What a great weekend in Columbus, Ohio! Asia's Hope was privileged to be a part of a great conference about global orphan care called More4Orphans, hosted at the Vineyard Church of Columbus here in Ohio. John McCollum, Seth Earnest and Carol Richardson—the entirety of our North American staff—were all able to attend, along with several members of Crossroads Community Church from Mansfield, OH, Team Hope from Wooster, OH, and many other supporters of Asia's Hope.
The conference itself gathered more than 700 people together to learn more about God's heart for the orphans of the world and become more equipped to continue or begin caring for orphans in need.
Orphan homes, adoption methods and foster care were all discussed as ways Christians and churches can become more involved in orphan care. There was worship and joy; there were tears and heartbreak; it was a powerful weekend and a tremendous time of seeing God's people coming together from dozens of churches and denominations, working together for God's kingdom.
Dr. Wess Stafford from Compassion International was the keynote speaker Friday night. He spoke passionately about God's love for children and how when we care for the "least of these," that we are—mysteriously and miraculously—caring for Jesus himself.
John McCollum spoke about Isaiah 58, imploring the church that even if we are passionately seeking God, God won't respond unless we are loosing the chains of injustice, breaking the yokes of the oppressed, sharing food with the hungry, providing the poor wanderers with shelter and clothing the naked. Only then, Isaiah says, will our healing quickly appear and will God be our rear guard and guide us always. When we do those things, God will strengthen us against a sun-scorched land like a well-watered garden. When we "spend ourselves on behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed," God will call us "Repairer of Broken Walls" and "Restorer of Streets with Dwellings." Think of that! Our names being changed because we are literally creating new dwellings and fixing broken walls for those in need!
John also spoke about some practical steps for us to move from "raising awareness" into action for the visions God gives us for His Kingdom.
Alex Krutov spoke about his history and his passion: he was found at 3 days old abandoned in a trash dumpster in St. Petersburg, Russia. He was brought up through the Russian orphan system, a system in which 90% of children who've gone through it end up in crime, prostitution, addicted to drugs, or commit suicide. 90%. Alex's heart is for his fellow brethren in Russia, the ones being raised how he was raised, and he has begun a ministry called The Harbor whose mission is to find teenage kids who've recently left the Russian orphan system and equip them practically, emotionally and spiritually for life as adults—cooking, nutrition, personal care, finances, housekeeping, psychological care, educational help and vocational training. All of these are practical things many of us take for granted, but without being taught these things, lives can fall into hopelessness, and hopelessness leads to the 90% number above. Alex is bringing hope to these kids. Alex is bring hope to Russia! Pray for him and for The Harbor.
Another powerful story was that of Geoff and Tami Biehn. They are a family who have attended Vineyard Columbus for many years, and they have been passionately seeking God's heart for their lives, their family and the world. This seeking eventually led them to sell their fully-paid-for house, a nice house in a nice neighborhood in Columbus, and downsize their lives to be able to make an impact in the world. Because of this, they have been able to build a home to house 37 girls in the Dominican Republic and also give more money to Eyes Wide Open, David and Nicolle Bompart's orphan ministry in Haiti. "Restorer of Streets with Dwellings" indeed! Bless the Biehns for what they're doing!
And finally, Nicolle Bompart spoke about her and her late husband David's ministry in Haiti called Eyes Wide Open. To hear a woman speak about love whose husband just gave his life for these kids—there are no words for listening to her speak. There is nothing powerful enough to express. God is amazing, and Nicolle has given everything for these kids. Pray for her, Mack (their adopted son) and Daniella (David's daughter whom Nicolle adopted when they got married) as they continue the grieving process for the loss of David, and pray for Eyes Wide Open. Bless Nicolle! Pour more of Your goodness and mercy out on her and her family, Father!
There were many other speakers and sessions as well. This was an amazing weekend. We at Asia's Hope are so honored and thankful to have been a part of this conference, and we look forward to God continuing to pour His heart out more and more for the least and the lost of this world.