We feel God has enriched our lives beyond our imagination and feel that everything we have has been given to us by God. Thus, OH4F was born out of very unique set of circumstances in our personal lives that led us to the desire to live our lives and treat everything we have not with a tight fist, hanging on to earthly possessions as ours, but with Open Hands, saying, "God, this is yours, use us!"
Earlier this year, in April 2011, Aron and I traveled to China for the adoption of our daughter, Gracia. While we visited her orphanage, one thing struck us. There was another child in her crib only 2 days after Gracia left it! The thought occured to us right then, that although Gracia is no longer an orphan, there are many, many more orphans in the world that need their basic needs met. There are many children living on the streets with no hope. As we returned home from the wonderful trip to China, our hearts became burdened for the fatherless and felt the call to love the orphans in the world.
Meanwhile, we had been reading and studying God's Word on wealth and materialism. We never thought WE were MATERIALISTIC! Yet, the more we examined our lives and our "To-Do Lists", we saw how it revolved our ourselves, and usually only ourselves. Sure, we gave gifts and donated to many good causes, but it was never sacrificial, and certainly not relational. We began to realize how we left the true Christian walk in exchange for the pursuit of the American Dream, with all our comforts, nice houses, nice cars, too much food, wasteful use of water. It began to disturb us, which now, looking back in hindsight, was a catalyst to the beginning of OH4F.
Combined with the prompting to care for the abandoned and orphaned children in the world, we began to research possibilities to set up a foundation. One day, Aron was listening to K-LOVE. They were advertising for The Global Oprhan Project (GO). It sparked our interest as this particular organization had come up before through a conversation with a family member, but at the time we didn't think that was what we were looking for. So we put it aside in our minds and kept pursuing other avenues. Over time, this single advertisement on K-LOVE led to us signing up for one of GO's Vision Trips. The more we learned what GO's goals and vision are, the more we caught that vision and knew this was exactly where God was leading us.
Fast forward to December 2011, Aron, Laura, and our 7 year old son, Gabriel, left to go to Haiti, with Global Orphan Project. Words cannot describe what we experienced, our lives were so deeply touched by the love all the children showed to US! We thought we were going there to love on the children, but we received so much more! It was unforgetable. We went with a team of 15 random people who also shared the same heart for the orphaned of the world. We went for 5 days, visiting 3 different orphanges, bringing love to the children, holding them as they fell asleep in our arms, playing games, teaching English, doing crafts, singing, worshiping with the local Haitian church, meeting the pastors who facilitate the orphanges. Our son, Gabriel, performed magic shows for all the children and they all loved it!
We saw firsthand how their model of ministry worked! They built orphanges in the poorest areas of the world, all connected to a local church, and built a school for the children, eventually setting up local businesses to help facilitate the self-sufficiency of the children as the grow and for local Haitian people. They truly have a vision for the forgotten children of the world!
As we returned home, Laura asked one of the co-leaders, Brad, how he guarded himself from returning to the "old ways" of living in American culture. We all felt changed from the last 5 days. I think he knew I was struggling with materialism and the divide between living the American Dream and following Christ, how in contrast to each other they are, how I've become luke warm in faith, and complacent in following Christ. We talked for a while about how it's not "evil" to have "wealth," in fact, many heroes of the Christian faith had wealth, i.e. Abraham, Lot, Job, even the Israelites were wealthy. Brad said something to me that has since changed my perspective, something nobody has ever explained to me before, and something that lead to the name of Open Hands 4 the Fatherless.
Brad took his fists, held them in a tight ball against his chest, and said, "Laura, I think it's matter of the heart, if you hold all your wealth, your treasures, like this, with a tight fist, thinking everything you "earn" is "yours" or if you view wealth like this....with OPEN HANDS!" He opened his hands from the tight fist they were in.
As we landed in Kansas City, we knew our experiences weren't going to end the moment we stepped foot off the airplane. Upon returning to a whirlwhind of a week , I caught up on journaling and processing everything we experienced in Haiti. I was recalling my conversation with Brad about not holding onto our material possessions with a tight fist, but with Open Hands, and I wrote, "how I long to live my life and everything we've been given, our home, our children, my spouse, my life open handed with an open heart to whatever God is whispering to the soul of my heart, I want my Hands to be Open for God to use me! USE ME LORD!" I have never heard it put that way before, and it all makes sense now! Aron and I know the road ahead could be challenging, but as Adrien Lewis (GO Leader) states, "Difficult, yeah, but possible." A new, fresh perspective.
3 months ago, I was hanging on to earthly possessions with a tight fist, our business, our home, our kids. 3 months ago, I would never willingly give it up, the people and the things most precious to me, and now, I can honestly say I would. 3 months ago, I was caught up in getting the next thing that caught my eye, whether it was the newest handbag, pair of shoes, duvet cover, etc. My attitudes were rubbing off on my children as they desired to have new toys everyday, and it was a constant battle to say no to every impulsive desire they had for new things, just like their mother. The heart was never satisfied and always wanted more.
Now, as I am beginning to realize what's going on, I'm slowly changing things in our lives. Aron and I have evaluated what we spend money on, especially frivilous spending, in all areas and are finding ways to cut down. We're simply watching what we buy, figuring out what we can get by without, and evaluating what's a need vs what's a want. Sure, I've had slip-ups, and splurged on a few things since, but it's coming to this point of a surrendering that I feel God can only begin to use me.
Today, we bring what we experienced back home. We returned the week before Christmas, which brought many opportunities to share our stories with people we came in contact with in our community. The fire started to burn in our hearts. We felt a strong conviction that our story isn't ending here. God was moving!
Aron had already started to think about a name for our foundation prior to us going to Haiti. He even desinged a logo for it. But as I returned home from my grandfathers funeral in WI, after I had a chance to sit and reflect on the many conversations we had throughout the last 2 weeks while in Haiti, I approached Aron about changing the name to Open Hands, Open Hearts. The next day, Aron researched a little bit and found there was an organization already with that name. So we threw different names out in the air one evening. Aron's name previously was Foundations for the Fatherless, and we combined the two, creating OPEN HANDS 4 the FATHERLESS!
Ironically, the Bible verse the Haitian pastor preached on was found in Matthew 6. Brad reached over to me as vs.33 said, "Seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness, and all these thinigs will be given to you as well." The night before during our group devotional time, I taught the group the song "Seek Ye First." But as I read further, Matthew 6 is Jesus talking about Treasures in Heaven and wealth and material possessions. Verse 21 really hit home for me....
"Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven...for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." Matthew 6:19-21
- written by our co-founder Laura McReynolds