Don Stoffel is a long-time friend and board member at Bethesda Outreach. He and his wife, Fran have come from New York State to Bethesda and given of their time and abilities to benefit Bethesda for several months each year. They have encouraged many in their local church to become more aware of and involved in the local community with regards to vulnerable children. In addition, they also host an annual (HUGE) garage sale out of their home with the proceeds benefitting Bethesda Outreach. This was their report on their recent trip to the CAFO conference.
This year’s Christian Alliance for Orphans Summit was hosted by the members of Stonebriar Community Church, in Frisco, Texas, where Chuck Swindoll is the Senior Pastor. The Summit consisted of General Sessions with music, worship, and outstanding guest speakers. Between the general sessions, there were workshops on a wide variety of topics as well as an area for exhibitors to set up displays advertising their respective ministry, company, or organizations.
The theme for this year focused on the question, “What matters most?” My wife and I targeted workshops concerning local church ministries serving foster and adoptive children and families, how to start and grow a foster care movement, and how to build a church culture where caring for the fatherless comes naturally. We also learned about collaborating with state and local government agencies to resolve the foster care crisis here in our area. We attended a workshop on Trust-Based Relational Intervention (TBRI) strategies that deals with children affected by trauma from abuse and neglect that was presented by instructors from the Karen Purvis Institute of Child Development at Texas Christian University. That session reinforced the TBRI training we attended during a two-day simulcast in April this year. There was a Navy Doctor representing the Center for Disease Control in Atlanta and she addressed issues causing the orphan epidemic like HIV/Aids and the opioid crisis.
One of the big takeaways for us was the fellowship with like-minded Christians from around the world who are all striving for the same goal: spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ while caring for His children. In the first general session, we were told to check our egos and our logos at the door. The Summit wasn’t about whose ministry was the best, or even whose company has the latest and greatest new app or gimmick. It was about over two thousand people from around the world, coming together to share their stories of success and failure, and to seek solutions to common problems, all for the honor and glory of God.
Fran and I were chosen to represent Western New York as regional Orphan Sunday coordinators. We attended the special coordinators luncheon on Thursday where we met the CAFO Orphan Sunday Leadership Team and spent time with the other coordinators from around the world. This year, Orphan Sunday is November, 11th.
Since arriving home from the Summit, we have moved forward with a foster and orphan ministry in our home church in Marilla, NY. It is called Every-Child, and is a collaboration of churches, organizations and government agencies working together to give children a safe, permanent home with parents who will love and care for them. It also works to provide wraparound support for foster and adoptive families; Fran and I are leading that ministry. You can view the website at http://every-child.com/
Next year, the CAFO Summit will be held in Louisville, Kentucky and it is well worth the time and expense to attend.