Thank You that We’re Not Orphans…

Dear God, thank you that we’re not orphans and that we don’t have to live in a cardboard box. Amen!

This was the prayer my children offered to God tonight before dinner.

I tried to contain my laughter and keep my demeanor steady and under control. After all, this was a prayer… one that, by all appearances, was a legitimate expression from my son’s heart. Laughter simply was not an appropriate thing at the time.

I’m not sure I succeeded.

Allison immediately wanted to pray. Her prayer was similar, though she added more about the orphans whose names she knew. Heartfelt, yes… but full of giggles.

After her “Amen!”, no one could help themselves. Massive giggling ensued. No one laughed hard enough to cry by any means, but the moment was a good one. Light-hearted. A good family moment we’ll treasure.

Nancy and I looked at each other once things calmed a bit.

Well, at least we know it was effective.

Orphan’s Table, that is.

If you’ve read what we’ve posted on our blog here recently, you’ll know we had planned an “Orphan’s Table” event at our home on Orphan Sunday. Though ultimately, we had to cancel it due to lack of interest (another story, one that was definitely frustrating for us), the preparations were clearly effective with our children.

You see, in the process of preparing for the Orphan’s Table event, we wanted to make sure that we had a good visual for people that would be attending. We obtained a MASSIVE amount of cardboard boxes from a friend’s business, and planned to “decorate” our basement with them. We wanted people to enter our basement for the event, instantly feeling as though they’d been transported to the home of a third-world family. A shack in a slum, floor lined with cardboard… walls insulated with the stuff. Maybe a single light bulb hanging down.

Ultimately, we scrapped that plan. Instead, in an effort to involve our children, we gave them an assignment.

Pretend you’re an orphan family of three. No mom. No dad.

You’re living on your own. Not in a house, but wherever you can find shelter. Use what you have in front of you to build yourselves a “home” that you’d live in if you were really orphans.

This is their “orphan home”.

Don’t get me wrong… I don’t mean to trivialize the plight of orphans. I’ve not seen a shelter like this. This probably is anything but representative, having been built in a nicely finished basement by spoiled first-world kids.

But in involving our children, we hoped to give people an idea of just what kids might come up with.

You can see their shelter would hardly keep them warm in our 62 degree basement, let alone outside. Wholly ineffective to shelter them from wind, rain, cold. Something that probably wouldn’t even last a day.

But it’s what KIDS built.

Here in America, we’d call this a fort (in fact, that’s exactly what it’s become).

In a third-world nation full of orphaned kids? It might very well be a home.

A home inhabited by starving, diseased kids that need HELP to have HOPE.

So tonight, I’m both thankful and troubled. I’m thankful that through their role-playing, my children have a bit of an idea in their minds about what life as an orphan might be like. They don’t want to live in a cardboard box.

But I’m troubled that we may have inadvertently trivialized the fact that real kids ARE living in cardboard boxes, and that we may have made “orphan play” the new game at our home. (Yes… that’s something we’ll correct if / when it becomes an issue.)

Moreso, though, I’m troubled that there are real kids out there that need help.

I’m troubled that the majority of American Christians really don’t care enough to do something. After all, we’re the same people that spend $13 BILLION dollars annually on our pets, blissfully ignorant that this same amount of money could very well provide for the basic nutritional needs of most (if not all) of the world’s orphans.

So yes… we should be thankful that we’re not orphans, and that we don’t have to live in a cardboard box.

But we should also be compelled by this fact to do SOMETHING to help those that do.

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Chicks 4 Orphans!

With Orphan Sunday coming up, Nancy and I thought it would be very cool to involve our kids in an orphan care project. We’ve spent some time thinking about and researching options, and with the help of our youngest daughter, Allison (she’s five!), we’ve got a plan.

It’s called “Chicks 4 Orphans”!

All credit goes to Allison. When she heard, “Chicks 4 Orphans”, she got VERY excited. After we told her more about what “Chicks 4 Orphans” does, she promptly exclaimed, “I want to do that!”

We sure wish we could claim credit for the idea of “Chicks 4 Orphans”… we LOVE the concept. Fact is, it’s not our idea. Chicks 4 Orphans is a sustainable poultry farming business of Every Orphan’s Hope. Through Chicks 4 Orphans, the good folks at Every Orphan’s Hope buy day-old chicks, raise them for six weeks, and sell them in communities devastated by HIV/AIDS. All proceeds help to provide care for orphans and widows in Zambia.

It’s a great concept… one we fully support.

So here’s the deal… our kids (Allison especially) are essentially giving you the opportunity to “sponsor” chicks for $4.00 / each to support Chicks 4 Orphans. If you see Jeffrey, Jenna, or Allison at church, school, in the community, wherever… we want you to support them. Sign up with them to “sponsor” a chick. Give them $4.00 for every chick you want to “sponsor”. Help make a difference in the lives of orphans in Zambia.

If you’re not local to the St. Joseph area, we don’t want that to stop you. Feel free to send money our way for the chicks you’d like to sponsor. Checks can be made out to “Nancy Stickley”, and sent to us at our Just 1 mailing address:

     Just 1 Ministries
     P.O. Box 8585
     St. Joseph, MO 64508

Once we receive the donations, we’ll gather everything given and forward it to Every Orphan’s Hope.

If you feel better giving to them directly, that’s certainly fine too. Checks should be made out to “Every Orphan’s Hope”, and may be mailed to the following address:

     Every Orphan’s Hope
     3245 West Main Street
     Suite 235/332
     Frisco, TX 75034

Thanks so much for helping our kids to make a difference. They truly can’t do it without you!

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Orphan’s Table

Orphan Sunday is coming up soon, in just less than two weeks (November 4th). It’s an important day for Christians everywhere that care about orphan care… a day to raise awareness about the plight of orphans and to encourage others to take steps to make a difference.

That Sunday evening, at 5:00 PM, Nancy and I will be hosting an event called the “Orphan’s Table”. It’s an interactive, experiential event, where you’ll have the opportunity to share in a meal very similar to that eaten by thousands of orphans all throughout the world. During this event, we’ll be sharing Scripture, discussing God’s love for the fatherless, His love for US, and encouraging each other to seek how God is calling us to make a difference in the lives of orphans. We fully expect this to be a moving experience for everyone!

Please contact us if you’re interested in participating so that we can share more details and help you prepare for the event. If you’d like to do this at your church or with your family, please contact us as well. Details can be found on the Orphan Sunday website, but we want to do what we can to be an encouragement and a resource for you as your plan your event.

God bless!

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When Words Won’t Come…

If you’ve known me for very long, you’re reading the title of this blog post and thinking, “Yeah, right. When words won’t come? John?”

I admit, those thoughts are well-founded. Words generally come pretty easily to me. And in GREAT volume.

My mom said it best once (I don’t know if this is a direct quote, but it’s close): “John, you were late starting to talk. But you’ve been playing catch-up ever since.”

Unfortunately, it’s true. I’m a talker. I’m overly verbose. Even e-mails get far too long too quickly (ask my poor soccer parents).

I just generally don’t have much issue coming up with something to say.

This morning, though? Words wouldn’t come. They couldn’t… as if stuck somewhere in my throat. I couldn’t vocalize what I felt… couldn’t put into words the thoughts and emotions running through my mind. Could barely even speak.

Prayer was HARD. Venting vertically (check my twitter feed for the source on that), nearly impossible.

Why? My heart was in agony over a little girl I’ve grown to love in Guatemala. A girl who told me I was like a dad to her. An orphan. Fatherless. A child I’d adopt in a heartbeat if permitted.

You see, I found out her story last night. I knew she was at Casa de Mi Padre for a reason. But to finally KNOW what she’s been through… almost too much for me to handle.

Tears were shed as I read what she’d been through. Nancy warned me that I didn’t want to know. But I had to. And she was right.

I went to bed depressed. Angry. Helpless. Hurting. Unable to process her story. Wanting her to know God’s love and comfort. Unable to vocalize anything to Him.

I tried again this morning on the way to work. I still couldn’t form adequate words.

This morning, I much more fully understood Romans 8:26-27:

26In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. 27And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will.

When all we can pray is, “oh God.” “Please God.” “Help God.”

When all we have to offer is sobbing and tears.

When words won’t come.

The Spirit moves.

God hears.

He works.

Let me tell you, I am SO thankful for a God that needs no words to be moved. For a God that understands even our groans. That intervenes when we need Him most.

I am SO thankful for a God that truly is, “Abba, Father.”

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Reposted from my personal site, “Toward the Goal”.

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Shane’s Prayer Letter, August 2012

Isaiah 25:4a
You have been a refuge for the poor, a refuge for the needy in his distress, a shelter from the storm, and a shade from the heat…

As another day draws to an end I make my final round checking the house to make sure everything is ok. In the darkness as I pass by one of the children’s rooms I hear the softest most innocent voice, “I love you Papa Shane.” It is the day’s final reminder and reward for my labor of love. I softly reply, “I love you too.” It is always Jimmy. Throughout my day every so often I will hear his sweet voice utter these same precious yet powerful words. It is the only English he knows. But he fully understands its meaning.

Jimmy came to us at the end of last year. When he was six months old his mother abandoned him to his aunt and left for the United States. At age six, his mother returned to Guatemala and reclaimed Jimmy. She kept him for a little while and then again gave him to his aunt. Within the next few months Jimmy ran away. He told the police he ran away because his aunt often abused him. When he came to us Jimmy had whip marks on his back and front. His aunt used an electrical cord to beat him, and she also burned him with fire because he repeatedly wet the bed. The judge ordered the mother into court but she made clear she did not want Jimmy. No one wanted Jimmy. But we did. He has been placed with Casa De Mi Padre permanently.

Jimmy’s first months here were a little difficult. At one point he had repeatedly disobeyed one of our staff members and was brought to me. It was time for Jimmy’s first paddling. When he was brought into my office he was crying and literally shaking with a look of terror in his face. It was obvious his fear was wildly out of place. He was in total panic.

I sat at my desk and put the paddle down and called Jimmy over to me. I explained in my broken Spanish when he hurts other children and does not obey when he is told to stop, he will receive discipline. I said here is how we do it. I use this paddle on your behind and that is all. We do not use fire, we will not hit you in the face, we will not punch you. That’s it, the paddle goes here, that’s all.

Jimmy took a deep breath and exhaled with a sigh of relief, and immediately began to calm down. The look of relief which came over him was almost comical. This emotional expression communicates the words, “That’s all, that’s it.” His terror completely subsided. Jimmy was quite relieved to understand he has limits for behavior and so do we. He received his swats, cried a few moments, and went out to play. I think he has been paddled a couple of times since then, but he steps up and takes it like a trooper. It has been a long time since we have had to discipline him. Jimmy now responds exceptionally well to all the adults here and at school.

Since those early weeks and months Jimmy has grown to become a joy to us all. He is a little scrawny and kind of goofy, but he is what I call a sleeper kid. By looking at him you wouldn’t know it but he is a straight A student. His grades are almost all perfect. And he hardly has to try. His teachers love him, and he is a joy here at the house. Jimmy has become very special to me. He constantly reminds me of his love, and is always genuinely thankful for everything we provide for him. He has also matured in his relationship with the other kids in Case De Mi Padre. I look forward to seeing him grow up here. Yes, we want him.

He still does have one little problem. Jimmy is a faithful kid. He faithfully wets the bed every night. He doesn’t get beat or burned for it, he just has to clean it up. He hates having to clean his bed. Pray for him.

The other day I was listening to a song from one of my favorite artists, Steve Camp. The song is titled, “Shade For the Children.” It made me think of Jimmy as well as our other kids. Here are some of the words:

Unless the Lord builds the house oh they labor in vain
How it is good to be under construction under His name
Like mighty warriors our quivers full for them
Like an arrow they will go where we have never been
As for me and my house we’ll serve the Lord each day
We’ll draw our strength from him as we make our way

Oh Lord we pray
Let us be shade for the children
A shelter from the storm
Be a place where they can grow in the ways of the Lord

To train up my child to live a pure and godly life
Through the struggles and fears, dreams and tears of every day
To be shade for the children

Several times I have responded to Jimmy’s words, “I love you Papa Shane,” with a question. “Why do you love me Jimmy?” His answer is always the same, “Because you care so much for me.”

My words could never express how precious Jimmy and all our other children are. I pray God would make me and our house, Casa De Mi Padre, as He is, a refuge for the poor, a refuge for the needy, and a shelter from the storm, and shade for the children.

Every day we are busy from morning till night meeting the emotional, physical, spiritual, and educational needs of all 22 of the children we have. It is a big job. I have made it clear to the children and staff here, I am not rich, I am only a steward of what God has provided through His people. I am just a steward. Thank you for being Jesus’ answer to little ones who were poor, distressed and battered by the storms of life. Thank you for helping be shade for the children.

On a needs note, when we had our 22 beds built, they included 22 mattresses. The mattresses are really nothing more than wads of rags covered in colorful cloth. They weren’t much when we got them and now they are less. Over time they have become pretty lumpy and raunchy. They need to be replaced . We want to replace them with foam mats. The mats we need are $30 a piece. That is not a big deal until you multiply times 22. If you would like to send an extra gift to “Bed the Kids” or know someone who would like to help it would really be appreciated.

Thank you from all of our hearts. Thank you for all you have done.

Trying to be a “Shade for the Children,”
Shane

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OTE: Since Shane posted this prayer letter on Facebook earlier today, friends reposted his message and shared the need for mattresses. In a span of only a few hours, God’s people stepped up to meet the need! All 22 mattresses were “sponsored”!

Just try and tell us that social media isn’t effective! Thanks to Jodi Brager and Andy Charles for stepping up to spread the word, and for all of the donors who committed to make a difference today!

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Together for Adoption 2012!

One of the big things Nancy and I have been looking forward to since we began Just 1 Ministries has been the upcoming Together for Adoption conference. We were VERY excited to find out more about this year’s schedule, and even more pleased to know that we’ve got a chance to attend for free!

Yes, that’s right… the good folks at Together for Adoption are holding a contest.

The basics? Contestants put together a video commercial explaining why they’d like to attend this year. The commercial is uploaded to Vimeo or YouTube, and voting commences. Most votes wins, obviously.

The exciting news? If we win one of the top three spots, we may have a chance to have a booth to share about our ministry! This is a national conference that annually attracts over 1,000 people, so it’s a big deal for us! So many opportunities there to learn about orphan care and adoption, so we can do things even better here at Just 1. Perhaps equally important is the opportunity to network and get to know other like-minded Christians involved in orphan care.

We fully expect to be refreshed after our time.

So… what we need from you is simple: help us get there! We don’t want your money… just your time in voting. Take a look at our video below, then jump on over to the contest page, and vote for “The Stickleys (Just 1 Ministries)”.

Your help is VERY much appreciated!

God bless!

(Again, the link is: http://www.togetherforadoption.org/?page_id=13873! Don’t forget to vote!)

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Dear Sponsored Child…

Obviously, we’re quite excited about our sponsorship program here at Just 1 Ministries. Connecting people here in the United States that want to love, help provide for, and get to know the orphans in our sponsorship program is a huge blessing!

That said, there are many aspects of this ministry, and quite a bit of work goes into making it all happen. We’re using our God-given talents, sure, but as you surely know from experience, some tasks are just hard work. Some of the things we do to make this ministry happen stretch us from our comfort zone. And some, like our child correspondence program… they bring us joy that’s hard to put into words.

We get VERY excited when we visit the post office and open our mailbox. It’s great to find sponsorship checks waiting there… after all, sponsorship donations enable orphans to have their needs met. But we do a little happy dance when we see envelopes labeled “Child Correspondence”!

Yes, that’s right. Picture me (or Nancy) dancing.

Scary.

Now picture something far more beautiful… your sponsored child receiving a letter, maybe for the first time ever. Picture Papa Shane reading it to them. Imagine their eyes lighting up as your written words come to life in their native tongue.

That’s a part of this ministry that really gets us excited!

Why?

Because through this, our sponsors connect with the orphans in our partner orphanages.

Lives are touched. Hearts heal. Love grows.

Quite simply, God works.

It’s beautiful.

If you haven’t done so yet, please write to your sponsored child! You can touch their heart, and help play a part in changing their life.

If you’re interested in sponsoring a child, there are many left that need your help!

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