While I was on a trip to South Africa, I overheard a conversation between an American missionary traveling with me and a young girl from the children’s home we were visiting.
The American visitor simply wanted to know the girl’s story. She asked, “How did you come to live here?” As soon as the child began to answer, tears welled up in her eyes. She balled her fists and pressed them to her face, trying to stop the sobs, but the tears continued.
With a broken voice, the girl explained that both of her parents had died just weeks apart from AIDS.
Before the American could comfort the child, the girl’s caregiver ran over. Instead of embracing her, as our team expected, the caregiver swatted the child and scolded her for crying. Our entire team was shocked.
That night, while much of the mission’s team cared for the children, I met with the caregivers. As I spoke of the importance of giving children the freedom to tell their stories, the caregivers began to share their own life experiences and the training session became impromptu group therapy.
Many of them had experienced the trauma of rape and had never spoken of it. In a shame-based culture where traumatic experiences are a common occurrence, they push back the tears and bury the pain inside.
Raped women live for decades without sharing their pain. They believed Satan’s lies that the rape was their fault and that because of their past, no good man would ever love them. Only God's truth can correct such lies and restore dignity. As each one spoke, the healing process began. Our team prayed for them, and we prayed for the children in their care.
God called me to offer hope and healing in Jesus' name. Abused children need counseling; caregivers and staff need counseling and time off. Children not headed to the University need vocational training and life-skills mentoring. Allies for Orphans exists to extend the call to care for orphaned and fatherless children, and to equip caregivers with best practices in this area.
“We are moving to Tennessee.” In 1991, when I was eleven years old, my father announced that we were leaving our Atlanta, Ga. home to move to Tennessee. I did not know much about Tennessee, but I knew that it was far enough away from my friends, my pool in the backyard, my soccer team and the church that I loved that I did not want to go. Dad explained that he and Mom had felt, even before they met, that someday God wanted them to have a home for kids who come from difficult situations. God had provided the land and now was the time to begin.
Parishioners at Mt. Vernon Baptist Church where my father was the pastor joined my skepticism about the move. The suburban church was thriving in a spectacular new building; this seemed like an absurd move. Why couldn’t Dad get someone else to run the children’s home in Tennessee so he could stay as pastor? I later learned that even though Dad himself questioned the move, God said, "Go."
I knew my years of playing with G.I. Joes were ending and my interests were becoming more expensive. From clothes to hopes of having my own car, I was definitely concerned about money. Being the typical teenager, I asked my dad “The Bible says a man who does not care for his family is worse than a what?” I was referring to 1 Tim. 5:8 where it refers to neglectful fathers as infidels.
Even with all of my concerns, my father obeyed God's call and moved our family into a drafty rural lodge near the donated 106 acres, with no habitable buildings. The home and school for children, Wears Valley Ranch wvr.org started with no donors and no mailing list. But with my parents' certainty that this was what God wanted them to do, I witnessed one miracle after another as they operated debt-free. God provided 2 boys houses, 2 girls houses, a counseling center, school and office buildings, a barn, horses and so much more.
While I was in law school, my parents informed me that they were adopting. I thought, “They are just struggling with being empty nesters. This will pass.” As my dad and I talked about the process, he encouraged me to read everything the Bible says about adoption. As I began to study, I learned that the Gospel is a story of my adoption by Him and that God, the Father, sent the Holy Spirit to ensure that I am no longer orphaned. My adopted siblings, Preston, Stephen, Elizabeth and Peter, are an enormous personal blessing. I am so grateful for my parent’s obedience in adding them to our family.
I had practiced constitutional law for Jay Sekulow and the American Center for Law and Justice since graduating in 2003 from law school. I had married my beautiful wife, Danielle, in 2007, and we were living "happily ever after." I met an entrepreneurial attorney who offered me the opportunity to join his nanotechnology company in Atlanta with the expectation that I would own stock that would produce enough money in short order to enable me to retire young.
We were comfortable in Atlanta where we were re-united to friends from Mt. Vernon Baptist Church. Before we married, Danielle, an RN, had demonstrated her desire to help orphans. If I made big money, Danielle and I could serve God in orphan care without the need to raise funds.
God didn't see it my way, and as the nanotech company continued to spiral downwards, I drained my savings while working without pay. As Danielle and I sought God together in prayer, I got a call from Rick Elstein, a dear friend who had worked with my parents at Wears Valley Ranch for years. He talked to me about his desire to take the type of care we learned at the Ranch, and bring it to other children’s homes around the world. I knew God was calling us to that work, but now I knew would have to depend solely on His provision, and not my law degree and stock options.
As Danielle and I moved back to Tennessee with our new daughter, Maggie, it was a privilege to be able to spend more time around the work of Wears Valley Ranch. I was reenergized to try to duplicate the excellence in care I saw there.
I worked briefly for the Colorado-based organization, World Orphans. During my travels, I continually encountered folks domestically and overseas who wanted advice on how to improve the efficacy of the work they were already doing. It quickly became clear that God wanted us to birth Allies for Orphans. So, in December 2010 we began.