Saturday, December 22, 2012

TWELVE: Give.Love

To all of you, our Visiting Orphans friends and families,

Thank you for answering the call to GO.BE.LOVE to orphans around the world. Thank you for being the hands and feet of Jesus to every precious child you’ve held, shared Jesus with, played with, prayed for, or helped support. 

Whether you’ve gone, helped someone else to go, or graciously donated to our mission, you’ve been a part of the story.  This year, over 7,000 children around the world were visited and loved on by Visiting Orphans team members and over $65,000 in team member overage was donated to help our ministry and orphanage partners. 

All this was possible because people like you took James 1:27 seriously and stepped out in faith to love big! On behalf of Visiting Orphans and all the ministries and children that have been blessed by your faithfulness - THANK YOU!!!!!  

We are anticipating even greater things for 2013 and beyond. We have been praying and seeking the Lord and wanted to share some of the changes you’ll be seeing in the months ahead.

to GO deeper with our team members.  Visiting Orphans will focus even more on discipling those we send—encouraging the spiritual growth of the team.  We will be utilizing a new video and study resource that equips each team member to be spiritually prepared for the mission field, and also helps them continue to grow in their walk with the Lord long after they return home.

to BE more present with our ministry and orphanage partners.  In order to give each ministry the special attention they need, our teams will need to decrease in size, we’ll coordinate special ‘focus’ trips based on the needs of each ministry, and itineraries will have less travel and more time at each location. 

to LOVE more intently.  We know that when God calls people to go - it’s not just about that one trip. It’s about experiencing Him in a whole new way. It’s about breaking our hearts for what breaks His. It’s about lives being transformed – the lives of those we visit and of those who go. The Lord uses these trips to do that.  He uses those who go to carry an important message to each child - they are not forgotten, they matter and they have a father in heaven who loves them. What a joy and an honor to get to bring that message to children around the world! 

But in order to bring that message, in order to be more present, to go deeper—WE NEED YOUR HELP.
Being able to continue our mission in the years to come relies heavily on generous support from donors like you.  With new materials for 2013, a deeper focus on each team member and each ministry—each change we want to make comes at a cost, and we’re encouraging you to pray about making a donation this year.  With every contribution you’re able to give, you help us continue to share Jesus in the 12 countries we currently work in. You’re helping us expand to new countries, reaching even more precious children with the father’s love.

We can’t do the work we do without your support and prayers…
and Love. 

Much thanks and many blessings,
Autumn Kerr
Executive Director

Friday, December 21, 2012

ELEVEN: A Mission Trip Winner

During our 12 Days of Features, we want to bring people's stories to life, to show how one trip has impacted them.  Some people go, are radically changed, and continue to change the lives of those around them…These are their stories.


We are so excited to be the winners of this year’s mission trip giveaway.  I say we because even though I, Amy, am the winner it is really going to be a family affair.  We will begin raising support for my husband to go on the mission trip as well and make arrangement for family to watch our young kids while we are away; this is something that we do not want to miss out on doing together.
My husband and I began our journey into orphan care as I worked with many foster children in my work interning and later becoming licensed as a Marriage and Family Therapist, as well as working as a foster care social worker.  We never imagined where it would lead.  I often struggled with the families and homes that the kids I worked with lived in.  As I would struggle with this, God began impressing upon me that there was something missing within these families, something that could only come through a relationship with Him and a commitment to living a life that brings Him glory.
As we began raising our kids and I began to stay at home to care for them God was working within the hearts of families of our church to begin an orphan ministry.  I began working with these families and our pastor to learn more about God’s heart for the orphan, and to start a ministry to support families as they foster and adopt, as well as to educate about the need for permanent families for so many children.
Through this journey God was also working within our family. God brought a need to us regarding a little boy that I had been previously caring for as a foster care social worker.  Because of a terminal illness his adoptive family was no longer able to care for him.  But God opened doors that allowed us to bring him into our home and as of August 2012 his adoption into our family has been finalized.  We are truly blessed by all God has allowed us to be a part of and what He continues to.  We are looking forward to seeing all He has planned as we continue this journey in caring for orphans and this year in going beyond our borders with Visiting Orphans.                

TEN: 50% off Shirt Special!

50% OFF SELECTED T’s until noon Friday, Dec 21st!

These stylish and super comfortable Tshirts are a great addition to any wardrobe!  Whether you need a shirt to sport on the mission field, or support someone who’s going -- maybe you just want to support Visiting Orphans -- purchasing one of these shirts at 50% off is the perfect way to show you care!!

Women’s Vintage T:

Next Level brand women's vintage t-shirt.  Female cut - you should order 1 size up from what you wear in a unisex shirt.
SIZESWomen's S – 2XL

Men’s / Unisex VO T
This stylish and comfortable charcoal Next Level brand shirt is designed for comfort. It has a double-needle sleeve and a taped neck and shoulders for long-lasting style. Unisex regular fit.
SIZES:  Unisex S -- 2XL
FABRIC:  Cotton Poly Blend

50% off ~ Don’t Delay! Sale ends Noon on Friday, Dec 21st. 

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

NINE: An Artist Experience

During our 12 Days of Features, we want to bring people's stories to life, to show how one trip has impacted them.  Some people go, are radically changed, and continue to change the lives of those around them…These are their stories.

An Artist Experience

Kassie  & Ben

I quit my full time job in April of 2012 and started singing full time. I was also looking for something in my life that I hadn’t found yet. My husband, Ben, had heard about “Visiting Orphans” from Amanda (who works there) and he brought it up to me and I was interested. It all worked out that I went to Rwanda with a team in May of 2012. The trip opened my eyes to a previously unseen world. I’ve always loved kids, but I never knew that this trip and these orphans would touch me so fiercely. And one child in particular stole my heart, and her name is Kevine. She is 10 years old and lives at Noel Orphanage in Gisenyi, Rwanda. Kevine is beautiful, quiet and shy, and can be sassy when she doesn’t get her way. She is not one to go out of her way to beg for your attention, but when she does get your friendship, she will be loyal to you. I wanted to go back everyday just to see her. It was an unexplainable connection between us. We stayed in Rwanda for 2 weeks and the trip changed my ways of thinking and opened my eyes. Everything on this trip was amazing, but the thing that was missing was that my husband was not with me. 

I really wanted Kassie to go on this May Rwanda trip because I knew that it would be so meaningful to her. And when she came back, she was in love with Rwanda and it’s culture and the orphans over there (especially Kevine). She was so in love that she had to go back, and soon! So we looked into the next Rwanda trip in November 2012. We both signed up and went to Rwanda in November (the first time for me). 

It was great to be able to go on this trip with my wife, we shared experiences that could not possibly have been articulated with words. While at Noel Orphanage, Kassie got to see Kevine again (which she could not wait for), and Kevine and Kassie were together all the time after that. It just so happened that Kevine’s sister, Muhoza, was also there this time and we met her for the first time. And this is who I fell in love with. Muhoza is outgoing and loves to dance, and waves her hands pretending to conduct her imaginary orchestra. She stole my heart, and Kevine stole Kassie’s heart, and I think it providential that we fell in love with sisters.

Some people have said that once I go on this trip, that my life will be “wrecked”. I really just thought that they were being emotional and cliché by saying that, but now I know that, for me, it was unmistakably true. I must say, that since I’ve come back from this trip, my thoughts and my life has not been the same. I was so sad to come back to America. On the flight back to America, I’d look out the plane window and see the suburbs in Washington D.C. and just think “why am I back here?” It seemed so lavish and selfish to be in America again. I wanted to be in Rwanda so much. I missed the people, and I missed Muhoza so much. I remember several days waking up in America at 3 o’clock in the morning and walking around our house and just feeling so sad, and wishing I was back at Noel Orphanage giving those orphans a taste of what God intended them to have-a family. I just can’t believe that some of those kids are orphaned, that they have no family support system. They deserve more.

Since our trip, I’ve noticed things about my life and about general human attitudes that disgust me. I’ve noticed how so many people’s lives and actions (including my own) are driven by the desire for success and money. When did a green piece of paper become so important in the grand scheme of things? And why do we feel we have to live for our own selfish successes? There is something so beautiful and right about living for something beyond ourselves! And this is what I want to do. This is how I want to approach our music career. I want my talents and successes to cause a greater good…to cause people to be aware of orphans in need, to cause people to live out a true Christian life involving pure acts of religion (James 1:27), to cause people to see their need for redemption by our Creator.

Please check out our website at to listen to the music, read the blog, and check out pictures of our trip to Rwanda.

And another artist experience: 

Abner & Amanda Ramirez, of the duo Johnnyswim, joined Visiting Orphans on our first ever India trip in 2011. The video below features footage from that trip and the amazing song Hallelujah, written exclusively for VO, by this talented couple. 

as performed by JOHNNYSWIM
featuring Tulsi

for each download on iTunes, 100% of the proceeds go to Visiting Orphans
Download your copy today!!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

EIGHT: All Hand-Crafted Necklaces for $15

ALL for only $15!!

Visiting Orphans partners with ministries in Uganda and Ethiopia to help provide a sustainable income to widows and orphans by the purchase of these beautiful beaded necklaces.

Mission Ethiopia:  Empowering the Change. Impacting the Fatherless.
Empowers individuals by providing a sustainable job to support themselves and their families with the fruit of that labor.  By purchasing this product, you have helped to restore dignity by providing a hand-up instead of a handout.

Acacia Collection:  
Bringing hope to widows and orphans in Uganda by providing a sustainable income.

Monday, December 17, 2012

SEVEN: from a VO Staff Member

During our 12 Days of Features, we want to bring people's stories to life, to show how one trip has impacted them.  Some people go, are radically changed, and continue to change the lives of those around them…These are their stories.

Behind the Scenes
from a VO Staff ~ Julie Richards

Sometimes it feels like God works in puzzles. When we first step out, we so rarely have a clue what the fuller picture will be.  If we could only imagine how purposeful God is, how intentional, how incredible are His connections and intricacies.  I think we’d be more apt to trust Him and respond with willingness. Courage would trump our fears.

My first Visiting Orphans trip goes back to the very beginning when we had just completed our adoption in 2005.  America World Adoption Association was offering a mission trip to my daughter’s orphanage. It was only four months after we had gotten home from China, but I had read about the importance of finding out all we can about our daughter’s heritage and upbringing.  This would be a perfect opportunity, even if it was hard to leave her so soon.

You know you can have your heart tugged, despite everything not being easy and all figured out.  This is a key place we could miss out on something God has for us. We can all make excuses about the timing – that maybe next year would be better, or my kids are too young, or the finances are too tight, or it is hard to ask for help.  We had just had tremendous outpouring of generosity for our adoption – how could I ask for more financial support now?  God had even provided for my whole family to go to China to bring our daughter home!

I let the urging of my heart and the prompting of God to assuage the doubts and uncertainties.  I didn’t have all the puzzle pieces figured out, but I sensed the compelling to go forward.

I didn’t know then that her orphanage would later be flooded and destroyed.  When I said yes, it was the last chance to be in the very place she spent her first year with the same nannies and helpers.  I didn’t know then that the vision would catch on, and that my church would ask me to lead another trip back to China.  I didn’t know then that I would keep going back to help serve in Chinese orphanages and lead more than sixty people over the years to come with me.  I didn’t know then that this would become part of my life calling to reach out to the hurting and forgotten, to bring light and hope and love to orphaned souls.  It has grown.  It’s a bigger picture now, a fuller calling, and a brighter and clearer vision.
“taking the next step” 

I am convinced now more than ever that those first little steps of obedience have life-changing significance.  My life and my family have changed.  We have a forever place in our hearts for the orphan and for missions.  It is an ultimate priority to stay connected to that vision.  I believe it is part of why God put me here on this earth.  It has taken years of one day at a time, following His lead.  In the past year, God has opened two incredible opportunities for me that coincide with my calling.

The first is the honor and privilege of working with the Visiting Orphans staff, where I have the joy of working with others who are passionate about orphans and missions too. I get to encourage the hearts of those who will trust God and travel clear across the world to be His hands and His feet. I’ve also begun studies in graduate school, where I can go deeper to nurture and facilitate the healing of hurting hearts.  Who would have dreamed? I can live out this calling of connecting families to adoption and support their journey. I can encourage others to step out in faith and trust God, that He has something more for them.  This mission trip you are considering going on, just might be the classroom where He fashions your faith a bit deeper.  

It can lead to something more.  

Little by little, transformed lives.  Trust His process.  Enjoy the journey as He unfolds it, one day at a time.  

For today, He just may be asking you to step out in faith and say YES.

~Julie Richards

Sunday, December 16, 2012

SIX: Last Day to Save!

25% off ALL Merchandise featured on Visiting Orphans eStore!
only until Midnight tonight!

Choose from an exclusive variety of beads handcrafted in
Uganda or Ethiopia

or unique Leather goods

an array of different apparel options

and so much more!

All for 25% off while supplies last!

Saturday, December 15, 2012

FIVE: From the Heart of a Child

During our 12 Days of Features, we want to bring people's stories to life, to show how one trip has impacted them.  Some people go, are radically changed, and continue to change the lives of those around them…These are their stories.

Jack’s Walk for Water.

Jack was born looking like a miniature version of a grown up.   Little man.  That's who he has been from the very beginning, and his personality follows that moniker perfectly.  As a young child, Jack was always more reserved. He was cautious about interactions with others. He liked being alone instead of a big crowd. He played it safe.  Even now he still does, but he has found something that overwhelms his tendencies- something he can't keep quiet about.

From the time he could talk, animals have been Jack's passion.  Going to the zoo with him is like having a mini Jack Hanna as your guide.  He can literally play for hours, building zoos and arranging the animals as he deems appropriate.  What is even more wonderful is his recognition of God's creativity and skill in creating each and every one.  So when his father and I told him we were going to Africa on a mission trip with VO in 2010, you can imagine his excitement.  It may have started with wanting to hear about every lion, elephant and bat we saw (or didn't), but God was definitely planting a seed.

As soon as we announce our plans to lead a trip in 2012, he declared that he would be on the team.  God's provision for Jack's funds for his trip were mind-blowing.  It was such a blessing as a mom to see people talk to him and feel his heart toward going on the trip.  He was his normal calm self through the whole time, never once doubting if he would indeed raise the needed money.  But his smiles when he received money were a glimpse of what was yet to come.  Our time in Africa was, as expected, life-altering.   Seeing the ministries from the eyes and perspective of a 10 yr old brought things into focus that as a grown up, standing tall above a sea of boisterous children, I would never have seen.  He was engulfed.  Several times it overwhelmed him- mentally and physically.  But he kept trucking.  And then we went to Mazzi.

Mazzi is an isolated village in the Nakasongola District of Uganda that is served by Ekubo Ministries. It is a dark place, full of witchcraft and needs greater than most of us could imagine.  There is a school of a few hundred children there that we visited and after they sang welcomes to us, we toured the school and were told we would be fetching their water for their lunch.  Two miles down a path we came to the watering hole- a muddy spring.  When we returned to the school, Jack looked at us and said, "We need to build them a well."  I wish I could tell you I heard angels sing or felt a prophetic confirmation, but really I think it was more like a "Aw, that's nice, honey," comment.  I still had no idea what was in the works.
When we returned home, Jack didn't seem to be as affected as we were accustomed to being back in the 1st World.  A part of me wondered if he had really gotten it.  Were the naysayers right, was it too deep for a 9 yr old to "get"?  Never being talkative, getting him to share about his experience was met with one word responses.  But one day I asked him what he wanted to do to continue to serve the people we met in Africa and without hesitation he replied, "We need to build Mazzi a well."  I told him it would cost $8000.  He looked me right in the eyes and with a playful lilt in his voice, said, "okay!”

And that was it.  Jack's Walk for Water was born.  Our family followed his lead and all of us adopted a little bit of "Africa life" as we walked a mile each day to collect our water.  We shared Jack's endeavor via social media, and the local print and television media did stories about him.  And all through it, Jack was still Jack.  His pure joy and excitement with every donation was beautiful to watch.

But I have a confession.  I never thought he would fully fund a well.  I thought it would be a great start and maybe be something others could give to over the next year.  God humbled me, though, because at the end of the week $8,400 had been donated.

On October 17, the village of Mazzi, along with the leaders of Ekubo Ministries and a team from Visiting Orphans, inaugurated and blessed the opening of Jack's well.  Fresh, clean water is now being pumped from deep in the earth and the school children and other villagers have one less worry.  To date, over $14,000 has been given toward Jack's Walk for Water, and the second well is only $1,300 from being fully funded.

Jack recently told the Awana sparks at our church that he is going to raise the funds to build 4 wells.  He literally said, " I figure, if I can raise money for 2, I can do 2 more, because they really need them."  Pretty simple, huh?  Jack went on a trip, saw a need and trusted that God could use him to do something about it.  He never worried about being young, or anything else. It reminds me of the verse the kids all learned at VBS a few summers ago, 1 Timothy 4:12, "Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity."

I feel like it's important to note that Jack is FAR from a perfect child.  He is pouty and sensitive and leaves his shoes all over the house.  But he was willing.  He knew he would probably have to give something up.  But he has seen that with God on your side, it is ALWAYS worth it.

You can read more about The Walk on our Facebook Page HERE!

~Jack Chlebanowski and Clan