple of months of being licensed. The babies were leveled as a medical placement and both came home from the NICU drug-exposed and on oxygen. I didn’t know it at the time, but it was in that moment — the first time I held my first baby boy in the NICU — that my life would be forever changed.

I hear so many people say, “I could never do foster care. I would get too attached.” And the truth is, I am not immune. No one is.

The reality about foster care is that if you truly embrace the brokenness and grief of it all, it will change you to your core. If you allow yourself to fully attach to each child, even though you know it will lead to your own heartbreak when the inevitable goodbye takes place, you know that you loved wholeheartedly.

And that’s the kind of love these little ones need the most. They need someone who will keep them safe and nurture them — which, in turn, will allow their bodies and minds to heal. They need someone who will love them unconditionally — in a way that will cause ugly tears when you pack up their belongings — because that kind of love is what shows them how to feel safe and known. They need someone who will hold them a little bit longer while you rock them to sleep and pray a few more extra prayers over their family. Someone willing to fight for reunification alongside the biological family, even if you don’t fully understand or agree with the case plan because it truly is what’s best for these little lives in many cases.

For every person that tells me how “lucky the kids are to have me,” the real truth is that I am the lucky one. These littles change me so much more than I could ever help them. They may never even recognize me if we were to run into one another years down the road. But their bodies will hold the memories of the love they felt. And as a foster parent, we can never discredit ourselves and the impact we have to help change the trajectory of a life forever through our love.

So, I will continue to let foster care wreck my life in the most beautifully redemptive ways because it matters — and so should you. Even on the hard behavioral days. Even on the days where your heart is broken into tiny little pieces and you feel like you can’t possibly take another placement after yet another heartbreak of a goodbye. You are brave and strong and each child’s handprint is forever imprinted on your life to make a difference in you, just as much as you are leaving a lasting legacy for them. There is nothing more beautiful than watching the story of redemption and restoration take place right before our eyes. I know that the Lord is using these little ones to write a redemptive story in me just as much as He is using me to help them heal. It’s what draws us closer and reminds us of the Kingdom work in front of us and how much we need Him.

Serve foster children and at-risk families in your own community.

GET INVOLVED     SEE OPEN REQUESTS

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May is National Foster Care Month! At CarePortal and The Global Orphan Project, we want to acknowledge and thank all those who open up home and heart to children and their families in a time of crisis. Even if you’re not in a place to foster children or youth yourself, there are so many ways to wrap around foster families with support.

So let’s get practical: Here are 10 ways you can support foster families in your church or community. We challenge you to choose at least one for this month, then keep the support rolling throughout the year!

1. Bring food.

You can always start here. A hot meal can bring a whole lot of comfort, even in the midst of a whole lot of chaos. You can serve a family by delivering a hot meal, assembling a few freezer meals or packing a basket of full of yummy snacks. Everyone’s schedule and abilities are different, so don’t feel pressure to be the next Rachel Ray — show up in the right moment with a mocha latte for a foster parent with a new infant placement, and they just might do a happy dance!

2. Organize a meal train.

Consider taking #1 to the next level and making sure the family has a steady stream of yummy support coming their way. This is especially important in the first couple of weeks after a new placement arrives. MealTrain.com and MealBaby.com are just two of the many websites available to make this process efficient and helpful for a family that deserves a little extra love.

3. Gather supplies when a new placement arrives.

Before and after a new placement arrives, be proactive and ask what the family needs. Maybe it’s diapers and a baby gate? Maybe it’s bunk beds and backpacks? Especially if a family fosters children of varying ages and genders over time, the supplies they need start to add up — both financially and space-wise. One way you might be able to help is offer to store supplies for them!

4. Welcome a new placement.

When an infant, toddler or teenager arrives to a new foster home, this time can be loaded with different kinds of emotions for everyone involved. Help the parents, and possibly their own biological children, welcome the child into their home. Talk with the foster parents about how you can help with the transition. You could deliver a gift or activity that the family could enjoy together that first evening or week. Depending on your relationship, you might bring over some ice cream and initiate a game night. Maybe you could help the family create a new tradition by joining them for a monthly neighbor and family night!

5. Become a primary supporter for a family.

Every foster family needs at least a few people to step up into their primary support circle. Two key ways you can help in this way is by regularly providing transportation and/or respite care.

Children in the foster care system often have a significant number of additional appointments, so providing rides for visits, after-school activities and appointments can be a huge blessing. Providing respite care — whether it’s just during an afternoon of errands, letting a couple get a quality date night, or caring for a child for several days — is a tremendous gift to foster parents and children. Ideally, your friends would know you’re committed to providing this support even before they get licensed to accept a placement.

Laws vary state-to-state, but this may require a background check or special certification from the foster family’s licensing agency. Be proactive to find out what you need to do, and then follow through. Try to make this support regular, because your consistent presence could have a powerful stabilizing effect for both the child(ren) and the family.

6. Listen

This is a big one. Foster parenthood (and parenthood in general), and the busyness and complexity that comes with it, can often leave foster parents feeling isolated or unknown. Regularly and proactively check in with your friends to see how they’re doing. Grieve with them. Laugh with them. Pray with them. Finally, try not to give unsolicited advice; be with them and listen.

7. Tell them specific ways you want to help.

You can bless a family by simply letting them know you’re available to help with day-to-day chores and errands. Then follow through! Most foster families feel awkward asking for specific needs but would gladly accept help with household tasks.

Say: “I’d like to mow your lawn this week. What day works best?” Then follow through.

Ask: “Could I help with your laundry this week? I will pick it up on Thursday and bring it back clean and folded on Friday.” Then follow through.

Other ideas: Offer to grab their week’s grocery list and deliver their groceries, provide transportation for foster and/or biological kids (see #1), or just ask them what errands you can help with.

8. Invite the whole family over for dinner or playdate

As we mentioned in #6, foster families — parents, children in temporary care and biological children — can feel isolated. Invite the whole family over for dinner or a playdate. Warmth and hospitality, welcoming a child into a bigger community, is a powerful way to show Christ’s love to both the child and the family.

9. Gift them a membership or day passes.

Sometimes you need to get out of the house! Gift the family a day pass to a nearby water park or activity center. Offer them a membership to the zoo or the city pool. This could be such a fun and unexpected way to brighten up life for a family — and could be a great choice for a family in your church or neighborhood you don’t know as well but want to serve.

10. Pray.

Finally — and firstly — pray. There are battles going on that we can’t always see. Pray for the child. Pray for their biological families. Pray for their foster parents. Pray for the biological children of the foster parents. (See Jason Johnson’s powerful post from 2015: “Foster Care is Spiritual Warfare”.)

Remember, you don’t have to do everything. Start with one small yes.

“I used to think you had to be special for God to use you, but now I know you simply need to say yes.” 
― Bob Goff, “Love Does” 

Serve foster children and at-risk families in your own community.

GET INVOLVED     SEE OPEN REQUESTS

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We’re heading to visit our local church partners in East Africa, November 7-18, 2019, and we think you should come with us! Watch this short video for a sneak peek at why: 

This 12-day GO Project Vision Trip will take you to Ethiopia, Uganda and Rwanda. You will visit four children’s villages — two in Ethiopia and two in Uganda. The trip will conclude in Kigali, the capital and largest city of Rwanda, with an informative and powerful visit to the Genocide Memorial.

This is an incredible opportunity to meet and experience the ministry of our inspiring local church partners, both caring for orphaned and vulnerable children and working to keep families together. Our Uganda partners’ Father’s Family ministry has shown tremendous success in strengthening families and communities, and is now being implementing in other nations. (Watch the stories of Constance, Leah and Charity, to learn more — and see more beautiful footage of Uganda, “the Pearl of Africa”.)

Prepare to be blown away by the beautiful scenery, culture and people of these nations.

And remember: It’s always a good idea to dance!

“Vision trips are a unique opportunity to get a glimpse into what God is doing around the world through the local church to care for the vulnerable in their communities. You will be exposed to people, places and cultures outside of your norm. Your understanding will be expanded and your preconceptions challenged. You will see from a different perspective and that has the power to rock your world and transform your life.”

— Jamie Davis, GO Project Trips Director

What are you waiting for? 

We expect this trip to fill up quickly, so take a look today, and register! Our team is ready to walk with you through this experience, every step (and transatlantic plane ride) of the way. Questions? Please contact Jamie Davis at trips@goproject.org

REGISTER      SEE ALL TRIPS

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We have news for you! Take a couple minutes to watch our latest episode of 2 Minutes with GO (Ok, maybe it’s almost three minutes!), and hear Joe Knittig, CEO of The Global Orphan Project, share news about what’s happening through our ministry and marketplace initiatives. He will also share three practical ways you can help kids and families around the world!

1. Meet real-time international needs

You can now meet urgent needs of children around the world in real time! Using our CarePortal technology, which has led to overwhelming impact serving kids in the U.S., our local partners are now sharing requests on behalf of vulnerable children and families internationally. We’re excited to share this news with you because we believe this new avenue could have powerful implications for how we work together to meet needs of the vulnerable.

Please take a look at requests currently open, and share this opportunity with your friends, family and community. Donate to cover the entire request, or donate a portion and invite your friends to collectively meet a need!

It’s amazing what can happen when we all give a little!

SEE CURRENT NEEDS

2. Saturday, May 11 — Don’t miss out!

This community is blowing us away with support of GO Feed 2019! Sessions 1 and 2 are already full! But we’re still recruiting more volunteers to help us pack more than 270,000 meals for kids on Saturday, May 11, from 3:30 – 6:15 p.m. Register by April 26 for a free event tee!

REGISTER NOW

3. Join the #careforeverychild movement

Who is your Forevery child? Who is the child who changed the way you look the world? Who is the child who showed you what really matters? Who is the child that changed your heart? Join the #careforeverychild movement and help inspire others to stand for kids.

SHARE YOUR STORY

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We love seeing news features like this one from Phoenix, Arizona! Stories of neighbors serving neighbors are popping up across the nation. Why? Because the Church is answering God’s call to love!

Take a couple minutes to watch this encouraging feature from ABC-15 Arizona about local churches working to help keep families together.

Since launching CarePortal in December 2015, 125 churches have served more than 5,000 children in the state. This equates to more than $1,781,814 in economic impact. And this is only the beginning!

READ FULL ARTICLE

God is writing beautiful stories in communities across our nation and around the world!

SEE IMPACT IN OTHER STATES

GET INVOLVED

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A reflection from Trace Thurlby, GO Project President

Friends,

There are many good causes in the world. Below, I’ve unpacked why I believe caring for children is a defining issue of our generation, especially for all who follow Jesus, and why I maintain that no one is better positioned than the Church to provide that care.

Why Children? 

If a person believes that every life is sacred and celebrates every redemptive story, why focus on children as compared to any other group?

A cynic might say children are the only ones who can truly be helped. I reject that.

I don’t invest in children as a result of a superior ROI analysis, but rather, because children are among the most vulnerable. Whatever many problems are in our world today and whatever real evils exist, children are not to blame, nor should they pay the highest price. When left to fend for themselves, they will, and they do.

Bring a food truck to a refugee camp. The strongest men will make their way to the front of the line. Women next. The elderly and children better have a representative personally standing in line for them. Even if someone is overseeing the process to ensure that everyone gets a bag of rice, without an adult champion, the chance that child will keep/consume it is suspect at best. This narrow example manifests itself in various cultures and contexts, with similar results, all over the world – the United States included.

Often just a cursory glance reveals the cyclical root.

A community that neglects its most vulnerable is in peril on multiple levels. Conversely, a community that reaches out, opens up, and brings in will develop a bigger view of family, finding purpose and joy beyond self. These truths apply to many disenfranchised groups, like the elderly and disabled, and they are definitely true for children.

How we care for our children who are abused, abandoned and afraid is a defining issue for our country, our generation, and especially for all who follow Jesus.

Why the Church? 

First, a definition. I have no interest in partnering with historical religious institutions and power structures most concerned with debating and deflecting the societal issues of the day.

Home to less than 5 million of its own, Lebanon has recently served as a refuge for 1.5 million people fleeing from civil wars in Syria, Iraq and Yemen. South of Beirut, Tyre Church provides education, medical care, counseling, emergency care, homes, family and spiritual hope to orphans, widows and refugees in their communities.

The Church I’m referring to is local communities of authentic people who believe in Jesus and have placed themselves under His authority as they pursue loving God and loving their neighbor.

The Church is often a target, mocked and marginalized. Understandably so, as the Church is made up of people who are flawed. Those flaws often surface in mind-numbing contradictions to what is professed. Many of these criticisms are fair and can even be constructive. However, when I have been a critic of the Church, my comments were, at times, ill-informed ignorance.

I criticized the Church for being ineffective, and then I saw Her caring for HIV+ Dalits in India.

I criticized the Church for being afraid, and then I saw Her caring for Syrian refugees whose families had been ravaged by ISIS.

I criticized the Church for being selfish, and then I saw Her opening Her homes to children bouncing around the U.S. foster care system; welcoming them in as family.

Like the blind man holding the elephant’s tail, I was an expert in what I thought I knew, unaware of what I didn’t.

Bethel Gospel Church in Hyderabad and Sarampet, India, faithfully serve orphaned children and vulnerable families in their communities.

Whatever flaws the Church has, the Body of Christ is more active, more effective, bigger, and more beautiful than any of us know. Jesus calls His Bride beloved. For those of us following Him, we should be careful in calling Her anything else.

For those of different (or no) faith, they would still be hard pressed not to recognize the Church as the greatest distribution network in the world. There are close to 350,000 Christian churches in the U.S. In many countries, the number of churches far outstrips the number of hospitals, police stations and other social service centers combined. After the Haitian earthquake, I saw pastors feeding thousands at night from the back of their trucks in their church parking lots. The fact that the port was closed, the airport was shut down, and the UN said it was too dangerous didn’t concern them at all. This was normal duty for them, as internationally, pastors often wear multiple hats. In addition to being spiritual shepherds (a sacred and significant role), they are also asked to be rainmakers, helping their congregants find jobs, get other people’s kids in school, and provide access to health care for the elderly and infirm. Most of the international pastors I know personally are bilingual. Many have traveled internationally and could live in wealthier nations, but they stay, serve and lead their own.

Pulpit Rock Church in Colorado Springs, Co. regularly hosts bed-building events involving community members of every age and stage. They use their supply to deliver beds to foster children and at-risk families as needs arise in their community.

If one organization were going to care for children and families in crisis around the world, it would require global reach and local presence; fluency in 1,000+ languages, multiple skills (cooking, security, counseling, education, etc.), the trust of the community, and an altruistic motive to minister. As large and well-resourced as many global aid organizations and child sponsor programs are, they don’t possess these traits. Such an organization would take years to build, which is what God has done with His Church over the centuries.

Rather than try to supplant the Church, at GO Project, we are focused on trying to support Her. We believe we live in a movement of God where He is raising up His Church to care for His children, and in the process, He is purifying His Bride from selfishness, materialism and a small view of family.

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The Global Orphan Project by Go Project - 1M ago

As the last leg in our Women’s History Month series, we’d like to introduce you to one more inspiring woman of The Global Orphan Project. Her name is Constance.

Constance is a mother, a wife, an entrepreneur and a resilient woman of faith who will not give up on her family. Her leadership and willingness to become involved with Father’s Family, our local church partner’s family-strengthening program, has led to inspiring transformation and redemption in her family:

“Father’s Family asked what our dream was for our family, God revealed it to us: to become a God-fearing family that has well-educated children and increased income. Every day we pray for our dream to be achieved before we sleep.” — Constance 

Not only did Constance and her husband, Obed, see redemption in their marriage and family, but they are now leaders and forces for transformation in their community.

Once a pilot participant, Constance is now the chairperson of the Father’s Family committee at their church. And after so much success with the farming techniques they learned through the program, the family was able to acquire a second plot of land, expanding their farm by three times. Their neighbors, amazed at the quality of their crops, started asking them how their fields were yielding so much.

They told their neighbors about the Father’s Family program, and they also started hosting weekly farming lessons on their land!

“I love that Obed is now a redeeming voice in the community, speaking against alcoholism and is pro family. I love that the local church wrapped around this family. They didn’t wait until the family disintegrated. They were there at the perfect moment to help hold this family together.” — Jake Barreth, Director of International Orphan Care

* This post is the final installment of a 3-part series featuring women of The Global Orphan Project.

WATCH PART 1: LEAH’S STORY

WATCH PART 2: FATME’S STORY

Meet international needs

Support our local church partners in Uganda and around the world who are supporting and empowering children and families like Constance’s. You can provide the basics every child deserves and help keep families together by giving to our International Fund or by meeting specific, real-time needs through our online platform CarePortal.

DONATE NOW     SEE SPECIFIC NEEDS

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1 day. 1,500 volunteers. 272,160 meals for kids!

The Global Orphan Project is partnering with NorthPoint Development to bring you the 3rd annual GO Feed event over Mother’s Day Weekend!

Can we count you in? Invite your family, friends and coworkers, and register for 1 of 3 sessions of this fun, high energy, family-friendly service event. Please register for this free event at goproject.ticketspice.com/go-feed-2019.

Volunteers must be at least 5 years old to participate. Each participant who registers by April 26 will receive an event t-shirt made in Haiti and printed in Kansas City by GOEX Apparel, courtesy of NorthPoint Development.

The Event
Last year, more than 800 volunteers packed 100,000 meals! This May, we’re taking it to the next level. With music and complimentary food trucks keeping us moving, 1,500 volunteers will assemble exactly 272,160 nutrition-packed meals for kids around the world!

The Food

Food scientists developed all-vegetarian MannaPack meals to quickly reverse and prevent malnutrition. A power-packed formula of 20 vitamins and minerals, added to dried vegetables, soy protein, and rice, provides complete nutrition for a child to grow and thrive.

The Kids

Children in the care of our local church partners, along with other organizations around the world, receive life-giving nourishment from these MannaPack meals.

REGISTER NOW

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The Global Orphan Project by Go Project - 2M ago

In honor of Women’s History Month, we’re continuing our series highlighting three of the many inspiring women we’re privileged to meet as we partner with local churches around the world. Today, we’d like you to meet Fatme.

Fatme grew up in a slum in Syria. Her journey has been full of darkness and pain, but today, she has hope because of the love she and her two daughters have experienced through Tyre Church in Lebanon.

We invite you to take three minutes today to watch her story:

A little more background on Fatme’s journey

Fatme’s father passed away when she was 9 months old, leaving her mother to raise her and her siblings alone. She lost many family members and friends when war broke out in Syria. Fatme and her two young daughters came to Lebanon as refugees with her husband.

However, he became abusive and eventually threw them out, leaving them to live on the streets.

Years of loss, violence and abuse, often from people claiming to want to help, left Fatme in a constant state of fear and mistrust.

One day, another Syrian refugee family agreed to take them in for two weeks and worked with them to try to find a place for them to live. That’s when they heard about Tyre Church. Fatme and her daughters, Cidra and Jouri, now live in an apartment near the church, the girls are attending school, and the staff is working with Fatme to help her heal and take steps forward.

“When we came to this church, we started feeling we were humans with value. If they see a stranger who needs help, they would offer help without expecting anything in return. Not like the other people that abused us before, for their personal desires. Here they just practice kindness for the Lord. I saw that with my own eyes… ” — Fatme

The ministry of Tyre Church, Lebanon 

Home to less than 5 million of its own, Lebanon has recently served as a refuge for 1.5 million people fleeing from civil wars in Syria, Iraq and Yemen. South of Beirut, Tyre Church provides education, medical care, counseling, emergency care, homes, family and spiritual hope to orphans, widows and refugees in their communities.

We are privileged to play a small role in the work of Pastor Mohammad and his team. Along with a growing network of churches in Jordan, Egypt and Syria, they are bright lights in their communities.

* This post is one of a 3-part series featuring women of The Global Orphan Project.

WATCH PART 1: LEAH’S STORY

Meet international needs

Support our local church partners in Lebanon and around the world who are caring for children and families like Fatme’s. You can provide the basics every child deserves and help keep families together by giving to our International Fund or by meeting specific, real-time needs through our online platform CarePortal.

DONATE NOW     SEE SPECIFIC NEEDS

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An update from Mary Priscilla, Executive Director of GO India

India is known for its vibrant culture, emerging economy and 1.3 billion people, but generational poverty is also part of the nation’s story. Our local church partners in India provide family to orphaned and vulnerable children, while also bringing hope to communities through family strengthening, literacy and health education initiatives.

Mary Priscilla, Executive Director of GO India, would like to share a few updates with you:

After-school literacy and orphan prevention program

“Along with regular teachings after school and feeding the children with nutritious food, the kids also had special programs and competitions on the occasion of Republic Day in January. It’s such a joy to see kids from the community get along as a family and being blessed by education and nutrition.”

Self-sustainability through farm at Sarampet

“Self-sustainability has always been a goal, and we are trying various ways to help raise food for children. Our goal is to see that at least 70% of the food for 33 children at Sarampet village produced from the farm. This includes paddy rice, lentils, vegetables, eggs, meat and fish. God has been faithful in providing for all the needs at the farm and is gracious enough to lead us step-by-step.”

Prayer requests from our partners

“Pray that there would be good produce from the crops, the fish in the pond and for the chicken to grow and multiply so that enough food is raised for the children. At present, there is scarcity of water — please pray for sufficient water. A reservoir is being constructed close to the Sarampet village, so please pray that the work is completed very soon.”

Meet Mounika, Deepika and Sindhu

Thank you to every person who plays a role in caring for these kids and investing in communities in India! We’d like to introduce you to three sisters who benefit from these initiatives and are living in the care of our local church partners in the village of Sarampet. The beginning of their story is dark, but, as you’ll hear from Mary Priscilla, their future is much brighter because of the love of a local church and givers like you.

Create brighter future for kids  

Support our local church partners in India and around the world who are caring for kids and supporting families in their own communities. You can meet tangible needs of kids around the world and work to break the orphan cycle by giving to our Greatest Needs Fund.

DONATE NOW  

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