Global Forum on Orphan Crisis Kicks Off in Thailand, Points to Hope Not in Strength or Power but in Work of God’s Spirit
Karmen Friesen speaking at the WWO Global Forum 2024 | Christian Daily International

In the evening of February 29, World Without Orphans (WWO) kicked off its third global forum in Chiang Mai, Thailand, with the theme ‘together from crisis to hope.’ Bringing together more than 500 participants from over sixty countries, the event started off with a reminder that amid the overwhelming needs of overlapping crises today, human efforts cannot help but fall short. Instead, what God is looking for is believers who faithfully follow the leading of His Spirit to transform their community.

“Five million kids live in orphanages although most of them still have family, making them social orphans. 150 million children have lost one or both parents, making them legally orphans. And a staggering one billion children in the world suffer some form of physical, sexual or emotional abuse each and every year, which means that one of two children in the world are significantly vulnerable today,” said WWO’s principal coordinator Karmen Friesen.

WWO, a global movement that seeks to mobilize the Church to respond to the needs of vulnerable children in every nation, held its first global gathering in the same location in 2016 and the second event three years later in 2019 just before the pandemic hit that led to millions more orphaned children who lost one or both parents due to Covid-19.

While the numbers and trends appear bleak, there is hope because God is at work even in the darkest of places, Friesen said.

“We have hope because we have seen God provide in some of the most challenging situations. We have seen God’s people respond,” he said, adding that “our hearts are for these children because God’s heart is with these children.”

He then shared a story how one night about a year ago, he woke up three times in the middle of the night and each time was just awake for a moment long enough to be reminded of a verse in Zechariah 4: Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the Lord Almighty.

It inspired Friesen to study the context of the verse and as he read through the book of Zechariah chapter by chapter, he realized the relevance for orphan ministry today. The prophet brought hope to a people in exile. They were forcibly displaced, hopeless and weary but God reminded them that He is with them and that His heart desires to see God’s people and their communities restored.

This change, however, would not come about by people devising strategies and resolving issues in their own strength. Instead, there first needs to be a heart of repentance about the sin that is underlying all the crises that lead to broken communities and families, and then leaning on God and following His Spirit.

“This is how God works. It’s not about working harder but to rest in his calling. He creates the opportunities that we could never create ourselves. He takes our faithful steps to accomplish his purposes,” Friesen said.

He then pointed to Zechariah 8 that pictures God’s vision of the restored community and shared how the passage struck him because it shows the family as central to restoration. The passage says, Once again men and women of ripe old age will sit in the streets of Jerusalem, each of them with cane in hand because of their age. The city streets will be filled with boys and girls playing there. (Zechariah 8:4-5)

“God’s heart is community transformation, this is not our idea. His heart is all generations living together in loving families, thriving communities, safety and loving families for all children, that is God’s passion,” he said.

“How has God called us to lead towards community transformation? What is your part in your nation and community? What does it look like for us to fully trust God and His promise?” Friesen asked participants and then encouraged them that, “God in His amazing grace uses people just like us.”

The forum will continue until March 3 and feature a variety of plenary and breakout sessions aimed at equipping leaders to respond more effectively to the needs of orphans and vulnerable children today.

Originally published by Christian Daily International

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