Now, more than ever…RIP King John

One of the early questions I asked God, in this process of relaunching Faces With Names was, “Do you really need me to care for orphans and widows in Uganda?” The very quick response I felt in my spirit was, No. I just need you to be obedient.

I am finding this journey I am on with God, and my role with FWNI, is truly about obedience, trust, surrender, faith, and the list goes on. 

As I have shared with you, in one of the lowest seasons of my life, God sent a king to remind me that the King of kings had not forgotten about me. 

I think the reason we had such an immediate connection was, our hearts shared the same burden for the care of orphans and widows. 

This unique relationship has lead us to laying the foundation to serve over 1500 orphans and 1200 widows in Uganda, and countless number of orphans and widows even beyond Uganda.

Now, more than ever, we are committed to carrying on the legacy King John showed throughout his life as a pastor, a bishop, and as a king.

Early Sunday morning, I received a very unwanted message from Queen Sarah, that King John, had passed away from complications from Covid-19.

Farewell, King John Chrysostom Wayabire

Although my heart is heavy, and I mourn the loss of someone who has become a good friend,I rejoice in the fact, he is with Jesus. And without question, heard the words, well done, my good and faithful servant.

Our Mission & Vision at Faces With Names International remains the same:

Our Mission: To help orphans and widows move beyond a life of survival, and thrive, to fulfill their God given purpose.

Our Vision: To allow you, the opportunity to care for orphans and widows in their distress.

Now, more than ever, it is vital we take up the banner King John has carried, to serve the orphans and widows under his care, in Uganda.

None of this comes as a surprise to God. I am thankful we are positioned to carry on this important calling we find in James 1:27, and invite you to join us.

I believe God has put in place for us to also care for King John’s wife and children, who now find themselves as orphans without a father, and a widow without a husband.

Now, more than ever, we need your help! We cannot fulfill this calling without people like you, who believe in what we are doing, and are willing to partner with us financially.

We continue our “Know My Name,” monthly donor campaign in honor and memory of King John. Will you join us, in helping to continue his legacy?

Click Here to Partner With Us

​Cheering You On In Christ,

Eric Mills

President

Faces With Names International

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

The top 5 things I learned from my 98 year old grandma…

One week ago today, I had the privilige to lead the celebration of life service for my grandma. It was definitley a bittersweet experience. As we celebrated the birth of Jesus yesterday, I couldnt help but reflect on my grandma’s amazing life. 

As I wrote down some thoughts I will be implmenting into my own life, I thought I would honor my grandma and share the wisdom 98 years of life brings. 

Counting down the top 5 things I learned from my 98 year old grandma:

5. Good hair is important 

Most people don’t have pictures of the person who cuts their hair in their memorial video, but my grandma did. My grandma always looked so classy and most people couldn’t believe she was 98. There is something about self care that keeps you young, and no hair out of place that keeps you looking good. 

4. Don’t be left out, when there is fun happening 

It was common to hear my grandma say, “If you are doing anything fun, come and get me, or don’t leave me out of the fun.” What I learned from her was, fun is presence. It wasn’t that she could always do everything we were doing, although that was very rare, but she enjoyed being around her family and friends who were living life to the fullest. And the reality is, her presence made things more fun. 

3. Die young, as late as possible 

My grandma and her good friend Lowell were still dancing 2 or 3 times a week before Covid. Along with dancing, they were still going to the races on Friday nights and Wii Bowling was a regular part of their schedule. The only thing that sounded old to me was them playing cribbage, ha ha. Being young for my grandma was a state of mind, and I think she is the youngest 98 year old I have ever known. 

Not many grandsons can say, I was at the races with my 98 year old Grandma

2. Choose Joy: Tomorrow will be better than today

​Despite the amazing life my grandma lived, it was not without pain and sorrow. She buried a son who was 25, a granddaughter who was 18, the wife of her grandson in her 20’s, her daughter and son in law amongst many other siblings and family members. Despite all the loss and troubled times, she always chose joy. As my Aunt Raine shared with me, regardless of how bad any given day was, my grandma would always say, tomorrow is going to be better. If anyone could have thrown in the towel, my grandma certainly had enough to warrant it, but instead, she chose joy. ​

1. No one ever cared for me like Jesus

​​I always knew my grandma had faith in Jesus, but I didn’t know the depth of her faith until I read over her instructions and choices of songs and scriptures for her memorial service, which she had already planned. There was a clear common denominator in what kept her young, choosing joy and loving people the way she did, it was Jesus. In all the good and bad, it was clear her faith and the assurance that no one cared for her like Jesus, was the driving force. And she made it clear, she wanted everyone to know the love, grace and forgiveness found in Jesus.

This past month has gone nothing like I imagined. Having to postpone my trip to Uganda, Covid going through our family, the loss of my grandma and a beloved great uncle on the same day, and then the loss of another one of my aunt’s was certainly not what I expected or wanted. 

So I am immediatley getting to implement what I have learned from my grandma, choosing joy in the midst of loss and setback. With the attitude of joy we look forward to what God has called us to do. In loving memory of my Grandma, Kathleen Boland.

Donate to our Year End Giving

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:

IMG_1761 2

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:

IMG_1754

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.

IMG_1763 3

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

Navigating 5 Key Challenges in the Adoption Process – Part 1

Adoption, at its very core, is a deeply emotional topic.

Whether the motivation to adopt is based on infertility, or a God-given call to bring an orphan or vulnerable child into your family, there is a chasm of deep seeded emotions involved before you ever begin the adoption process.

It is not uncommon for couples to consider the thought of adoption for many years, prior to taking the first steps towards their own personal adoption journey.

This passing of time, prior to adoption, can stem from the lingering hope of biological children, spouses not being on the same page or simply not knowing the first steps to take to bringing a child into their family.

This series of articles is designed to address 5 Key Challenges many couples face when considering adoption.

Commonly speaking, women tend to be ready for adoption much sooner than their husbands. 

So even though the common agreement to pursue adoption is one of the key challenges many couples face, we are going to proceed with this article as though our couples have mutually agreed to proceed towards adoption.

Mutual agreement on adoption does not necessarily guarantee smooth sailing towards the adoption goal. It only leads us to the first challenge and decision many couples face.

What Type of Adoption Should We Pursue?

Types of Adoption

Domestic Adoption

  • Foster to Adopt:

This is a form of adoption where a child will be placed in your home as a foster child, with the expectation that he/she will become legally free and available to be adopted by the foster parents.

  • Private / Independent Adoption:

Prospective adoptive parents in Private or Independent Adoptions are advised by an adoption attorney, instead of working with an adoption agency. You will want to check with your state to determine if a private or independent adoption is allowed.

  • Agency Adoption:

Agency adoptions involve the placement of a child with adoptive parents by a public or private agency licensed or regulated by the state.

Public agencies generally place children who have become wards of the state for reasons  abandonment, neglect or abuse.

Private agencies are sometimes run by charities or social service organizations. Children placed through private agencies are usually brought to the agency by a parent or parents who have or are expecting a child they want to give up for adoption.

  • International Adoption:

International Adoption is where an individual or couple becomes the legal and permanent parents of a child who is a naturalized citizen of a foreign country. An international adoption is also referred to as Intercountry Adoption or Transnational Adoption. In such an adoption, the prospective adoptive parents must meet the legal adoption requirements of their country of residence and also of the country whose nationality the child holds.

  • Hague Adoptions

International adoptions in many countries are regulated by The Hague Convention on Protection of Children. The Hague provides guidelines to agencies in order to protect the best interests of internationally adopted children. It will be important to check with your adoption agency to determine if the country you are interested in adopting from, is a Hague Country.

In Part 2 of our series we will be tackling these two critical challenges:

  • The absolute first person you need to talk to about the adoption process (other than your spouse, of course)
  • How much money you really need in order to qualify for approval from an adoption agency (it depends, so this will be very valuable information)

One Handed Driver

As the story goes, it was just boys being boys. In the mid 1920’s, in a small town in Northwest, South Dakota, a negro league baseball team was using a local ball diamond for practice. This is a historical story all to its own, but not for now.

African American baseball players in rural South Dakota. Talk about a natural draw for any group of curious young boys, especially in a small town with not much to do. To add to the excitement and adventure, the boys climbed up a latter on the side of a building for a rooftop view of the practice.

As one of the boys made his way up the latter, another boy thought it would be funny to pull the latter out from under him. This young, nine-year-old boy fell to the ground and broke his left arm.

Just over fifty years after this incident took place, I began the annual summer journey with my family from Southern California to South Dakota. Thirteen hundred miles stood between me and my own South Dakota adventures.

No doubt, there was joy in the journey. This was back in the day when car seats and seat belts were only a distant thought. Sleeping in the back window of our 1973 Monte Carlo I am sure wasn’t safe, but we survived.

One of my favorite memories of our many trips, and one I got to brag about to my friends was sitting on my dad’s lap, getting to steer the car. In my young boy mind, it seemed like I drove for hundreds of miles. I am sure letting me drive the car as a young boy was a break from the monotony for my dad over the many miles we traveled.

I remember my dad’s right hand reaching down around mine in any instance where he needed to take control. It was my earliest recollection of watching my dad drive with only one hand. It was a driving style I would learn and take on myself.

It is amazing how much we learn sometimes without realizing we are even learning. To this day, I am a one handed driver.

I am sure the opportunity to drive on my dad’s lap didn’t completely eliminate the question every parent endures on a long road trip, “Are we there yet?” Twenty hours in a car is a long haul no matter how old you are.

As we drove through Hot Springs, South Dakota, we knew we were getting close. There was an excitement that filled our car as we rolled up to Grandpa and Grandma Mills house on Galena Drive. They were usually sitting on their front porch waiting for us. A wonderful image burned into my memory.

Our annual South Dakota summer adventure officially began as we stepped out of the car and took our first breath of the fresh Black Hills air. Over the course of the summer, I had the privilege of watching my dad interact with his dad.

I could tell my dad viewed his dad as a hero. Now as an adult, I am amazed at how often I recognize and say about myself, that is just how my dad did it. I am sure my dad said the same thing about his dad. But with my dad, there was a twist in how he learned from his dad.

The real life consequences of boys being boys was a broken left arm of a young nine-year-old boy. In most cases, a broken arm is a routine fix with a cast and a month or so to heal. This broken arm would be different.

My grandpa never spoke about how he lost his arm, so the details are vague. What we do know is, the break in his arm contracted an infection that turned into gangrene. The result, a young, nine-year-old boy had his left arm amputated well above his elbow.

The only thing I ever heard my grandpa could not do was wash his own elbow. I am not even sure that was true. I am pretty sure I watched him figure a way to accomplish this simple task that any two handed person could easily do.

My dad learned how to tie his shoes with one hand, button his shirt with one hand, bowl one handed, (my grandpa is in the South Dakota Bowlers Hall of Fame and bowled eight perfect games in his life) and learned to drive with one hand.

I am a one handed driver because my dad was a one handed driver. My dad was a one handed driver because his dad was a one handed driver.

My Grandpa - South Dakota Bowler Hall of Fame

My Grandpa – South Dakota Bowler Hall of Fame

This legacy of learning is now four generations old in the Mills family. If you asked Hugh Mills kids about how influential their dad was in their lives, it would be very clear the admiration they have for their dad.

It breaks many modern day statistical facts of the success a child growing up without a father might experience. My Grandpa Mills never had the chance to learn a single thing from his father. My Great Grandpa Mills was killed in WW1 before my grandpa was ever born.

I am reminded of two other nine-year-old boys we became acquainted with in our first year of marriage. These young boys’ were in Susan’s special education class. There were just five young boys in her class designated as emotionally disturbed.

On one particular day, one of the boys acted out in a way that required multiple adults to restrain him. A rage and profanities no nine-year-old should even know. The event became so dangerous the police were called in to control the situation.

The other boy indicated his ongoing deviant behavior was driven by the desire to be arrested. In his young mind, this was the ticket to go and be with his dad who was serving time in prison.

As I have lived in the orphan care world over the past seven years or so, I have learned the stories and tragedies of orphans and vulnerable kids with no one to love them and lead them by example. Too many times I have heard the stories from foster care social workers who worked with grandma, mom and now the kids. A generational cycle of poverty and destruction.

I have wondered before why I have been so blessed with two men who dramatically shaped my life with love, guided by a desire to live with character and integrity. I have certainly made my fair share of mistakes along the way, but my recalibration is guided by the Holy Spirit and desire to surrender to Christ.

My Heroes! The men who shaped my life.

My Heroes! The men who shaped my life.

It is amazing how much we learn sometimes without realizing we are even learning. Learning to become a one handed driver is only symbolic of the greater benefit of the men in my life who shaped who I am today.

There is not a church in America, rural or suburban, who does not have kids who are in state custody, otherwise known as the foster care system, in close proximity to their building. These vulnerable kids go to school with your children, yet many of them are unknown and forgotten. How can this be?

A common response I get from pastors when talking to them about caring for orphans and vulnerable kids is this, we are already doing too much!

Having been a pastor, I get it. But the question I think in my mind is, what if we are too busy doing the wrong things? There is an ongoing spiritual battle for the very souls of these vulnerable children.

When we are too busy doing other things to care, the enemy is winning, capturing these young souls with the purpose to kill, steal and destroy, with hardly any effort.

There are hundreds of thousands of vulnerable kids here in the US and millions of orphans around the world who lack any loving guidance in their lives. The unfortunate statistics tell us they are the ones who will likely break into our homes, steal our cars, sell drugs to our kids, sell themselves on the streets and take the lives of those who we love the most.

On my most frustrating days of trying to bring awareness to care for these vulnerable kids to pastors and churches, I am reminded there are those who are still answering the call to bring hope and a future to these valued children, made in the image of God.

Last week, I was honored to be present at the adoption proceedings of good friends of mine who brought a sibling group of four into their family. These kids had spent 1525 days in the foster care system. But on this day, they became a part of a loving family. I wish you could have seen the joy and relief on these kids’ faces.

Later on this same day, I attended a Wednesday night service at my church where the guest speaker talked about near death experiences. You might be asking; how does this relate? This particular speaker has interviewed over 1,000 people who have experienced near death experiences.

Those who had returned from their near death experiences spoke about going through a life review with Jesus prior to being resuscitated. What I was struck by were the things most important to Jesus in these life reviews. I can assure you, it was not about wealth, status or accomplishments, but about relationships. The most important thing to Jesus was how we treat people.

I guess when Jesus said, whatever you do for the least of these my brothers and sisters, you do unto me, He wasn’t joking. I get that foster care and adoption are difficult. But there is this other pesky verse Jesus talks about in taking up our cross daily. The cross is never easy, but it certainly is selfless.

So how do we follow the call by Jesus to deny ourselves and take up our cross daily in a culture where comfort is the ultimate goal? What if someday a vulnerable kid wrote about the impact you made in their life? The possibility of a legacy you left that broke the cycle of generational poverty and destruction.

I count it a privilege to be able to say, “that is just how my dad did it.” My grandpa was a one handed driver. My dad was a one handed driver. Because of them, I am a one handed driver, and so much more….

What Happened to Sunday?

imageEarlier this summer, I had the privilege to lead one of our mission teams from Heritage Church to Christchurch, New Zealand. Our team flew out of Chicago late Saturday afternoon for our long journey. Our first flight took us to Los Angeles where we would catch our long flight over the Pacific Ocean to Auckland. We left LAX around 10:30 pm Saturday night for the twelve hour plus flight. In the course of our journey, we flew over the International Date Line which ultimately propelled us forward a day. We left on Saturday night and landed on Monday morning. In all my travels, this is the first time I have actually skipped an entire day during the course of a flight. I must admit, not having the chance to live out a day messes with your mind a little and at the very least throws the rest of your week completely out of whack.

This novelty of international travel to New Zealand of missing a complete day is a good story and conversation piece. But for me, it has become much more than a novelty or conversation piece. This experience is something I have reflected on over the past two months and continue to reflect on even now as I am writing. It has caused me to ask myself, What Happened to Sunday? There is so much wrapped up in this question for me. It has caused me to reflect on the days and life I have been given. What opportunities I have captured and seized and what opportunities I have forfeited out of complacency or aborted out of fear before they were ever given life. As long as God gives us breath and grants us another day to live, we are given 86,440 seconds, 1440 minutes, 24 hours in each day.

There is something about missing a day that doesn’t seem fair or right. Sometimes we miss days out of choice, illness, tragedy or neglect. In my case on the way to New Zealand, I gave up a day to gain an even greater experience of new friendships, new ministry opportunities and the beauty of God’s creation in a place I had never seen or been before. Ultimately, as I have worked through and reflected on the significance of what God has been trying to teach me through the experience of missing Sunday, I continue to come back to the plight of millions of orphans who miss days, weeks, months and years of their lives. For so many of them, there is no positive story or gain by giving up a day. For the orphan, they just forfeit another day of their lives unloved, untouched and uncared for in way too many cases.

Last year, I read a statement from Dr. Russell Moore in a proposed resolution he submitted to the Southern Baptist Convention in 2009 on Adoption and Orphan Care. Dr. Moore wrote, “Upward of 150 million orphans now languish without families in orphanages, group homes, and placement systems in North America and around the world.” Overall, there was not much information in this particular statement I was not already aware of, but the word that grabbed my attention and has unsettled my spirit ever since is the word, “Languish.” I am sure I had heard the word before but did not pay much attention to it or fully understand its meaning. As I sought out the definition of languish, my heart broke even more. Languish: To be or become weak or feeble; lose strength or vigor. To exist or continue in miserable or disheartening conditions. To remain unattended or be neglected. To become downcast or pine away in longing: languish apart from friends and family; languish for a change from dull routine.

For millions of orphans, they would long to ask, What Happened to Sunday? If it was only a matter of losing one day of their life out of care free living, selfishness or even complacency. But for most, one day turns into weeks, months and years until they lose the capacity to even ask what happened to Sunday if they ever had the ability at all. These institutionalized children often suffer delays emotionally, physically and socially because they lack the very basic needs God created for children to develop within a family. So children who would otherwise have no emotional, physical or social delays, develop such issues due to a lack of touch, love and food a child needs to grow and develop. For those orphans who already have special needs, their plight can often be worse because their value is perceived to be even less than the other children.

So the spiritual battle for the very soul of every orphan wages on. An enemy who comes to kill, steal and destroy those most precious to God happens every day around the world. So I continue to ask myself, how do I converge the desire to make everyday of my life count for God knowing the lives of so many precious children waist away day by day simply because of the environment in which they live. How do the nameless faces become real to those who love God and call upon His name? How do we make Sunday real to those children who at this point cannot even fathom what it would mean to be a part of a loving family? So what is your role in making sure you don’t reach the end of your life asking, What Happened to Sunday?