An Interview with David Hennessey, CAFO’s Director for Global Movements

The Christian Alliance for Orphans yearns to see the local church in every nation known as the primary answer to the orphans in their midst. Central to the work ahead is uniting the entire CAFO membership to help stimulate and serve locally-led adoption and orphan care movements around the globe.  Below is a newly-released interview with the individual leading these efforts, David Hennessey, CAFO’s Director for Global Movements.

What’s at the heart of CAFO’s Global Movements efforts?

The heart of CAFO’s Global Movements Initiative is to see the local indigenous church rise as the primary answer to the global orphan crisis.  On the ground, this takes many forms – from local Christians adopting children into their families, to local churches challenging societal stigmas by embracing orphans into their churches, to developing local mentoring programs to connect a fatherless child to a believer.

Every movement begins with the Father stirring the heart of a single believer, and then fanning that flame into contagious enthusiasm.  As this grows, the Holy Spirit unites dozens, hundreds, and even thousands of like minds and hearts in action.  Just as we’ve seen in North America, Christian orphan care movements are stirring throughout Eastern Europe, Africa, Asia, Europe, and South America.

The Global Movements Initiative works to help stimulate and serve these movements worldwide.   We want to inspire new movements, and especially to support and interlink local leaders so they can grow highly-effective movements in their native lands.

Traditional missions, even when affirming the importance of local leadership, often ends up with Western leaders at the center.  Is this different?

Absolutely!  We believe that to truly tackle the global orphan crisis, local indigenous churches must be the primary developers, leaders, and owners of efforts to care for local orphaned children.

Although coordinated by CAFO, the guiding vision for this initiative will be shaped by a new Global Orphan Council.  This Council will be an independent body—created in partnership with other excellent global ministries, and populated by leaders from around the world.  This Council will be the focal point of vision, planning and networking for what is happening worldwide.  The Global Orphan Council’s charter meeting will be at Summit in May 2.

Why do you see this locally-focused vision as so important?

Solutions to the orphan crisis must be created within the context of the local culture, language, societal norms, and governmental authority.  What is successful in one culture does not imply that it will succeed in another.  It is the local indigenous church that has the knowledge and experience, along with the assistance of the Holy Spirit, to navigate those waters to develop and sustain appropriate solutions.

Is there still an important role for Western organizations and churches in this?

Of course.  Western churches and ministries have many assets that are absolutely invaluable to what is growing in developing nations.  Finances are sometimes part of this, but increasingly should play a secondary role.  Even more important is the technical expertise, lessons learned and mistakes made over many years of seeking to grow effective holistic solutions and developing leaders for churches and organizations.  Indigenous movements need encouragement and support in these areas, as well as partnerships that combine volunteers, support, and finances.  And don’t forget the most important role – prayer.

What are some of the most exciting things you’re currently seeing worldwide?

There are so many examples of God moving hearts toward orphan care.  Here are a few glimpses:

  • An adoptive mother in Ethiopia helped coordinate an event last week called Hope for the Fatherless, where over 500 attendees learned about God’s heart for the orphan, joined together in music, and heard testimonies of adoptive families.  More than 20 families decided to begin their adoption journeys.
  • Thanks to the leadership of the organization Ukraine Without Orphans, thousands of Ukrainian churches participated in Orphan Sunday last year and will again in 2012!
  • The 2nd annual East African Orphan Summit was held last month in Nairobi, Kenya, with over 300 pastors and orphan care leaders in attendance (twice that of the inaugural year!).
  •  A grassroots effort called World Without Orphans is doing tremendous work inspiring national adoption and orphan care movements throughout Eastern Europe and beyond.

What are the biggest barriers to robust, locally led movements?

The biggest need is simply for each church to realize that God cares deeply about orphans and calls His people to the same.  Often, this requires swimming upstream against cultures that marginalize orphans and that see caring for non-relative children as, at best, odd.  As local believers embrace the value God places on orphans , the practical challenge is then for churches to get assistance in defining reasonable opportunities to live that out within their local culture…and to do so wisely and well.

Beyond the initial involvement comes the development of local pastors–helping them rise to the call to become leaders for this vision in their church, region and nation.  Most national movement leaders come from local pastor roles, and require the skills to inspire and coordinate strategic efforts nationwide.  The Global Movements Initiative will seek to help on all of these fronts, from the awareness/advocacy opportunities presented by Orphan Sunday to technology support and leadership training.

How can people get involved?

There are many ways to get involved in supporting international orphan care movements.  Here are a few:

  • Prayer is one of the biggest needs.  Pray that the Lord will guide local leaders in their countries to join together for the orphan, and for the churches in those countries to be the hands and feet of Christ to the fatherless.
  • Engage your talents in the global effort.  Whether you are a great writer, videographer, social worker, web developer, entertainer, leadership coach, or prayer warrior, all of these talents and more are needed to support the global orphan care movement.  Contact us and we’ll work to connect your skills with substantive needs.
  • Donate to Global Movements, to fund the strategic support of indigenous movements.  You can donate HERE (and note Global Movements in the comments box).
  • For those already working globally, make an unequivocal priority of empowering local leaders to grow effective, culturally-appropriate care for orphans.  You can also contact us to connect these individuals to leaders in other nations through the Global Movements Initiative.