Country Director Philip Barker and his wife Sandie in Myanmar

A Season of Firsts

Going where no Heaven’s Family Ministry has gone before

Dear Friends,

The Orphan’s Tear Ministry has always desired to do everything possible to help children who, due to many complex reasons, have been separated from their families and placed in institutional care. Little could we have imagined just a couple years ago what that “everything” would one day look like!

As you know, the Orphan’s Tear Ministry began a major transition last year, with the aim of safely reintegrating children living in institutions back into family care. That plan meant that we would also stop supporting orphanages in their current form, and work to prevent other children from ever having to be sent away from their families into institutional care. We’ve started this in the country of Myanmar, and it has become the most complex, largest scale project ever undertaken by a Heaven’s Family ministry!

To oversee everything, Orphan’s Tear staff member Philip Barker and his wife Sandie have just relocated from the United Kingdom to Myanmar to take up the position of Country Director. Having traveled to that Southeast Asian nation extensively over the last 7 years working with the orphanages supported by Orphan’s Tear (sometimes making 5 trips a year), he has become very knowledgable and well connected in Myanmar—and I believe he is the perfect man for this job.

Philip was instrumental in setting up the partnership with ACCIR (Australian Christian Churches International Relief) who bring their much-needed experience, knowledge and technical support to safely and effectively reintegrate children back into families, and he’ll be working very closely with their team of professionals.

We knew our team also needed compassionate nationals already involved in caring for children, ones who could speak the many languages and dialects represented by the children currently living in the orphanages. They also needed to have a lot of experience, knowledge and contacts in the villages and other places where the children currently in orphanages originated.

Our choice was obvious: Joney Thawng and Lalchhuan Mawia, longtime friends and partners of Heaven’s Family, both of whom had been directors of busy orphanages sponsored by Orphan’s Tear Ministry before they caught the vision, with us, that children were better off being cared for within families rather than institutions. They themselves stopped taking in new children and began seeking ways to return the children in their care to families.

Joney and Mawia are integral to helping other orphanage directors become fully prepared for the journey ahead, and they’ll also be working to prepare the families and communities that the children will return to through micro-loans and other projects. Although these two faithful men have been working hard on our behalf in an unofficial capacity for some time, we recently hired them as full-time staff of Orphan’s Tear.

To help you get to know Joney and Mawi-a better, click here to see their insight into what we’re doing in Myanmar.


At left, Joney Thawng (left) and Lalchhuan Mawia; at right, newly hired social worker Nester Nang Sang

And finally, Orphan’s Tear and ACCIR have jointly hired a trained social worker in Myanmar named Nester Nang Sang. Together with Joney, Mawia, Philip and the team, Nester will be working to develop a care plan for each of the children that will enable informed decisions to be made on whether safe reintegration with their own (or a substitute family) is possible.

So there you have it, a big Season of Firsts for Orphan’s Tear Ministry and Heaven’s Family! We now have our first Western staff member living in a country where we are ministering, our first full-time national Heaven’s Family staff members, Joney and Mawia, and Nester, our first social worker on staff.

It’s both exciting and a little daunting with so many firsts, but it’s so plain to me that it’s been God who has hand picked all these people for this purpose. I’m thrilled to be a part of it, and I hope that you are too! I would like to ask for your prayers for all the staff of Orphan’s Tear Ministry during this pivotal time.

Thank you so much for your partnership, and please stay tuned for more updates!

Blessings,

Stephen Servant
Director, Orphan’s Tear Ministry


A child in Myanmar held safe and secure to his loving mother

Because Every Child is Worth It

Moving ahead with a better plan to serve the children we love

Dear Friends,

You may recall last December when I told you about the process we’ve started in Myanmar to reintegrate the children from 3 orphanages back to their families or place them with foster families. You may have also asked yourself, “What happens to orphanages once there’s no more children living in them?” and, “How does that affect the ministry of Orphan’s Tear going forward?”

First, once an orphanage begins reintegrating children with their families or foster families, we also begin working with that orphanage director to transition him or her to some other business or ministry so that they can continue to support themselves. The orphanage building and compound can be converted into a community center, school or other ministry.

Going forward the plan for the Orphan’s Tear Ministry is to eventually end our support of orphanages. Historically we’ve solely supported Christian orphanages, but since we know that families provide a healthier and more nurturing environment for children, we can no longer continue to support institutional care for children. And in addition to returning children to families, we’re now working to prevent other children from ever having to be sent to orphanages.

But because this work is much more time consuming, this transition will not take place overnight. We began the reintegration process last year in Myanmar with 3 orphanages; 12 more are coming on board this month, and we’re hoping that almost 50 others will start in the future! And once we start to see some successes in Myanmar, we’ll be expanding our work to other countries where we presently support orphanages.

We don’t want to drop our faithful orphanage partners like hot potatoes, however, so we’re committed to support them throughout the reintegration process, which we hope to begin with all of them by the end of 2017. Our plan is that, by the beginning of 2018, the Orphan’s Tear Ministry will no longer be supporting orphanages on a monthly basis, except for those we’re working with to reintegrate their children into families.

This is a very large change in direction—one we fully believe God is leading us towards and providing for every step! We’re super excited about growing to better meet the needs of children around the world, and we’re so thankful for you who have been making all this possible. Stay tuned for more updates!

The road ahead certainly will be challenging, but each child—including the little one in the photo above—is worth it!

Blessings,

Stephen Servant
Director, Orphan’s Tear Ministry

In My Words

A video report of how the Orphan’s Tear Ministry served the Lord, the least of these, and you in 2015

Dear Friends,

In January, each of Heaven’s Family’s 21 Focused Ministry Directors gave a short, 10-minute presentation about their accomplishments in 2015 and their upcoming goals for 2016. We’re excited about what the Lord has done, and what He has in store for the remainder of this year!

You can watch my short 2015 progress report at this link: https://youtu.be/Hli4CjJPBPE

I hope and pray you’re encouraged by my report. I greatly value your partnership with the Orphan’s Tear Ministry!

Thank you,

Stephen Servant
Director, Orphan’s Tear Ministry


Four girls in one of the orphanages Orphan’s Tear supports

Child Care Reboot

What does it mean to really love a child living in an orphanage?

Dear Friends,

Last time I wrote about how most of the children in the orphanages we support have at least one living parent or close relative (click here to read that update), but that we lacked the knowledge and experience necessary to successfully reintegrate these children back into their families. God has provided us with a solution, and I’m very excited to tell you about it!

Through a mutual friend and partner we learned about Australian Christian Churches International Relief (ACCIR), an organization that has successfully reintegrated children out of institutions into families in 8 countries. After fully investigating their methods, we’ve partnered with them to help us begin the process in Myanmar. ACCIR brings their expertise and methodology, and we bring our contacts and 13 years of experience in Myanmar.

The first step of the process is to persuade orphanage directors to participate, and once on board we help them to compile very detailed information on each child in their care. That includes medical assessments of the children, identity checks through school and family records, finding their parents and other family, and then sending social workers to evaluate the families and relatives to see if the situation is safe and desirable for a child to return to. All this information forms a case file for each child that is used to determine if and how a child is to be reintegrated.

All the children will basically fall into one of three categories, the first being those children who can very easily and safely be reintegrated with their families or relatives.

The second group are those children who are difficult to return to their families due to being separated for so long, poverty that prevents them from being able to care for their children, and other factors. In these cases, we’ll work with the families and communities through micro-loans, parenting training, safe water solutions, education and agricultural projects to improve the home environment.

The remaining group of children are those who aren’t able to be reintegrated because they have no families, or their families are abusive or neglectful. Initially these children will be placed in high-quality, short-term care until a suitable foster family can be found for them.

This process is a huge commitment, one that takes a number of years to fully implement and continues beyond a child’s restoration to their family—but the children are worth it! Three orphanages in Myanmar have already begun the process, and more will be joining very soon. We are very excited about this development, and so thankful that God provided this opportunity at the right time!


Several orphanage directors stepping out in faith—and love for the children currently in their care—beginning the process of returning their children to their families

So what happens to the orphanages once there’s no more children living in them? And what’s the future look like for Orphan’s Tear Ministry? Good questions…please stay tuned!

Blessings,

Stephen Servant
Director, Orphan’s Tear Ministry


A remote village in the seemingly endless mountains of Myanmar

Homeward Bound

Returning “orphan” children to their families

Dear Friends,

Orphan’s Tear began in 2002 when David Servant went to Myanmar and visited a couple orphanages run by pastors attending his seminar. Moved with compassion after seeing the terrible living conditions, and being led to believe that the parents of these children were deceased, he promised to help. As Orphan’s Tear grew and became more involved over the years, however, we learned that the the parents of most of the children we were supporting were still alive.

We knew, of course, that a child is better off in a family than in an orphanage. Experience, years of research and, most importantly, the Bible proves this. Long-term institutional care negatively impacts a child’s development, damages or destroys family connections, and gives the child little or no support once they leave the orphanage. That’s why such children are more likely to become involved in criminal acts, enter prostitution and commit suicide. An orphanage is certainly better than living on the street, but nothing can or should replace a God-given family!

Digging deeper, we learned that most of the children living in orphanages we supported in Myanmar were coming from hundreds of very poor, remote villages—places without electricity, doctors, running water, schools or even roads. They are so isolated that the nearest other village often speaks another language. Growing enough food to survive on the steep mountain slopes consumes all their time. Add to this a hostile government, high mortality rate, and frequent divorces—and remarriages to new spouses who don’t want children from the previous marriage, and you have a situation that’s very difficult for children.

It’s little wonder that many parents believe their children are better off in a faraway orphanage where there is ample food, opportunities for education and medical care.


Children in a remote mountain village in Myanmar, whose photo I took during a visit last February

Yet despite the difficulties of village life, we still believe families are better for children than orphanages.

So we began several initiatives to economically lift the villages from which these children come. One initiative came from Heaven’s Family’s Micro-Loan Ministry, which provided loans to help scores of villages improve economically so they can adequately support their own children. We were thrilled to see the fruit of our efforts—economic life in the villages blossomed! Time will tell, but we’re hoping that success translates into parents keeping their children at home.

Despite this initial success, we couldn’t yet help the children who were already in orphanages. We lacked the knowledge and experience necessary to help rebuild the bond between institutionalized children and their parents. Simply returning a child to his or her family or relatives after years of separation could end up with the child being placed in another orphanage—and suffering even more emotional and psychological damage.

A solution came earlier this year…but I’ve already written enough, so stay tuned for next month’s mini-update!

Blessings,

Stephen Servant
Director, Orphan’s Tear Ministry


My brand new son, Christopher

New Beginnings

A not-so-new face takes the reins

Dear Friends,

His pitiful cry came as sheer joy after 14 exhausting hours of labor and 9 months of waiting! My wife and I teared up as we saw our son for the first time!

As you may know, Elisabeth Walker has stepped down as the director of Orphan’s Tear so she can spend more time being a mom. In August I, her older brother, became the new director, and a month before that I became a new dad.

I just have to say my son is the cutest and most adorable baby in the whole world. His smiles make the whole world seem happier, and my favorite sound is his unintelligible talking and cooing. He’s not very talented yet, but the first time he rolled over you would have thought—based on the reaction from me and my wife—he had just won an Olympic gold medal. I couldn’t be more proud!

Becoming a Dad has given me a deeper appreciation for God’s amazing plan for children. What better to give helpless children than parents who adore them despite all their weaknesses?

But in this world millions of children—because of death, poverty, disaster or abuse—don’t have loving parents or families. For this reason I’m grateful that I can, as director of Orphan’s Tear, help such children receive the loving family God always intended for them. Thank you for being a part of this!

I joined Heaven’s Family out of high school in 2005, and was the second person to be on staff—so I go way back! One of my first tasks was assisting in the creation and organization of Orphan’s Tear’s sponsorship program, and over the past 10 years I’ve traveled to most of the places Orphan’s Tear works—including Myanmar, a country I’ve been to so many times that I married the daughter of a pastor with whom we have worked. So although I’m the new director, I’m not new to Orphan’s Tear!


Christopher with his mom, Daisy, and me

Orphan’s Tear has accomplished so much over the years, thanks to your partnership. That’s why I’m really excited for what God has in store for us to accomplish together in the years ahead!

Blessings,

Stephen Servant
Director, Orphan’s Tear


Stephen Servant, a serious-looking “boy” and another friend in Myanmar

“Stephen, Catch!”

A time of transition at Orphan’s Tear

Dear Friends,

I’ve dreaded this day, but it has finally come! I’ve absolutely loved directing Orphan’s Tear these past few years, but there’s one thing I love even more—being a mom to my son Jonathan.

So with mixed emotions I pass the torch into the very capable hands of my older brother, Stephen Servant. I know he can provide the dedication and experience that Orphan’s Tear needs in the years ahead. In fact, Stephen has worked at Heaven’s Family, the parent ministry of Orphan’s Tear, longer than I have, and has traveled more times than I can count to Myanmar. His mission will be to expand the exciting efforts being made to return institutionalized children who have parents to their homes, and find foster-care families for true orphans.

Stephen loves what we do so much he married Daisy, who happens to be a Myanmar pastor’s daughter! That’s given him first-hand cross-cultural experience! Please welcome Stephen to Orphan’s Tear by sending him an email at: [email protected].


Stephen loves to captivate and engage children at every orphanage he visits, making them feel special and loved

Although I will greatly miss corresponding with our orphanages and with all of you, I am super-excited for the future of Orphan’s Tear.

I’ll still be working part-time for Heaven’s Family, however, administering our Compassion Club. If you haven’t heard about the Heaven’s Family Compassion Club, please check it out here.

Thank you for your continued support of this incredible ministry!

Elisabeth Walker
Former Director of Orphan’s Tear


Pastor Widelson (at right) and his wife (at left) with the children of Mt. Zion

An Embarrassing Moment

Discovering the need for improvements at an orphanage in Haiti

Dear Friends,

When I arrived at Mt. Zion Orphanage in Haiti last month, I caught myself thinking, I’m glad no Orphan’s Tear donors are here with me! That’s a rare thought, because almost without exception I’m wishing you could be along with me. But that day I wanted to cry as I witnessed some deplorable conditions there, and I felt embarrassed that we hadn’t taken care of these needs sooner! It had been a while since I last visited Mt. Zion, and I felt horrible that the needs even existed.


At left, the bunk beds the kids were sleeping on were falling apart, and the mattresses were so old that they had holes in them; at right, the bathroom doorways only had shabby tarps that offered little privacy, not doors!

I learned from Pastor Widelson, the director of Mt. Zion, that prices in Haiti are so high that our support just isn’t enough to make improvements to the orphanage. Our support mainly goes just to provide meals and schooling.

Thankfully it’s not too late to do something now!

So I’d like to provide the opportunity to help improve the conditions for the children at Mt. Zion Orphanage now. Below are a few special projects that you can be a part of if you choose, and I promise to send you updated photos of the changes as soon as the improvements are made!

For the children,

Elisabeth Walker
Director of Orphan’s Tear


Beto (in front) with his brother Edgar having fun on a donkey at The Village

Riding High

A testimony from a young boy who once lived on the mean streets of Mexico

Dear Friends,

I suppose having a tender heart is part of the job description for the director of Orphan’s Tear. But sometimes I feel that my heart exceeds the tenderness requirements! That possibility entered my mind as my eyes teared up reading a letter I recently received from a little boy in Mexico called Beto (translated by our dear friend and ministry partner Nicole Fitzpatrick). I hope Beto’s words touch your heart as well…

Hello, my name is Albert Puyicatla Hernandez. I am 8 years old and I have 3 brothers. 2 of them live here with me at The Village and 1 lives with my grandparents in Chicahuaxtla. I have lived here for going on 2 years. Before I lived here, I had never gone to school and could not read or write. My mama could not send us because my dad had abandoned us all and my grandparents do not have any money.

When I lived in our small town, I was always in the streets with my brothers and cousins. They smoked marijuana and would force us to smoke it, too. They would blow smoke into my little brother’s face until he was real high. We’d leave our shack early in the morning and would be like vagabonds in the streets, looking for food to eat and things to steal.

But some brothers from The Village would come once a week preaching in our town and one day they came to my grandmother’s home to preach the Gospel and that’s how my brothers and I learned about [a place where they would take care of us]. When my mother came home one weekend (she works far away in the city) she took 3 of us to The Village. I love living here because they take very good care of us. Now I am studying and I love Jesus. My teacher’s name is Andrea and our school room is very pretty. I am happy.

Thank you for helping Mama Nicole take care of us every day. Thank you for sending us money for food, school, clothes, and everything else you are always doing. We are all very thankful for Orphan’s Tear.

Love, Beto

I’m so thankful that God is in the redemption business and that we get to be stockholders! The dividends are absolutely heavenly!

Elisabeth Walker
Director of Orphan’s Tear


Humberto has a smile that is a testimony to the love he is now receiving at Home of Hope

Finding Hope in Guatemala

A trip blog from Elisabeth Walker

Dear Friends,

“You know…we have to move here,” Daryl said to his wife Wanda after witnessing the horrific conditions inside a handicapped ward of a Guatemalan hospital. With deep conviction, she replied with just 2 words: “I know.”

Daryl and Wanda came to this life-changing conclusion after seeing children in wheelchairs with their hands tied behind their backs and blankets over their heads—among other inhumane practices—during a 2008 visit to Guatemala. They didn’t yet know the details, but they knew with certainty they had to do something for these children that no one else wants!

Today, 7 years later, I visited 12 happy children who now live with Daryl and Wanda at a place they’ve called Hogar de la Esperanza (Home of Hope in English). As I listened to their stories, I felt so troubled hearing about the terrible situations these children came from.

When many of the children first arrived at Home of Hope, they had already descended into an almost lifeless, unresponsive state. But therapy—and a lot of love—slowly turned them around, and I could clearly see the children are now thriving. Although they were all either orphaned or abandoned by parents unable to cope with their disabilities, they truly are a part of a family now because of the special love and individual attention that Daryl, Wanda and their own children give to each of them. Being in the presence of these precious children and helping them is one of the most fulfilling works on earth!

I’m happy to say that, beginning with Home of Hope, Orphan’s Tear will now be reaching out with compassion into Guatemala. Many of the children pictured below will be available for sponsorship on our website soon!

Thank you for joining us as we go into Guatemala to bless more needy children!

Elisabeth Walker
Director of Orphan’s Tear


Though little Rosalinda looks to me like she is only 2 months old, it turns out she is actually 15 months old! Malnourishment from birth has kept her weight at no more than 12 pounds (an average 15-month-old weighs almost twice that). Daryl and Wanda hope that nourishing food and lots of love will help Rosalinda put on some pounds soon!


Yenifer—or Yeni, as she is affectionately called—brings so much joy to the home, and to anyone who meets her


These adorable twins named Racquel and Esther have been available for adoption within Guatemala for over a year. But because international adoption is blocked by the government and few Guatemalans are adopting children with special needs, they are still waiting for their forever family. Until they do, however, they will receive the love and care they need from Home of Hope.