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A Habit of Generosity: Bridges of Faith (religion)

Welcome arrival: A group of Ukrainian orphans arrive in Alabama for a month-long stay at Bridgestone Retreat Center. (Contributed photos)

Welcome arrival: A group of Ukrainian orphans arrive in Alabama for a month-long stay at Bridgestone Retreat Center. (Contributed photos)

By Chanel Bingham

Last year, my husband and I felt impressed upon to sponsor a child through Compassion International. It was something we had wanted to do for a long time, so we signed up to sponsor a little girl named Warda from Tanzania.

Soon after, we received our sponsorship package that included information about Warda’s family, culture and home life.

Warda’s parents are peasant farmers, herding animals for $18 a month. She lives in a small home with dirt floors, mud walls and a tin roof. Like most children in her village, Warda has little access to toys, so the children play with old tires.

BINGHAM

BINGHAM

She faces daily health concerns with the threat of malaria and typhoid ever present. Her daily nutrition comes from a scarce portion of maize and beans, hardly meeting the needs of her young, growing body. Warda is poor.

I walk past my refrigerator displaying Warda’s most recent correspondence held in place by an “I love Jesus” magnet and reflect on the scripture I shared last week in Proverbs 19:17: “Whoever is generous to the poor lends to the Lord, and he will repay him for his deed.” In that moment of reflection, I realized that I am hungry—no, I am starving. Not for what is on the inside of those doors, but for what is on the outside.

I want more of what I see in the beautiful face of our precious Warda. I want more of Him and less of me. I want to live out what is on that magnet and not just say it or write about it. No longer can I look the other way. No longer can I believe that it is not my problem.

How, after all of the grace and compassion that the Lord of Hosts has extended to me can I not “lend to the Lord?”

And so, out of a heart of gratitude for God’s goodness in my own life, I am compelled to give. And in my giving, I am broken and restored. I learn that in the giving of myself is where I find less of me and more of Him. And in Him is where I find life.

Abundance is not a requirement for generosity. We all come from different circumstances, but generosity is within all of our reach, if only we will make room in our hearts.

In this third and final installment of “A Habit of Generosity,” I will share with you the hope and life one local ministry is giving to orphans on the other side of the world and how you too can make a difference.

Working as a regional director with the International Bible Society, Tom Benz spent a lot of time helping children in Ukrainian orphanages. During that time, he came to realize the great need to share the Gospel of Christ with these children.

Moment of prayer: Bridges of Faith staff member Jennifer Taylor prays with an orphan during an outreach in Ukraine this past March.

Moment of prayer: Bridges of Faith staff member Jennifer Taylor prays with an orphan during an outreach in Ukraine this past March.

In 1999, driven by his vision to make a difference in their lives, Tom formed Bridges of Faith, also known as BOF.

BOF aims to help orphans and children in need in Ukraine through short-term mission trips and opportunities for cultural exchange at their 140-acre retreat center in Billingsley, named Bridgestone.

“We host a group of orphans three times each year here at our Bridgestone retreat in Billingsley. Our goal is to rescue orphans,” said Jennifer Taylor, a domestic missionary and staff member at BOF. “And that rescue can be in many different ways from presenting the Gospel of Christ and giving these children a glimpse of hope and a purpose for the first time to building life-changing relationships.”

As part of the relationship building process, the children stay on-site with volunteer house parents who help promote a family environment. They feed them breakfast, play games and spend quality time with them. Also, during their time at Bridgestone, the children participate in many activities and go on several trips.

“We go to NASA, the McWane Science Center, our state capital and other locations rich with history and education,” Taylor said. “We also visit churches and take them shopping, because most of the children come to us with just the clothes on their back. They don’t really have a whole lot.”

The next group of orphans are scheduled to arrive at Bridgestone on Christmas Day, and they need our prayers and our help.

“What we do is not possible without the help of volunteers,” Taylor said. “Working with these children is a life-changing thing. The children are changed, but the volunteers are also changed.

“We thrive on volunteer involvement and relationships with people. Everything we do here is for Christ and the children.”

Volunteers are needed to work with this next group of orphans in all capacities. There is a need for volunteers to provide meals, chaperone field trips, serve as house parents, lead games and host arts and crafts time.

Volunteers are also needed to help with cleaning before and after groups, laundry and some other behind-the-scenes needs that aren’t as glamorous but are just as important.

Also, financial donations are welcomed all year long, along with Walmart gift cards and non-perishable food items.

“They get to experience a level of love and affection that they don’t get to experience as much where they come from,” Taylor said about the impact of their work on the life of the orphans. “They have more personalized attention. They experience affection in greater amounts, and they know they are loved.”

“They realize people come here to see them, and they get to experience Christ in a new way. It’s more than just words—it’s example, relationships, interactions and exposure to the Gospel.”

If you would like to volunteer or make a donation to the Bridges of Faith ministry, contact Olya Kim at (334) 380-1551 or olya@bridgesoffaith.com. To learn more about their mission trips and the Bridgestone ministry, visit their website at www.bridgesoffaith.com.

“You can always give without loving, but you can never love without giving.” Amy Carmichael

Chanel Bingham is a freelance writer, blogger and public speaker. She resides in Thorsby with her husband and four children. You can visit Chanel at www.thepolishedcanvas.com or on Facebook at “The Polished Canvas.” Her column publishes each Thursday.