Posted 7/22/14 at 10:37 AM | Bill Blacquiere
Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these – Mark 10:14
If you’ve been following the news the past couple of weeks, you’ve surely heard about the thousands of refugee children currently housed at the U.S. border. And yes, I deliberately use the word refugee rather than immigrant as I believe it’s an important distinction to make. Merriam-Webster defines a refugee as someone who flees to escape danger, which is exactly what these children are doing.
I’ve personally spoken to children from this part of the world who have told me about the bleak realities of their home countries—boys who describe their options as either joining a gang and risk being killed by a rival gang member or being killed for refusing to join in the first place—and girls who are afraid to leave the house because they face being taken from their schools and held for ransom their parents cannot afford to pay or to be raped and forced into other illegal activities by these gang members. FULL POST
Posted 7/17/14 at 11:49 AM | Bill Blacquiere
A pig and a chicken were walking down the road. They came upon a church sign which was advertising a fellowship breakfast that weekend: “Ham and eggs will be served from 8:00am-10:00am.” The chicken turned to the pig and exclaimed, "Well isn’t that wonderful! Even farm animals like us can help the work of the church!” "Yes," said the pig, "but yours is only a contribution. Mine is a total sacrifice.” That funny little story about the pig illustrates a serious biblical truth –that Jesus really does call his followers to give up everything (Luke 14:33). But how do we live that out? One practical way is to prayerfully consider giving anything we “own” back to God to bless our church or ministries. Find the full story here with more information on how you can create a legacy using your stock, real estate, retirement assets, life insurance, and business interests. FULL POST
Posted 7/15/14 at 8:09 PM | Bill Blacquiere
I recently had the privilege of speaking with Jim Wallis, President and founder of Sojourners, a Christian organization committed to faith in action for social justice, Jim Wallis is also the author of “On God’s Side: What Religion Forgets and Politics Hasn’t Learned about Serving the Common Good,” a New York Times best seller. That book encourages Christians to love their neighbors and thereby serve the common good. Jim believes the good news of Jesus not only transforms our personal but also our public lives.
Our own work to help the “least of these” is a model for family, church and community— our mission directly ties to the common good of people who have been marginalized--expectant parents, unborn children, refugees, youth who age out of the foster care system—strengthening families.
We perform better and produce more as one body than we do just in our individual work. It’s important that each of us keeps this in mind every day as we carry out our work responsibilities, whether we be staff, board members or leaders.
Posted 7/10/14 at 2:53 PM | Bill Blacquiere |
When people hear the name of the organization I lead, Bethany Christian Services, they immediately think adoption, and for good reason. What began in 1944 as a home-based effort to care for orphans grew into an accredited agency that has placed more than 40,000 children into loving, adoptive families. Along the way, however, we have established ourselves as a global leader in child and family services. In addition to adoptions—13,000 internationally—we work with governments and communities in 14 countries providing a range of services aimed at protecting vulnerable children and keeping families together. Recently, we launched Bethany Global Consulting Services which we believe will enable us to do an even better job of improving the lives of those children and families.
Posted 7/8/14 at 12:40 PM | Bill Blacquiere
Pro-life advocates can be encouraged that the abortion rate in the United Sates has now been in significant decline for decades.1 As individuals, organizations, and agencies continue to educate others and promote life for any child, understanding why this decline has occurred could be important to ensuring our continued efforts are as effective as possible.
Consider the views expressed by Charlotte Lozier Institute Adjunct Scholar Dr. Michael New. Recently, a Guttmacher Institute report attributed the decline in abortion rate to increased use of contraception. Dr. New contributed to an article to National Review Online that analyzes that report, contending that data suggesting the drop is due merely because contraception is weak and that “pro-life efforts to change the hearts and minds of women facing crisis pregnancies might be more effective than commonly realized.” His views, which draw on a detailed analysis of the favorable trend in abortion rates by Susan Wills, J.D., that CLI recently published drew a response from Kevin Drum at Mother Jones. FULL POST
Posted 7/3/14 at 9:06 AM | Bill Blacquiere |
We all know that interpersonal conflicts can wreak havoc on businesses and corporations, but Christian organizations sail along in peace and harmony, right? I can almost see your eyes rolling. If you work for a church or other faith-based non-profit, you know that conflict not only exists, but often impairs our effectiveness in serving others in the name of Christ.
I’d like to think the organization I lead, Bethany Christian Services, has a stellar record when it comes to conflict, but my guess is that our performance in this important area is about the same as it is with every other business or non-profit. According to at least one report, the typical manager in an organization spends from 25 to 40 percent of his or her time dealing with workplace conflicts. That’s practically 1 day a week of patching up differences between people rather than focusing on the mission of the organization. Knowing that—and experiencing it—led us to deliberately address this problem of unresolved conflict through a program called the Coach Peace Initiative. FULL POST
Posted 7/1/14 at 12:35 PM | Bill Blacquiere
Few organizations have done as much for refugees as our friends at the Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (LIRS--www.lirs.org). For 75 years they have worked tirelessly to create a “culture of welcome” for hundreds of thousands of men, women, and children who have been forced from their homeland, often due to wars and ethnic or religious persecution. The organization I lead, Bethany Christian Services, has partnered with LIRS for the past 10 years, and through our work together I have grown to respect and admire their commitment to the biblical mandate to “show hospitality to strangers” (Hebrews 13:2, NIV).
Unfortunately, not everyone appreciates our shared efforts to help refugees enter our communities to pursue productive lives. Frequently people ask me, “Why are you helping to relocate Muslims into America?” In a recent conversation with my friend Mark Stutrud, who is the Board Chair of LIRS as well as CEO of Lutheran Social Services of Michigan, I posed that very question to him. You can hear his answer here, along with his thoughts on a variety of topics related to refugees. For example, do you know how our government decides who to let into our country as refugees? Or what happens to unaccompanied minors who enter our country? With up to 70,000 refugees landing on our shores annually, I’m grateful for the leading role LIRS plays in demonstrating the love of Christ to these new neighbors. FULL POST
Posted 6/26/14 at 10:22 AM | Bill Blacquiere
Today’s blog post is contributed by Marjie Dood, Chief Financial Officer and Executive Vice President of Administration for Bethany Christian Services
Like a lot of working moms, I sometimes struggled with my decision to continue in my career, leaving my children in someone else’s care. Was I really providing my kids a loving, Christian family environment if I went to work every day? I was torn. Though I wanted to be home with my children I also enjoyed my work in the banking industry. And did God really want me to use a master’s degree from Northwestern University’s Kellogg Graduate School of Business to change diapers and tie shoelaces? I thought often about quitting my job, but I wasn’t sure if that was really God’s plan for me.
And then …
By the time our third child arrived, my bank was sold, my position eliminated, and I became a full-time, stay-at-home mom. God made His plan for me crystal clear.
Just as I loved my career, I thoroughly loved being a stay-at-home mom. Were there days when I worried that everyone else in my profession was thriving while I languished over laundry and Legos? Of course! But what I didn’t realize was that being a stay-at-home mom helped me grow as a person, giving me new skills and abilities that I would later apply in the workplace. God was using what was required of me as a mom to make me a better executive. FULL POST
Posted 6/24/14 at 7:45 PM | Bill Blacquiere |
Today's guest blog is contributed by Heather Hammerstrom, International Services Coordinator of Bethany Global Services
You know how some people say that they need a vacation from their vacation? Upon returning from Uganda, I felt like I needed a month to try and gather my thoughts and feelings about what I had saw and experienced.
There were a few things that stuck with me from my travels—one of them being the children. How can you look in their little eyes, see God’s face, and NOT be affected? However, one little boy continues to weigh heavily on my mind.
His name was Moses and he was 5 years old. When we pulled up to his orphanage, he picked me out and decided that I was “his.” He held my hand, followed me everywhere, and hugged my legs like he was holding on for dear life (and just maybe he was). I felt like I could just scoop him up and take him with me.
Of course, as the story goes, when Moses was found, he was the head of the household for him and his younger brother Bob (2). Their alcoholic mother refuses to relinquish rights, so Moses and Bob sit in the orphanage. They may get out if their mom comes back, or they may stay in orphanage care until the age out. FULL POST
Posted 6/19/14 at 1:05 PM | Bill Blacquiere
You may have heard the news this week that Pope Francis and Britain’s Archbishop of Canterbury (Justin Welby) are joining forces to combat the human trafficking epidemic running rampant across the globe. The announcement came shortly after the start of the World Cup in Brazil, where instances of human trafficking are expected to increase, and it is a desperately needed call to action for the Christian community to take a stand against the heinous treatment of the innocent.
Each June, the U.S. Government releases its Trafficking In Persons Report, a comprehensive look at trafficking throughout the world. According to last year’s report, it is estimated that as many as 27 million men, women, and children are trafficking victims at any given time. As we wait for the 2014 report to be released this month, my fear is that the number of trafficking victims has increased over the past 12 months.
I hope I am wrong about the total number of victims increasing, but even if the number has decreased, we’ll still be faced with the fact that tens of millions are forced into slavery each year. As such, I’m grateful to and applaud the Pope and Archbishop for taking this proactive step without concern for the differences dividing the two churches. Perhaps it will encourage other church leaders and parishioners to stand up and fight against this gross injustice. FULL POST