Saturday, October 24, 2009

"We are simply the host"

In Temba, South Africa, our World Orphans team had the high honor of meeting the good people of Ebenezer Bible Church. The 25 orphans they care for on the church property are wonderful kids, full of smiles and songs and non of whom are originally from the church. They had been orphaned in the neighboring communities around the church and the church has followed God's prompting to be a home and a light for these kids.

The church has two homes for orphans, another building that houses a common larger room for eduction and a kitchen to help prepare the meals for the kids. They have dreams of expanding with four more homes on their property for the kids.

600 worshippers attend their church with voices of praise that make a grown man cry - including me. What voices!! They also have a radio tower on the property that helps the local radio station broadcast news about local events in the community, including what is happening at the church! What an outreach!

At World Orphans our vision is to see the church strengthened as they care for orphans and witness the community transformed. We saw this vision clearly lived out on that church property.

The Pastor is a part of a network of local area pastors that he invited to see the orphan homes Ebenezer has. What he told them serves as the heart of the vision we hold at World Orphans. He told those pastors, "These homes don't belong to Ebenezer Bible Church, they belong to the community. We are simply hosting these homes on church property. These homes belong to the people of Temba. They are for the rescue of our communities orphans." What he was trying to do was cast vision that churches ought to see themselves as conduits for hope in their community. They are hosts. None of the other churches in their community have orphan outreach as a part of their churches DNA. This church is trying to change that.

It's another example of the kingdom working well.


Sunday, October 18, 2009

Bread for the poor

Our World Orphans team returned from South Africa yesterday having witnessed two very innovative churches trying to bring healing to the hundreds of orphans in distress in their communities. It was an absolutely tremendous experience.

This trip was amazing on so many levels, and particularly in the area of self-sustainability. Whenever the subject of orphan care is broached, following closely behind is the topic of financial self-sustainability. It was the first time I saw self-sustainability done well in the indigenous church and represents a shining star in the World Orphans list of international churches waiting for western church partners.

Siva Moodley, the pastor of Christian Life Centre in Durban built a bakery that produces and sells 800 loaves of bread a day to the local poor for 5 Rand (about 70 US cents). The bread cartels sell their bread for 8-12 Rand. The pastor is in the business to help feed the poor, not to make a huge profit and only makes 50 cents per loaf of profit. He is undercutting the bread cartel's prices and stealing market share from the cartels. To get back at him, the bread cartels recently tried to bury his business by giving their bread away to the poor for free in hopes of driving him out of business. Brilliant! The poor get fed, he is still in business and the kingdom advances!!! As a pastor, he was never in it for the profit, but so that the poor would be fed. The cartels ended up fulfilling his goal for him!

It's an example of the Kingdom working well.

This is a church with 7 homes for orphans on his property, over 300 people attending his church and is making a huge difference in his community. They need more western partners. Let me know if you or your church is interested in helping! Jeremiah 5:26-31, Tim

Friday, August 7, 2009

4 Reasons to turn off your television.  

We got rid of TV programming in November of last year.  Here is a little of what the Nelson household has learned...

1.  Movies are better. The action, the acting, the story lines, the suspense, the dialogue - all better in movies.  Half a movie is better than most full TV shows (save "The Office" and "24").   

2.  Time is one of the new economies most precious commodities.   At the end of our days, we will not say, "Boy, I wish I would have watched more television."  I can’t tell you how many times I have been watching something and had this thought, “why am I watching this?” It was totally meaningless, and really not funny and when I was done I was not a better person for watching it.  When you watch TV, you are at the mercy of the timing of the programming. There is a schedule and if there is nothing good on at 9:30 on a Monday night, you are stuck watching whatever is on. However, with movies, you pick what you want to watch and don’t even have to finish it in one setting.  We have chosen to carefully select the movies our family watches. The TV largely does not afford you that luxury if you want to sit down at a certain time and relax. 

3.  We are more creative.  Now that we have turned off our TV, we find ourselves reading much more, playing board games together, talking more and generally going to bed earlier - thus, more rested, too.  Most of all, the kids have not asked for it back.  Amazing!  Seriously, they don't miss it.  There is so much more to do that is far more interesting.  Trust me, your brain will thank you. 

4.  The show you want to see is free online!  You can still watch your shows if you go to and to see “24” and “The Office”. The entire show from the week before is on there for free. But now you can SAVE MONEY!  Cut off your cable bill or your DirecTV contract.  Netflix is cheaper than Blockbuster, and the library is cheaper than both. When we cut off our Directv connection, we saved $82 a month. That’s a savings of $984 a year. 

What in the world does this have to do with orphan care?  Good question.  It doesn't...

Except ... you now have $984 you can donate to World Orphans to save some more kids lives!  Here to help.  Grace and Peace, Tim  

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Why the Church Cannot Ignore Orphans (Sermon)

I recently visited New Life Community Church in Columbus Ohio and was privileged to preach. God laid a burden on my heart a long time ago to communicate His heart for orphans. Then God lead me to World Orphans, which has the most Godly model for tackling the issue of rescuing 143 million orphans. Listen in and you'll catch a bit of our passion to see 143 million orphans become 143 million disciples for Jesus Christ.


Monday, May 11, 2009

From Orphan to Pastor..

Vincent asked me to pray for him and his family that sunny day in Kenya. It didn’t take long for a quick friendship to emerge once I heard his story.

I had preached that dry, warm day in his Bishop’s church, Fountain of Hope, Nairobi. What a joy it was to join with their congregation to celebrate our Lord and see the children growing up in the grace of God.

Two days later, we would return and minister together to the needs of 228 who would come from the neighboring slum to that remote church to receive free medical care at the hands of national physicians and nurses. Men, women and children would file into the church, which served as the waiting room. Vincent and I, along with those from our team, would pray and minister to those who came. I spoke and this fine brother would translate into Swahili. Our new friends would then go back to the transformed children’s home that doubled that day as a clinic, to receive their free medical treatment. Vincent and I prayed with 7 men to receive Christ as their savior that day.

In Vincent, I saw a very caring, committed pastor, a loving father and prophet whose heart was breaking for the neighboring abandoned children and for the HIV positive men, women and children. His wife works in a bank during the week and on the weekend joins her husband to minister to those who live on the street and in the slums sniffing glue and without hope. They are there to change that.

He and his wife know firsthand the despair these people feel. You see, Vincent and his wife were both once orphans living in the slums, sniffing glue and without hope. Then one day, Vincent found the Lord. Since then, he has been to Bible College, found and married his wife, which they did in the slum area as a testimony to those living there to the power of the Gospel to change a life. They have since started a new church to rescue more orphans and see the Kingdom of God transform lives.

Vincent and his family are powerful examples of the World Orphans model that has the local indigenous church at the center of its efforts. This man was transformed as an orphan and raised up through the church to now go out and help others like him. That is the dream for every home that is built and every church that partners with another - until all 143 million find Christ and are cared for by a loving family through the local church.

There are more orphans who are waiting to become pastors, missionaries and teachers around the world. All it takes is the church to rally to their need. There are many wonderful church partnership opportunities available through World Orphans - call me and we can find a match for your church with an indigenous church that needs your help - 616-856-3009.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Thoughts on East Africa...

(click on each picture to see a full size version in a new window)

We gathered in the back of a Nairobi gas station (14 “muzungu” - white people from the states) and met our police guard, three men and one woman bearing machine guns. These would be our protectors as we walked through the Mathare slums. Also with us were four female college students, a pastor, and Lameck, our guide while in Kenya. These four college students attend school at night so they can be free during the day to visit families in the slums. They spend three days every week visiting 60 families, all victims of AIDS. We split into three groups, each with a translator and police guard, in a quest to bring encouragement, edification, and prayer, to join the church to help bring relief to these families, to help ease their burdens.

Our partner was Fountain of Life Church, a community of 80-100 people, that is caring for 60 families in the slums of Nairobi. These mothers are all dying from HIV/AIDS and will leave behind 127 orphaned children. The church is doing home visits with two purposes: first, to delay the orphaning process through visitation, care, encouragement, and medical treatment; and second, to ease the transition for the children, soon to be orphaned. The church is making a difference!

In the slums, sewage runs like a river through the streets. Children run over trash and feces as they seek space to run. There is none. The buildings are 4-5 shoulder widths apart. The homes have no windows. It is dank, dark, and vile. Pigs dig through the dirt and trash to find scraps. Lameck reminds me not to eat the sausage while in Kenya. Chickens run wild looking for leftovers. Who knows what they find.

We entered the home of one of the HIV/AIDS victims who has six children and one grandchild from her oldest daughter. She told us she had heard that she might lose her home, after living there her entire life, some 50 plus years. Yet, through it all, she smiled. She had joy and told us it came from the Lord.

After some conversation, I noticed a beautiful woven basket on her table. I commented that it was very beautiful, and she told me she had made it. She then reached behind a blanket covering a shelf and brought out five more baskets, all equally beautiful. The bright colors combined in a mosaic of hope and light. They were made of nylon strands, tightly woven, found often times in the trash. Trash turned to beauty. We bought all five.

Her basket reminds me that out of hopelessness God brings beauty. We should have left the slum feeling hopeless and despairing and instead we left filled with hope and seeing light emerge out of darkness. That four college girls and a church would take on the burdens of others as a privilege and honor - what a beautiful image amid an otherwise hopeless scene.

This church and others like it in Kenya and Ethiopia are seeking western church partners. Does your church want to share in the joy of bringing hope to the hopeless? Contact me and I can help you do that. The church really is the hope of the world.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

The Case for Church-to-Church Partnerships (C2C):

The past four months have included great change for my family. After pastoring a church in Rockford, Michigan for the past nine years, in November 2008, God called us to something new. We are blessed and excited to be part of the World Orphans team!  As Director of Advocacy-Midwest, I work to both educate and empower people and their churches to respond to God’s call to the orphan. I do so with great conviction and passion for the church, the church God wants to be the hands and feet of Christ in this world.

1.  The church is the voice for the orphan.  Around the world, orphans have no voice, until you walk into a local church. Through the prophetic words of pastors and the actions of church bodies, the cry of the orphan is heard.  The church must speak out and speak for them.  Because God is not silent, passive, or apathetic to the plight of the orphan or the widow, the church cannot be silent, passive, or apathetic.  In Deuteronomy 10:18, God “...defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the alien, giving him food and clothing.”

2.  Churches cannot speak alone. In many parts of the world, churches remain silent because they feel overcome by the many needs and the lack of resources.  When a church has lost its voice because it is under-resourced, the church worldwide suffers.  When we think of the church as a global community, the church with resources can help the church without.  We can partner together to steward the voice the church has been given in the world, to be a bastion of hope, truth, and redemption.  We may not speak the same language, sing the same songs, do ministry the same way, or have the same style; but we can help each other find our voices, show the same love, cry out to the same Lord and have the same mission: “to go and make disciples.” As we stand together, we stand stronger, united in Christ.

3.  At the end of all things, there is only one church.  One day, when we all appear before the Righteous Judge, there will be one church; the one that has submitted fully to the will and Lordship of Jesus Christ, guided by the Holy Spirit.  We will be one massive family, with one Father and one hope.  Why wait until then to act like it?  It is okay to have theological distinctives, but not okay to let those differences lead us to let our brothers and sisters suffer. 

The church becomes who it really is when churches partner together.  We are all one in our Heavenly Father.  When one part suffers, we all suffer.  When one part rejoices, we can all rejoice.

Thank you for your support and prayer for the ministry for World Orphans. It is only because of donors and supporters like you that we are able to help churches, both near and far, respond to the call to care, to reach out in love, to be Christ’s hands and feet. What a tremendous opportunity we have to be part of real change and offer true hope!