Category Archives: Orphan Care

Outreach to orphans in the United States and around the world

Beauty Compounded

We knew this was good.

We handed tools to children living in an orphanage in the middle of China and told them You are uniquely made. You are capable. Live it out and let us celebrate the beauty you create and you are. 

We knew this was good.

We handed tools to children living in an orphanage in South China in a public park, before a crowd of passerby, and told them You are uniquely made. You are capable. Live it out and let us celebrate the beauty you create and you are. 

We admired their choices of color and willingness to try something new and something kind of hard. We praised the ayis who teach them to make and pointed out how good they are at what they do. We collectively marveled over how God made us to be beauty-makers like Him.

We trusted the good wasn’t finished when those weeks in the orphanages were over. We left with great expectation of good things growing, of beauty compounded.

An art exhibit isn’t the end goal to do that; but it one tangible way we get to see it happen. A few of their pieces were displayed as masterpieces along with their sweet faces, and the team of people marveling grew from 15 to literally hundreds. And, I took pictures of their pictures and sent them back to those same ayis and said, “Look at what your children can do because of what you do!”

So, so good.

In My Heart Forever {China Trip}

I’m home.  And I’ve been awake since 3am thanks to jet lag.  I gave up trying to fall back to sleep at 4:30am, and finally got out of bed.  With the children from the orphanage taking over my dreams, and their precious little faces dancing across my closed eyelids, I knew it was a lost cause.  While everyone else on this side of the world rests, I am wrestling with what I experienced and captured through my camera this past week.

Thinking of the children and the reality of their daily lives brings me to my knees.  While I can drink coffee without boiling water first, and write a blog post without a sometimes-working, buggy VPN, the children are most likely finishing up dinner halfway across the world.  While I will soon hug and kiss my beloved little ones good morning, and tell them how much I love them, the children will prepare for bedtime with no mama and baba to tuck them in and tell them how much they are adored and so very worthy.  While they sleep, my day will carry on in the peace and warm serenity of my home and church, surrounded by my treasured family and friends.  And some variation of my comfortable life will play out every day while the children in the orphanage remain inexplicably grateful and joyful and happy, despite all that they’re missing.

The incredible disparity of our worlds is almost too much to fathom.

I was invited into a community of His people that I didn’t know before.  A community that’s real, even though it’s easy to ignore because it seems so distant and far away.  A small community of His children who are hurting and longing for mamas and babas of their very own.  A community of His nannies who give their very best every day to help the children live and grow.  But even their very best simply isn’t enough because there are too many children and not enough of them.  Because nothing replaces the love and belonging of a family.

I think of precious Wayland and the way the Father literally put him in front of me, despite my ability to remain emotionally unattached behind my lens.  My job as photographer makes it easy to observe from a distance.  It’s a role that I’m comfortable playing because it allows me to stay focused and complete the task at hand.  It’s the role that I signed up for when I said yes to this trip – to document our time and bring home pictures of waiting children to help them find families.

Though I wanted to be open to what the Father had waiting for me during this trip, I did not expect to fall as hard as I did.  He wrecked me.  Not just for Wayland, but for all of the children.  For the nannies.  Although I was the designated photographer on the trip, the Father used the short time in mighty ways to show me why I was really on that trip.  Despite myself, I got to see a small glimpse of His love for all of His children.  To understand what’s truly important.  Not medical diagnoses or adoption files or questioning whether a nanny is feeding children the right way.

But people.  Loving people is what’s important.  No matter their status or special need.  Orphan, nanny, or otherwise.  That’s what He wanted me to see.  Because the Father wants all of us to be adopted as His sons and daughters.  And He’ll use anyone to accomplish His mission, if we just humbly offer ourselves to be available.

As Mike Foster wrote in his book, People of the Second Chance, “Bring what you have, no matter what it looks like.  His standards are embarrassingly low, and he will work with everything you’re willing to put into his hands.  You are imperfect, but you can be perfectly loved and perfectly used by him.” (pg. 30)  I’m resting in that truth this morning.  As I reflect on this past week and try my hardest to make good on my promise to Wayland, my prayer is that He perfectly loves and uses me and all of my team members, despite our imperfectness.

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NicoleNicole is a daughter to the King and a wife to an amazing man. She is a classical homeschooling mama to four, by birth and adoption. She is a part-time newborn photographer, a founder and adoption photographer at Red Thread Sessions, a contributing blogger at No Hands But Ours and an advocate of orphan care and adoption. When she’s not with her family or behind her camera, she loves to blog, create, give life to old furniture, spend time at the beach and read. She strives to live her life to glorify our Heavenly Father.  With His love, all things are possible.

Art for Ayis

I had an idea.

I was up early this morning, making a list and checking it twice. But, this list wasn’t a Christmas list; it was the list of gifts we are taking to China when we leave on January 6th. We’re heading to South China on this trip, to an orphanage in Guangdong province that has never had a team there before.

It’s considered a small orphanage with about 150 children in their care. And, while they are not new to adoption, they haven’t placed many kids until now. But, they’re partners with a good agency now and are on board with making children paper ready, even kids they thought were too old or too sick or too something. And, we get to go in and encourage them in what they are doing.

As I was counting out the gifts for ayis and the ladies who work in the office and the directors and the foster moms, I had an idea. Wouldn’t it be neat to give them something from a child adopted from China? Something that sends the message that children adopted from China are okay and that what they do to serve those kids now matters…wouldn’t that be great?

I’ve come to discover that good ideas don’t always come at convenient times. And, today is hardly a convenient day as mamas everywhere are scurrying around to Target for stocking stuffers and making cookies for class parties and using up all their Scotch tape wrapping boxes. But, some things are worth some inconvenience. This might be one of those things.

Here’s what we need:

a piece of artwork on card stock, an index card, or watercolor paper no larger than 5″x8″
a printed photo of the artist with his or her name written on the back, the year he or she was adopted and from where (e.g., “Sam Smith, adopted from Guangzhou in 2010”)

Mail no later than December 31st for an arrival of no later than January 4th to:

The Sparrow Fund Art for Ayis
124 3rd Ave
Phoenixville PA 19460

Questions? Email us. Help us bless these people and magnify the good.

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Want to do more? You can.
Order a few of the supplies from our wish list for us to take with us.
Order an Oh Happy Day shirt and wear it with us on the first day we serve on Monday, January 9th.
Sign up to pray for the team HERE.
Find out a bit more about joining a future team.

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Kelly founded The Sparrow Fund along with her husband Mark in 2011. She works alongside Mark in his full-time purposeful work in China and works part time as a therapist at the Attachment & Bonding Center of PA, Kelly has a particular interest in (a) encouraging parents who are struggling to attach with their children, (b) helping parents walk with their children in understanding their own stories, (c) helping couples continue to pursue each other and grow together while they parent their children as a team, and (d) training and supporting orphanage staff in China to build relationships with children and each other. Kelly and Mark have been married since 1998 and have 3 biological children and 1 daughter who was adopted as a toddler from China in 2010. You can learn more about their journey on Kelly’s blog.

A Beautiful Girl

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They told me she was introverted, easygoing, compliant. They told me that she gets sad sometimes but that she is easily comforted when her nanny, who clearly cares for her well, explains right and wrong. They told me that she can write her Chinese characters quite well, that her receptive knowledge is good, that her expression is okay. They told me she is good at math compared to other children in her class. And, they told me she really likes music and dancing and that she is remarkably talented.

I nodded my head and smiled. I believed them. Sure, I’m sure she enjoys music and likes to dance. And, it was endearing to hear her nanny say that she was talented in dancing…so sweet.

And, then they asked if I’d like her to show us.

This little girl hasn’t had her papers submitted yet. She has Down Syndrome, they told me, as if when I heard the words I’d agree that she would not be wanted.

She has Down Syndrome. And, she is beautiful and marvelous in every way. And, oh, how I hope that someone has room in their family for her. If you think you might, let us know. We’d love to talk to you about how to make that happen.

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Kelly-NHBO1-150x150

Kelly founded The Sparrow Fund along with her husband Mark in 2011. She works alongside Mark in his full-time purposeful work in China and works part time as a therapist at the Attachment & Bonding Center of PA, Kelly has a particular interest in (a) encouraging parents who are struggling to attach with their children, (b) helping parents walk with their children in understanding their own stories, (c) helping couples continue to pursue each other and grow together while they parent their children as a team, and (d) training and supporting orphanage staff in China to build relationships with children and each other. Kelly and Mark have been married since 1998 and have 3 biological children and 1 daughter who was adopted as a toddler from China in 2010. You can learn more about their journey and the October orphanage trip on Kelly’s blog.

Serving the Servants

We didn’t come simply to hold babies.

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We didn’t come simply to play with cute toddlers with pigtails.

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We didn’t come simply to pat older children on the back and sing EIEIO.

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We didn’t come simply to assess waiting children so that when their papers pop up somewhere, we’re ready to help find families for them. All of that is good, very good.

We desired to do even more. We came for this. We came to serve those who serve. everyday. those who are paid little to do the most significant work. who are simply called “working staff” and are often criticized for not doing enough while they work in a system that often doesn’t support much more. We came to bless them.

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It took much less time than we anticipated for curiosity and uncertainty to become eagerness to be vulnerable and pleasure to become honored guests of ours.

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As children toddled around us and looked on, we washed the hands that serve. We spoke to each woman as we did, in words many of them did not understand and yet somehow understood.

You work so hard at what you do. You are so good with the children. Look how much she wants to be close to you. You are so important to her and to this place. We are so thankful for you. 

We saw a lot of smiles, more than we had ever seen there before. And, everything just seemed somehow brighter and lighter. What had felt like them and us just felt more like we, all women honoring each other and serving together for big big things…a spirit that was contagious.

Their smiles and sense of honor must be contagious too because all of us can’t stop smiling and feel like we were the ones served.

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Kelly-NHBO1-150x150

Kelly founded The Sparrow Fund along with her husband Mark in 2011. She works alongside Mark in his full-time purposeful work in China and works part time as a therapist at the Attachment & Bonding Center of PA, Kelly has a particular interest in (a) encouraging parents who are struggling to attach with their children, (b) helping parents walk with their children in understanding their own stories, (c) helping couples continue to pursue each other and grow together while they parent their children as a team, and (d) training and supporting orphanage staff in China to build relationships with children and each other. Kelly and Mark have been married since 1998 and have 3 biological children and 1 daughter who was adopted as a toddler from China in 2010. You can learn more about their journey and the October orphanage trip on Kelly’s blog.

Glimpses from Oh Happy Day Day 2016

While we sported our shirts on the first happy day serving, you did too.

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Even some furry friends wore their colors for us.

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As we finished out our first happy day, it sure did encourage all of us to see your pictures and read your words cheering us on.

Oh Happy Day Day 2016 was a big international success.

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So much a success that we’re celebrating again on January 9th when we have our first day at another orphanage in Guangzhou!

Head over here and order your Oh Happy Day shirt to support our programs and so that you’re all ready for the next Oh Happy Day Day.

OH HAPPY DAY Day {October 24th}

It’s officially countdown time. One week from Wednesday our team of students, doctors, teachers, advocates, and lay people will meet up in Chicago and get on a plane for a very long time. We will have one full day in Beijing and then a travel day to Xian before we drive another few hours by van to the city where we are serving. On Monday the 23rd, we will load into a white van with a driver who can only say “Hello? Hello? Hello? Howareyou?” in English. We’ll wind through busy streets where Mercedes drive beside old bikes pulling trailers of vegetables we don’t recognize, all of them honking at each other to make themselves known. We’ll take deep breaths as we pull up to a big accordion gate where we will be waved through. And, there we will start Day 1 at the orphanage.

We’re almost there.

There will be 15 of us in that van behind our driver friend wearing OH HAPPY DAY shirts. But, our team is so many more than that. There are literally hundreds of people a part of this team–financial donors, doll makers, art supply buyers, parents who sent pictures of their children to show the staff who cared for them, children who participated in sticker drives so that we could cover little fingers and hands with kitty cats and smiley faces, women who donated hand scrubs and instadry nail polishes. The 15 in that van are just the ones who actually get to GO.

As we enter into those gates on Monday the 24th, we want to do it as a Team with a capital T not just as our little team. We’re setting something up so that we can do that–something we have declared OH HAPPY DAY Day.

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On Monday the 24th, our team will be donning our blue OH HAPPY DAY shirts as we go. We’re asking that you join us in your OH HAPPY DAY shirt. Think of us, pray for us, be one of us as you wear it. Maybe even share a selfie with #ohhappyday to give us that reminder that you’re with us as we go. We’ll be hopping online as a team looking for those pics to encourage us at the end of our first day. We’d love to see yours among them.

Need a shirt still? Order yours HERE, making sure to give us your first and second choice of colors since we’re getting a bit low in stock.

Want another way to come with us? Sign up to pray for us HERE. We’ll send out some prompts this week to get you started. Want to go even deeper? Order a guided prayer kit that will guide you through 5 different activities to help you engage with God in creative ways specifically focusing on the needs of China’s orphans.

Beyond Folded Hands {a guided prayer kit to take orphans to the throne of God}

I’m not an artist. I’m better with words. At least, that’s what I’ve always believed, that’s what I’ve always told myself. I feel at home with a pen in my hand. It’s familiar and comfortable. I know what to do with it, and I am confident that the ink on the page will eventually produce something I can be content with. But, a paintbrush, not all that different in size and shape from my pen, feels utterly foreign and somehow makes me feel like a child again. That’s how this project started.

There’s no technically correct art. No syntax, grammar, logic, spelling. No thesis statement or 5 paragraphs. Art is free expression, spontaneous and authentic expression. Perhaps that freedom is what unnerves me. I prefer rules and order. But when I embrace that freedom, I am able to see things that all my rules and definition block out. I am able to pay attention to things that are often silenced.

Last spring, I started talking to Erin Leigh. I asked her to help me. I asked her to help me discover how I could use artistic expression that I knew made me weak to engage with God in new ways. I wanted to learn how to pray beyond folded hands and closed eyes. It was risky and scary, but I loved it. It was good, and I wanted to share it and bring others with me.

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Months later, Creative Conversations With the Creator is the result. It’s a kit that comes with an 8-page guidebook and everything you need to complete the various activities in the guide, including a quality watercolor palette and brush, pens, practice sheets, watercolor paper, a photograph focal point, and beautiful artwork by Erin Leigh created exclusively for this kit. Using the pieces included, you are invited to learn new ways to engage with God and put them into practice through projects that build on each other to bring the fatherless to the Father. Included is even an opportunity to return a piece to us to be handed as a gift to a child in China who waits.

Valued at approximately $50, we are making it available for those who make a suggested donation of at least $45 to The Sparrow Fund. If you are local and would like to pick up your kit, the suggested donation is $35. Donations beyond the cost of producing the kits will be used to fund orphan care initiatives in China. Get your kit now while supplies last HERE. We are so excited to link arms with you as we go deeper together.

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Kelly-NHBO1-150x150

Kelly founded The Sparrow Fund along with her husband Mark in 2011. She works alongside Mark in his full-time purposeful work in China and works part time as a therapist at the Attachment & Bonding Center of PA, Kelly has a particular interest in (a) encouraging parents who are struggling to attach with their children, (b) helping parents walk with their children in understanding their own stories, (c) helping couples continue to pursue each other and grow together while they parent their children as a team, and (d) training and supporting orphanage staff in China to build relationships with children and each other. Kelly and Mark have been married since 1998 and have 3 biological children and 1 daughter who was adopted as a toddler from China in 2010. You can learn more about their journey on Kelly’s blog.

OH HAPPY DAY shirts

oh happy day shirts collage 670 wide

Our most perfect design yet.

Inspired by the Chinese boys hosted in the Philadelphia area who sang this song over and over everyday after hearing it on their first Sunday in America.

They sang the words. Now, we’re wearing them.
Remembering the boys and all the boys and girls they represent as we do.

 All proceeds from sales of this shirt will go towards funding our orphan care initiatives.
our orphanage trips. supplies and gifts. new programs.

Details:

Shirts come in adult and youth sizes. The adult shirts are our favorite shirt ever— a super, super soft tri-blend. The youth sizes are a cotton/poly blend that is really comfy for even the most sensitive kiddos. Adult sizes come in heather grey, denim blue, or teal. Youth sizes come in heather grey, denim blue, or bright pink.

How to get some for yourself:

  • Complete the short form HERE with your name, mailing address, how many shirts you want in what sizes/colors, and all that good stuff.
  • Pay for them ($20 per shirt plus shipping) via sending money to mraudenbush@sparrow-fund.org through your PayPal account (FYI – it’s the account for The Sparrow Fund, not a personal account…promise) or by donating via clicking the donate button on this website.
  • Share, tweet, and text using hashtag #ohhappyday to help us spread the word about these super cute first day of school or birthday or adoption day or casual Friday shirts (this one is optional, of course, but most appreciated).

Climbing to Find Beauty

I write this in honor of the precious foster mom who gave me a rare gift, and for others like her, who have loved children that no one else has seen, and have believed that there is beauty to be unlocked and discovered as we journey upwards and press in for their restoration.

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She sat at the table with me, frantically biting her nails. It was her nervous habit. And she was a very nervous child, slow to trust anyone—because her trust had been brutally, severely broken by one who was supposed to keep her safe.

He buried his head in his arms, attempting to hide his shame. He was ten, and he could not read. The book I sat on the table was like a knife, threatening to cut through him. His younger, learning-to-read years had been a storm of abuse and neglect, and letter names and sounds had gotten lost in his trial. Now he felt he could never learn.

Her arms bore scares, all up and down. The hurt in her teenage heart was more than she could deal with, and so it spilled out. And she afflicted her own frame.

She missed her two sisters, born of different fathers, but sharing her mother’s blood. She hadn’t seen them in years. Fatherlessness had separated them. Her mother and father had forsaken her, and worthlessness hung over her soul like a plague.

He threw tantrums. His five-year-old body would flail as his piercing screams sounded. He was a heavy burden that most couldn’t handle—because not many understood that he’d been the only eye witness to a violent crime, and this little boy didn’t know how to manage his inner storm that relentlessly surged.

Their harsh, orphaned histories have left them scarred children. What was meant to shine with beauty has been buried.

And is it possible to unearth what was smothered so severely? Darkness holds them back in the shadows—but can their miserable hearts ever shine again?

Has the dream God held in His heart when He knit together that one been lost forever?

We’ve maybe heard that orphans (or foster kids, as we call them in America) have tough behaviors. And truth is, a lot of them do. But on the backdrop, behind that difficult behavior, is a hard story that has forged who they are and how they now carry themselves.

Does the Father see an irreparable child—or does He see hope, waiting to be watered? Does He shield Himself, or does He come up close to the wild and withered one?

Do we see what God sees?

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I remember sitting with a fatherless girl one day. I’d sat before her more times than I could count. She’d forged strong walls to protect what had been deeply hurt by those who were meant to love her. Her life told stories of rejection and loss, and now she held back her heart, and even tested me, waiting for—even expecting—me to reject her, too. After all, history does repeat itself, right?

She wouldn’t let anyone in. She didn’t want to talk. She didn’t want help.

But on this day, for the first time, I saw her heart crack open, just a little. It was an out-of-the-blue moment. We sat together on a park bench, silent, when suddenly she spilled out one of her aches in a sullen, matter-of-fact tone. Hurt and shame mingled as she spoke. She showed me a vulnerable place that lay behind her walls—and she let me in. One of the layers that had sealed her closed heart started to peel, like one fragile petal finally gathering courage to unfold. And I saw into her. There was a small, glorious break in her wall—and when that little window raised a crack, I spoke a sentence of truth into her. A sliver of light shone in to pain’s darkness, and it chiseled away a tiny piece of her hardness. And a beauty long-buried started to seep out, even just a little. It was a truth that no one had ever spoken to her before, one that put her head on tilt, and she considered whether or not she could believe the cleansing words; for they were so foreign to her muddied thoughts.

Their lives hold a mystery. A gift beautiful, but hidden.

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Their broken, hardened hearts are like shoots waiting to open, hidden atop rugged mountains—like the wild flowers that grow in places high and remote, whose beauty is seen only by their Creator who planted them… and by anyone else willing to climb, to ascend steep places, to put a hand right on a jagged edge that might cut, to take a risk, and to scale up some cliffs.

I know moms and dads, mentors, and teachers who’ve embraced these orphaned hearts. And I’ve had the gift of watching love’s labor move up, up, up… wearied, aching, but believing that there is beauty to be opened and uncovered on the journey. Hurt comes with the climb, hearts bleed, wounds cut deep; but if we don’t give up, if we keep on, if we keep reaching toward them in love—even when they turn us away, again—maybe we’ll discover that beauty waits to be found, that the imprisoned soul can be set free, that there’s healing for the broken heart after all—and maybe one day, the glory of the view from up top will outweigh the challenges of the climb.

It’s a miracle— a move of Heaven, reaching the Earth.

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In some ways, these orphaned ones are just like us. God is the Healer of the broken—and we are all broken.

We, too, were once orphaned. We were without hope, without God, without a Father. We needed a rescue. An adoption.

And the Father reached out through His Son, who poured out His life… so that we could have life.

God in flesh journeyed up, for us. He ascended Calvary’s hill—which, though only a hill, proved to be the world’s tallest of mountains. He climbed, wearied, with cross upon His bleeding back, because He knew there was a beauty buried which would never be uncovered unless He set His face toward the summit at Golgotha.

Blood dripped down like water, quenching a parched and broken world. And from the top of Calvary, beauty would grow, and life would spring forth. For on that mountain, and around that cross, once-orphaned hearts would gather for eternity—there finding life, gaining freedom, receiving healing, and touching a power that would open them, one fragile petal at a time… until we at last, as mature flowers atop the hill, fully behold the brightness of the Son.

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So who will go on a journey to find the beauty that’s hidden away in a child’s broken story, reserved for those willing and courageous enough to make a laborious ascent, to carry a cross, and to pour themselves out?

What hope is there for them if the Church, the very carriers of His Spirit, doesn’t embrace them? The world cannot deliver these children. But we know the Man who can heal them.

Will we reach to see what God sees? That flower that no one has ever noticed on the top of the mountain, that one that’s never been given chance to bloom—will you notice that one?

Will you reach to believe that God, truly, has not asked the broken one to stay in his brokenness?

Can we really believe that He is Healer? That child, whose beauty has been buried, whose fatherless face is lost in a sea of millions of other orphaned ones—will you see and pray and believe for, that one?

Beauty 5Lying beneath an orphan’s anguish-tainted story, buried under the dark eyes, tough behaviors, and hopeless countenance, there is something lovely. And those who are willing to scale rough and rocky edges, and even to let their hearts bleed, will find Him there. He still has a dream for that child. He’s already on top of the mountain, full of unfailing hope. He sees the possibilities of beauty that can be uncovered if only we will join His heart in the climb, and keep climbing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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thurlow-55-e1421354870495Kinsey is a follower Jesus, a wife to her Husband, Jon, and advocate for the fatherless. She and husband have worked in full-ministry at the International House of Prayer in Kansas City, MS for the last decade. Through the years, she has spent time among the fatherless and currently works with internationally adopted children as a teacher and with America’s foster children as a mentor, tutor, Bible teacher, and friend. You can join her and her husband via webcast every Friday at 10 AM at http://www.ihopkc.org/PRAYERROOM/ for weekly prayer meetings for the fatherless at IHOPKC. Kinsey also blogs regularly at http://jonandkinsey.com/