Being newbies at the CAFO (Christian Alliance for Orphans) conference this year we weren’t entirely sure what to expect. And since we left feeling overwhelmed and having a hard time narrowing down our highlights we thought we’d share our top ten favorite things and in random order!
- The story of the Giant Sequoia Tree – The great sequoia tree is the largest living thing on the planet and can live over 3,000 years. It also takes around 20 years for the tree to mature enough to produce cones. Jedd Medefind, President of CAFO and writer Ann Voskamp (1000 Gifts) both used the story of the sequoia tree in how we can actually be capable to do good and meaningful work. Despite how amazingly huge the tree is…the seed is small, the roots are deep and the growth is slow. To make an impact in the lives of orphans and vulnerable children, we only need a seed of faith but roots that dig down deep in our dependence on God to do the work. There’s so much goodness in this picture of growth take a listen for yourself.
- Personal stories of redemption – diving into the world of orphans and vulnerable children can oftentimes be dark and unsettling but the story of someone’s life brought out of despair and “made new” makes the darkness more bearable. Diana Prykhodko shared her story of being alone and abused on the streets of Kiev, Ukraine as a young child who was rescued and eventually put in the loving and forever home of a family. Her story was painful to listen to but a story of what can happen when we are willing to face the darkness and play a role in the work of rescue and redemption.
- Organizations represented who are on the front lines to redeem the lives of children without families and in need of unconditional, unwavering love. A few of our favorites – Buckner International, Ekisa Ministries and Ornaments for Orphans.
- Randall Goodgame from Slugs and Bugs. Our love for Randall runs deep and especially for keeping us upbeat and kind to each other on a 12 hour car ride back home! Thank you Randall!!
- Ann Voskamp’s almost ugly cry. Having never heard Ann Voskamp speak, I was thrilled when I realized she was going to share from the depths of herself and spoke on the “upside down kingdom come” as she on several occasions broke into an almost full-on cry. Recently adopting a child from China, Ann explained the highs and lows as a new adoptive mom and how she’s digging deep in the “seed life” as the deep roots of the sequoia. This is so worth the time to listen!
- Andrew Peterson and the Carrollton Band. Wow just wow! I have no words so just listen…
- Practical Workshops – We were amazed at the breadth of discussions related to orphan care, foster care and adoption. From dealing with foster kids aging out of the system, engaging and advocating to Congress, holistic family strengthening to honoring a child’s heritage…great resources and insights.
- The focus on family-based care…CAFO previewed a documentary called “A World Without Orphans” which talks about the need for children to have a family… “Children don’t need a house, they need a family…they don’t need an institution, they need a home.” amen.
- Josh Shipp – a guy who grew up hopping from one foster parent to the next until at the age of 14 when he found his home in an unlikely family who wouldn’t give up on him. He was sarcastic, angry and determined to outsmart his teachers and foster parents. His quote, “Every kid is one caring adult away from being a success story” is true of himself now speaking to teens and adults with teens on his story and how his life was turned around. Josh has spoken from Harvard to Oprah and named to INC Magazine’s 30 under 30 of successful entrepreneurs. Amazing story!
- Of course the best part of the week was the time spent with good friends with similar hearts to put a dent in the orphan crisis.
Until next year…