In 2010, the Lord placed the need for a new church ministry focused on caring for orphans and vulnerable children on the hearts of Andy and Tanya Birchfield after they brought Cristina Hope into their family. She was an orphan living in the Eastern European country of Moldova. It became very clear to them that the needs of orphans and vulnerable children were great and that Scripture clearly mandates Christians reach out and care for these children. They formed a prayer group among members of First Baptist Church in Montgomery, AL to seek God’s plan for their church. After a few months, a plan began to formulate, and on September 26, 2010, Children’s Hope was officially launched.
This ministry began focusing on three primary areas:(1) adoption advocacy and support; (2) foster care support and advocacy; and (3) orphan care. In the area of adoption, the ministry began regular support/educational meetings for those interested in adopting or learning more about the process. As families began to respond and adopt, support groups were placed alongside the families to assist in practical ways such as preparing meals, tutoring, transportation, etc. Children’s Hope began a partnership with Lifesong for Orphans in order to assist families with the financial cost of adoption, and this continues today.
Concerning foster care, the ministry began and continues to partner with the Alabama Baptist Children’s Homes (ABCH) to recruit and train Christian families to serve foster children in Montgomery and surrounding areas. There are many children in the region who are in need of safe, secure, and loving homes. ABCH works with local Department of Human Resource offices and connects families who have been trained through GPS/TIPS courses (foster care training) and a further certification process to serve as foster parents. In 2016, the ministry began training and facilitating “care communities” (small, strategic support groups) for foster families in the Montgomery area through a partnership with Live the Promise.
The third component of Children’s Hope’s initial ministry strategy was direct orphan care. Through a connection with the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions, the Lord guided a Children’s Hope vision team to a group of 16 children living in a tent in Jacmel, Haiti following a devastating earthquake in 2010. It was very clear that Children’s Hope was to step out in faith and work toward building a permanent home for these children. God has blessed this work in Jacmel and expanded it to include other areas of ministry. Church planting, discipleship, evangelism, education and health care efforts are all part of our ministry strategy in Jacmel. Currently, Children’s Hope cares for around 50 children at our children’s home, provides education to over 1,200 children, serves over 4000 people through our medical clinic, and engages and serves over 5000 community members in some way through our short-term mission teams. For more information, see the Haiti Initiative section.