UkraineAll around the world, in every continent, the same things are happening: the people of God are stepping up to care for hurting children and wounded families. I saw it in Ukraine when I took vacation time two weeks ago after being invited to speak at their National Adoption Conference. Even amidst the turmoil besetting that beautiful land, believers across the country are loving those children and families who are suffering.
Love and hope, replacing pain and emptiness.
Ukraine has such a special place in my heart, as it is the first country where the Church and Government began to work together for a Ukraine without Orphans. And now, more than 30 other countries around the world are starting 'without orphans' movements. The goal is that every child in the country would be living in a safe, stable, and nurturing family. One of our amazingly gifted sons, Alex, drew the picture of the country of Ukraine atop a high mountain, upheld by the transparent church.
And our prayer is that, around the world, as others see that it is possible for all the church to care for all the orphans in Ukraine, they will see that it is also possible in their own countries. As we read in Acts 13:47: "I have made you a light for the outcasts."
I had prepared my message for the time in Ukraine, intending to use Nehemiah; however, as I continued praying, it became clear that it would be much more helpful to give 'my heart' than to give 'my message.' In my heart, the goal was simple: for these dear believers to see how important and valued they are in the eyes of their heavenly Father, and that their example is being talked about around the world. I actually took the 18 by 24 inch picture you see above, and it was indeed better than a thousand words!
After I finished speaking, several Ukrainian smiling fathers approached me, "Thank you so much for helping us see that what we are doing is important. We thought we were just doing this little thing of taking care of orphaned children and helping them to have a loving family; we had no idea that in actuality, we are doing a big thing in God's plan!"
Christian Alliance for OrphansI saw this 'little is big' idea again in the annual Christian Alliance for Orphans meeting in Chicago this past week. One of the speakers was a young man, Tyrone, who has finished law school and is mentoring young people in the inner city. He told his story of growing up with a single mom who struggled with substance abuse and so was not able to give him parenting. Tyrone ended up embroiled in the gun violence of the inner city, and he talked about the woman who gave him the 24 hours that changed his life. She was the cook that worked in 'juvie' who served him food every day in the cafeteria. One day as he is walking through the line, she looks at him and says, "you are just like my son!" He thinks, "well, if I am like her son, then she is like my mother!" He began to see himself as having value; he only saw her about 5 minutes a day, as he walked through the line, and is sure he didn't have more than 24 hours total with her--but her view of him changed his view of himself!!! Towards the end of his time, he made her a jewelry box in the wood shop there. Her belief in him was the stepping stone that got him to community college, then college, then law school, then living his life to help mentor other young people! It is now 20 years later, and Tyrone recently was surprised to run into the cook's son, who greeted him this way: "You always were her FAVORITE son!!....and guess what she still has sitting right in the middle of her dresser--that jewelry box you made her!" Tyrone was able to get her number and call her. When she answered, he asked, "Hey! Do you know who this is?" At once she replies, "YES! It is Tyrone!!!"
This inspirational story reminds us that what we all need is the same: love and belonging. And that 5 'little' minutes of consistent kindness can make a 'big' change a young person's life! It is what Paul writes about in Romans 9:
Those who were not beloved, I will call 'beloved;' and in the very place where it was said, 'you are not my people,' there they will be called 'sons of the living God.'
Today, Lord, we want to copy this cook!!! Open our eyes to see ourselves, our children, and others, to see the 'little' things we can do, in the 'big' way that you see us and them. As beloved treasures, with purpose, who are part of God's big story!!!