Today we have a guest blog post from Debbie Croft, whose first experience of the CAFO Summit came last year…
I’d never been surrounded by such international flavor, wrapped in Kingdom purpose and love, until last May.
I had flown from California to Tennessee, to attend CAFO’s Summit for the first time.
Representatives of every tribe and tongue, it seemed, had gathered in that one place.
It was a place where among the crowd were men, women and kids of varying heights, shapes, hues – clothed in skirts and jeans, saris and tunics, shorts, sundresses, cowboy boots, sandals, Nikes and flip-flops.
Where snippets of conversations could be heard on the way from one session to another – some in languages familiar to my ears, others unrecognizable.
Where one meets family after family forged from more than just shared genetic material: the African-American pastor whose son came into their family as a teenager; the little Asian girl holding the hand of a blond-haired man she calls, Daddy.
Where clusters of believers sat sharing and listening on the lawn, praying together in deserted classrooms, worshiping as one body in united praise.
I was given a glimpse of what Heaven will look like at CAFO Summit.
And I walked around awe-struck.
Every person I encountered, every room I entered, every task handed to me – it didn’t matter who I saw or what I did during those three days, my response was a continual WOW!
The atmosphere sparked with enthusiasm and a genuine intense desire to learn more, to do better. And to express love the way God loves.
Volunteers wearing matching t-shirts and infectious smiles gave directions and handed out water bottles. Tables placed in front of the church’s main entrance were covered with piles of lanyards, name tags and gift bags, awaiting attendees as they arrived.
In large rooms and small, people gathered to absorb every word, whether during the Intensives and workshops or in casual conversations.
And in another building a Kids’ Summit was going on at the same time.
Having only been introduced to Christian Alliance for Orphans less than a month prior, I had no idea the breadth of the CAFO community. But while walking among thousands of strangers made up of families, organization staff, individuals, church leaders and business owners who were motivated by the same vision and exhibiting the same love, I couldn’t help but be amazed.
During Summit and in the weeks and months following, God began showing me more of how He is using this group of likeminded believers for good across the country and around the globe.
And I’m still amazed.
Now that I serve as part of the CAFO team, I encounter it often: While listening in on a team call to Nicole Wilke’s research findings as she prepares for the OVC Intensive… seeing Jason Weber’s contagious passion for kids caught in the foster care system… meeting the director of a member organization for lunch as he takes a break from traveling through the area… hearing from David Hennessey and Jodi Jackson-Tucker about pastors and leaders in Asia who want to reach orphans in their countries…
This sense of the Holy Spirit’s moving in hearts isn’t only felt when the lights are on and these folks are standing on the stage for one week every year. This same divine energy propels all the other weeks, too…
This loving Jesus even when it costs.
This loving children who are overlooked and have nothing to offer.
This loving others because God first loved us.
This amazing, unconditional, affirming love, shared in the story of Diego Fuller – a former foster youth who beat the odds. After being moved too many times from one foster home to another, he was welcomed into a preacher’s home, joined a high school sports team, and then started inviting his friends (aka foster kids) to come live with him(!) When the boys accidentally burned the house down, they were afraid they’d be taken from the home and placed elsewhere. Instead, they were taken to Walmart to buy new clothes. And for the first time in their lives, they experienced a love like God the Father loves.
This amazing, unconditional, affirming love.
And after hearing his story at Summit, we sang along with the former foster kid who beat the odds and now makes music to the glory of God… “I’ve been grafted in.”
It’s eleven months later, and as I sort through CAFO’s info emails, I see dozens of new membership submissions. So many give the same reasons for wanting to join:
After our first time at Summit, we had to be a part of this.
This group devoted to finding lonely children and giving them a family and home.
Call it a movement, call it faith demonstrated, call it living in the trenches or Romans twelve, one and two.
Whatever you call it, God is accomplishing a serious work in hearts of believers, calling us to give more of ourselves in the same way He gave all of Himself, by re-adjusting our priorities and making room in our everyday lives for children and individuals stuck in hard places – vulnerable, despised, languishing, ignored by society – and drawing them to His side to be accepted, adopted, valued… and loved.
Like the Father loves.
They’ll know we are Christ-followers by the love we show toward one another.
I’d encourage you to experience what I experienced last year: come to Summit and learn a whole new definition of Love.
Written by Debbie Croft, Executive Assistant to the President, CAFO