“Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you.” James 1:27
This verse has always challenged my heart. There is a clear mandate here: if you want pure religion in the sight of God, care for orphans and widows and help the helpless. “Care for orphans and widows is commanded in the Old Testament as a way of imitating God’s own concern for them – He is the ‘Father of the fatherless and protector of widows’ (Ps. 68:5).” We get to be Jesus to other people.
A little over a year ago, I started working at Glad Tidings Church as the Discipleship and Connections Pastor. During the interview process, our Senior Pastor, Gary Howell, informed me that our church owned and operated an orphanage and shared how it came to be.
In 1999, Pastor Gary and his wife, Christy Howell moved to Ocoee, Florida for the revitalization of Glad Tidings Church. Starting with six people, Pastor Gary and Christy showed the love of Christ to the surrounding community and believed God for a revival in West Orange County. At the start of 2015, God gave Pastor Gary a prophetic word for Glad Tidings Church – “BEYOND”. This year, God would take Glad Tidings beyond through the purchasing of an orphanage in Jamaica called the City of Refuge and the expansion of our second campus!
“I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.” John 14:18
The City of Refuge is a Christ-centered children’s home located just outside Kingston, Jamaica in Content Gap, Saint Andrew Parish. Glad Tidings Church provides the leadership & oversees the day-to-day activities of the home in partnership with the Jamaican Assemblies of God. Fifty-six children, ages 6 months to 18, live at City of Refuge. The 26-acre campus sits on a mountaintop about an hour’s drive from the capital city, Kingston. These children, prior to coming to the home, were counted among thousands in Jamaica who are abused, neglected, abandoned and some left on the streets without any shelter or provision. The goal of the City of Refuge is to cultivate a Christ-centered environment where future lawyers, teachers, businessmen/women and pastors are developed & encouraged to be all they can be in Christ.
It wasn’t long before I realized that this wasn’t just something that our church did as a ‘project on the side’. This was a part of who we are. I haven’t been to the orphanage yet, but I’ve met a few of our kids when they’ve visited. The thing I keep hearing from them is, ‘You guys really care about us.’ We have become their moms and dads and aunts and uncles and brothers and sisters. It’s beautiful to see that they are a part of our family not simply an extension of it.
Pastor Gary goes to the City of Refuge once a month for 3-4 days to check in on our kids and to make sure everything is running smoothly. Although he has four campuses, two schools, and over 600 people to oversee (as well as being a husband and father), he still makes time to see our kids.
I remember sitting next to him after a memorial service at the church after one of his visits to Jamaica. We had pictures of our kids up on the walls around our common area and he pointed at every picture telling me a story about each of them. That’s when it hit me.
These are our kids.
We really are a family.
For a commitment of $50 a month, you can make a difference in a child’s life in Jamaica. Your child sponsorship will help provide food, clothing, education, medical and basic care for a child at the City of Refuge GT. Your love (in the form of fifty dollars per month) will help a child in Jamaica know they are loved by God & His people. Beyond the physical care, most important of all, your sponsored child will hear about Jesus Christ and be encouraged to develop a lifelong relationship with Him.
Want to ‘meet’ our kids and learn how you can care for the orpans? Simply click here to find out more about this family that could also be your family. What a joy it is that around the world, without ever having met, we can all call the same God “Dad” … what a joy indeed.