Know My Name…

A motorcycle ride, just before midnight, in Kathmandu, Nepal, changed the course of my life. 

As I climbed on the back of the motorcycle with one of our ministry partners, I wanted to see with my own eyes, the orphans on the streets of Kathmandu. My life would never be the same when I looked into their eyes and learned their names. 

We did not even make it a quarter of a mile before we encountered our first group of children. Each boy was sitting inside of a small box and the rest of the cardboard was being used to fuel the fire. 

One young boy answered the questions being asked of him. His name was Robin, and he was 12 years old. He told us he had been on the streets on his own, since the age of 2. I was still trying to process the fact that this 12 year old boy was out on the streets close to midnight, when I heard he had been on his own since the age of 2. 

Center, on the curb – Robin (12 years old)

This experience brought to life a quote I had heard from David Platte, which says:

“We learned orphans are easier to ignore before you know their names. They are easier to ignore before you see their faces. It is easier to pretend they’re not real before you hold them in your arms. But once you do, everything changes.” 

On this night, everything did change for me. I was confronted with the faces, the names, & the stories of orphans on the streets, and I was not alright with it all.

And this is how, Faces With Names, came into existence. 

My heart and desire has always been to make the orphan real to people, to you. Not just a statistic, not just someone else’s problem or responsibility. 

Last week, I tried to be as open, honest and vulnerable as I could with you as I shared about this renewed calling I heard from God while driving a forklift at Walmart.

As I write this email, I come with the same vulnerability and humility, asking you to join us on our journey in laying the foundation of serving orphans and widows in Uganda and beyond.

Our monthly partners will be the life blood of all we will be able to accomplish, with God’s help, through Faces With Names International.

We have put together a simple chart for you to consider where you might join us:

May I share a moment of brutal honesty? I hope you answered yes, because here it goes. There is an element of my pride and ego that hates having to rely on others to do what God has called me to do. 

But as God has chiseled away my pride and ego in preparation for what we are doing, I believe wholeheartedly, I have the privilege to invite you to join us in raising up a new generation of leaders, who once held the stigma of being called orphans and widows, to now fulfilling their God given purpose.

Our vision statement comes straight from the verse, James 1:27, which is the Biblical mandate to care for orphans and widows. 

Our vision: To give you the opportunity to care for orphans and widows in their distress.

I truly believe that everyone who partners with us in prayer and giving is truly living out the Biblical mandate to care for orphans and widows in their distress.

Will you be 1 of the 176 monthly partners who allow us to fulfill our mission and vision through Faces With Names International?

Our goal this first week is to see 25 new monthly donors, at any level, join our team and partner with us. 

 If you have considered partnering with us, or been on the fence, would you jump into the deep end with us as we rely on God to provide all we need.

I don’t take for granted what it means for you to give of your resources. I give my full fledge promise, we will be good stewards of every dollar entrusted to us!

To join our monthly partner team, click the link below:
 I want to become a monthly partner with FWNI

Cheering You On In Christ,

Eric Mills

President

Faces With Names International

We’re getting the band back together…Faces With Names is Back!

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I have never actually been been in a band, but I have always wanted to say that line. And this seems like the most appropriate time as we are officially relaunching, Faces With Names. To say the last year and a half has been one of the craziest and most humbling times of my life, would be an understatement. I will share more details about my journey in the future. It all changed with an unexpected call from a king as I was out mowing my yard. Here is what I wrote about after the king came to visit our family:

During this past year, I have asked on more than one occasion, God have you forgotten about me. There have been times during this year where doors were opening in very specific ways, and then in a moment, they were slammed shut. At the beginning of last week, I received an unexpected phone call that lead to a week I will never forget. A king from Uganda, who I met earlier this year, called me and asked if he could come and visit. First lesson, when the King calls, don’t turn him away. As my family and I had the opportunity to receive the king, I was privileged to spend a week with one of the most amazing men I have ever met. He first and foremost has a pastor’s heart and serves as the Bishop of over 300 churches in Uganda and surrounding countries. But he is also a king and rules over 105 clans and 4 million people in his kingdom. His testimony could come straight out of the Bible of how God called, saved, healed, ordained and appointed a young orphan boy to become a pastor and king. In his care are 1586 orphans and 1200 widows in his kingdom. But he also shares the Gospel with kings, prime ministers and presidents. With all these enormous responsibilities, I don’t think I have ever met a more humble man. He was gracious enough to go and talk to my wife’s 1st grade class, at my son’s school, eat with our family and also with some dear friends who were visiting, hold my 1 year old nephew, amongst many other meetings. Nobody was unimportant to him. I share all of this with you not to take notice of me for spending time with a king, but to give all glory, honor and praise to God. God sent a king to a lonely, uncertain servant to remind him that the King of Kings has not forgotten about him. Second lesson and encouragement. If you are going through a season where you are asking like I have, “God have you forgotten about me?” Don’t give up! God has not forgotten you. My song of ascent, I will praise you on the mountain and in the valleys all the same.

Over six months had passed since the king’s visit, and very unexpectedly the Holy Spirit began to speak to my heart about working with the king. As I first shared this news with my wife Susan, she was open and supportive of moving forward to see what would happen. I then began to reach out to a list of people, God very specifically told me to talk with and the same support and encouragement continued. I then came across a ministry who was already supporting and working with the king, caring for the orphans and widows. My first thought was, well, somebody is already doing what I felt we were supposed to pursue, so that probably is the end of this story.

Nevertheless, I reached out to Chris Macklin with Revival Africa, who first met King John in 2006 and started Revival Africa in 2008 to help support the orphans and widows in King John’s care. When I shared the story with Chris of how God had been stirring my heart to possibly work with King John, it lead to a conversation that lasted 2 1/2 hours. You have to know, this is the first time Chris and I had ever met or spoken to each other. Two weeks later, our wives joined us to continue the conversation and get to hear each others stories. That video call lasted 4 hours. I don’t say this about many people I meet, but Chris very clearly was a kindred spirit and a great encouragement to me on so many levels. What you need to know about Chris is, he is a Residential Architect. After meeting King John in 2006, before he was a king, Chris and his wife Janice felt lead to start Revival Africa. Out of obedience, they have personally supported and given to the orphans and widows under King John’s care since 2006.

As our conversations continued, Chris and Janice were supportive of Faces With Names moving forward to help in the work of caring for these precious kids and widows. As we discussed the path forward, I began to work once again on obtaining our 501c3 for FWN. One of the hurdles we faced over a year and half ago and what in some ways lead to us having to stop our work with Faces With Names was an issue we had with the IRS, mistakenly classifying us as a 501c4. A 501c4 is designated as a political action group, and one in which donors do not receive a tax deduction. As I sought council on what to do with this situation, most told us to start over from the beginning to get our 501c3, because getting someone on the phone from the IRS is just next to impossible, and getting them to admit their mistake seemed definitely impossible. With the season of Covid, many were informing me it could be 12 – 18 months to get our 501c3.

All of these obstacles seemed a bit overwhelming, until Chris offered to allow Faces With Names to take over the 501c3 of Revival Africa, merging the heart of our ministries under the newly established name of, Faces With Names International. And as of Monday, September 14th, and in under three months, our attorney officially sent off the packet to the IRS to formalize this transition and allow us to continue to care for orphans and widows in Uganda and beyond. It all started from the obedience of Chris & Janice, and has been maintained by their faithfulness and generosity through Revival Africa, to now allow us to continue through Faces With Names International.

I look forward to sharing more details with you about how God has worked in my life and through amazing God ordained and directed relationships and circumstances to move forward. I also look forward to sharing opportunities of how you can partner with us and live out the call to care for orphans and widows in their distress.

If you would like to partner with us to build the foundation to serve over 1500 orphans and 1200 widows in Uganda, click the link below to give, or Text: Give, to 918-228-5200.

https://faceswithnames.reachapp.co

Cheering You On In Christ,
Eric Mills

What Could Make Simon Cowell Cry?

Simon Cowell is best known for his blunt and often controversial statements to contestants over the year’s as a judge on a variety of shows such as, American Idol, The X Factor and Britain’s and America’s Got Talent.

His famous line and the title of his book, “I don’t mean to be rude, but…”, is often followed by harsh and cutting insults to contestants about their abilities, or lack thereof. 

So how is a no-nonsense and harsh personality who is unphased by the crowds opinion, moved to tears?

It all started this past June when a singer and adoptive dad named, Michael Ketterer, stood on the stage to audition for America’s Got Talent. He not only looked very nervous, he admitted he was very nervous.

Watch Ketterer Family Story

As Simon Cowell began to address Ketterer, he asked, what is the ambition or dream for you being here?

Ketterer responded,

“My family is the reason why I am here. My wife and my six children. One of the things that happens, especially because my children came out of foster care, when you’re surviving, you can’t dream. That has been one of the most rewarding things is providing them with a home and a safe environment where they are free to dream. I am here because I want to show that if their dad can live out his dreams, there is nothing impossible for them.”

And so with what appeared to be a few prayers under his breath, Ketterer began a moving rendition of the Bee Gees, “To Love Somebody,” where the emotional words of the song rang through to the audience and judges:

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You don’t know what it’s like, baby

You don’t know what it’s like

To love somebody

To love somebody

The way I love you

Watch Ketterer Audition Here

And with what Simon Cowell explained as a real and unexpected performance, he gave Ketterer one of only five golden buttons of the season, pushing him directly through to the live performances.

This golden moment also thrust Micheal and Ivey Ketterer, and their six children into the spotlight of what it means to be an adoptive family. They immediately became a beacon of light in the orphan care world with everyone cheering them on and celebrating their success.

But this spotlight, although important for all of us in the orphan care world who want to bring awareness and advocacy to orphans and vulnerable children, speaks even louder to a world who is amazed at this singer and his wife’s selflessness.

With great anticipation, Ketterer finished out the show of the first live performances and the quarterfinal elimination round. He did not disappoint with another moving performance by James Bay’s, “Us.” A few words from the song:

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Tell me how to be in this world

Tell me how to breathe in and feel no hurt

Tell me how could I believe in something

I believe in us    

As the song concluded and the judges were to speak, Simon Cowell was asking for a pass. But the host, Tyra Banks pressed him and urged him to share, even in his emotions.

On live national television, this perceived, hard-hearted guy shared with tears in his eyes and a crack in his voice. This is what Simon Cowell said,

“As a dad, I can’t imagine doing what you’ve done, and the fact that you’re on this show and you really need this. You’re a really, really special guy,”

I think the most important and fascinating words Cowell then spoke was this. He said to Ketterer, “There’s just something about you.”

Watch Simon Cowell Cry

Any parent understands the challenges and frustrations of parenting. Kids are a lot of work. But there is a vivid reality of what it must be like parenting children from hard places and devastating circumstances.

It is one thing to be the biological parent of children who might have challenging personalities or special needs. But to willingly choose children with those same circumstances when you don’t have to, now that will get people’s attention. And in this situation, even make Simon Cowell cry.

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The selflessness of this father who is singing on America’s Got Talent, to give hope and dreams to his adoptive sons, resonates with a lost world.

James 1:27 tells us, “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”

So when the world expects religion to look judgmental, self-seeking and self-promoting, God says there is an answer: caring for those who can do nothing for you and can give nothing back to you. Who can argue with religion like this?

Beyond the impact Ketterer has had on Simon Cowell, I read this response on a YouTube conversation board which said,

“I’m not religious myself, but when I see this man, I see the good religion can do. He is the walking embodiment of the best of Christianity – generosity, goodness, kindness.

Truly hoping more people will express their Christianity like this man does with his family, this was just beautiful.”

When the love of the gospel becomes so evident through our care for the most vulnerable, it creates a dynamic where the lost desire to know about a God who will love them in the same way.

As followers of Jesus, as The Church, we have the opportunity to replicate this unselfish, gospel-centered care for the most vulnerable. God, in his infinite wisdom, made no mistake. He took a word the world sees as negative and gave us the opportunity to make it pure and faultless.

So if I may borrow a line from Simon Cowell, “I don’t mean to be rude, but …”, 

It’s time for pastor’s, churches and believers to stop reading James 1:27 as an option. A lost and dying world is watching on whether we are willing to take up our cross daily to care for the most vulnerable.

As a whole, our performance as, The Church, stinks. It would receive the harshest Simon Cowell review and criticism. We can do better Church, and it is so much easier to start with the support of our pastors!

So what could make Simon Cowell cry? The very life of an unselfish dad who is living out a pure and faultless religion, called, The Gospel.

Eric Mills

President – Faces With Names   www.faceswithnames.org

National Pastoral Director for Orphan Sunday & Stand Sunday  www.orphansunday.com

OBLIVIOUS!….?

Oblivious, that was me! I don’t think I should have been. At the time, I was serving as an Outreach Pastor, my wife and I had just completed a three year adoption journey to bring our daughter home from China and our church had participated in Orphan Sunday.

Just over a month after we brought our daughter home from China, I attended my first Summit Conference, put on by Christian Alliance for Orphans. This particular year, the conference was held at Saddleback Church in Southern California.

Through our own adoption journey and my role as an Outreach Pastor, God was really stirring in my heart to engage our church at a deeper level to care for orphans. Because of our own adoption journey, the focus we had presented to our church was primarily on adoption. I also began to realize, many of our international ministry partners were already caring for orphans in a variety of ways.

One of my goals at the conference was to research and learn ways we could begin to implement an orphan care ministry at our church. I was especially excited to attend one of the breakout sessions at the conference entitled, Building Church Ministries 101: Launching a Church Orphans’ Ministry.

There was a large turnout for this particular session as many churches had interest in engaging more into the orphan care crisis. What I quickly learned in this session was, the audience was mostly made up of lay people who had a passion for orphans. It didn’t take long to sense a common frustration amongst many of these lay people about the lack of support from their pastors about orphan care ministry.

Now there might have been more pastors present at the session, but they likely were staying quiet like I was out of fear of not making it out of the building alive.

Even though I was a pastor myself, I could certainly understand their frustrations as I was experiencing some of this same type of pushback or lack of interest in my efforts to introduce an orphan care ministry.

This was my first experience to witness a widespread lack of support amongst pastors on a topic that couldn’t have a more clear Biblical mandate, caring for orphans and widows in their distress.

Just one day later at the conference, I can safely say my world was rocked, in a big way. We watched the debut of a brand new documentary called, Faultless: The American Orphan. I don’t know how I could have been so oblivious to the foster care system in my own country, but I was.

I had no idea that at any given time in our country, there can range between 400,000 to 500,000 children in the custody of the state. Of this larger number of children, at any given time, close to 100,000 of these children are eligible to be adopted. Simply put, the parental rights of those 100,000 children have been terminated.

The title of this documentary speaks for itself. These children, through no fault of their own have been neglected, abused and are in situations bad enough that those outside their worlds notice there is something dreadfully wrong.

The sad reality is, our society and culture have masked that we actually have orphans living amongst us. I understand the sensitivity of how we label these children, but have we gone so far to protect them that now we don’t even know they exist? These children go to school with our kids, they live in our neighborhoods, but do we even know they are there?

What I was so struck by was the heartbreaking statistics of vulnerable children who are placed into the foster care system. Let these statistics sink in:

  • 80% of children in foster care have physical or mental health issues
  • 70% of the current US prison population has spent time in foster care
  • 80% of death row inmates have been in foster care
  • 65% of the US homeless population has spent time in foster care
  • 51% of foster kids will be unemployed after aging out of the system
  • 71% of girls who have been in foster care will be pregnant by the age of 21
  • 60% – 70% of those caught in sexual human trafficking in the US have spent time in foster care
  • Only 3% will attend college

This information rocked my world! Again, how could I be so oblivious to the realities of children who live in the smallest of rural communities, to the largest cities in our country, and everywhere in between?

In light of these staggering statistics, where does The Church fit into this crisis? The sad reality is, the frustration with pastors I was exposed to in the breakout session at Summit many years ago, is one I have now experienced on a wider scale personally as we have worked to engage churches in orphan care through our ministry, Faces With Names.

Having served previously as a pastor for many years, I understand the overwhelming work load many pastors already are facing. Having served as an Outreach Pastor, I also understand the numerous requests pastors and churches receive on a weekly basis.

A common response I often receive from pastors is, we are already doing too much. My question is, what if you are doing too much of the wrong things? Other pastors I speak too are narrowing their focus to such a small degree, there is no room to even consider another ministry option.

Either way, so many churches have eliminated a sacred space and left little to no room for something so close to the heart of God.

The unfortunate reality is, we will either deal with these children now, or we will deal with them later as adults. If Christian families and churches would be willing to step into their lives at a young age, there is more of a chance to see healing and restoration in their already broken lives.

Statistics show, the longer a child is in the foster care system, and the more placements or homes they have lived in, the more likely they become one of the unfortunate statistics listed above.

If we deal with them later, they will likely be the ones selling drugs in our towns, stealing our cars, breaking into our homes, selling their bodies voluntarily or involuntarily and making up a large percentage of those filling our prisons, living homeless on our streets, and requiring assistance from the government.

I often hear from DHS workers how they have worked with grandma, mom and now the children. The generational cycle of poverty, destruction and addiction is not only robbing these families of their God given potential, it is often blinding them of the enormous love God has for each and every one of them.

I love the statement my wife Susan once made and we now use as motivator in our ministry efforts:

“We believe, every time a vulnerable child or orphan is placed in a loving, healthy Christian family, through foster care or adoption, they are literally being snatched out of the hands of the enemy, and given a hope and a future.”

I know the hearts of most pastors is to reach the lost and to see peoples lives transformed. When we pray for revival in our towns and in our churches, are we only praying for those who will come in and make an immediate positive impact in the lives of our churches? These new people we have been praying for will provide leadership, they will serve, they will tithe, they won’t cause the pastor any headaches or additional work.

If we are honest with ourselves, this would be our selfish prayer. But what about those vulnerable families and kids who are not easy to deal with? If The Church is really going to be the answer to the foster care crisis, it will likely be more compared to taking up our cross daily for the sake of others than it will be easy wins.

Amazingly enough, that is exactly what Jesus called out for His followers to do, take up our cross daily. Not a popular subject most of the time, even to pastors. I write this blog with a continued desire to bring awareness to pastors and churches, there are vulnerable kids and families who desperately need our help!

But I must admit, I also write this blog with a bit of frustration at pastors who are ultimately the gatekeepers of what ministry transpires in their churches and are unwilling to even consider caring for orphans and vulnerable kids. I certainly understand how orphan care can seem like a very peripheral ministry idea.

But consider this, as pastors, have you ever tried to explain to a person who has never tithed before, why it is important to tithe? Tithing is a concept on many levels that makes no human sense and is often hard to explain why one should participate.

I equate orphan care for the church in the same way I equate tithing for the believer.

It might not make sense, but in God’s economy, it is better to participate than to not participate.

I love this quote I heard Andy Stanley make as he was addressing foster families at his church, NorthPointe.

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“Foster Care is the best and most significant ministry we do, and I really, really believe that. It will never be huge, but it will always be significant. It will will never make sense financially, but we are going to do fund it anyway. It means there aren’t going to be as many positive stories as there are heartbreaking stories, but that is just the nature of ministry. I really do think even though initially it seemed like a little sideways energy, a little bit off focus of what we do in terms of planting churches. I really believe there is not a more significant ministry that we do. Which means from my perspective as your pastor, as a church planter, of all the things I’ve seen, there isn’t a more important thing that we do as a church.”   Andy Stanley

I appreciate this heartfelt expression from Andy Stanley on the importance and significance of churches participating in caring for vulnerable children through foster care. The reality is, starting an orphan care/foster care ministry already parallels many of the ministries you already have in place. I have said to many pastors now to date, all we need is your support.

You already have people in your church who are passionate about caring for orphans and vulnerable kids. Support them, unleash them, and watch how God blesses every aspect of what you are doing through your church.

There is this pesky little verse we find in Matthew 25:40 where Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”

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To those lay people who are frustrated, stay encouraged, and pray for your pastor. For pastors who are not interested in orphan care/foster care yet, would you ask God how He might want you to lead your church in caring for the most vulnerable amongst us? For the pastors and churches who get it, thank you! It’s not easy, but it’s worth the effort.

Every negative statistic from foster care represents an individual. Every one of those individuals has a face, with a name. Their real life stories can be swept into the abyss of negative statistics, or they can be embraced by loving families, from loving churches who can introduce a Jesus who can bring healing, restoration and salvation to all things broken.

I was Oblivious! Are you?

Faces With Names, serves as a catalyst ministry to engage and equip churches to create the culture of orphan care through foster care, adoption and global orphan care. To learn more about how we can serve your church to help care for orphans and vulnerable kids, please visit our webpage: www.faceswithnames.org

Craig Groeschel – “Orphans Embraced” Every child in need has a face, a name and a story.

How to Neighbor – Orphans Embraced

Every child in need has a face, a name, and a story. #howtoneighbor

Posted by Life.Church on Wednesday, May 11, 2016