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

Filed under: Myanmar


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

Filed under: Myanmar


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 Walter
Former Director of Orphan’s Tear

Filed under: Myanmar


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 Walter
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 Walter
Director of Orphan’s Tear

Filed under: Mexico, The Village


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 Walter

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 Walter
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.

Filed under: Guatemala


Mt. Zion Orphanage in Haiti

This I Know

How do kids cope with living in an orphanage in an impoverished country?

Dear Friends,

Not many things are for certain in Haiti, but most can count on poverty and death.

So how do children, most of whom are orphans, survive such depressing realities while also living in an orphanage? I discovered the answer when I visited Haiti earlier this month with my wife, Kayla, and Orphan’s Tear director Elisabeth Walter.

We went to check on 2 orphanages—Mt. Zion and Mt. Carmel—that Orphan’s Tear has sponsored for many years. We also took photos of the children and received letters they had written to their sponsors as part of our initiative aimed at improving communication and relationships. And lastly, it was a great opportunity for me, as the administrative assistant for Orphan’s Tear, to see firsthand the lives we are impacting.

The answer to my question came as I read some of the letters the children had written. In message after message, the phrase “Jesus loves me” kept showing up. It was everywhere. That’s when I realized their “secret.” Although these orphaned kids live in one of the poorest countries in the world, they are some of the richest children you could ever meet. Their wealth goes far beyond this world, because they know they are dearly loved by their Savior in heaven!

I recalled Jesus’ words in Matthew 6:21 that say, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” The only treasure many of these children have is Jesus Christ. There is much we can learn from these precious boys and girls.

For Christ and for the children,

Jesse Walker
Administrative Assistant for Orphan’s Tear


“Jesus loves me,” Marc Elie knows for sure!


A big name for a little guy: Marc Elie Richard Jefferson gets his photo taken for his sponsor


Pastor Geordany with the 25 children living at his orphanage

Chicks for Hunger

Haiti Trip, Final Blog

Dear Friends,

“I really don’t know how they survive,” Pastor Geordany, the director of Mt. Carmel Orphanage, replied when I asked him how Haitians could pay the high food prices in Haiti. The average cost of a gallon of milk is over $9, and a pound of oranges costs about $5! The orphanage, located in the rural, central plateau near the town of Pignon, buys lower-cost items such as rice, beans, and cheaper vegetables. Even still, he is only able to feed the children twice a day—in the morning when they wake up, and then after they return from school.

Orphan’s Tear is helping to combat this crisis in 2 ways. The first is by immediately doubling their monthly support from about $400 to $800. The second is by helping the orphanage start a small chicken farm! The farm will not only provide the orphanage with needed protein from fresh chickens, but also bring in additional income from the sale of others in the market.

Thank you for traveling to Haiti with me, Jesse and Kayla via our blogs! On behalf of the 45 children in Haiti who are supported by Orphan’s Tear sponsors, thank you!


Elisabeth Walter
Director of Orphan’s Tear


The chicken house is ready for the 200 little chicks arriving in July!


Lourdeme stole our hearts with her smile

Haiti Exposed

Haiti Trip, Blog 3

Dear Friends,

We’ve seen all kinds of poverty this week in Haiti: economic, political and spiritual. It’s not hidden, like in much of the US, but as if intentionally exposed for all to see.

For much of Haiti’s history the people have lived in a state of constant suffering. In more recent years the Duvalier’s, better known as rulers Papa Doc and Baby Doc, brought economic and spiritual havoc to this 200-plus-year-old nation. An estimated 30,000 Haitians were murdered under the reign of Papa Doc, and Baby Doc stole millions of dollars from the government for his own pleasure (his wedding, for example, cost nearly $3 million!). Then, after years of military rule, disease, pain and death, even more suffering rocked Haiti when the 7.0 magnitude earthquake struck in 2010.

Today Haiti is ranked as the 4th poorest country in the world, with roughly 6 out of 10 people living on less than $2.44 a day (the national poverty line), and Haiti is hands-down the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere.

Along with the political and economic unrest, the country is dominated by voodoo, a pagan religion, which seeks to sevi lwa (“serve the spirits”). Voodoo is centered around the worship of dead spirits. A darkness clings to the land of Haiti because of voodoo.

But we’ve also seen how the church in Haiti shines brightly through the darkness, and, also in contrast to our life in the US, their light is not “hidden under a basket.” In churches we saw a people who boldly rejoice in God whether pain lurks just around the corner—which they’ve come to expect from cradle to an often early grave—or is a constant companion. The people praise God more passionately than I have ever seen.

And most memorably, Haiti’s precious children brought laughter and love to our lives, even though they themselves have little to call their own in this world. Our Haitian brothers and sisters, both young and old, find their hope in their relationship with Christ. Because of their dependance on the Lord, they find joy in the midst of their suffering. That’s a lesson I’ll be packing in my bag to bring home with me.

For Christ and for the children,

Jesse Walker
Administrative Assistant for Orphan’s Tear


These young ladies loved having their photo taken


This young boy sat, content, among the rubble