The Philippines Part 1: What does it feel like to be an orphan?

“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.”
-James 1:27

While in the Philippines, we visited an orphanage almost everyday. The kids are amazing; however, many of us don’t know what it feels like to be an orphan. In this post I will be telling you guys how an orphan feels and why they act the way that they do.

Because they are orphans, they are missing relationships with their parents and loved ones. There can also be a missing relationship with God the Father, or a spiritual orphan. The way they feel in their heart is the way that they relate to other people. Relationships come from the heart, not from the mind. An orphan who was abandoned won’t get close to people. They have been robbed of deep relationships both past and future.

Orphans feel very lonely, even in a room full of people. They want to be by themselves which is a sign of how they feel in their hearts. They feel despair with no sense of hope or purpose. They feel sorrow, a very deep and very severe sense of sadness and constant pain. But the good news is that God gives us promises which in turn gives us hope. The gospel breathes hope of new life.

Orphans have mistrust out of fear. If you say something nice to an orphan, they won’t believe you and wonder if you really meant what you said.

They feel insecure. They are often uncomfortable and over sensitive. They might mishear things based on how they feel about self and others. Because of poverty, they have a survival mentality. They feel like they never have enough. You can feel security based on where you come from, what you have, or in Jesus Christ, which is the only lasting security. It’s not about having enough, God made us to receive and give.

Orphans have the feeling of independence. They often have the my way or the highway mentality. They don’t believe that people who truly care about them wish them any good. God created us to be dependent on Him and on one another.

They believe that love must be earned, which is the wrong motivation. They feel like they must prove that they are worthy of love. They believe that what they do makes them who they are. An example would be a runaway after doing something wrong, they don’t feel worthy to be loved.

Orphan ministry is very important and its ultimate goal is to know the heart of an orphan and break through the walls they have put up to the deeper person that is inside.

While playing with and loving on the kids, we met a little boy named Christian, no older than 10. When he was younger, he was abandoned by his parents. Christian had to grow up on the streets. Then he was put in the orphanage that Kids International Ministries runs. Because he grew up in such a rough situation, he grew up fighting to survive. When he was put in the orphanage, that survival mentality stuck with him. He has had problems with fighting with other children and he has a hard time sharing. One experience while we were hanging out with Christian that really gave me hope was when a guy in our group named Ashtin gave him a ball that you catch with a pad type thing. Because of his survival mentality, he had a hard time sharing with the other kids. Ashtin kept telling him that it was something that he had to do. And eventually he shared it with another boy named Danilo. Ashtin gave him a lot of praise and Christian was very excited. It just shows that if you can break through the walls and reach the deeper person, amazing things can happen.

Another story I would like to share is about a brother and sister named John and Pauline. They are getting adopted by a couple in Indiana. They were so excited to be getting adopted. They were so filled with joy about getting to have a mommy and daddy and grandparents who will spoil them. It gives me joy to know that there are people who are willing to adopt children, let alone a brother and sister, because that is very rare.

“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.”
-James 1:27

In God’s grip,
Alex

Courage Kaden

Kaden (left) and his brother, Colton (right)

Growing up, I experienced death pretty early on in life. Shortly after my mom and step dad had gotten married, they had a baby girl named Kennedy. Kennedy was born with a very rare disease and she only lived for eighteen days. Being so young, about five or six, I didn’t understand what that meant. All I knew was that Kennedy was no longer with us.

In 2001, my sister Baylee was born. Praise God that she didn’t have the same disease Kennedy had. She was truly a miracle to our family. My parents next child, Zachary, however, was born with the rare disease that Kennedy had. He only lived a few hours. I never even got to see him.

The death that had wrecked me most however, was the death of my best friend Kaden. Kaden was diagnosed with brain cancer in kindergarten. Doctors didn’t expect him to live longer than two year. Defying all odds, Kaden lived to be eleven years old. Throughout his life, Kaden had to go through chemotherapy and had to take many other drugs that had deteriorated his health. One of my most treasured memories is when Kaden had recently gone through Chemo and had lost his hair. His brothers and I all decided to shave our heads that summer so that we could all be the same.

Kaden was a very loving person. In all my years knowing him I had not once heard him speak ill of another person. He truly had the love of Christ in him. Not only was he loving, Kaden was also courageous. Many children will never have to go through what Kaden went through. They will never know what it is like to lose their hair and being so sick that they don’t even have the strength to get out of bed and move around the house. Even in the face of death, Kaden had a joy that I had never seen, and have yet to see since his death.

It was in May 2005 when Kaden had gotten really sick. Sicker than he had ever been. He had to get his liquids from an I.V. and was fed with a feeding tube. On May 17th, my mother and I went to go visit Kaden. He was so weak. He could barely move. On May 19th, 2005, the horrible sickness that was raging inside of Kaden took him to be with Jesus. His grandmother called my mom on the phone. I knew right away that something terrible had happened. I asked my mom if he had died. She said yes, and I remember weeping. Weeping for what seemed like hours. My mom and I wept and wept. There was no foreseeable end to the tears that were pouring from our eyes. The next few months were the most depressing in my life. If I was that wrecked over the loss of my best friend, I can’t even imagine how his family felt.

I have tried to model my life the best I could, first and foremost, after Jesus Christ my Saviour. My second role model is Kaden. I have tried to strive for that love that he had for others, and the joy that he had, despite the most bleakest of circumstances. I have learned that life is short. Why should we waste one day of our lives, when we could lose it before we even knew that death was coming. Kaden died at a very young age. He did so much for his community and could have done many more great things. It is up to us to not let the legacies of great men, women, and children be forgotten. We need to continue where they left off and to try our best to make our communities, our cities, our countries, and ultimately the world, a better place.

In God’s grip,

Alex

I Am

I am the waves beating against the cliff;

An unstoppable force.

I am an all consuming fire;

Passionate for the weak and the poor.

I am a son of the Son;

And body piercing saved my life.

I am weak;

But His love gives me strength.

I am weary;

But His Spirit gives me rest.

I am not fearful;

His Spirit gives me power, love, and self-discipline.

I am not alone;

For He will never leave me nor forsake me.

I am a warrior;

For my struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against evil in the heavens.

I am a rebel;

I will not conform to please people who do not care about me.

I aim to please Christ who cared enough to die for me.

I am a follower;

Willing to go wherever He might send me.

I am loved;

The Father gave His only Son to die for me.

Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.

I am chosen;

To do the work that the Father has called upon me to do.

Fear

Recently in my life I have been very fearful. Fearful of what the future might bring mostly. I have recently turned 18 and am going to be graduating in May. Fear has had a grip on me this past year as I think about life after high school. Where will I go to college, how will I support myself, etc. I almost wasn’t even going to apply to any colleges at the time being because of my fear.

But then as usual God showed up and told me to not be fearful and to trust Him. 2 Timothy 1:7 says this, “For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love, and self-discipline.” God continually shows that everything is in His hands and that there is no need to worry. God provides! Matthew 6:28-30 says, “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you–of little faith?” If we just have faith God will provide.

As of right now I am planning on applying at Moody Bible Institute for a degree in pastoral studies. I know that God has a plan and that He will be with me every step of way. Don’t let fear be the thing holding you back from doing great things for the Kingdom of God. Take every fear and give it to God and He will take care of you.

“The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” -Deuteronomy 31:8

“‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans to prosper you and not harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'” -Jeremiah 29:11

I truly believe that every time that we are stopped from doing something awesome for God that it is Satan trying to weaken our relationship with God. Don’t let Satan deter you from doing great things for God. Remember, God gave you a Spirit of power, love and self-discipline. Not a Spirit of fear.

In God’s grip,

Alex

Take My Life

Yesterday at my Youth Group, called Heirforce, we sang a worship song called Take My Life by Third Day. It is an amazing song and I would recommend it to anyone. But anyway, I’ve been really thinking about the lyrics and I wanted to share my impression of them with you guys.

The first verse goes to say, “How many times have I turned away? The number is the same as the sand on the shore. But every time you’ve taken me back, and now I pray you do it once more.” What I get from this, but it is also obvious, is that we all sin. But because Jesus died on the cross for our sins, He will always remain faithful. Even though we have sinned so many times it’s immeasurable.

The chorus goes like this, ” Please take from me my life when I don’t have the strength, to give it away to you. Please take from me my life when I don’t have the strength to give it away to you, Jesus.” And what I get from this is that God is in control no matter what and that if you are struggling in any aspect of your life that you can just give it all to God and know that he has a plan for you.

The second verse is very similar but instead of sand on the shore it’s stars in the sky. I have been thinking about this a lot and I just wanted to share it with you. I pray that if you are struggling with sin that you could just give it to God and let him take the reins in your life.

In God’s grip,
Alex

Mission Trip to Haiti

Recently God has blessed me with an amazing opportunity. I am going to Haiti this July as a mission trip with my church’s youth group. We are leaving July 7 and returning on the 18.

So before I get into how God did this for me, I’m going to give a little background on it.

Last summer I went to Ecuador with my church on another mission trip. We had been out of the country to Mexico before but nothing like this. Ecuador has been the farthest that we have ever traveled away from home. It was an amazing experience. About the end of summer last year my youth pastor decided Heirforce (our youth groups name) would go to Haiti. Nothing was set in stone. He found an organization that we could go through and it would be cheaper than the Ecuador trip. Heirforce was going to Haiti.

This is where God comes in. I wasn’t originally going to go because of money. I had sent out sponsor letters to family and friends for Ecuador and I didn’t want to do it two years in a row. So for the 6 or 7 months they were planning this, I had no part in it.

Recently one of the members that was going dropped out because she was getting married shortly before we were to leave. So m youth pastor, Brent, talked to my parents and they were willing to pay if I could pay them back. They told me about it and I wasn’t very excited because I had just gotten a job and didn’t know if I could get the time off. I told my mom and stepdad I would ask.

So the next day I asked my manager for the days off. She said yes. I also had to ask my dad because he’s always been over protective, as any parent would. He was against it when it was just starting out before I knew I could go. My dad also said I could go.

So through this process I could totally see God clearing a path for me to go on this mission trip. Another guy who is blessed with me to be on this trip, Carter, is now going to. I know that God has big plans for me as well as my group to grow in our faith and witness and serve the Haitians who were affected by the earth quake.

Some of the things we will be doing in Haiti include:
We will be repairing/destroying buildings depending on how structurally sound they are. We will also be building water systems for sewage to help keep drinking water clean. The thing that I am most excited about is playing with and teaching children about God. This has always been one of my favorite things to do on a mission trip. I think little kids are so amazing and for those who have grown up in a Christian home how unwavering their faith in God is.

I am very excited for this opportunity and your prayers would be greatly appreciated!

Philippians 4:13- I can do everything through him who gives me strength.

In God’s grip,
Alex

Sin

Sin. We all do it. It happens everyday of our lives. Believe me, I know from personal experience. I have recently been struggling with a sin that I just can’t seem to get over. I sure am glad that God sent His one and only Son to die on the cross.

Jesus was both man and God. He came to this earth to die on the cross for everybody’s sins. Three days later he rose again. The thing that gets me every time is that even if it meant saving only one person, Jesus still would have died up on that cross. It is through grace alone that we are saved from an eternity in Hell.

In 1 John 5:17, it says all wrongdoing is sin. This covers telling a little fib (a lie) to murdering someone. The thing that is amazing is that if you repent and ask for forgiveness, you will be forgiven. Romans 10:9-10 states that if you confess with your mouth and believe that Jesus rose from the dead, you will be saved.

Sin is a hard thing to get away from. There’s no denying it. But I believe that anything is possible with the power of Christ on our side.

John 3:16-17: 16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.

Romans 10:9-10: 9 If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.

1 John 5:17: All wrongdoing is sin, and there is sin that does not lead to death.

God Planned You

I am seventeen years old. My mom got pregnant with me when she was sixteen and had me at seventeen. I was adopted by my dad when I was just about a year old. When I was seven, my parents told me I was adopted by my dad. All I wanted was for him to be my dad. But as the years went by and I got older, I struggled with issues like who I was and why was I put on this earth in such a messed up way. I didn’t understand why God would put me in this situation. It’s something I still struggle with from time to time. I also found out that I have a sister I have never met, but would like to, as well as other relatives. Not only that, but when my dad had kids with my stepmom, I just didn’t really feel like I was a part of the family. I just felt alienated from them. It hurts me deep inside to this day that I have never really felt like I was a part of my dad’s family.

I have always wondered if it would have been different if my parents hadn’t told me I was adopted. But I also wonder if they hadn’t and I found out, would I have been angry with my parents for not telling me?

A few weeks ago I read on a coffee cup that changed my perspective. It said: “You are not an accident. Your parents may not have planned you, but God did. He WANTED you alive and created you for a purpose. Focusing on yourself will never reveal your purpose. You were made by God and for God, and until you understand that, life will never make sense. Only in God do we discover our origin, our identity, our meaning, our purpose, our significance, and our destiny.”

Like I said, I saw this on a back of a coffee cup and it was written by Dr. Rick Warren. It just really put me into perspective. I’ve just worried about myself when it’s not about that, it’s about God. He put me on this earth for a reason and that should be good enough for anyone. I don’t know what my purpose in life is yet, but I hope and pray that I can serve God and follow him as best as I can.

I need to stop focusing on myself and just give all my troubles, fears, and worries to God.

So for those of you who have struggled with the same sort of things I have, know that God loves you and has a plan for you. He brought you into this world for a reason. I want to find that reason and give all I have to follow God’s will. How about you?

Charity Vs. Justice

What is the difference between charity and justice? To start of I suppose I should define the two.

Charity is defined as generosity towards the needy. It could be going to feed the poor or doing community projects in your city. Charity is giving a little bit of your time and or money to help someone in need.

Justice is defined as the quality of being righteous or fair. Justice for the poor, for me, is righting a social injustice, like world hunger. Righting a wrong can also take a lot more time and money than just doing simple charity work. Now don’t get me wrong, charity is really good for your community. But what difference are we really making?

So what is the difference between these two? If you have ever been on a mission trip, you go and do service projects whether in your home town, out of state or even in a different country, you know what helping other people feels like. If you haven’t, I strongly suggest you do, they are an amazing experience.

Last summer twelve people including myself went to a mission trip in Quito, Ecuador. It was one of the most amazing experiences of my life. While we were there, my youth pastor, Brent, asked us what the difference between charity and justice for the poor was. It really got me thinking. What difference were we really making in this country that we were doing service projects for? The organization we went with, Youth World, is the perfect example of righting social wrongs and providing justice for the needy. Youth World is set up all over the globe and take in groups like ours. World Vision is another organization that is providing justice all over the world by helping to end world hunger. If you have ever done the 30 Hour Famine, you know about some of the stuff that World Vision does.

So how can we provide justice and not just charity? This issue can help be more defined by a parable.

There was a village having a social gathering in summer and a villager noticed a baby crying in the river near by. The villager went to go save the child. But more babies were washing down the river. More villagers went in the river to save the babies. But two men went up river to stop whoever was throwing the babies into the river.

The concepts of charity Vs. justice are clearly outlined. Charity occurred when the villagers were trying to save the babies. Justice occurred when the two men stopped the people dumping the babies into the river.

Charity deals with the immediate need. Justice finds the source of the problem and ends it.

The next time you are on a mission trip, think about whether you are providing charity or justice. Are you providing to the immediate need or fixing the problem? With God, anything is possible and together we can right social injustices.

“If you give a man a fish, he will eat for a day. If you teach a man to fish, he will eat for a lifetime.”

Cell Phones Vs. The Bible

My youth pastor showed us this poem on a Wednesday night and I think it brings up a really good point. What if we treated our Bibles like we do our cell phones?

Ever wondered what would happen if we treated our Bible like we treat our cell phones?
What if we carried it around in our purse or pocket?
What if we flipped through it several times a day?
What if we turned back to get it if we forgot it?
What if we used it to receive messages from the text?
What if we treated it like we couldn’t live without it?
What if we gave it to kids as gifts?
What if we took it with us when we traveled?
What if we used it in case of an emergency?
This is something to make you go…hmm…where’s my Bible?
Oh, and one more thing: Unlike our cell phones, we don’t have to worry about our Bible being disconnected because Jesus already paid the bill.
And no dropped calls!
Makes you stop and think, “Where are my priorities? ”

This is a poem written by Resty Rivera. It makes you wonder doesn’t it? I know that it makes me wonder. If we treated our Bibles like we do our cell phones, (if you have one, if not your probably in better shape than the rest of us) just think of how much our faith in God would grow. Do you know where your Bible is? Just a thought to think about.