By Kimberly Hackworth

group photo summit

In 2004, eight people passionate for serving orphaned and vulnerable children congregated to form the first annual Christian Alliance for Orphans’ Summit (CAFO). Ten years later in May 2014, I found myself navigating a crowd of 2000+ individuals, including ministry leaders, researchers, missionaries, parents, and advocates, gathered as a community in Chicago, Illinois to share research, experiences, and ideas each desiring to more effectively serve the children. This dramatic increase in participation reflects the growing need to serve intentionally, strategically, and collaboratively, as the number of orphans has risen exponentially.

An assortment of all-day intensives was offered including a session on research and best practices in global orphan care. Linking research to practice provided a glimpse of tangible data and information in multiple areas, ranging from health and nutrition to counseling to educational strategies. “There is so much to learn it is overwhelming,” I confessed to a friend and fellow staff person. To prevent overload, I had to remind myself of a greater truth presented to me the day before – the importance of abiding.

Research and data will only take us so far. If implemented in the absence of an abiding relationship with Christ, we will quickly reach the limits of our own strength and ideas.

“We, as staff, can learn all kinds of new things at the Summit, but if each of us do not walk personally with Jesus and obediently do what He says, we are acting as the king, not serving the King,” shared Todd Guckenberger, Co-Executive Director, at a pre-summit staff retreat.

In the context of abiding, remembering God is the Master Gardener, we can humbly serve to tend the garden He has given us. In addition to abiding in God, Todd encouraged us to abide collaboratively with other orphan care ministries.

“Orphan care is not competitive; another organization having a win for the orphan is a win for the Kingdom.”

As we faithfully care for the children in the ‘garden,’ may we always remember to take time to look up from the field, look around to our co-laborers, and share every possible gardening tool in our shed. After all, our plots of land are part of a much larger garden – the Kingdom of God.

Kimberly Hackworth is a new addition to Back2Back’s U.S.office. Serving as Inspirational Copywriter, this was her first Summit experience and cross-cultural staff event.