Friday, April 28, 2017

A Partnership with Eternal Consequence

In February, Seamus and I had the privilege of spending a weekend with the leadership and "family" of Lifeline Children's Services. We were invited to President's Weekend in Pointe Clear, Alabama and humbly accepted, wondering why us and how God would further His kingdom through our weekend.

It was a weekend like no other. This is true for many reasons. We were blessed to be able to leave our 5 children with family and have an entire weekend of worship, rest, and encouragement. When we arrived, our hearts leapt for joy. We knew we were with family, fellow believers, like-minded brothers seeking hope for the orphan and the expansion of Christ's name. There is an unspoken closeness between brothers in Christ and this weekend was an amazing testimony to this. We worshipped together. We laughed together. We prayed over each other. We mourned upon departure. It was a small glimpse of heaven, this beautiful bond we experienced and still share. Our weekend was restful, joyful, and edifying. But it was even more than that.

During the weekend, we were led in to the heart of Lifeline's ministries. We've loved Lifeline for years, since friends introduced us to their agency for our first international adoption. But this weekend enabled us to really see Lifeline in a new light, to dive deep into its mission and methodology. They are sooooooooo much more than a terrific adoption agency. We learned so much about who they are and what they do. After praying about how God may use this, I am overjoyed to share, here, their purpose and some of the many ways they fulfill it. I'm also excited to share how you can be a part of their vision in bringing the Gospel to the corners of the earth. I pray this post is exhilarating and inspiring, and that by hearing what Lifeline does, you would be driven to be a part of their story, motivated by the love so generously poured out on us. We also want to share some exciting news that has transpired since our time spent with Lifeline... keep reading!

"Lifeline's mission is to equip the body of Christ to manifest the gospel to vulnerable children." While this mission is always at the core, the ways this mission is fulfilled is multi-faceted.

LIFELINE BELIEVES IN THE TRANSFORMATION OF BIRTH FAMILIES. This means loving the vulnerable child but also the biological parents who carry and birth them. This organization is not simply pro-birth, rather pro-LIFE, in the sense that they are loving every member of the family in need. Ministry doesn't halt once the birth child's basic needs are met. Birth mothers often come from very broken places, with little hope. Furthermore, the #1 reason women in the U.S. choose abortion is that they are not prepared for parenthood. Lifeline offers amazing support for these parents in crisis. One way they do this is through a maternity home in Alabama called Lifeline Village, where birth mothers receive services including medical care, mentoring, job-coaching, and Christian counseling.

In addition to Lifeline Village, Families Count is a program designed to promote family restoration and preservation. It targets parents who are at risk for having their children removed from their homes and placed into foster care, and parents who have lost custody of their children and are working toward reunification. Lifeline equips local churches to see families through the program. They refer birth mothers to partner churches, who are trained in the program, and it is the church who uses the program to minister directly to the families in need. Families Count is a 6-week program that offers Biblical parenting education and hand-in-hand mentoring. Churches often provide meals and transportation through the program. In addition to experiencing the program itself, the families have now formed a relationship with a local church family! If this is something you think your church may be interested in, the program can be offered in any part of the country, with no expense for the training.

LIFELINE BELIEVES IN THE TRANSFORMATION OF CHILDREN. In addition to adoption, Lifeline serves orphaned and vulnerable children locally through fostering and globally through (un)adopted. The gospel can transform a child when that child realizes their value and realizes they are loved by a heavenly Father. This happens when a child in a foster home is loved as if they are a member of the family, providing calm and comfort to a traumatic life. It happens when a teenager who will soon age out of his orphanage is able to attend a life skills camp in Monrovia, Liberia, where he learns how to farm and begins to believe he has potential. (Un)adopted provides LSET (Life Skill Education Training) in 8 countries. They use a structured 21-day program for aging out kids, where they receive training plus discipleship. We also learned about a school opened for deaf children in Uganda. Since the success here, a local church has helped open a school for the blind!

LIFELINE BELIEVES IN THE TRANSFORMATION OF THE COVENANT FAMILY. We attest, firsthand, to the loving commitment of Lifeline, to adoptive families. Through both of our adoption processes, social workers carefully walked us through paperwork, prayed with us, cried with us, and answered the many hard questions we had along the way. Lifeline realizes the difficulties of adoption and foster care and equips families, with compassion and expertise. Lifeline is there before, during, and after a child comes home and joins a family forever.

One of the tangible ways Lifeline supports adoptive families is through a training program called Crossings. This is an extensive curriculum that helps to prepare adoptive families for parenting children from hard places. It is thorough and effective. Lifeline parents are well-prepared for many possible scenarios upon arriving home with a new child. We have personally used much of the knowledge and tools from Crossings, with our own adopted children who come with a background of trauma.

Equipped to Love is a resource to help family and friends support the adoptive and foster families in their church. Because God’s people have stepped out in obedience we have many children in our churches who come from foster care and adoption. Often, children who have experienced neglect, abuse, and trauma have challenges and differences that can cause them to not fit well in many of our traditional church programs and settings. The Equipped to Love training curriculum is designed to help individuals learn how to understand the needs of these families and provide them with practical support. Topics in this training include: caring for families, interacting appropriately with children with compromised beginnings of life, demonstrating sensitivity for adoptive and foster parents, understanding the unique needs of children from hard places, exhibiting language sensitivity, and managing challenging behavior. This is another free resource that is readily available for any interested church family!

I've shared with you only a glimpse of the beauty and love Lifeline exudes locally and globally. We have prayed about how God might want us to further partner with such a gospel-centered ministry. Upon praying, we were invited to dinner with the executives, simply because they were in our neck of the woods. Then God led us to President's Weekend in February and our love for their work only grew. Most recently, we've been asked to be on Lifeline's Alumni Council. We are humbled and over the moon excited about this opportunity to be ambassadors for Lifeline and Christ's work through them. It is a privilege and an honor to be asked and we can't wait to see how the Lord works through this for the benefit of vulnerable children and families.

God is so gracious in gently and patiently moving us through his scheduled timeline of events. We have been on the front lines of what burdens His heart. He showed us the need and command to care for orphans. Then he meticulously revealed to us each ministry opportunity He had planned for us. Adoptions, hosting, advocating, ministering to families and churches, it's all from Him. Now He faithfully brings us to this new chapter with Lifeline Children's Services. It is a gift to be a voice for such a worthy organization. Over the coming months and years, we will share more about Lifeline and the gospel work they pour themselves into. Raising awareness and ministering to families are two of the many responsibilities we've accepted as Alumni Council members. We humbly ask for your help in this new endeavor.

Will you pray for us? Our first council meeting is in May and we are asking God to use our council of 10 families to bring glory to Jesus' name. The council members are from all walks of life, who care for vulnerable children in different ways and from different parts of the world. Please pray for Seamus and I but also for the work of the entire council. Please pray for Lifeline and the work they do for Christ's kingdom. Pray that funds would be no issue, that their ministry would continue to expand and grow, that more and more children and families will hear and believe the gospel, through Lifeline's tireless commitment.

Will you pray about the possibility of joining us in our plight for the orphan? This could mean a financial gift. It could mean helping to organize an event or simply collecting items for an auction. It could mean mentoring a birth mother. It could mean committing to pray daily for a specific child or circumstance. It could mean adopting or fostering. It could mean sharing information about Lifeline's ministries and needs with others. Whatever God has gifted you with... will you please pray about using this gift for something He may have in store through Lifeline? Pray about partnering with us, with Lifeline, in whatever God reveals? We would be incredibly grateful for your commitment to this first step of praying.

Once again, we stand humbled and grateful that God would choose to use us for His glory. We are excited to see how He continues to work through Lifeline and we are excited to be a more intricate part of this amazing ministry! Please stay posted for ways to rally around us in our mission for Lifeline and ultimately for Christ's Kingdom around the globe. Blessings to you, friends!

"See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland." (Isaiah 43:19)

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