Thursday, May 14, 2015

CAFO2015: A Call to Care for God's Children

Two weeks ago, I attended CAFO2015, the Christian Alliance for Orphans' annual Summit. This was the third Summit I've attended, and as always, there are highlights I'd like to share.

I have to start with the biggest highlight of all... After two years of trying to convince my sister Lori to attend Summit, she finally made it! It was awesome to have her there with me and even more awesome to hear her share on a panel discussing raising foster and adoptive children of a different ethnicity. Lori -- a mom to biological, adoptive and foster children -- did a fabulous job, and I was a proud little sister. I want to be like her when I grow up.

Big Sis Lori and Me

Another highlight for me was the privilege of leading CAFO's African American Church Initiative. This initiative began with a racially-diverse, energetic group of folks at CAFO2013. It has grown to include over forty people with the same passion -- igniting the African American church with the message of James 1:27: caring for orphans and vulnerable children. It was great to witness a new crop of advocates attend our luncheon. I can't wait to see what God will do with this amazing group of believers.

As for other highlights, I'll give a brief summary of three...

1. Jedd Medefind's "Stages of Justice Engagement"

In the first general session CAFO President Jedd Medefind gave the most compelling talk I've ever heard from him. He listed the four Stages of Justice Engagement: Waking, Advocacy, Disillusionment, and Commitment Amidst Complexity. His explanation of the "Disillusionment" stage was illuminating and convicting. I've witnessed this stage in my own heart when I've struggled with fatigue or boredom or resentment in my calling to serve vulnerable children. Jedd encouraged us to remain humble before God, ourselves and others. He encouraged us to embrace "Gospel humility", realizing that we ourselves are not saviors. As sinners saved by grace, we are actually part of the world's problems. And he reminded us to serve enthusiastically, while remembering that "Instead of our enthusiasm driving our theology, our theology should drive our enthusiasm." 

2. Bishop Aaron Blake's Call for the Church to "Stand Up" for Foster Children

Bishop's live interview with Family Life Today during Friday's general session was a real treat. Bishop Aaron Blake shared the testimony of his ministry to young men from his community in Texas. Over the years this ministry grew from mentor in the local public schools to foster Dad of five teenage boys. He told the story of the day his foster sons literally burned his house down. Though the fire was accidental, the boys assumed they would be forced to leave Bishop and his wife Mary's home and be placed in other foster homes. Bishop's message to them was, "You boys are engrafted in. Nothing you can do can separate us." That message sunk in, so much so that one of those five sons, Diego, performed a rap for us that morning. The name of his song? "Engrafted."

3. Dr. Karyn Purvis' Call to Loving Discipline

I'm sure I've said this before... more than once. I LOVE Dr. Karyn Purvis. Dr. Purvis has done more to encourage me as adoptive mama than anyone else on this earth. I've blogged about Dr. Purvis a couple times before, but I just have to mention her again. Dr. Purvis' Connecting While Correcting workshop reiterated her oft-spoken theme, "Preciousness. This is always the message. Our children must be reminded that they are precious." As always, she was practical, sharing tools to discipline our children, especially our children from hard places. She empowered us with tools like "time-in", where we have the child complete a task or chore beside us, instead of time-out, where we send them away from us. My favorite part of her talks, though, are those nuggets, those passionately-spoken words that are stand-alone sermons. My fave nuggets from this talk... "As the parent, you're the coach, not the warden." And the reminder to discipline as God does. "When I'm disciplined by God, I know I'm loved."

As always, CAFO2015 was a huge blessing. Will you join us at CAFO2016 in Orlando, Florida?

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