Tuesday, July 19, 2011


Every Sunday at CCR I hope you will bring two items – an open Bible and a pen. I hope you’ll come ready to take notes and then because God works best in a community help us refine our thinking and practice. This Sunday I want your feedback. I’m going to lay out a beginning proposal for CCR to begin care for the most vulnerable orphan children in Rwanda. If you follow CCR and my writing you’ve seen the journey.

On 17 March, 2009 I wrote an article for Rwanda Dispatch entitled, “What About Vulnerable Children?” (To see the article check out http://jenkinsinrwanda.blogspot.com/2010/04/what-about-vulnerable-children-rwanda.html.)

I argued that many attempts to deal with vulnerable children were more of an effort to meet one’s emotional needs. I acknowledged that I did not have this dilemma figured out. However, if the issue is not decisively addressed it will become an economic disaster for our future hopes. The only answer I saw was in the development of three institutions – families, schools, and businesses.

On Sunday, 7 November CCR joined other churches around the world as participants in Orphan Sunday. (To see my reflections on that Sunday check out http://jenkinsinrwanda.blogspot.com/2010/11/pastoral-reflections-on-orphan-sunday.html.)

We had a deep sense that God would move within CCR to address this issue, but at the same time did not know exactly what that would be.

My wife, Jana gathered people for months to pray. We’ve had discussions with other organizations. We’ve read our bibles. We’ve listened.

I sense the time has come for me to make a proposal that Jana and I have wrestled with called, “Spoken For.” I’ve shared it with our other CCR leaders and they agree the time has come to put the proposal before all of you.

As CCR is a Bible based church I will start with a review of what we’ve in the past studied. One of the predominant metaphors of God’s relationship with us in the Bible is of Adoption. Old Testament Theology describes God as both an Adoptive Mother and Father. In Isaiah 49:15 in the New Living Translation, God speaks, “Can a mother forget her nursing child? Can she feel no love for the child she has borne? But even if that were possible, I would not forget you!” God compares His relationship to Israel to an adoptive mother. We instinctually believe that a mother could never abandon a child she had produced which nursed at her own breasts, but the reality of our world knows that children are abandoned. In fact, we in God’s eyes are all like these children. As we are abandoned, God as an adoptive mother takes us in and refuses to forget us.

The Old Testament metaphor was also spoken in Ezekiel 16:4-7. The New Living Translation states, On the day you were born, no one cared about you. Your umbilical cord was not cut, and you were never washed, rubbed with salt, and wrapped in cloth. No one had the slightest interest in you; no one pitied you or cared for you. On the day you were born, you were unwanted, dumped in a field and left to die. But I came by and saw you there, helplessly kicking about in your own blood. As you lay there, I said, ‘Live!’ And I helped you to thrive like a plant in the field. You grew up and became a beautiful jewel.”

New Testament Theology offers the same powerful metaphor of Adoption. J.I. Packer, in his book Knowing God writes, “Our understanding of Christianity cannot be better than our grasp of adoption … adoption is the highest privilege that the gospel offers: higher than even justification.”

He gathers his thoughts from the following Scriptures:

• “The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” (Romans 8:15, NIV)”

“Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. (Romans 8:23,NIV)”

• “The people of Israel. Theirs is the adoption to sonship; theirs the divine glory, the covenants, the receiving of the law, the temple worship and the promises. (Romans 9:4,NIV)”

• “To redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship. (Galatians 4:5, NIV)”

“He predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will. (Ephesians 1:5, NIV)”

The image of Adoption is clear and pervasive in the New Testament. The Holy Spirit breathes freedom into our lives. When we come to Christ we are set free from slavery and fear. We become God’s adopted children. As such we cry to Him with the first babbling words of a child, and He hears us with a Father’s love. The Holy Spirit causes this inward groaning for adoption. These words of Adoption are not new, for Israel was adopted as the Children of God. They had the covenants and promise that led to glory. In the eternal plans of God before even creation began God intended to adopt us as His children and found great pleasure in our inclusion in His household.

A few have heard my teaching on orphans and asked why I have not spent more time with the commands to care for orphans. You are right. Let me mention one. James 1:27 in the New Living Translation states, “Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you.”

When it all comes down the purity of our faith we display our sincerity by two matters. One, we care for the most vulnerable particularly orphans and widows. Two, in that process we must resist with all our might allowing the world to corrupt us.

In this sermon I’ll share a few pastoral secrets. The first one is that I will immediately not trust someone who introduces themselves as leading an orphan’s ministry. I have lived in this region for 18 years and I have seen time after time where orphans have been a ploy for great levels of corruption. The scam works like this – Take photos of poor children, write letters abroad with the photos to stir donor guilt, take the money, don’t address the core problems, put some of the money in your pocket, and continue the cycle. For some reason those who care for orphans become some of the most corrupt masqueraders of messengers of Christ that can be found. I’m resistant to orphan’s programs because I’m resistant to corruption in the name of Jesus. As CCR moves forward on the Spoken For Proposal I resolve to keep the program from becoming one that fuels corruption.

Our context cries for honest answers.
Some believe that of Rwanda’s approximately 10 million people there may be 1,000,000 children in vulnerable situations. I do not know the current statistics, but the Minister of Gender and Family Promotion in 2004 told me that 13% of Rwanda’s households were headed by children. There appear to be 200,000 double orphans with no father or mother in Rwanda. Many of these are cared for in some way by their extended family or community. However, there are between 2,000 and 4,000 children in orphanages in Rwanda.

Both God’s Word and contemporary research are clear. We are designed for community. Children thrive in a family. They are not designed to live in an institution as a project.
In fact, some research shows that for every three months that a child lives in an institution he falls one month behind his peers in development.

In November 2010 some of us went to a seminar hosted by MIGEPROF (The Ministry of Gender and Family Promotion) that began their policy of de-institutionalization. It is the intent of the Government of Rwanda for vulnerable children who are in institutions to be placed in families.

Yet just de-institutionalizing children from institutions will not solve the problem. On Friday, 15 July New Times ran an article on a child who was abandoned by his 17 year old mother. Police Spokesman, Supt. Theos Badege stated, “About 39 child-abuse cases which include infanticide, abandonment and abortion were reported in the last three months. If you are incapable of raising the child you conceived, you may seek assistance from family members. The government also has the responsibility of taking care of these children if their parents have no capacity to do so,” (http://www.newtimes.co.rw/index.php?issue=14687&article=43230.)

If you do the math it appears that in our own CCR district of Gasabo about 3 children are abandoned per week. What should we do?

The Spoken For Proposal is for CCR to begin a ministry to foster children who fall into vulnerable situations with the intent of finding permanent adoptive families for them if no extended family members are identified.

With all sermons that have been preached from the days man began to speak about the discovery of God a phenomenon has happened. When they are over they create gossip. Some of it is good. People can’t contain what they’ve heard and have to tell others. Some of it is bad. The cost of following God is too high. Instead of being refined by God some murmur about the preacher. In the best of this world of gossip some gather after the sermon and ask questions and refine the thinking. I hope this sermon and message will stir gossip in Kigali. I hope that in the next few days to weeks we will not be able to contain our discussions.

In that I want this message to be clear. My hope for CCR is that that when a child falls into a vulnerable situation government authorities will call our leadership. We will have a list of families who are ready to take a child. We’ll meet the immediate need. Then we’ll work with officials to find a long term solution for vulnerable children to be placed into an adoptive family if we are unable to find extended family members of the child.

Some may ask, “Why CCR and not just encourage individual families? After all, we have many heroic families in our midst who are making extra-ordinary efforts to care for their extended family members. Also, we have some families who have chosen to adopt or are considering adoption. Why does this need the full institutional strength of CCR?”

Paul writes in Romans 12 and in 1 Corinthians 12 to 14 that the church is the Body of Christ. As such no individual possesses all the required gifts. We need one another to display the full glory of Christ and to become all He intends. Thus I advocate making this proposal a CCR ministry with our full institutional strength because a community simply has more resources and wisdom than any individual.

Some may ask, “What is Fostering?” I found this definition from a legal website. Fostering is when a child comes into the home on an emergency, short term or long term basis. It is that immediate first response home. It does not entail the child receiving the full adoptive rights, but is a place of safety in which the child is nurtured in a home until a long term solution can be found.

How does this differ from adoption? Adoption is when a child becomes legally a permanent member of the family with full rights and adoptive parents have full parental responsibility for the child.

Some are thinking, “What type of families would qualify?” The details are not all worked out. We will consult with legal experts, social workers, and MIGEPROF. However, they will be screened, stable, and faithful married couples. Practically, they will likely range from their late twenties to their mid 50’s.

Now let me tell you my second pastoral secret. We count many things each week at CCR. We do this to discern, plan, and be accountable. You probably know that we count the contribution each week. We also count attendance, and even count to see how many children and youth are in each age group. We also do a count that an old missionary in Nairobi once told me was the most important count for a church – How many cars are in the parking lot? You see the car count tells us how many are so captivated by the CCR vision that they will travel to participate. It tells us the economic resources of those attending. It may even reflect their ability to spread godly gossip. On most Sundays we have between 40 and 60 cars parked at CCR. Before I began preaching I counted cars. We had 40 in first service and 9 in our second worship service. With those car counts we know that today there are 49 family units at CCR who economically are able to foster a child. There may be other reasons why they cannot foster a child and it may be a great stretch, but they can find the economic resources to make room for a child in a vulnerable situation.

Some of you may not be at a point in life where you would not qualify to be a foster or adoptive family. You may be asking, “In this Spoken For Proposal what would be my role if I am too ‘single,’ or ‘young?’” We need the strength of your youth. Watch. Serve. Be mentored. A Biblical example is of Moses’ sister, Miriam in Exodus 2.

I am 44 years old. God has been kind and I am physically stronger than most men my age. Yet, when I have a newborn at home it is simply more painful to lose sleep than it was when I was in my 20’s. For those of you a bit older I bet you feel this way even more. Our family would be delighted for those younger than ourselves to come over to our home and say, “Mzee, get some sleep. I’ll watch the baby.”

Also, let me share another pastoral secret. Girls like boys who like babies. Those raised in a good home can instinctually find the young man who will be a good father. If you desire to marry a young woman more beautiful than you deserve start good habits now. Find a man with gray hair who is good with children and follow him. Ask to help him at every point possible. Use this season to develop the skills that will make you a good father.

Others may say, “I am too ‘old.’” We need your wisdom and nurture. Several Scriptures quickly come to mind. In Ruth 4:13-22, Ruth’s new child Obed was placed in his grandmother, Naomi’s lap and she responded by blessing him. A similar event happens in Luke 2:21-40 in which Simeon and Anna bless the baby Jesus. CCR is a young church. Those of you who may be too old for fostering are so much needed by our young families for your nurture.

CCR is also a mobile congregation. Some of us are here for only a few weeks to months. You do not have the time to settle and care for a foster or adoptive child in Rwanda. If you are on a journey that has landed briefly in Rwanda we need you to tell this story. Go like the missionaries of old to all the places in which God has carried you with this message of godly gossip – CCR is beginning a ministry called Spoken For to place the most vulnerable abandoned children in families. Please partner with CCR in this endeavor.

This sermon is only a starting point. It leaves many unanswered questions. It exposes many ministry needs. We need our church community’s refinement. Here are some questions in which we need your help.

What do we need to do to get our government documentation all together? I wanted to preach this sermon after I had completely answered this question. Then I realized that this was a matter that our community must discover and communicate.

• With the question of documentation what other legal matters will arise? How do we minimize misunderstandings and ambiguity? How do we insure that vulnerable children’s rights are legally secure?

• A child who falls into a vulnerable situation entered this vulnerability for a reason. It may have a medical component. How do we address medical needs? Who can volunteer?

With each child and each family there must be training and nurture. Where will we find the right social workers? Also, how will we practically prepare and nurture new foster and adoptive families?

Children bring us quickly to practical matters. Babies need clothes, formula, a bed, and come with financial needs. How will these be addressed?

• I am sure my beginning list is not complete. What else do you see? How could you help?

To refine this proposal into all that God intend we need your dialogue. Please call me at 0788-675-122, or write me at christchurchrwanda@gmail.com.

You can also contact Jana at 0788-641-781, or write her at jananrwanda@gmail.com.

Our plan is to on SUNDAY 7 AUGUST have a CONSULTATIVE MEETING DURING WORSHIP to continue this discussion.

I close with one final thought. What will be the final answer to this journey of SPOKEN FOR? It starts with God’s intent from creation. WE ARE ALL MADE IN THE IMAGE OF GOD (GENESIS 1:27). As such we must do the work of God and see each vulnerable child as full of the dignity that all men possess. Only in this conviction will we be able to do all God intends.

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