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WWO 2024: Ambassadors, a roadmap and a call to strenghten the work with orphans

In Europe, many countries have problems with sex trafficking, unaccompanied minors traveling with the refugee waves and street children that fall outside of the scope of governmental measures.

AUTOR 158/Vlady_Raichinov Chiang Mai (Thailand) 02 DE ABRIL DE 2024 10:20 h
A time of prayer for countries during the 2024 World Without Orphans Global Forum. / Photo: [link]Facebook WWO[/link].

This is the last of three articles summarising the World Without Orphans 2024 Global Gathering in Thailand. Read the first part and the second part.


On the last day of the Global Forum, the participants gathered together for a beautiful time of Sunday morning worship experience.

Greg and Michelle Haswell led a time of devotional, and then the conference participants spent a generous time in prayer, introspection, quiet worship and personal Scripture reading. It was a time of reconnecting with the Lord.


Working by regions of the world

The rest of the day was devoted to regional meetings: East Asia; Europe, Middle East and North Africa; Africa; Latin America; South-east Asia; North America; South Asia. The task of these discussions was “to hear and learn, envision, inspire, inform, equip – and to lay a foundation for a further discussion and collaborative service after the forum”.

The regional meeting of Europe, Middle East and North Africa was led by Richard Procter, WWO Europe regional ambassador. The participants were asked to answer questions such as: What insights and ideas inspired you so far? What are the needs of vulnerable children in your setting? How is family-based care developed in your country? Procter encouraged the discussion by saying he hoped the WWO Forum “actually propels specific developments for the future. The ball is passed on to you. It is up to you all what your discussions will lead to”.

The first part of the regional meeting was devoted to collecting inspiring stories from various corners of Europe. In the second part, the European region was combined with the East Asia region for an exchange of testimonies and mutual prayers.

The roundtable discussions of this segment produced valuable conclusions. Every country on the continent has problems with sex trafficking, unaccompanied minors traveling with the refugee waves and street children that fall outside of the scope of governmental measures.

A special attention was placed on working among refugee children from Ukraine, scattered in places like Poland, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria. It is of major importance that Christian groups coordinate their efforts across the borders. To achieve a serious impact, we need serious and intentional collaboration. In war-time settings like Ukraine, the role of the father is seen even more clearly. When men are away, their absence impacts children in terrible ways.

In countries like Moldova, Bulgaria and others, the governments officially have closed institutions for orphans, and have transferred children into smaller, family-type residences. The work of such centers, however, is marked by need of training, resources, motivation and monitoring.

In places like Romania, there has been a significant growth in adoptions. Training and encouragement is needed, but both parents and school teachers are reluctant to accept it. Understanding trauma and recognizing the need for external support for vulnerable families is a shared need. In countries like Armenia and Bulgaria, on the other hand, adoption processes take too long time as thousands of children are stuck in institutional care.

Representatives of Ireland, Switzerland and Albania focused their thoughts on a much stronger engagement of local churches with orphan care, as well as the necessity to establish better connections with like-minded global movements.

In the Middle East, adoptions face a totally different set of difficulties due to the Muslim religion and culture. There needs to be much more investment in training men to stand up and see their role in caring of vulnerable children.


A more synchronized impact

After sharing various needs across the continent, the discussion turned towards the topic of partnering towards a more synchronized impact. In order to foster a national WWO movement, the local workers need to invest effort in several areas: (a) study the need and get acquainted with the situation of vulnerable families and children; (b) build relationships with the churches and create a database and a network of their ministries; (c) establish strong relations to governmental agencies that are already working in the sphere; (d) develop a strong network of NGOs who are involved in the process.

The WWO Europe provides a learning community once every six weeks on Zoom, coordinated by Suvi Kauppinen. WWO Europe also maintains a web page, a Facebook profile and regular Instagram presence. Once a month, the office sends out a newsletter. The main passion of the European branch of World Without Orphans is to serve as a hub fostering information and facilitating networking between various local and national movements working among vulnerable children. Beyond all of this, a new discussion is starting on how to serve children with disabilities and displaced children.

Every roundtable shared stories of how God has been working in the different regions round Europe and the Middle East. They agreed that members should not lose heart in working for the King, because the harvest is coming. This conviction is based on Galatians 6:9: “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up”; and Isaiah 60:10: “Foreigners will come to rebuild your towns, and their kings will serve you”. The meeting finished with a time of celebration and prayer for each region.


Commissioning: “The one who leads with hope will lead”

Ruslan Maliuta, director of collaborative engagement in One Hope, was the final speaker for the Global Forum. He based his address on three words: celebration, crisis, and challenge. In 2012, he first realized God was calling him to expand his vision for working among orphans beyond Ukraine. So he pulled out a list of all countries round the world and set aside time to pray for each one separately. Later, he forgot about his prayer. But God didn’t forget.

[photo_footer]Ruslan Maliuta, during the WWO 2024 conference. / Photo: Vlady Raichinov[/photo_footer] 

“God is giving us a vision, and it may seem ridiculously huge”, Maliuta said. “But based on Psalm 77:11-12,14, we need to celebrate God’s work”. The psalmist says: “I will remember the deeds of the Lord. Yes, I will remember Your miracles of long ago”.

Sometimes, however, we experience different types of crises. The question is not if, but when and how we will go through them. In 2 Corinthians 12:10, Paul speaks of delighting in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. “When I am weak, then I am strong”, Paul adds. Crises are an opportunity to turn back to our Father and cling to Him for safety, guidance and peace.

And then, we are also left with a very specific challenge in our vision. A world without orphans is not only possible. It is inevitable. We can be certain about this because “the Kingdom of God is already among you” (Luke 17:21).

Ruslan Maliuta finished with a challenge for every participant. “I would like to challenge each of you to pray, so that one of the next Global Forums of WWO will be held in Kiev.”

The third Global Forum of WWO featured a total of 36 plenary session speakers, as well as 80 speakers who presented a total of 56 sessions. The planning team included Karmen Friesen, Susan Hillis, Lubomir Hlavacka, Ruby Johnston, Greg Haswell, Andrii Fedun, Dmytro Bereza, Praveen Gomez, Michelle Keadle-Taylor and Karen Springs. 

In final closing address, the forum planning team commissioned the participants to return home with hope and contribute for a lasting change in their own context. WWO strategy lead Susan Hillis shared a vision that the personal purpose of each one of us is not to cover the whole work. It is too immense for an individual. Instead, we need to focus on our area of calling. God has a specific task for everyone. “We do not respond to the need. We respond to the call of God”, she said. “But we do not follow the call. We follow the One who calls us each and every day”.


WWO ambassadors

Lubomir Hlavacka explained the role of WWO regional ambassadors. About thirty people from all over the world have taken this engagement. Their contribution is meaningful and timeless. The movement needs champions who will defend the cause of vulnerable children in every country. In 1 Corinthians 15:10, the apostle is speaking the work of the Gospel. But it was the grace of God blessing many.

In his final address, WWO founding member and forum coordinator Karmen Friesen expressed gratitude to everyone. “We see your love for the children. It is your story and your work that equips the whole community”, he said. He ended his commissioning words with appreciating everyone who contributed had for the preparation of the last three Global Forums.


A WWO roadmap

Every forum participant received an updated version of the WWO Roadmap called “Foundations for Active Engagement” – a tool developed to facilitate broadscale collaboration, prevention, intervention and living refreshed.

The introductory page of the document says: “Our shared mission is to call and equip national leaders to collaborate in solving their countries’ orphan and vulnerable child crisis. God’s call is for believers to care for orphans and vulnerable children and their families. The Church is both global and local and, therefore, perfectly placed everywhere to engage with many other partners in supporting and strengthening families, so that orphaned and vulnerable children thrive. We believe that together we can join God in what He is doing to solve the global orphan crisis, country by country”.

The Roadmap opens by portraying the crisis as a “river of orphanhood”. In a moving video, children’s voices describe difficult situations of broken families. “Could someone have helped my mother keep us at home?”, asks one child. “Could a safe family have helped”, ponders another one, while a third child born by a teenage girl asks: “Could someone teach my mom?”

One by one, hundreds of thousands of vulnerable children are being swept away by a mighty current. Abandoned by their families or having lost parents to a personal crisis, or victimized by disasters and wars, they float alone downstream a merciless river, heading to a deadly waterfall. The imagery is powerful and prompts many questions.

[photo_footer] A time of worship during the 2024 WWO Global Forum. / Photo: Vlady Raichinov [/photo_footer] 

The WWO document builds up on that picture: “Every time a child falls in the river of vulnerability, dangerously caught up in the whipping and life-threatening current, we rush together to try to rescue the child and pull him or her to safety. This corresponds to all we do to try to help children in institutions, trafficked, or on the streets”.

The two big answers to this global crisis, of course, are prevention and intervention. And the WWO Roadmap is developing both of them in detail. But then it adds two more important measures: “Both prevention and rescue will require fitness at the individual level for those helping, and intentional collaboration among those serving on the prevention and rescue teams. This story sets the stage for the overview of the WWO Roadmap”.

Those four key priorities are explained in depth in the roadmap. In the section of “Broadscale Collaboration”, the document explores topics like, building a team; strategic thinking; raising awareness; supporting the church; maturing an initiative. This key vision involves co-laboring with God as a Father of all and partnering with many like-minded movements in providing safe and loving homes for as many children as possible.

The second priority is “Intervention to Strengthen Family-Based Care”. The ingredients of this section include: the continuum of care for children; core training for faith leaders; intervention tools; resources for the church. The purpose of this measure is to strengthen family-based care for orphans and vulnerable children, including supporting families in reunification, foster families, and adoptive families. A basic premise of this step is the conviction that the local church has the best possible environment for a family to thrive and grow.

Priority number three is: “Preventing Orphanhood and Vulnerability by Addressing Violence Against Children and Poverty”. This section includes measures like prevention of violence; norms and values; safe environment; caregiver support; education and life skills; cross-cultural activities; resources for the church. A major part of this section is an abbreviation, INSPIRE, which includes seven key steps to inhibit various dangers lurking in modern society (like violence, poverty, disability or victimization of any other sort). The purpose of this step is to intercept vulnerabilities and protect children from reaching the “river of orphanhood” in the first place.

The fourth pillar of the WWO Roadmap is “Living Refreshed: Spiritual, Relational, Practical Self-Care”. It is designed to help the followers of Christ who are called to serve orphaned and vulnerable children to develop a healthy habit of living refreshed. The section includes: spiritual care; relational care; practical care; building healthy priorities; journeying to discern the Father’s calling.

“Our vision”, says the document, “is that when these four priorities are combined, advocates, champions, and practitioners will have access to the tools they need, as they collaborate towards God’s great vision for families and children in the nations. In addition to providing the tools, WWO regional ambassadors will encourage, build up, and pray for national leaders as they discern God’s plans for their countries”.

The authors of the document hope the tool empowers caregivers, public figures and policy makers in more than 80 nations to work together so that every child across the globe would have a fighting chance to fulfill his or her God-given purpose in life. Despite providing a framework and general resources, the aim it to raise the skills and motivation of workers on the ground.


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