By Penny Taylor
If you were to ask me how old I was when I first learned about orphaned children, or in what context, I wouldn’t be able to recall for sure. Perhaps it began with “The Rescuers” – a cartoon movie about two mice who help an orphan named Penny escape from the terrible Madam Medusa. (Because of the namesake, this character captured my attention at a young age.) Or maybe it was a television commercial by the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption. I begged my parents to adopt a little sister for me, and I still remember my passionately indignant response when they said “no.” At that age, I didn’t understand the full spectrum of orphaned children’s needs; but the thought of kids without a mom and dad rocked me to my core. Why would parents decide not to keep their children? And why would grownups choose not to adopt if they could change the life of a child without parents? God was beginning to show me His heart of redemption for the fatherless.
After I graduated from high school, I went on several short-term mission trips abroad, and I encountered orphaned and vulnerable children in person for the first time. The heaviness of poverty’s repercussions weighed on my heart like a ton of bricks. I returned home and tried to reconcile the life I knew against the backdrop of what I had seen. The only response that made sense to me was to become a long-term missionary and/or adopt someday. For several years I worked at a Christian nonprofit organization dedicated to helping children escape the grip of poverty, which only deepened my longing to “go” or to adopt one day.
My husband and I will celebrate our fourteenth anniversary this year, and our journey has taken quite a few unexpected twists and turns. We are not missionaries abroad, nor have we adopted children. Maybe one or both these dreams are still yet to be, only God knows; but it is a possibility neither will come to fruition. I’ve wrestled with this realization over the years. If these doors close, why has God given me so many experiences related to poverty and orphans?
Perhaps, like me, you’ve traveled overseas and met at-risk children in slums or one of Hope’s Promise’s family-style homes and you can’t figure out how to converge the realities of here and there. Not everyone is called to adopt or serve in a foreign country. But, this I know for certain, we are all called to defend the weak and the fatherless and uphold the cause of the poor and oppressed (Psalm 82:3-4.)
Rather than lamenting what I can’t do to help orphaned children, over the past few years, my focus has turned towards finding a way to do something in this moment, here and now, where God has placed me. One of my favorite quotes is by Theodore Roosevelt: “Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.” This has become a mantra for me.
Through God’s leading and provision, I joined two Hope’s Promise Kenya Connection Teams in 2011 and 2014 (even when I had a two-year-old and four-year-old at home!) These experiences opened the opportunity for me to lead a Country Support Team in Colorado Springs for five years. Our small group of eight gathered regularly, prayed, and fund-raised for Hope’s Promise in Kenya.
The most beautiful way I see God working in my desire to converge my current situation, artistic and administrative giftings, and my heart for orphans has been in running a small business from home and donating part of my profits to Hope’s Promise. Additionally, my business has become a platform to share my testimony and tell others what God is doing through the organization. My local newspaper even ran an article on my business in 2016, and since then the editor has promoted my work at other times. (http://gazette.com/colorado-springs-woman-blends-faith-philanthropy-creativity-in-business/article/1588393) Through this art/business journey, I am also blessed to partner with my good friend and amazing artist Colleen Briggs. We sell our work together at backyard and home sales. We’ve also developed art-related projects for the Hope’s Promise Kenya kids and used them for fundraising at our events. (https://colleenbriggs.com/2015/09/03/shine-like-stars-collaborative-gallery-of-sanctuary-of-hope-kids-and-colleen-briggs/) I am amazed to see God’s multiplication of my feeble efforts in ways far beyond what I can imagine. I never expected this journey or the beauty that arises in the twists and turns.
Our circumstances don’t need to be ideal before we act. God works outside the confines of our limited perspectives. If you are passionate about acting on behalf of orphaned and vulnerable children but don’t know where to begin, here are a few ideas to consider:
Pray: Commit to praying for orphans and their caregivers, specifically the families Hopes Promise supports in Kenya, Nepal, Vietnam, and Zimbabwe.
Support: Find out if there is a Country Support Team (CST) in your area. CST members get together monthly or quarterly to pray and raise funds for Hope’s Promise families in a specific country. If there is not a CST where you live, and you know several people who may be interested, consider starting one with Hope’s Promise guidance.
Give: Donate to Hope’s Promise for orphan care in any of the countries listed above. If you can’t give financially, consider volunteering your time or donating a silent auction item for a fundraising event (their Food Festival is on April 19th.)
Go: Every Hope’s Promise Connection Team provides an opportunity to encounter orphaned children first-hand, see what God is doing in that specific country, support the caregivers who are daily serving children with complex needs. By bringing your newfound perspective back home, you will help others learn about ways they, too, can help.
Share: Whatever your life experience, if God has touched your heart and moved in and through you to join His plan for orphan care, don’t keep it to yourself! God works in each of our hearts, and our personal journeys are important, but God wants us to share our experiences with the body of Christ and encourage others with our story. Some of the richest relationships in my life began from a common desire to help orphaned and at-risk children. Not only have I discovered and partnered with others who share my passion, but we have also become dear friends and share many deep life experiences.
When did you first learn about the plight of orphans? How has God orchestrated your life to take action in some aspect of orphan care? No matter your location, abilities, or circumstances, He can use your story to make a difference in the lives of children around the world. The passionately indignant response I experienced as a child was just the beginning of the work God wanted to do in and through me regarding the fatherless. It is our charge to respond to God’s call in Psalm 82. Will you pray alongside orphan care advocates around the world and be willing to go (or stay) where He leads?
Penny is a creative small business owner and mother of two children. She has been married to her high school sweetheart Nick for 13 years and their family is enjoying country living since their recent move from Colorado Springs to Peyton, Colorado. When Penny is not busy with her family and a growing number of animals she enjoys running, writing, traveling, gardening, singing on the worship team at her church and participating in Bible studies.