Monday, March 29, 2010

Sandra Bullock's Ongoing Saga

This article first appeared in this past weekend. See it in its original context here.

From Oscars and accolades galore to degradation and betrayal, Sandra Bullock's story seems like a fairy-tale in reverse.
Happily married to Jessie James (or so she thought), this last year was pivotal for Sandra. Her role as Leanne Tuohy in the award-winning movie, The Blindside, boosted Sandra's career--she won Best-Actress Award--and changed her life. Sandra was touched by Leanne's down-to-earth, feisty nature, and the way the Tuohys lived out their faith in Christ in a practical way: They adopted a homeless boy -- just as God adopts us.

The Blindside's huge success resulted in Sandra being whisked up in a whirlwind of glory. She was the new Julia Roberts. She won every heart. But before her crown had time to tarnish (and after lavishing praise on her husband for his support), her own heart was broken. Her husband turned out to be the new Tiger Woods--not in golf excellence but in adultery.

Jessie James has reportedly had eleven affairs while being married to Sandra--including with an exotic dancer from San Diego. Numbers aside, James not only betrayed Sandra--but also his daughter, Sunny (who Sandra went to battle for so James could get custody rather than the girl's porn-star, drug-abusing mother). Now Sandra and her precious stepdaughter may be separated, adding another wee broken heart in the mix.

What to make of all this? It's a spiritual battle. Sandra's heart was touched by the Tuohys. She was honored for playing a noble role, one that revealed Christ in action. Then poof! She discovers her husband is a cheat and she may lose the child she almost adopted.

All this gives us good reason to pray for Sandra. And for Sunny. And for all involved.
Janey DeMeo M.A.

Copyright©March 2010

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Americans Deported from Morocco – Forced to Abandon Orphans

When Eddie and Lynn Padilla moved to Morocco in 2006, they expected to stay for good, raising a family and helping orphans. They never dreamed that four years later they would find themselves and their two young children being escorted by police to a plane bound for America—leaving 34 crying orphans behind.

For two of those orphans, Samir and Mouhcine, the Padillas were the only parents they’d ever known. Eddie and Lynn were “Dad and Mom” and the two Padilla children were their beloved siblings. The family is now torn apart, trusting God for the welfare of the children who are now under the care of strangers.

The Padillas, originally sent out by Calvary Chapel Downy, worked with Village of Hope (VOH), an organization taking in orphans, many abandoned at birth because they were illegitimate—a despised stigma in Muslim Morocco. Unwanted babies are often discarded in hospitals or left in trash bags to die. Without structures like VOH, there is little hope of these children having a loving childhood.

VOH’s approach to helping orphans is to set up small, family units rather than huge, dormitory types of orphanages. House parents (or even a house family, as was the case of the Padillas) then foster no more than eight children, creating a real family nucleus.

The house-parents at VOH were from several countries including the UK, Holland, New Zealand, South Africa, America—and one family of converted Moroccans who fostered seven children under five years of age. The Padillas were the only Americans.

On March 6th at 3pm all the house-parents—including the Moroccan family—were ordered to leave the compound and the children. By 9pm, the Padillas found themselves on a bus headed for the airport escorted by police. They took their two biological children with them, leaving behind their belongings and beloved foster children. Samir, whose 2nd birthday was to be celebrated on March 8th, and his one-year-old brother, were left bewildered, scared and alone.

Some of the children in the homes have known their house-parents for ten years. They now find themselves with total strangers, longing for the loving embrace of their parents.

One little four-year-old girl doesn’t yet know her parents can no longer take care of her. She was taken to South Africa on a brief, permitted visit, and scheduled to return in April. She will return home to strangers – workers commissioned by the Moroccan government to take care of the children abandoned by a society that doesn’t value orphans.

This trauma began unexpectedly a few days prior to the deportation of the VOH workers when Moroccan government officials questioned the missionaries and the children. They then alleged that the house-parents were proselytizing to minors. However, their allegation lacked evidence, no trial was given and the decision was inexplicably irrevocable.

The puzzling piece in this drama is that the VOH compound was legal and legitimate. The missionaries had openly stated their standing as Christians, and had accepted the conditions placed on them by the Moroccan government. Those limitations included the requisite that the children were to learn about Islam as well as Christianity and to be well acquainted with the Muslim culture. The missionaries honored this stipulation to a tee, trusting that God would use their obedience and reveal Himself to the children.

So why were the workers ordered to leave without any proven misdemeanor? The Bible answers that question. We are in a spiritual battle. And the battle is worsening. Hostility towards Christians is increasing worldwide, and with it, hostility to children—particularly orphans. This is a time when we, the body of Christ, need to step up our prayer quota and stand in the gap for the children and the nations. Morocco’s children need our prayers more than ever—as do the children worldwide.
We worked with many Moroccan children in France. I knew a lot of Samirs and Mouhcines. We brought them to our Saturday Club and taught them about Jesus. (Parents gave there children over willingly, happy to have less to worry about for an afternoon.) My husband visited Morocco several times, and was touched by the faith of those who’d come to Christ—sometimes at the risk of their lives. Many practice Christianity in secret.

But in the case of the VOH workers, their faith was no secret, even though they heeded the government’s prohibition to proselytize. Parents like the Padillas showed the love of Jesus to the children and to all those around them. They lived it.

The Padillas are now in Colorado with family, trying to make sense of it all. They will soon have to look for jobs in a country where unemployment is at a high, while the need for missionaries in nations like Morocco has never been greater. But they are not the only ones who’ll need to look for jobs. So will the 24 Moroccan employees who worked at VOH who are now fired. Mercilessly left unemployed – while 34 children are left parentless.

“My children ask for the other children,” Lynn told me. “To them, home is in Morocco .” Then the sobering words of a loving mother whose heart has been broken, “I never even got to make Samir’s birthday cake”
But in spite of the pain, Eddie and Lynn have kept an eternal focus. They are praying that the Muslim workers who are now taking care of the children at VOH will search their hearts and ask themselves what this was all about. What caused these people to come here to take care of our abandoned children? They hope and pray God will use this tragedy for His higher purpose – that of drawing the nations to Himself. Yes, even nations like Morocco.

Let’s join them in that prayer.

For an official statement from the parents of VOH, go here.

Janey L. DeMeo M.A.
Copyright © March 2010

Janey DeMeo is founder and director of Orphans First. She is also an author and speaker. Her husband, Louis, is a church-planter and pastor. They were formerly missionaries for 22 years in France, and are now based in Southern California where they continue their ministry. They both taught at the Calvary Chapel Bible College.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Pressing on for Haiti's Orphans

There is a wide-open door for a great work here, although many oppose me” (1 Corinthians 16:9, NLT).

With earthquakes hitting Chile, Japan, Argentina, Taiwan . . . it’s easy to forget Haiti. But Haiti’s plight remains perilous. Not that God isn’t doing miracles—He is! People have been pulled from the rubble miraculously alive after days of water and food deprivation. Children are singing God’s praises (especially in places like Maison-de-Lumière and other Christ-centered children’s homes). Relief volunteers have arrived a-plenty. Yet, there are roadblocks. The orphanages are so jam-packed, orphans line up outside. Many struggle to survive in the streets and vulnerable prey to rapist.

The situation is further complicated because, in spite of an outpouring of funds into Haiti, relief supplies are being held up at the border (as the prohibiting orphans who were granted humanitarian parole the right to leave and join their waiting forever families wasn’t bad enough!). This due to . . . wait for it . . . the Haitian government’s exorbitant demands for taxes on these gifts sent to save their people.

This kind of ironic exploitation is not new. What is new is its magnitude and the lessons this chaos continues to teach us. Reaching children is spiritual warfare. We cannot reach them effectively in our own strength. We must invite God to be with us (which means we must be willing to move with Him at the steering wheel not our own plans). That’s why, in all our endeavors to help Haiti—or Chile or anywhere for that matter—those who take on the task of praying are as important as those who raise funds and those who go. Maybe even more so since they open the way!
Prayer reminds us that God alone must be our strength. He makes it possible for us to press forward praying, advocating, giving . . . to reach more children in the name of Jesus. Thanks to consistent prayer support and financial partnership, Orphans First is doing just that. We have also joined the Haiti Orphan Relief Team (HORT) because there is wisdom in partnering with like-minded people.

HORT initiatives aim to connect Haitian churches helping orphans with USA churches that can come alongside them—particularly in prayer.

As we seek to liaise churches in Haiti with churches in the USA, one of the biggest battles we will surely face is corruption. Sadly Haiti—like all third-world countries—reeks of corruption. We saw this in the case of the ten incarcerated Baptists whose lawyer demanded excessive money with promises for their quick release. I have also had my own share of such experiences as founding director of Orphans First. Amazing how many people claim to be helping orphans when they think there might be money to gain. Seen it again and again.

During a trip to Africa last year, a friend asked me to check out an orphanage her ministry was funding in Ghana. Delighted to help, we stopped by en route to Togo. We didn’t tell the “pastor” running the orphanage that we knew he received thousands of dollars every month or that we knew the people providing the money. He told us they needed funds, and had orphans in other parts of the country etc. I’ll spare the details, but let’s sum it up in one word: fraudulence!

Happily today someone trustworthy runs that orphanage. But the moral of the story remains. We need discernment. May God give us discernment to do the work He has set before us. And let’s not take forget Haiti where there are still thousands and thousands of orphans and hurting children needing protection and provision.

Janey L. DeMeo M.A.
Copyright © March 2010