Thursday, May 6, 2010

Christian Alliance for Orphans Summit VI... attempting to sum it all up.

Well, since we've been home I have been trying to figure out how to process all that God revealed to us at the Summit. And instead of waiting until I have it all perfectly laid out,(which will probably never happen!) I figured I should atleast write about some of the highlights of the week. That way I can process a little as I go, and you can get a little taste of what it was like- which by the way was AMAZING. God was definitely in all the details and we were so blessed to be able to be a part of it.

The first cool thing that happened was that while we were in a shuttle on our way to our hotel from the airport, we 'just happened' to meet a young couple from Fresno- the very same couple that a friend from church kept telling me that I needed to meet and connect with sometime. Coincidence? I think not! We ended up going out to dinner with them the first night and then introduced them to the rest of our crew and hung out together the rest of the time. They have a huge heart for orphans and adoption and we clicked right away. I love how God works.

Oh, and then as we were walking through the hotel I hear someone yell out "hey nice shirt!" I turned and got to meet two of my "blog heroes" Gwen and Suzanne of 147 Million Orphans. I felt like I was meeting someone famous because I am such a fan of their ministry and of course all that they do to help sweet Katie in Uganda. I know I'm lame, but I must say that I was glad I was wearing my shirt that day! :-)

On to more exciting things.

Thursday morning was jam-packed with awesome worship led by Peter Eide and several different speakers. My favorites were most definitely Doug Sauder with 4Kids of South Florida who talked about the power of one person making an impact on one child and starting a revolution, as well as Tom Davis author of Fields of the Fatherless and Scared and president of Children's HopeChest. Tom's message was so powerful and heartbreaking as he shared about the tragedy and reality of the sex-trafficking of vulnerable children. To say that this was convicting is an understatement. It opened our eyes to the horrific reality of the slavery of children and of course once our eyes are opened we are responsible to act. But more on that later.

After the general session we attended several breakout sessions before the evening session began. These were fantastic as well! Randy and I split up between a few and then went to a few together over the two days. Between the two of us we learned about everything from the theology of adoption and engaging church leadership, to starting a global orphan care ministry and adopting HIV+ children. We came away with SO much information and practical tools to help us implement what we learned. We have LOTS to pray about!

Speaking of prayer, there was also a time that was set aside for everyone to break into groups and pray with others who shared the same particular passion and focus in a certain area of the world. There were people praying for God to move in the lives of the fatherless all over the world from China to Russia to U.S. foster care. Randy and I actually chose to join others in praying for Expanded Hearts for Orphans in U.S. churches. In this short time that we dedicated to seek the Lord together through prayer, we saw that God was already moving in mighty ways. It was definitely a highlight of the day!

Thursday's evening session was amazing to say the least. MaryBeth Chapman gave her testimony of God's faithfulness in their life, shared about their adoptions, and about the loss of their sweet Maria in a tragic accident. She was so real and transparent as she spoke about her struggle with depression and grief. It felt like we were sitting in their living room as Steven Curtis Chapman sang and led us all into worship- it felt so intimate and beautiful. I don't think there was a single dry eye in the entire building.

Back at our hotel, Randy and I had so much to talk about and process together that we didn't even get to sleep until after 1am. We were so full and just so excited about the day's events!

Friday morning we were up early and back for day 2 of this powerful conference. Again the general sessions were full of dynamic speakers and worship and left us overflowing with a deep sense of joy and purpose.

I think the speaker that had the most impact on me was Stephanie Fast. WOW is all I can say. This woman has an amazing testimony- abandoned at a train station at 4 years old in South Korea after the war, she lived on the streets and suffered horribly until someone rescued her from a garbage dump several years later. Her story is one of hope and healing through Christ alone and it is a sobering one to hear. The thing she said many times during her talk was that "there is no event in my life that I would be better without." So true. Yet so painful.
I resonated with this quote as well and actually have a hard time even reading it without tearing up again: "My natural father never knew I existed. My heavenly Father has known & loved me every second of all eternity. " This one sentence spoke to the deepest places of my heart. That's all I will say for now.

Desperation Band was awesome that morning as they led us in worship and so refreshing to see young people so passionate about the least of these. Randy and I also both loved that during the evening session the praise team from Bethlehem Baptist Church led us into some multicultural worship! When you sing the praises of Jesus in Spanish or the African language, it feels like we are getting just a tiny glimpse of how heaven will sound.

The first speaker Friday evening was Sergey Demidovich a pastor from Ukraine who spoke passionately about his own familiy's adoption story as well as their development of a program that has a goal to provide every child in Ukraine and Russia with a loving home and adoptive parents. This guy was great! He spoke through a translator but she was very eloquent in the way she translated and it was another highlight of the weekend.

Last and most definitely not least was a power packed sermon from John Piper. Now Randy and I have both been listening to his sermons for years, but we had never seen him preach "live" before. Woah- you'd better hold on! His message was not light and fluffy, but a deep and honest look at TRUE FAITH and what it looks like to live by that faith. It was one of those messages that you need to hear several times in order to even be able to process it all- good thing we got the dvd! Here are a couple of points from his sermon that I jotted down.

*Once we are saved, EVERYTHING we do is lived by faith. What does it mean to live by faith? To adopt a child by faith? To move through the disruption by faith?

*It means trusting the blood bought promises of God which are absolutely sure!

*Through our faith, God works miracles for us- especially when we step out and start adopting and caring for orphans. He uses Divine Providence to make amazing things happen.

*But not always. Sometimes He takes you through unimaginable suffering. Having faith is NOT a guarantee of security or safety or comfort. By faith some escape the sword and by faith others are executed.

*Having faith therefore is not the ultimate determining factor in whether or not you suffer or have sucess or failure in adoption and orphan care. God is.

*The common feature between the faith that escapes and the faith that does not is that God is better than what life can give and better than what death can take.

*There is a glory that is yet to be revealed that is infinitely better than the best that this life can offer (even in adoption).

*Those who love God more than life (more than successful adoption and orphan care ministry) are God's great gift to the world.

*When the children of God are permitted to suffer in the path of love, orphan care, and adoption, God is giving them to the world as a gift. And the world is not worthy of God's children.

Believe it or not- I didn't take any camera with me! Shocking I know. But thanks to my friend Tamera for sharing these...

(A few of the Fresno crew with Pastor John Piper! There were a total of 10 of us from Fresno- AWESOME!!!)

(LOVE his face in this one. Bryan had just said something crazy I'm sure! J/K! )
And on that note, we came to the end of our amazing week at the Orphan Summit in MN. Again, we learned SO much and we are still processing a lot of it but the encouraging thing about this conference was that we left not only fired up, but also feeling equipped to begin making a difference. We were encouraged to dream BIG HUGE God-sized dreams and then start with plenty of prayer and a small step each day in order to move closer to seeing God work in those dreams! It was truly one of the best weeks of our lives and even in the few days that we've been home, we've already seen the Lord working in mighty ways!

If you missed the Summit and live close, you are welcome to borrow any of the DVD's we got of the 4 general sessions. If not then I am not sure but I think the Christian Alliance for Orphans may also have them for sale as well.

Our kids had a fabulous time while we were gone as they spent the 4 days with their 5 cousins at Papa and Grandma's house. Elliana did awesome being away from us for the first time, which was a huge answer to prayer. What a blessing it is to having loving family so close- we reminded them that they are caring for the orphans too by being willing and able to take such wonderful care of our kids while we are away at things like the summit or mission trips. A huge thank you to my in laws for hosting "Grandma Camp" for those 4 days that we were away! :-)

Over all, it was a week that will have an impact for a lifetime. Not only did we hear some amazing testimonies and stories of God's faithfulness, but we made contacts and built relatioships with other like minded people who have a burning passion for God and His children. And we are so excited about the things the Lord can accomplish when we partner together with them! Our God is so faithful and I can't wait to see what He will do next...


Mel said...

I'm bummed to didn't "bump" into Patrick. He blogged while he was there. We're so pumped :)

Ally said...

Wow! Sounds like a wonderful week. I know that God will open doors and put all the pieces together for you. Thank you for sharing from your heart:)

Christi Ucherek said...

well said! So glad I got to meet you!

-Christi @ Lifesong

anne said...

What a great summary of your conference experience. It sounds like it was challenging, inspiring and exciting. Thanks for sharing and helping us keep our eyes open to the needs of children around the world. Can't wait to hear more.

Brandi said...

You are just precious! I'm so glad we got to meet you! And I'm glad you left me a blog comment so I could come here. Hey, you have a "Feed the Forgotten" badge! We should have connected way long ago - that was my campaign after I got back from Uganda last year! The little girl on the front of the Summit Packet is from the village that got food!

Love you sweet friend. I LOVED Summit and meeting all sorts of precious new friends with a passion for teh poor and hurting.


Lisa said...

I couldn't have said what Stephanie said better. So true and wonderful. "there is no event in my life that I would be better without."

That is exactly how I've felt through good and bad...of course after the storm of the bad is calming.

Elena said...

Hey! I just came across your blog as I was trying to find a talk by Doug Sauder on the internet. My husband and I were at the Summit this year for the first time too! Awesome, awesome, life changing event! Hope to keep in touch with you in the blogging world!

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