Arms of Love establishes and operates homes that provide children with a loving family environment in which to grow and mature. To help simulate a family environment, "house parents" reside in each home and serve as substitute parents for the children. House parents are local Christian couples who have a special capacity for loving children. Typically, between 8-12 children reside in each home. House parents are assisted by other staff in caring for the children, which may include professionals with experience in social work and psychology, and assistants who help with cleaning, cooking, and laundry.
Arms of Love is committed to caring for the physical, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual needs of each child. Our objective is to help each child develop into a productive member of his or her community through education, vocational training, Christian discipleship, and the development of other life skills. Our programs include components such as personal counseling, field trips, sports and recreational activities, computer classes, one-on-one tutoring and vocational training. These activities combine with the Christian family environment to provide a much higher standard of care than will be found at most "orphanages."
Currently we have orphanages in various third world countries around the world.
CARING FOR HOMELESS STREET CHILDREN
At the time children are received by Arms of Love, they all share one thing in common: they have been separated from their parents and they have no long-term living situation. The children have no place else to live and no one else to care for them.
The children received into our children's homes come from a wide range of backgrounds. Some were completely orphaned, others abandoned. In some cases, a child lost one parent, and years later was abandoned by the other. Some of our children ran away from home, or were removed from their home, as a result of significant neglect or abuse. A significant number of the girls were victims of rape or incest; other children children were beaten by those who were supposed to love and care for them.
Many of the children spent years living and sleeping on the streets; most were no longer in school and supported themselves by stealing, begging or working (e.g., gathering seashells, washing car windows, selling baked bread on street corners). Most of the children were severely abused physically or sexually, either in their home, living on the streets, or both. Oftentimes, the children were receiving temporary care from a relative or a "good Samaritan," but that person was unable or unwilling to care for them on a long-term basis.
When children are first received by Arms of Love, they are usually received into a transition home while their background is investigated and while they adjust to living in a loving, structured environment. Those children who need care on a long-term or permanent basis are subsequently accepted into the children's home, and Arms of Love receives legal custody of those children from the appropriate government agency. Most of these children will continue to live with Arms of Love for the remainder of their childhood, but sometimes the government will award custody back to a biological relative if they can demonstrate their ability to properly care for the child.
Arms of Love also receives children that have been so severely abused that they must be separated from their families. For example, the ministry that we sponsor in Morelia, Mexico, receives young street girls 8-15 years of age. Many of these girls were forced to engage in prostitution by their mothers, who were usually prostitutes themselves. In such circumstances, the ministry will work with the government to obtain custody of the children, even over the objection of their mothers, so the girls may live -- and heal -- in a healthy environment. In cases of significant abuse, reintegration with the family is sometimes feasible, but seldom occurs.
LOCAL CHURCH-BASED MINISTRY
One of our principal objectives is to encourage and equip local churches to care for children at risk in their own communities. Accordingly, while the children's homes are legally owned and operated by non-profit organizations in each country, each children's home established by Arms of Love is also connected with one or more local churches. The children and staff attend at least one of these churches, and other members of the churches become involved in the ministry in a variety of ways.
The local church and the children's home benefit mutually from this relationship. The local church helps care for the children, oversees their spiritual development, and helps ensure the long-term duration of the project. The pastor provides spiritual care, teaching, and counseling, while other members of the church become involved on the basis of their personal gifts and vocations. The local church also benefits from the relationship, as it is envisioned and empowered to implement the Biblical mandate to care for the poor in its community. Ministry to children at risk can also contribute to the growth of the church, as children are re-integrated into the community as mature Christian adults and as the community witnesses God's compassion, mercy, and justice manifested in the project.
LOCAL CHURCH-BASED MISSIONS
Arms of Love partners with churches in the U.S. and the U.K. and facilitates their direct involvement in the projects. Our objective is not to create a ministry apart from the church, but to provide a means by which churches can become involved in projects that would otherwise be beyond their ability to establish and operate.
By partnering with one another, churches can accomplish far more than they can standing alone. Arms of Love provides the means by which churches and individuals can pool their resources; a centralized system of accountability and oversight for the projects; and a worldwide network through which projects can benefit from the lessons and experience of others.
Relationships with projects can be developed on many levels, and can include the sending of short-term ministry teams; sending longer-term volunteers; child sponsorships; and direct financial support. Such involvement can have a significant impact on a church's worldview and its vision and passion for the worldwide advancement of the kingdom.
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