When I started planning to visit Carissa in Switzerland where she is studying abroad this year, I was a little apprehensive about going on a trip without orphan related work being involved. All of my recent travels have been centered around this cause, so I asked around to see if any oppurtunities existed in the areas I was planning to travel.
I was happy to find that my friends Karmen and Ruslin were holding a WWO (World Without Orphans) leadership meeting just outside of Zurich, and only about three hours away by train from where I was visiting Carissa. There was no arm twisting needed for me head there after my time with Carissa in Lausanne, Seitzerland.
My train from Lausanne to Zurich took me through some of the most beautiful country I have ever seen, rolling meadows, vineyards and castles. After changing trains in Zurich I continued on a smaller train through storybook villages with names like Winterthur and Turbenthal until arriving at my destination of Rämismühle-Zell where I was greeted and escorted to our accommodations by Karmen.
As the photojournalist for the WWO global forum in Thailand this February it is my privilege to interview those who are speaking and teaching at this global event. The interviews are published on the WWO website and used to generate awareness and involvement in the WWO movement.
Anytime that God allows me to participate in orphan ministry I go with an open heart and mind, expecting Gods power and presence to be felt in supernatural ways. Having already interviewed 20 year CEO of Compassion International, Wess Stafford, former White House aid Jedd Medefind of Christisn Alliance For Orphans, Alex Sam and Daniel Kaggwa from India, Brilliance Chondwe from Africa and a host of others, the message they have shared has not only had a powerful impact on my view of the global orphan crisis, but has had a profound impact on my life as well.
Time and again these global leaders, whose ministries have impacted hundreds of thousands of lives, have opened up and shared their personal story of why they do what they do. Almost without exception their own stories have contained details of personal loss, tragedy or abuse. There was always a defining moment that involved acceptance of there plight and then a shift to “what do I do now”. What do I do now to bring something good out of evil, many times giving back to the same community that took so much. This is a supernatural love, Gods love, allowing the love of Jesus to flow through you and onto others in such a way as to change lives forever.
With my schedule in Switzerland allowing only one day with Ruslin and Karmen I went right to work. I first interviewed CEO of Beyond Barriers, George Ebenezer from Bengaluru, India, Lubo Hlavacka of Headwind Consulting and lastly Brian O’Connell, president of React Services.
Each interview was impactful and informative but it was George from India that I felt the presence of God moving so powerfully in the room within which we sat. George is 37 years of age and is engaging, articulate and likable, within moments I started with the usual questions.
How did God open your eyes and heart for the orphan?
Tell us three things that every Christian leader should know when it comes to caring for orphans?
What is your message to the global church in one or two sentences?
What excites you most about being part of the Global Forum for a World Without Orphans?
What are your hopes for the global orphan care movement beyond the forum?
His answers were moving, but it was his response to the first question that touched my heart the most. George told his story of growing up with abuse and pain, living in a home where his father had murdered his mother, he lived in fear of adults, especially males. The turning point in George’s life was being sponsored by a church group in America through Compassion International from the time he was a child through high school. Through Compassion he came to accept the love of Christ and that love transformed his life. Instead of being bitter over the pain that he had experienced, he has devoted his life to helping children and teenagers from sex trafficking and abuse.
George told me that as difficult as the tragedies have been on of his life, he would never have become who he is today without those experiences. He would never have had the understanding and empathy for those who have experienced abuse without having been abused himself.
By the conclusion of our interview, George and myself felt a close connection and I shared with George my own Compassion sponsorship story. I told of the loss and pain that has been an intricate part of the path that I now journey. I wept as I shared with George what it’s like to witness your own child breath their last breath while sitting by their side and how something that has the potential to be your undoing, can be turned into your source of strength, We talked about the power of Trust, Faith and Change.
I will never forget George taking both of his hands and clasping them around mine and as the presence of God filled the room, George prayed, thanking God for allowing him to see the love of a father, to experience the love of God through me and to acknowledge his feeling that God had brought us together for a purpose. Each of our stories impacted the other in a powerful way. Sharing our stories with others will do that if we simply open our hearts before God and share what he is doing in us and through us.
God has a reason for our existence on this earth, finding out that he can use even me, with all of my weakness’s and shortcomings has truly changed my life. As my friend Karmen said during the World Without Orphans opening session, “God has used my weakness’s more than my strengths to further his kingdom.”
“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”
2 Corinthians 12:9