International Children’s Care
A Leap of Faith
It was after the devastating earthquake in Guatemala in 1976 that I received a call from Robert Folkenberg, then Central American Union president, in Guatemala. “There are around 5,000 children left homeless. We have received $40,000 for an orphanage and need a director who has experience with children. Would you help us?”
It was a tempting challenge, but it would mean a radical change in our lives. I asked two questions. “What kind of an orphanage are you talking about, and what about operating funds?”
“We have a mission school with plenty of land. I suppose we would build another dormitory. As for operating funds, just find sponsors for the children.”
But when I told him I wasn't interested in that kind of an orphanage, he asked, “What kind are you interested in?”
He knew of my interest in abandoned children during our years as missionaries. I told him what I read in Welfare Ministry, that orphaned children should be placed in homes, patterned, as much as possible, on a Christian family. “I would build cottages for ten to twelve children each with Christian house parents, creating a children’s village.”
He responded, “Let’s do it!”
God’s providential leading in our decision is told in my book, A Leap of Faith, which was published by the Review and Herald Publishing Association.
The rest is history. A group of dedicated laymen from the Northwest later met, and International Children’s Care was born. It has been 27 years. We started with the first house built with the $40,000, and God has continued to supply the rest.
Our first little girl was dying with the same dysentery that had already killed five of her siblings. We built more cottages as fast as possible, but not fast enough to accommodate the children who began to pour in. Soon the problem was no longer the children from the earthquake, but from the civil war. The northern military base joined the mission school property, and the commander began bringing in the little victims of that war.
One day three little children, 2, 4, and 6, were brought to us. “Their father, a friend of mine, was killed by a rebel, and their mother has been kidnapped,” the man who brought them said. “Their neighbors found the father’s body and the children alone, and brought them to us. We are friends of the family.”
It is hard to describe the grief and trauma the children were suffering. These little victims needed comfort, as well as homes, food, love, security, and education. But most of all, they needed to learn about their Father in heaven, who is a Father of the fatherless.
Morning and evening worship was part of the daily program in the homes, and we soon had a “children’s church.” It was a typical bamboo shelter, with a pulpit and pews. That original format of a village has become the pattern for every project that ICC has around the world, and it has truly become “International,” as we now have children's projects in 19 different countries. The pattern of a family has proved to be the closest to the ideal of a biological family. Children no longer feel like orphans.
People often ask, “How long do you keep them?” We answer, “They leave when they are ready to face life on their own, just like a normal family. This is their home.”
The first wedding on that campus was a thrilling event. The bride had graduated from college in Costa Rica, and was marrying a theology graduate. She insisted that her wedding be out in the jungle at The Pines. It was her home. By then there were twelve houses full of children, a four-teacher elementary school, and ICC had assumed the operation of the nearby mission school that provides secondary education to more than 300 students.
When Julia came home for her wedding, the whole village was excited, and the house-mothers helped with the food for the wedding feast. The children all gathered the flowers, ferns and palms to decorate the outdoor chapel.
God has blessed this program beyond our wildest dreams. The affiliation we have with ASI has helped us to spread the message about this mission for orphaned children. Our sponsorship program continues to grow, but we always need new sponsors to help us care for our children.
Requests continue to bring ICC to other countries where children are dying. We recently received a desperate call from the Democratic Republic of Congo. “We have 200 children here and no one to take them!” ICC is now building a village there on an island that offers safety from the war. To start with so many children was a challenge. They had to sleep several to a bed, but they are eating, and smiles and bright eyes take the place of desperation and fear.
A picture is indelibly stamped in my memory. In answer to an urgent request, we arrived at a humble home where a young mother was dying of breast cancer. As we entered the room that consisted of only the bed where she lay, she raised up on an elbow. “Oh, thank God you have come! I couldn’t bear to die and not know where my children would go.” Her pale, thin face was wreathed in a broad smile. “My last request was that I could be baptized and that my children could be in a Christian home. Kind friends carried me into the water, and now you have come!”
She was too weak to talk long. After assuring her that we would give her children a home, she asked that we bring her three little children to her. One by one she told them, “Mommy is going to sleep until Jesus comes, but these kind people are going to care for you. Promise me that you will be good and learn how to be ready to meet me when Jesus comes.” The radiant smile never left her face.
There wasn’t a dry eye among our group. As we walked out to our car, our only comment was, “Now we know why International Children’s Care exists.” And we know that it was all God’s plan.
For more information, call, (800) ICC-PRAY (800-422-7729) and visit our Web site, www.ForHisKids.org.