In 2008, Bill and I traveled to Ukraine where we saw orphanage life up close and personal. As we toured the bleachy clean institution that these children called “home” I had one thought, “God sets the lonely in families, not orphanages.”
That summer we had the honor of welcoming Katya, a child who lived in an orphanage in Odessa, Ukraine. A year-and-a-half later, she joined us again. But this time, not as our guest, but as our daughter.
For years I’ve cared about vulnerable children. In college I worked with teenage girls in the inner city. In graduate school my focus was on hospitalized children, particularly children with cancer. I assisted a doctoral student in his work with children with intellectual disabilities and then wrapped up my graduate studies with an internship at Boston Children’s Hospital working in adolescent psychiatry. I read, I studied, and I wanted to help bring these hurting children healing and hope.
Bill and I married when I was 24, and less than two years later, I gave birth to our first child. Within seven years we had six children. Six healthy children. And I wondered what the Lord would do with my education, my experiences, my passion for vulnerable children. Honestly, I thought that it might just be that he would use all of this to simply help me be a better mom. And, if that was the case, it would have been fine. But God was planning more. And it blows me away.
Fifteen years into marriage, God began to show me his passion for the most vulnerable. As I read and prayed through my Bible, I saw that my passion for hurting children was one that lined up with his heart. I wrestled as I looked for ways that I, as a wife and mom of six, could actively live out this passion knowing that I was called first to my family.
During those years our family engaged with couples who were bringing hurting children into their families, and young women and families who were leaving their comfortable lives to serve vulnerable children around the world. We prayed with these friends, and as we prayed, we wondered how God would use us.
So, when we went to Ukraine in 2008, we were prime for whatever God would do. And what he did was stir our hearts for orphans and vulnerable children around the world.
There are somewhere in the neighborhood of 153 million orphans in the world. On average, 250,000 orphans are adopted each year. That leaves 152,750,000 children who are in orphanages or on the streets. I can’t even begin to fathom that number. Can you?
With numbers that large, it’s easy to get overwhelmed and walk away. But, we don’t have to walk away. There is something we can do.
In February, 2014, I began to do consulting work for a young nonprofit called RiverCross. RiverCross believes that the world’s most vulnerable children need a bridge to hope. The bridge they were building at the time was an innovative tool to equip caregivers of orphans and vulnerable children. They were helping the 152,750,000.
Very quickly my heart was drawn to RiverCross. With my dual passions of equipping women helping vulnerable children, working with RiverCross was a dream come true.
In May of 2014, I traveled with RiverCross to Zambia. What I saw and experienced blew me away. Not only did I love the work I did with the caregivers and the children, but I saw the impact of RiverCross. According to one of the directors at Every Orphan’s Hope, the work RiverCross is doing “has the power to transform orphan care.”
And I believe it.
I returned from Zambia not only with passion, but with focus and determination. That was more than a year-and-a-half ago. In January 2015, I began serving as the association director, and now I am serving in the role of global ministry director. Every morning I almost have to pinch myself because I am amazed that I get to do this work that I love.
I am amazed because:
God’s preparation is perfect. I am using my education, my experiences, and my gifts to help orphans and vulnerable children around the world
God’s timing is perfect. If this opportunity had come up several years ago I wouldn’t have been able to take it because of the needs of my family
God’s geography is perfect. God placed our family in central NC, right where RiverCross is located, when we were ready to go anywhere in the world.
If you have a passion for orphans and vulnerable children, I’d love to chat. As I’m building our RiverCross Team, I’m building it with people who are passionate for this cause. I’m helping them assess their time, talent, and treasure and find their sweet spot. So, if your heart is stirring, let’s talk!