Ineffective Protection ~ Cassie Murray

Today’s blog comes from ROOM’s Missions Director, Cassie Murray.  Cassie has served in various aspects of ROOM’s ministry–often stepping into the place where she is most needed and feeling inadequate and ineffective all the way. 

Not too long ago, I posted a picture on my personal social media of my son, Oliver Jack, and my daughter, Finley.  We had braved the spring showers to run a few errands and although the rain had stopped long enough for us to shop, the drops started falling once we stepped back outside. We started running across the parking lot trying to get to the car before becoming drenched. I laughed and fumbled for my phone to snap a quick picture of Finley sheltering Oliver Jack from the storm with her jacket.

It wasn’t posed or thought through. It was just a moment. I wanted to remember it because those two have something special in the world of siblings. It’s a gift so rare I find myself trying to bottle up the moments in case the magic wears off. And this was one of those moments.

17758490_10156185662333916_4688627715788207143_o

It made me smile. I thought maybe it would make other people smile too; so I shared it. It was a comment made by a friend I used to teach with that really got me thinking. She said,

Wonderful photo! Poetry, motion, play of stripes & squares, grays, blues, whites and bright yellow, the wet pavement, the reflection of the red light waiting like a flame in the rain past the handicap parking space. Her ineffective protection, but oh, the love and tenderness!

~Bethsy SanMillan

I had no plans on making this photo something important or particularly meaningful, but those words! They struck a chord in my soul and kept me thinking for days.

My sensitivity is much closer to the surface these days than it has been in the past, and for so long I’ve struggled with what I feel is “ineffective protection” in my ministry.

12745967_10154566994283916_1763064840271587507_n

Not that long ago I posted the picture above of the city of San Pedro Sula in Honduras. I wrote:

This country, more specifically, this city, has burrowed it’s way deep into my heart. I wish I knew more. Every time I am here I leave wishing I knew more… did more… could do more… was more… laughed less… cried less… hurt less… Each time my legs quake with my inability to bring anything of worth to a city I love full of people I love. I feel like I am a disappointment, but how silly of me to put such stock in my own worth! He is enough. He loves enough… He understands the desires of even the most confused hearts… He sees into the most desperate of situations AND knows the answer to healing those wounds. My hands aren’t dirty enough from serving… I have so much to learn and so far to grow. I am thankful that He is patient with me as I separate what is me and what is Him. I know there is too much of me in me.
Most importantly, this country has taught me that I want more of Him.

I feel like Finley trying to protect Oliver Jack from the rain.

All day, every day.

And Oliver Jack is still getting wet. 

And for so long, that has been my perspective. I was focusing on how the people I serve still suffer. But when I looked at the picture of Finley and Oliver Jack I was struck by how beautiful it was that she tried. Or actually, my friend helped me realize that beauty. My heart was brought joy, but she helped me see the significance.

How many times do we let productivity–or our ability to fix things–get in the way of feeling someone else’s pain? 

The reality is, not many people expect the deepest sources of pain to be fixed by human understanding or human capabilities. We understand that reality even more when it comes to our own pain. Of course, not a soul reading this can make my son’s adoption process go quicker. But when you ask about him, I feel the tenderness of Finley’s coat stretching over my shoulders. For a moment, parts of me are sheltered from the fullness of what I am experiencing.  And it’s because someone paused and risked feeling what I am feeling in order for those parts of me to be sheltered. I never expect it to be completely alleviated.

However, for some reason, when it comes to other people, the inability to “fix” the suffering gets in the way of compassion. 

Because we are afraid of being ineffective, we fail at being compassionate. 

Finley wasn’t afraid of being ineffective. She knew that her coat couldn’t possibly be big enough to shelter herself and Oliver Jack. But she decided that it was better to run with him, sheltering what she could, than to be dry while he becomes drenched.

Jesus wept.

This verse comes right before Lazarus is raised from the dead. The same man that cried, moments later raised him from the dead. I highly doubt that Jesus was surprised by the act of raising Lazarus from the dead. 

Yet, He paused before the miracle to step into the pain. 

Jesus isn’t afraid of pain. He calls us to step into that pain and feel what others are feeling. Because then, “Oh, the love and tenderness!”

Is there someone you know that is suffering in ways that make you feel uncomfortable in your inadequacy to protect them? Reach out to them. More than likely, you won’t fix their problem, but for a minute, they will be sheltered from the rain.

Four-elevenths ~Amanda Stafford

Today’s article is written by ROOM’s Executive Director, Amanda Stafford.  Amanda shares exciting news about transitions and changes at Reach Out Orphanage Ministries.  She also shares a children’s song, complete with cool dance moves, about ways we can all support children who have been orphaned.

Four-Elevenths

By: Amanda Stafford

ROOM has been empowering children and communities since 2006.  It is currently 2017.  This means Reach Out Orphanage Ministries is eleven years old.  Eleven!

God allowed me to fall in love with ROOM after volunteering in the summer of 2013.  I have been blessed with the opportunity to serve as a full-time staff member since 2014, first as the Director of Operations and then as the Executive Director.  This means I have been a proud ROOM family member for almost four years.  I have been part of four-elevenths of this agency’s ministry efforts to empower children and communities.

AS blog 5.17 four elevenths

Between fussing at people about receipts and attempting to comprehend payroll tax processes, I have actually played a small role in some big things here.  I helped the children at Bethel Orphanage in Orissa, India gain their own private bathroom facilities.  I helped take the first baby steps to establish ROOM Nepal.  I helped advocate for increased Honduras Orphanage Care resources.  I said “no” to a lot of great ideas, so ROOM could say “yes” to our core calling.  Most notably, I managed boring, behind-the-scenes details that empowered ROOM’s staff and missionaries- the amazing world-changers who I admire and respect so deeply- to meet the urgent needs of children who have been abandoned.  This is my greatest accomplishment:  I helped the helpers help our kids.  (My second-greatest accomplishment is our paperwork management system:  Those. Files. Are. Fierce.)

My last four years looked something like this:

This month (May, 2017) will be my last month as ROOM’s Executive Director.

I have been accepted into the University of South Carolina’s Social Work PhD program where I will have the opportunity to take what I learned about child abandonment in the field, and build on this in the classroom.  Through academia, I aspire to generate more research and resources for children struggling with abandonment and poverty.  I aim to use this platform to smash some of the roadblocks standing in the way of ROOM, and agencies like ROOM, as they seek to create a world where all God’s children will grow up in loving, forever families.

USC announcement

It feels exciting to pass my ROOM leadership baton to people I truly respect and admire.  In the last few months, Ali B. has accepted a promotion from India Country Coordinator to Southeast Asia Director (managing both ROOM India and ROOM Nepal).  Ali became involved with ROOM at a young age, and in the blink of a eye, has become a professional country director, advocate, foster mother, expert on the Southeast Asian orphan crisis and an international child welfare leader.  Kacey Bolin has accepted a promotion from Honduran Missionary to Honduras Country Director.  Kacey’s long resume filled with ministry roles, leadership experiences, a strong educational background and professional connections, combined with her inspiring faith in God and strong drive for a mission-focused ministry, makes her a highly-qualified fit for this important calling.  Cassie Murray has accepted a promotion from Honduras Country Director to Ministry Director (a Stateside, administrative role).  Cassie’s vast experiences at ROOM, from launching ROOM Costa Rica to managing ROOM’s Transition Home in Honduras, to serving as a ROOM foster mother, mentoring other foster mothers, leading mission teams, managing programs and serving as a bridge between ROOM family members in the States to ROOM activities in Honduras, have prepared her to manage ROOM as a whole; not just Honduras, but India and Nepal through Stateside operations as well!

ROOM’s Board of Directors is prayerfully beginning the process of hiring a new Executive Director.  I know they will find someone truly wonderful; someone who is able to provide better leadership and direction than I ever could; someone who will empower this ministry to do even greater things for God’s kingdom.  In the meantime, the Stateside leadership void is being filled by three women I supremely admire:  Cassie Murray, Traci Cline and Kristie Lauderbaugh.  Kristie is providing part-time bookkeeping and financial management for ROOM.  She’s phenomenally talented and experienced with numbers.  Traci Cline has served on ROOM’s Board of Directors since 2012.   She is currently serving a second term as Board President.  In addition to this Board leadership role, Traci will be providing staff leadership and management to empower ROOM’s program teams to continue their successful orphan care programs.  There is no one better equipped to serve as a leader, manager and figurehead during this season of change.

I see other ROOM leaders holding on firm to their commitments while taking on new roles.  Missionary Kaylie Kuhn, ROOM’s longest tenured team member, is fiercely standing strong in her calling to care for her child, Lizzie, while advocating for best practices in family reintegration and working hard to provide for the boys at Hogar Santidad orphanage (they’re getting a severely-needed new roof and ceiling!).  Missionaries Todd and Wendy Boyle are Co-Directors of Abba Padre International (a ministry ROOM is proud to partner with), Co-Directors of ROOM’s Transition Home and strong leaders of ROOM Honduras as a whole.  Wendy continues to manage legal and accounting requirements in Honduras, while taking on new responsibilities overseeing and empowering ROOM’s Foster Families.

In addition, ROOM’s Board of Directors are taking on new, greater fundraising responsibilities while building on their commitments to provide accountability and oversight.

These transitions are all so good!  They are so exciting!  I can see this phenomenal ministry getting stronger and more whole as each of these world-changers take on new roles and greater responsibilities, while standing firm in their long-standing ministry commitments.

The understandable amount sadness I feel about leaving is quickly replaced by excitement for what is next for ROOM.

When I close my eyes, I can see God’s calling coming to fruition.  With every “yes” from ROOM’s team, another piece of ROOM’s ministry is made stronger.  More children served with more and better resources.  Better communications.  Tighter networks.  Stronger programs.

Through our Lord, ROOM has done amazing things over the last eleven years.  Still, I know ROOM’s best days are ahead.

1 peter 1_6

As I’m planning my last two weeks of work and handing over the last few jangling keys on my director ring, I keep smiling that the biggest lesson I learned is also the simplest:  We can all help children who have been orphaned. 

With my remaining space, I’d like to share a song that is sure to climb the iTunes charts (depending on how litigious the ‘If you’re happy and you know it’ people prove themselves to be), called If You Want to Help the Orphans.  This song will make sure I’m leaving ROOM the same way I entered ROOM:  Weird, full of good intentions and overflowing with confidence that everyone will get my particular, peculiar brand of humor.

This song is dedicated to everyone who has ever asked me “How can I help the orphans” and politely listed to me suggest the following ways we can all empower children who have been orphaned or abandoned in our own communities and in developing nations on the other side of our world.

 

If You Want to Help the Orphans

(To the tune of “If you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands”)

 

If you want to help the orphans, write a check (*make hand motion of check-writing*)

If you want to help the orphans, write a check (*make hand motion of check-writing*)

Your money will provide, food, clothes, healthcare, education.

If you want to help the orphans, write a check!

 

If you want to help the orphans, volunteer (*flex arm muscle*)

If you want to help the orphans, volunteer (*flex arm muscle*)

They need you to learn their names.  They need you to teach them games.

If you want to help the orphans, volunteer!

 

If you want to help the orphans, please adopt (*make hand motion of completing paperwork*)

If you want to help the orphans, please adopt (*make hand motion of completing paperwork*)

You’ll be their forever-parent.  They’ll be your forever-child.

If you want to help the orphans, please adopt!

 

If you want to help the orphans, foster parent (*make arm motion of rocking a baby*)

If you want to help the orphans, foster parent (*make arm motion of rocking a baby*)

Kids need homes and kids need love: for a day, for years and years.

If you want to help the orphans, foster parent!

 

If you want to help the orphans, pray for ROOM (*touch palms together as if praying*)

If you want to help the orphans, pray for ROOM (*touch palms together as if praying*)

ROOM’s got some big transitions, prayers are needed for success,

If you want to help the orphans, pray for ROOM!

 

Dear donors, dear friends, dear ROOM family members.  Thank you for allowing me to drive this bus for the last few years.  Thank you for trusting me as a boss and as a decision-maker.  Thank you for teaching me things I could never learn from books.  Thank you for empowering me and enabling me to continue to serve children who have been orphaned by pursuing a doctoral degree in Social Work.  I will always treasure my time at ROOM.  I cannot wait to see what God has in store for ROOM’s ministry for the next eleven years!

For more information about ROOM, or if a catchy tune recently moved you to write a check, volunteer and/ or pray for Reach Out Orphanage Ministries, please visit our website.

Answering prayers, building walls and growing food~ Ali

This week’s blog is a celebration from the heart of ROOM India’s Director, Ali B. ROOM’s vision has always been to come alongside existing ministries, link arms with them, and empower them to fulfill their own vision. The partnership built between ROOM and Bethel Ministries, through countless prayers and years of hard work by Ali and Bethel’s leaders, is resulting in the fulfillment of our vision in such a beautiful and tangible way. We are so excited about what the Lord is doing in India!

In 1997, Susama and Prabin Sipka were married and immediately committed their relationship to serving the Lord together. They were burdened by the children around them that were orphaned and working as laborers. They were burning with desire to see their neighbors turn from idol worship and turn to know the living God.

FullSizeRender (5).jpg
Susama and Prabin, Bethel Ministries Co-Directors

This mutual burden and dream led them to move to a small town where the Gospel was not preached. They established a church, equipped pastors in surrounding areas, and started a home for children who had been abandoned.

As their dream to care for children and share the Gospel became a reality, their prayer and vision evolved to serve more and more children. As more children began moving into Bethel Orphanage, their prayer and vision was for someone to help carry their burden and partner with them to ensure these children were well provided for.

Their prayer was answered when God sent ROOM directors to visit Bethel in 2011. This initial visit paved the way for me to move to Bethel in 2014 as a ROOM Missionary. As I became a part of their family, I joined in their prayer for God’s people to come alongside of us and carry the burden of caring for these children. Our prayer has definitely been answered over the past few years as two teams, 10 people, from Horizons Church in Lincoln, Nebraska have come with us to Bethel to spend time getting to know the kids, the leadership, and their needs.

FullSizeRender (6).jpg
Ali in India in 2014
FullSizeRender (7).jpg
First Horizons Church Team in 2015
FullSizeRender (8).jpg
Second Horizons Church Team in 2016

God continues to answer our prayers as he pushes us to trust Him for more. As many of you know, Susama and Prabin ran a Compassion International daycare center. Compassion gave permission for leftover food and resources from the program to go to the children living at Bethel. This was a successful partnership. In the spring of 2016 Compassion International was forced to shut down programs throughout India, including the program Susma and Prabin directed. Without these added resources, Bethel began to suffer greatly. In response, ROOM asked for help to meet some of their emergency nutrition needs.

God again has answered our prayers above and beyond what we could have imagined. In addition to providing a few months of emergency funds for nutritious foods, because of the generosity of God’s people, we have been able to dream bigger!

Our dream to begin sustainable projects for Bethel Ministries is becoming a reality.

This month, ROOM is funding a project to build a safety wall around Bethel’s campus! This wall will prevent people and animals, especially those who wish to do harm, from coming into Bethel. It is vital to the well-being and safety of the children living here. Once the wall has been constructed, Bethel will finally be able to launch their garden project. This will empower the Bethel family to grow fruit and vegetables in their very own garden; stretching tight food bugets farther, providing vital nutrition and teaching the children important life skills for the rural community in which they live. We are in awe at the way that God is providing for his children at Bethel and cannot wait to see what is to come in the future!

FullSizeRender (9).jpg
Bethel’s land, which will soon have a boundary wall and their very own garden!

 

To learn more about this project, and to make a donation to support Bethel through ROOM India, please visit our website.

Faith~ Joey Weed

To learn more about how ROOM is serving children and communities, please visit our website, http://www.makeroom.org/ 

Wise Investments~ Kaylie Kuhn

Today’s blog comes from Kaylie Kuhn. Kaylie has a way of articulating the heart of ROOM in a way that is educational and empowering. Today’s message on making the most of long-term or short-term mission trips is an excellent tool to use when making the decision on where to go and who to serve alongside. We hope you find this helpful and informative and if you would like more informaiton about missions opportunities through ROOM please contact Cassie Murray, kyleandcassie@makeroom.org

Missions trips, vacation Bible school, international church projects: what do these things have in common? All three require immense financial and often physical investments. With a new year upon us, many new churches and generous families are looking for a way to invest their money in a productive way to advance God’s kingdom. Investing your time and money cannot and should not be taken lightly. It is a great responsibility to make sure its going towards the best option possible for the people you hope to serve,  you (or your church), and your beliefs.

missionteam1

As a veteran on the mission field I have a lot of experience when it comes to nonprofit organizations and, specifically, the financials running behind different types of organizations. Giving money to the first person who inspires you can generally lead to disaster. Some organizations have pure hearts but poor financials; unaware of how to properly budget or balance checkbooks. There are also a select few that focus more on profit than on being a nonprofit. I hope to use this blog to give you (or your church), a new perspective on nonprofit financials and how to make the most wise investment possible.

missionteam2.jpg

The first step when looking for a partner is to look for something that aligns with your beliefs and passions. Now, when I say this I don’t mean if you’re Baptist only work with Baptist organizations, but moreover to make sure the organization or person you decide to partner with holds themselves to the same morals as you do. If you do not agree with the way they run their organization or mission, it can become a conflict for both you and the organization later on. When I raise funds I do my best to be completely transparent with my donors, so they know exactly where their money is going and in return I don’t have pressure on myself to become someone I’m not to please my supporters.

All of us have different passions, and trust me when I say there is a place for every passion. ROOM tries our best to connect people with their passions, which is why in every missions trip we host we introduce our teams to every aspect of ROOM’s ministry: Orphanage Care, Orphan Prevention, and Family Placement Solutions. This way, teams can know specifically how they want to deepen their impact in the future of our ministry. For example, those who have a passion for education can invest in providing tools and resources for one of our partner orphanages education while those who have a passion for nutrition invest in programs providing fruit and vegetables at another orphanage.

missionteam3.jpg

When considering your passion, remember the need to balance. For every glamorous investment there is a basic need. For example, while ROOM’s big projects are major investments with tangible picture-perfect outcome, we also have non-glamorous investments such as the paper and staples needed for our office so we can print out our outcomes and deliver them. Simply investing in shiny projects while forgetting the behind-the-scenes-needs just doesn’t work. Both have equal needs for investment.

missionteam4.jpg

It is important to make sure, once you’ve got your passions and beliefs aligned with an organization or a person, they have a working budget in place. Big projects can be great if funded properly, but if it is a constantly increasing budget which will continuously need more and more cash investments without ever becoming self-sustaining, this project will either become extremely dependent, unstable, draining or impossible to fulfill. Every organization or person needs to make sure they balance the big dreams with a proper budget. If they have not considered these realities, it is not recommended to invest with them, no matter how inspirational the idea may be. Sustainability should always be the goal. 

Lastly, it’s important to see where the excess is going. When fundraising goals are exceeded, where does that money go? This needs to be just as properly documented and budgeted as the goal money itself, or else it can be easily misused or forgotten. Knowing these basic financials will not only help you to make a wise investment but also improve the nonprofit or person themselves and help them in the future as well.

As you go into a new season of investment remember these tips to make the wisest investment possible. 

“Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much.”  –Luke 16:10 (NIV)

If you have any questions about ROOM’s financials, or any other area of inquiry inspired by Kaylie’s article, please contact our Executive Director, Amanda Stafford, at Amanda.Stafford@makeroom.org or by calling 704-773-1717 (U.S.). She loves to talk about budgets, nonprofit sustainability and how to invest in children and communities!

To learn more about how ROOM empowers children and communities, please visit our website.

Altars ~Wendy Boyle

Today’s blog comes from Wendy Boyle. Wendy represents ROOM’s ongoing partnership with Abba Padre International. Over the past several years, the Boyle family has played many roles within ROOM’s ministry from foster parents, to transition home directors to administrators. We are so thankful for all that Wendy, and her entire family, does to support the children and families of Honduras. Many of us have come to lean on Wendy as a rock as she offers spiritual support and physical support simultaneously. Today’s blog illustrates how Wendy pairs the physical with the spiritual on a daily basis.

Throughout the Bible God told various people to set up altars to Him. Many times the altar  was a place of sacrifice, but it was also set up as a way to remember what the Lord had done in a certain place each time His people passed by it again.

It became an altar of reflection, remembrance, and praise.

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 says we’re called to “rejoice always, pray without ceasing, and to give thanks in everything.”

In 2017, we are intentionally putting this verse into practice, as well setting up “altars” along our path.

One of the “altars” we’ve set up to remind us to “rejoice, pray, and give thanks” is this building:

img_2607
Child Services Office Building, Tegucigalpa, Honduras

Above is a picture of a particular building that we pass by several times a day… it’s a picture of Honduran Child Services’ office in the capital city of Tegucigalpa.

Among other times throughout our day, as we pass by this building, we have started interceding on behalf of the children who are part of ROOM’s Scarlet Project here in Honduras. We then cry out on behalf of the families ROOM works with in the bordos, through our orphan prevention/ family preservation projects. We pray for the orphans and vulnerable children (OVC) we know and love in various children’s homes throughout Honduras, as well as the children we know via ROOM India, Nepal, and for OVC worldwide.

We rejoice that these children have a Heavenly Father who loves them, and pray they will come to a saving knowledge of Him through Jesus Christ!

We pray those who are in positions of authority to make decisions on their behalf will have the heart of the Father, and that we will accurately represent our Father to those He places around us.

We give thanks for the caregivers and people who are walking alongside these children, being their voice by advocating for them, and for being the Father’s hands, feet, heart to each of them.

There are many ways to reflect on all the Lord is doing and has done, but having a visual reminder prompt us to do so has been a huge blessing these first two months of 2017!

According to Colossians 3:15, giving thanks is the will of God. As you stop and ponder His goodness, what can you thank Him for in your life right now?!

Are there ways in which you too can set up “altars” to remind yourself of those things?

Would you also prayerfully ask the Lord to show you how to set up an “altar” to pause and pray for each of us here at ROOM, and most importantly for the children we serve, each time you pass by it?

To learn more about Todd and Wendy Boyle and how their ministry, Abba Padre International works hand-in-hand with Reach Out Orphanage Ministries, please visit: Abba Padre International’s Website .  To learn more about ROOM, please visit our website.

My Forever Valentines ~Kacey Bolin

Today’s blog post comes to us from ROOM Missionary Kacey Bolin.  The topic is her foster son, Jesús.  Two weeks ago, Jesús passed away unexpectedly from cardiac respiratory failure.  This is an awful loss.  Our warrior boy is deeply missed by the ROOM Family and many others who knew him.  We are keeping Kacey, Luis and all those who knew Jesús in our prayers and in our thoughts.  Kacey’s Valentine’s Day article is the perfect representation of how we will remember Jesús:  by his love.

A day all about love is like a day all about my Jesús.

He loved like no other.  He knew the risk of loving deeply and loved anyway.  He knew the sting of many losses but chose to love us anyway.  He chose us to be his Mom and Dad and he loved seeing our love for each other.

He loved love.

He knew love.

He believed in love.

kacey-luis-jesus_first-family-photo_2016
Our first family photo

 

My prayer for Jesús was always the same; for his life to testify to the power of God’s love.  Two weeks ago he unexpectedly left our arms.  His passing has left me crushed because of how fully we loved.  I cling to the hope that his life will testify to love.  I walk forward because of love.  Loss in love has hurt every piece of me.  But it has testified to God.  It has to testify to how glorious and wonderful my God is.

Love healed my son, love opened his heart, love even took him home.

Friends, love deeper.  Love without fear.  Love for the sake of love.

I will continue to love deeply and fearlessly.  Please join me, for Jesús; for Christ, Jesus.