Charity Graff, executive director of Gentle Hands Inc. (GHI), a Church of God World Missions orphanage in the Philippines, shares her story.
GHI began way back in 1990 when my parents, Dennis and Denie Heppner moved to the Philippines as missionaries, bringing us with them.
Founded to serve the urban poor, up until 2002 my mother trained, oversaw, and delivered services to woman who were pregnant and couldn’t afford medical care. She herself saw more than 5,000 babies born.
In 2000, my husband Evan and I moved full-time to work with my mom and assist in education of the children that were living under bridges, involved in drugs, and had no options for education. As things worked out, with the influence of GHI in midwifery, we were able to move more into the care of dying and neglected babies rather than just birthing. My parents moved into full-time church work and I became the executive director of GHI. Due to the tremendous need for children being left on the street, in garbage cans, and in hospitals, we closed the birthing clinic completely in 2004 and were licensed by the Philippine government to care for children who were abandoned and abused.
Over the past 19 years, we have seen hundreds of children rescued, healed, and placed in adoptive families. We now have two sites with a total of 135 children in care. Our children are all with backgrounds of abuse too horrific to imagine—children tied up like animals in small dark rooms, little girls raped by their fathers… so many wounds but so many have risen above and become whole!
Our reputation as a home for children continues to grow and we are moving toward standardizing the care of children in orphanages across the Philippines. We get referrals for children from the government and from hospitals all over the country. Communities from around Manila where people have been touched by our care bring their wounded, broken, and dying.
Using an interdisciplinary model, we have developed training for our staff to help each child process and deal with the trauma they have experienced. While we are very good at what we do, we see the mighty hand of God move in the hearts and lives of our children that only could be accredited to Him.
Our four biological children grew up here in GHI, where we have always lived on site. God allowed us to adopt two Filipino boys as well, and we are so blessed so see them all growing and moving into what God has called them to do.
There is never a day that I am not grateful for the calling of God on our family as we serve Him among those forgotten and abandoned. The struggles are real. The government is not always supportive and there are very real battles that we face. But when I see the faces of the children and hear them forgive those who have hurt them and wounded them, my strength is renewed.
There is a tremendous move for people to stop supporting orphanages because of poor care and poor output. Our children would have nowhere else to go if we were not here and our care is better than good. The reality is, it costs the same to raise a child here as it does anywhere else. The reality is that we are a family, albeit a very large one, with needs like any other family. We have bills for electricity, for water, for gas, and groceries. I have found over the years the hardest thing to deal with is the lack of financial resources. Committed to live by faith, it is here my heart is stretched and my knees are worn. It is one thing to be in awe of what we do and to be amazed by the healing of our children, it is another to commit on a deeper level and support us with finances. That is what gives us the freedom to put our programs into practice.
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