Come and see how God's people
are shining his light into the broken places of children's
"God is good."
For some children, they're not so sure that's true -- when their
lives seem so bad.
We all wish kids' lives could be perfect -- no pain, no suffering,
no sadness for any child. We wish the world were a better place.
But our world is broken. And some kids experience pain and
suffering every day.
Despite our fractured world, we cling to the knowledge that God is
great and God is good. And we strive to impart this core truth to
the kids we minister to. Words aren't enough, though. In all the
lonely fragments, the cutting shards, and the incompleteness, God's
light shines through when his people take action. Whether it's in
one child's battle or the fight for an entire generation, the grace
of God and his followers' faith illuminates. Read on to hear three
amazing stories of how God's goodness is at work in kids'
One Child, One Family
For most parents, there's no greater fear than hearing a child has
a life-threatening illness. For the parents of little Ella
Newmiller, age 5, that terrible fear became reality when she was
diagnosed with Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma, an inoperable
tumor in her brain stem. The grim diagnosis, which was sudden and
unexpected, jarred her family and stunned her church family.
Instinctively, Ella's mom, Ranae-who's also a missions coordinator
at her church -- sent out a plea for prayer.
"We don't need meals or errands," Ranae said, "The only thing we
really need is prayer." She requested of her friends: "Tell your
friends to pray for Ella. Even if they don't know her, please pray.
And then ask those friends to ask 10 friends to pray, too."
And pray they did. Word about Ella quickly spread thanks to the
viral nature of the Internet, and her story created a
prayer-request chain reaction -- so much so that myth-debunking
sites such as snopes.com researched Ella
to get the true facts. Friends created chain prayer emails and
bracelets with Ella's name on them. Ella's faith family --
immediate and virtual -- sent out a tidal wave of prayer. Her
profile at carepages.com
had more than 15,000 visits in the three months following her
diagnosis and more than 7,300 messages from concerned people around
the world. Word about Ella spread globally thanks to an initial
prayer request that took root at her church.
Ella's church family put their concern into action -- and not just
through prayer. The entire congregation mobilized for Ella's
birthday, just days after she'd been diagnosed. They created an
amazing celebration fit for a princess. "Ella arrived in a
horse-drawn carriage and was greeted by over 100 friends dressed in
their royal best," notes a family friend.
Ella is facing the challenge of her young life, and more than ever
her family and friends seek prayers on her behalf.
"Ella's [latest] MRI results show that everything is stable," says
her mom. "While we wish that tumor would just go away, we praise
God for 'stable.' "
Many Children, Many Families
Possum Trot, Texas, has more than a unique name -- it has a unique
church in its tiny community that's won national attention. The
200-member Bennett Chapel, which calls itself "The church that
walks by faith, not by sight," got the attention of major news
outlets, TV producers, and even Oprah when its bishop, W.C. Martin,
successfully issued this challenge to his congregation: "Let's open
our arms to the 'least of these' and love children who have no
voice -- children in the foster care and adoption system of Texas
who haven't had a chance to be loved and cherished."
To date, 27 average-income, church families at Bennett Chapel have
adopted 73 at-risk children, none of whom have returned to state
care. Adoption has become a major ministry area in the church, with
ongoing education, support, encouragement, guidance, and parenting
classes. In response to the church's efforts, Fox Network's
Renovate My Family built the Pineywood Outreach Center, a
support facility for the adoptive families, most of whom live
paycheck-to-paycheck. At Pineywood, kids have after-school
programming, summer camp, food bank and emergency services, and
evening activities such as sports, adoption classes, dances and
concerts, and family nights.
Whenever Martin is interviewed, his plea is always the same.
Martin wants Christians everywhere to "look at what his modest,
hardworking, hard-pressed, and sometimes overwhelmed little
congregation has done -- and he wants thousands, if not tens of
thousands, of families to do the same thing."
"We have so many children who need a place to stay," Martin told
ABC News, "there's tens of thousands of children who need a home,
who need a refuge, who need a place where they...know they have a
home and a mother and father."
Martin's wife, Donna, agrees. She says we all need the kind of
love that relies completely on faith. "You have to love enough to
not think about 'What I can't do,' but love enough to say, 'What
can I do'?"
One Generation, One Hope
Child trafficking is one of the most abhorrent realities in our
world, yet in emerging countries it's tragically commonplace. For
people who live in these locations, children sleeping on the
streets or digging in landfills for food is as much part of the
fabric of life as taxi drivers and street vendors.
To Father Shay Cullen of PREDA (People's Recovery, Empowerment and
Development Assistance), the plight of the children he encountered
when he was assigned as a missionary in the Philippines in 1969 was
so horrific, he was compelled to step in and do something. Since
then, he's devoted his life to rescuing children from the sex
trade, streets, and jails and giving them a new, safe home where
they can learn to be children.
"We're committed to protect the rights of the children because
that's what Jesus did and wants us to do," says Cullen, whose
passion for his cause is as fresh as it was when he first began his
work. "To see, judge, and act for justice is a way of life, a
ministry of service; it is to serve without looking for a reward or
a payment. However, the success and happiness we see in these young
people's lives and the transformation is a shared experience.
Happiness shared is happiness doubled -- that's the end
Cullen and the PREDA team regularly visit jails where street
children have been locked in mass with adults. The children are
often the victims of sexual and commercial exploitation, who end up
in jail because they loiter in the streets. They have no rights, no
legal representation, and no hope.
"The impact of being freed from the hunger, dirt, and
disease-ridden, dungeon-like prisons and transferred to a home
where there's freedom, respect, affirmation, and restored dignity
is immediate," says Cullen when asked to describe the greatest
effect his organization has. "The children slowly wake up from a
nightmare and realize that it's all over; the darkness gives way to
light; fear and humiliation and brutality are replaced by respect,
dignity, and a happy community where they have all their basic
needs and human rights fulfilled. They respond eagerly to the
training and education offered and try hard to respect others; they
live in a community where all have equal opportunity for a new and
better life. The absence of harsh regime, armed guards, prison
walls, and punishment helps them believe in a God of compassion and
Cullen's amazing work as an advocate for these children has
resulted in scores of children receiving a new chance at life. He's
been nominated three times for a Nobel Peace Prize, has won the
humanitarian Meteor Award, and has garnered the support of
celebrities such as Martin Sheen.
PREDA's theme song's lyrics say, "Let me be an eagle; let me fly
away... Let me learn to live another way." Cullen and his team are
doing just that -- one child at a time.