This week’s ROOM blog contributor is Amanda Stafford, ROOM’s Executive Director. Amanda carries the load of jobs that would take easily 7 other people collectively to fill. We are so thankful to have her to lead our team with humility and confidence. Her post is a direct reflection of her: funny and honest with the perfect amount of challenge.
I spent last Sunday afternoon cooking Super Bowl chili with my handsome, bearded boyfriend. Our kitchen conversations were about Jesus and ministry and missions. Frustrated by ROOM’s big calling and small bank account, I spoke about how children without parents are dying because people of privilege are apathetic. I was riled up because there just aren’t enough people donating or volunteering or fostering or adopting or moving into areas of need. He just looked into my opinionated eyes, sighed and sweetly said, “Sometimes, I worry God is going to tell you to move to Nigeria or something.”
In summer 2013 I visited San Pedro Sula, Honduras for the first time. I had the opportunity to travel and serve with Carolina Cross Connection. In Honduras, I fell in love with Reach Out Orphanage Ministries. I loved the agency’s mission and values. I loved the children they helped. I loved the people who made up this ministry.
I wanted to stay.
I wanted to stay in Honduras. I wanted to stay with those kids. I wanted to be like the missionaries who were working for ROOM. I wanted to quit my job and sell my old red car and move to this very hot, very lovely place. I wanted to spend my days visiting orphanages and holding babies.
To be honest, a lot was going on in my personal life right before this trip. I was in the midst of a comically-awful-quarter-life-crisis moment: I was dumped after a three-year-long relationship. My landlord was selling his property and I had to move out of my home. The large nonprofit ministry I worked for was making administrative changes I didn’t agree with. My old, red car was falling apart. Someone stole my identity and maxed-out a credit card in my name. Most remarkably, all of these things happened in the course of just a few weeks. So, like the logical person I am, I boarded a plane to Honduras the very next week.
I prayed for a great adventure to escape from all that bad luck.
I prayed for a great opportunity to serve with ROOM.
I met ROOM’s former Executive Director and former Honduras Country Director and asked what openings they had for someone like me. I spoke no Spanish. I had no relevant skills or connections. Their existing programs were well-staffed. I was not needed. They gently told me ROOM had all the missionaries, mission teams and volunteers they could manage that summer; But, they said, “What we really need is someone to help ROOM with fundraising and bookkeeping. Will you pray God sends us someone to help with that?”
I had years of work experience in fundraising and grant-writing. I had substantial experience in nonprofit financial management. I had a graduate degree in Public Administration: International Nonprofit Management. I was certainly qualified to help with fundraising and bookkeeping.
Was God sending me?
Once I traveled back home, I immediately began working for ROOM. At first, I was a volunteer bookkeeper and fundraiser. Then, I was given a full-time job working as the Director of Operations. Last year, I served as the Interim Executive Director. As of January 1, I am ROOM’s permanent, full-time Executive Director. I manage finances and fundraisers and staff all day, every day. I love my job. It’s my dream job.
This is my “how God called me to ROOM” story. I tell it often. Others retell it better, with more exciting and exaggerated details, but the key points are always the same: The things I thought were important fell apart. I opened up my heart for God’s call to serve children without parents. God called me to serve with ROOM; not as a missionary, but as an administrator.
ROOM’s ministry empowers children and communities. We provide nutrition interventions and free day care services so parents don’t need to send their kids to orphanages. We give abandoned infants and toddlers a special place in a loving family so they won’t be sent to overcrowded, institution-style orphanages. We present the Gospel story to children who have never heard it. We give kids shoes and uniforms so they can attend school. We support orphanage caretakers who are overworked and overwhelmed. Most importantly, we build meaningful relationships with children and the adults who care for them. We show people how much they matter. We love people. This work is exciting.
This is what people picture when I tell them I work for ROOM:
Then, I explain that I am an administrator. When I tell people I do fundraising and budgeting and managing, they immediately get bored imagining my job looks something like this:
In reality, my job is more exciting than I ever would have dreamed.
Some days, it looks like this:
Other days, it looks like this:
Sometimes, I visit Honduras and India to work with ROOM’s direct-service staff and missionaries. During those special times, my work looks like this:
Most days, my job looks like this:
I love that paperwork. I love those envelopes. I love these people most of all. I love my calling and I love my job. I love it because I’m good at it. I love it because this calling is mine.
All of us, every single one of us, are called to serve orphaned children. Children identified as orphans deserve justice (Deuteronomy 10:18). God’s people are called to deliver this justice and share His love with children without parents as a sign of pure religion (James 1:27). I believe “God sets the lonely in families” (Psalm 68:6), but He needs my hands and feet to find that family, or, perhaps, to be that family (1 Corinthians 12).
This is my call.
This is the way I am bringing justice to children who are abused and neglected:
This is how I am feeding children who are starving:
This is how I am called to help.
How are you called to help?
Around two thousand people are directly involved in ROOM’s ministry. Of those, only six are traditional, in-country missionaries. What do the other 1,994 do? Hundreds are donors. Some donors regularly sacrifice small things like dining-out or special coffees to make a monthly, recurring donations. Some donors sacrifice big things, like new school clothes for their own children, or upgrading their current vehicle, to make donations that are substantial for them. Hundreds of people are prayer warriors who pray for ROOM’s staff and missionaries. Over one thousand people follow us on social media pages; sending prayers and kind thoughts to our children and staff with every post we publish. About thirty are foster parents in Honduras. Six are teachers in India. Many have adopted children who left ROOM’s care. Three ROOM missionaries have been called out of the permanent mission field to become missionaries-in-motion, traveling back and forth between the U.S. (where the resources are) and the communities where ROOM serves (where the needs are). This 1,994-ish number includes staff and leaders at partner orphanages. This includes ministry partners across the world. This includes missionaries, staff, donors, Board members, volunteers and all the people who support ROOM’s children in more ways than I can list.
Now, let’s think big. Bigger than just ROOM. ROOM served 559 children in 2015. There are an estimated 153 million orphans in the world (Congressional Coalition on Adoption). What can we do for the unserved and unconnected?
- We can pray for orphaned children and agencies serving them daily.
- We can volunteer with children in our communities by providing respite care for foster families and by volunteering with local agencies serving local kids.
- We can use our vacation time to volunteer with international agencies on a short-term mission trip. We can make this an annual event, building meaningful relationships with the same children year after year.
- We can make adoption and foster care integral parts of our family planning discussions and decisions.
- We can donate large or small amounts of money to child welfare agencies we trust and respect.
- We can educate ourselves about issues impacting developing nations and children without parents.
- We can advocate for fair and just national and international child welfare policies.
We can all do something. We must all do something.
I want to be clear that many, many people are called to move to communities of need. Some of those people go. Many more are needed. This is a critical, important mission and purpose. Without ROOM’s missionaries, our agency would not exist. Without global missionaries, many international child welfare agencies would not exist.
My point is this: The call to serve children who are orphaned is bigger than only those serving as in-country missionaries.
This call is yours, mine and ours.
I’m not moving to Nigeria. You probably aren’t either. But, together, we have an important role to play in God’s work to create a world where all children grow up in loving families.
To learn more about Reach Out Orphanage Ministries and to get involved in our work please visit: www.makeroom.org.
For a simple way to Send LOVE to children this Valentine’s Day, check out: https://www.razoo.com/us/story/Make-Room-For-Love-This-Valentine-S-Day