The Strength of the Family

The Strength of the Family
WHAT is the best investment you can make into your family? What is the best insurance you can take out on your marriage? What is the best gift you can give your children? Mounting secular research is confirming what Bible-believing Christians have always known—one of the best investments you can make into your family is to worship together. Patrick Fagan, a clinical psychologist, family therapist and former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Health and Human Services during the Bush Administration, has done much research into the relationship between family, community and social problems. One of his findings is that: “Religious worship … has been linked to health and happiness as well as longer marriages and better family life.”
What has happened in the United States of America offers a powerful warning to Christians everywhere. The warning: Abandoning Biblical principles and abandoning worship destroys family life. Studies of American family life indicate a terrible breakdown of the family. There appears to be a strong link between the breakdown of the family unit and the loss of Christian values in America. During the twentieth century, the Biblical Christian foundations of the nation were steadily chipped away. The country that once based its laws on the Bible now sanctions abortion on demand and outlaws prayer in public schools. Today, the laws and values of the United States have moved so far from the Bible that many call it a ‘post-Christian’ nation.  The move away from Christian values has torn family life apart. The divorce rate rose steadily throughout the twentieth century. For example, between 1940 and 1980 the US Census Bureau reported an alarming increase in the divorce rate—300 percent.    In 1940, 1 in 6 marriages ended in divorce.  By 1977, 1 in 2 marriages ended in divorce.
Living together emerged as a popular view of how to ensure that you and your partner are compatible and, therefore, likely to have a lasting marriage. In previous generations, living together was considered sinful and shameful.  
Today even Christians think trial marriages are necessary. When my wife and I were engaged, a friend from church asked with shock in his voice, “Are you really going to get married as virgins? How do you know you are compatible?”
Yet research conducted by the Barna Foundation has shown that living together before marriage increases the likelihood of divorce.
Divorce destroys children’s lives. The harmful effects of broken homes on children and youths are well documented. In 1988, Judith Wallerstein, director of the Centre for the Family in Transition, after 15 years of research, reported that: “Almost half of the children of divorces enter adulthood as worried, underachieving, self-deprecating, and sometimes angry young men and women.”
As divorce rates increased, so did major problems among teenagers.  During the second half of the twentieth century, premarital sex among girls increased 500 percent, unwed pregnancies 400 percent, gonorrhoea 200 percent, and suicide 400 percent.
Research amongst school teachers showed that the biggest problems they faced changed dramatically between 1940 and 1980.
Talking in class
Chewing gum
Making noise
Running in the halls
Getting out of turn in line
Wearing improper clothing
Drug Abuse
Alcohol Abuse
While it would be naïve to think that divorce was the only cause of these shocking figures, many family counsellors regard it as the biggest single factor.  These may not be South African statistics (although they would be quite similar), but they have a clear message for us: Loss of Biblical faith leads to a breakdown of the marriage unit, which has terrible consequences for children.
The good news is that there is a simple but powerful way to protect your family against these trends.  Families that worship are families that work.  Research indicates that Christian families have a powerful tool at their disposal.
Using it dramatically increases our chances of healthy marriages with well-adjusted children. That tool is family worship.  A study by Dr George Crane indicated that when a husband and wife are active together
in the same church, they are 50 times less likely to divorce. He also found that in homes where there are regular family devotions, only one in 500 marriages ends in divorce.
Even psychologists and social scientists, such as Patrick Fagan and Robert Rector, realise that: “Religious worship … has been linked to health and happiness as well as longer marriages and better family life.”   They note that: “Church attendance is the most significant predictor of marital stability,” and go on to discuss the amazing benefits of regular worship on family life. What are the benefits of regular family worship?
The first benefit is stable, lasting marriages. It’s true: Families that pray together stay together.  This is the foundational benefit because all the other benefits depend and build upon it.
Another benefit is loving, encouraging, secure homes.  A 20-year study of what causes some couples to stay together and other marriages to break up found one common denominator—among couples who would ultimately stay together, less than 5 out of every 100 comments made about each other were putdowns.  Among couples who would later split, 10 or more out of every 100 comments were insults. Couples who worship together are more likely to speak blessings than curses over each other and their children.
The result: A home where children feel secure because they are loved and valued.  This leads to our next benefit: Children who grow up in loving homes tend to have a positive self-image.
Lots of affirmation and affection teaches them they are valuable, lovable, important. As a result, they manage their emotions better. Boys handle conflict better and are less prone to violence than boys from broken homes, while girls who experience healthy love and affection from their fathers are less likely to loose their virginity—which often happens out of a cry for love and belonging. 
A fourth benefit is a positive outlook on family life.   As compared with children from broken homes, children who experience healthy family life are more likely to marry, as opposed to just living together, have higher expectations of marriage, are less likely to get divorced and have a greater desire to raise children.
Next, there is a direct relationship between home life and work performance. Men and women who enjoy a low-stress, high-support family life excel at work and, according to research findings, earn higher salaries than those who are unhappy at home.
For example, one study of 1365 corporate vice presidents revealed that 87 percent were still married to their one-and-only spouse and that 92 percent were raised in two-parent families.
The previous point leads us to the next benefit: Children from two-parent homes show a greater capacity to learn than those from broken homes. The emotional trauma of a divorce (or conflict at home) severely compromises children’s ability to learn.   On average, therefore, children living in stable, loving homes score higher marks at school, are three times less likely to need disciplining and twice as likely to graduate. In later life, they will, as a rule, earn much higher salaries.
The last benefit I shall mention here is that: Children are much less likely to abuse alcohol or use drugs if their parents have a good marriage.  According to Fagan and Rector, “Comparing all family structures, drug use in children is lowest in the intact married family.”  
Why the difference? Alcohol and drugs provide an escape from reality, a way of numbing the senses. When home life is full of peace and belonging, there is no need for an escape. Fagan and Rector (2003) conclude that a “drop-off in worship has serious consequences because religious practice has been found to have beneficial effects on such factors as  physical and mental health, education level, income, virginity, marital stability, crime, addiction, and general happiness.
Church attendance is the most significant predictor of marital stability; it is closely related to sexual restraint in adolescence.  Regular worship, more than religious attitudes or affiliation, is associated with lower crime rates and lower rates of use and abuse of alcohol and illicit drugs.   Religious worship is associated with better health and longevity, reducing the risk of suicide, both in America and abroad.”
In conclusion: Families that worship together regularly, in a local church and at home, enjoy much healthier relationships than families that don’t. As a result, they reap a rich harvest of spin-offs from it. Worshipping together greatly reduces the likelihood of divorce, improves the atmosphere at home and tends to produce secure children with a good self-image. Children from secure, two-parent families engage in less destructive behaviour, fare better at school, excel at work and, in turn, make better husbands and wives, fathers and mothers.
Worshipping together is one of the best investments you can make into your family’s well-being. If your family worships together, do not underestimate the power of what you are doing; It’s impact on your family will be beyond measure.  If your family does not worship together, you are missing a great opportunity to enrich your marriage and shape your children’s destiny. 
Why not start today?

The Colour of Love

The Colour of Love
A giggling little girl, full of life, bounces into the room.  Her eyes are sparkling and bright, and focussed on one thing:  mom. She is completely devoted to the woman who has raised her, and it is plainly obvious that ‘mom’ adores her right back.  It doesn’t matter to either of them that one is black and one is white.  That one is HIV+ and one isn’t.  To both of them, it all comes down to one common denominator, love.
When praying about the vision the Lord had for their family, Dan and Allie de Villiers felt that they wanted to reach out to other children.  Seven months after their decision, Allie and her youngest daughter, Frances, volunteered their help in the gardens at Temba Care Group, an AIDS hospice.  Frances was immediately drawn to the children and wanted to help wherever she could.  Just 8 years old, she started raising funds for Temba Care by selling paper bags.  She challenged friends at school to raise funds, and at the same time she established a relationship with Temba Care by spending
time with the children.  It was here that she met a little orphan, Zanele, for the very first time.
Temba Care phoned Allie one day and asked if she knew about anyone who would be willing to take care of a baby girl.  There was no longer space for her as she had been at Temba Care too long, and she needed love and care while she was alive.  She was infected with HIV and had already started showing symptoms of full-blown AIDS.  The 14 month old baby was weak, sick and abandoned.
When Allie heard about the baby she immediately felt that the Lord had called her to take Zanele in.  However, her husband thought it wiser to stick with the 3 children they already had.  Also, the risk of bringing an HIV+ baby into their home was high.  Yet, he also felt the tug from God on his heart
strings.  They took two months to make the difficult decision to take the baby into their
home.  They made the decision wisely, consulting their daughters, their parents and their closest friends.  They kept it as private as possible, and only sought the guidance of those nearest to them. 
Although a lot of the feedback was negative, more and more they knew the Lord had called them to love this little girl.  They prayed for His guidance and for His will to be revealed.  This was not an emotional decision taken on the spur of the moment; it was a prayerful act of obedience.
The most important part of their decision was having the consent of their 3 daughters.  They were each given personal time with a psychologist to discuss their feelings about taking in a baby that is HIV+. 
Sarah-Jane, who was 10 at the time, had thought about it very carefully.  Her only reservations were that their home and car would be “crunched”, meaning that she felt there wasn’t enough space for another child.  She was also afraid that she wouldn’t be able to go to boogie board competitions because she would need to be taking care of the baby.  But she ended by saying that she felt this baby would teach her so much.
Frances, who was 8 years old, had a deep faith.  She was the only one who had met Zanele.  When asked how she felt about taking this baby into their home, she answered, “You know what, she has AIDS and she is going to die.  But we are going to love her to death.”
The eldest daughter, Katherine, who was 12, was apprehensive about the idea. Her grandmother had recently passed away and  she had loved her with her whole heart.  When she died she didn’t think she would ever get over it.  She worked out that as much as you love somebody, that is how sad you are when they go.  Her fear was loving this baby so much only to lose her.
In the end, as a family, they decided to care for Zanele.  Before they brought her home they informed the childrens’ school and prepared their children for the fact that they might not be able to have friends come over to play at their house.
They also found out as much as possible about AIDS, and went to see a nurse who explained to them exactly how AIDS was transmitted, how the home would need to change, and what precautions they would need to take.  For example, if the baby was to start bleeding, you could only touch her if you were wearing gloves.
As a family they decided that Zanele’s name
needed to change.  She couldn’t come into their home with a name that meant ‘enough’.  She was worth much more than that.  They named her Lily, which means ‘pure and beautiful flower’. 
Allie bonded with Lily the minute she was placed in her arms and, from that moment, treated her as her own daughter.  Initially Lily only responded to Allie, and to this day, Allie is her rock and support.  She has only recently started to trust anyone else.
For 5 months after Lily came home, Allie questioned the Lord every day:  “Did I make the right decision?  Did I hear You correctly? 
Is this really Your will for our lives?”  It was an incredibly difficult road. They never knew how long they had with Lily, they only knew that God wanted them to love her.
When Lily arrived she was very sick and didn’t respond to love at all.  Allie was her primary care giver, bathing her and feeding her.  Although the children were keen to help her, they initially had to keep their distance, simply for safety sake. 
Lily bled a lot in the first couple of months.  She had a terrible lung infection and would wake up with blood and mucus all over her little face.  Her bottom was also raw and bleeding from a nappy rash that wouldn’t heal.  With no immune system to protect her, the fragile child was getting sicker by the day.  She also had a carbuncle removed from her leg and it had left a huge open wound.  She had thrush throughout her system and had never eaten solids in her life. 
Perhaps the saddest part of all was that Lily was tactile defensive; she hated to be touched and wouldn’t reach out. She avoided eye contact and would hardly ever cry.   She had become so institutionalised that when she woke up in her cot she would just lie there and wait for you to come to her, she never cried.  Lily had never bonded with anyone in her life before and did not know how to respond to love.
Lily received all the love the family could lavish upon her.  They consulted the best nutritionists, not a single vitamin or trace element was missing from her diet.  She was force fed a complex diet every day.  Yet, with all the love and good nutrition she received, she only gained 300 grams in 5
months.  It was evident that she needed medication.
In order to administer anti-retrovirals you need to be committed.  They need to be given at approximately the same time every 12 hours.  They need refrigeration, exact measurements need to be calibrated and changes are made to the dosage every 3 months. 
This is the role that the de Villiers family, with the help of the Lord and fervent prayer, were prepared to take.  They wanted to give Lily a happy life, to care for her through her illness, despite the fact that she doesn’t have a full life expectancy. They have no idea how long Lily has, they just know that they are making a difference in her life.
When the Lord calls you, He provides everything you need to fulfill that calling. 
The support that this family has received is phenomenal.  They have not done it with their own strength, but by His alone.  God has put just the right people in place to help the de Villiers family. There is a physiotherapist, Leanne Keet, who came twice a week for 5 months to help Lily learn to walk.  The children absolutely adore her and call her “the angel”.  She has truly been an angel by helping Lily to walk, because even at 16 months, she was only able to roll over. 
Another family, who pioneered the process of adopting an HIV+ baby 6 months before they did, have been a huge pillar of support to them.  Having done it all themselves, they are always available to offer guidance, and have been outstanding mentors to Dan and Allie every step of the way. 
There is also a bond between the 2 babies who go to the same school.  Allie’s best friend is a doctor who cares deeply for Lily and is always available to answer questions and offer support.
There has never been a negative or hostile reaction to Lily, even at her sisters’ school.  They haven’t been teased or ridiculed about their sister.  In fact, the teachers, ground staff and children of Lily’s pre-school are all tracking Lily’s progress. The support of all their friends and family has been incredible.
Financially, they have received tremendous support.  All the anti-retroviral medication from the hospital is free and their medical aid has fully accepted Lily as Dan and Allie’s dependant.  She has the same medical benefits and is also on the fund’s AIDS program. 
Nearly 4 years old, Lily is truly a miracle child. 
Since she has started taking her medication she has never had an injury that caused her to bleed.  They stand amazed at how the Lord has protected their entire family. 
The medication is supposed to cause side effects, but she has shown none.  She knows she needs to take it and it has become a way of life.  She never questions why, she just happily takes it.
She has a healthy appetite now and goes to pre-school.  She is as happy as ever and is reaching out for love.  Allie says: “Lily has never asked about the difference in colour, why she is black and we are white.  It doesn’t matter to her or us that she is different.  We tell her every day that she is our special gift from God.  It has been amazing to watch an ill, damaged, wilting baby blossom into our Lily, so full of life and joy.  Having her in our lives has brought us so much joy.  Wherever she goes she makes people smile.”
The whole family has bonded with Lily, and she has a particularly close relationship with Frances, the one who had such a heart for her from the beginning. By openly communicating and praying with all their children every day, there is no room for resentment.  The children all love each other dearly.
Despite the legalities, the de Villiers family hope to officially adopt Lily in October this year. 
Both Dan and Allie’s parents who were initially skeptical, have grown to absolutely adore Lily.  She calls them ‘granny’ and ‘grandpa’.  “Lily de Villy” as she calls herself, has become the fourth daughter in the family and will receive all the same privileges.  She will go to the same private schools and will be given the same opportunities. 
When asked about how they feel about not knowing how long they still have with her, the entire family stands in agreement. 
They know that the Lord has a plan for their lives and that Lily was placed as part of their family for a reason. 
Every day they wake up and thank Him for the gift He has given them, and they follow the calling He gave them in the beginning, to love her with all of their hearts.

Is TIK consuming your child and destroying your family?

CHRYSTAL meth, or “tik”, has become a widespread problem that is spiraling out of control.  It is the most addictive drug in the world with a 95% addiction rate.  It causes havoc in the body, killing brain cells faster than alcohol, cocaine or heroine.  Tik is readily available and affordable, and although it is an illegal substance in this country, it appears that little is being done by law enforcement to curtail its rapid spread.  On the contrary, police officers are often the very people selling the drug.  Chrystal meth addiction strikes people of all ages right across the income spectrum.  Bright, healthy, happy kids can become addicted.  Educated professionals can become addicted.  Anyone looking for a quick 'lift' can become addicted.  It could even happen to you. 

The damage to families is huge.  The devastation caused by chrystal meth is not limited to the addict.  Children who abuse the drug will often steal from their parents to get money to buy the drug.  Families have to live with lies, threats and violence and relapses.  The addict's behaviour becomes erratic with wild mood swings.  He is often irritable, loses interest in former hobbies and tends to lose weight.  Twitches, grunts, and talking too much, too fast and too loudly are common symptoms.  If you notice symptoms like these, your child may very well be addicted to chrystal meth.  Also, look out for repetitive motions such as drumming of the fingers, forgetting important events, staying out late, suspicious friends, and poor performance at school.

But what can be done?
First and foremost - you need to get on your knees.  Addiction to chrystal meth is a very serious problem indeed, and your child needs the Holy Spirit's intervention in order to overcome the addiction.  God is ready and willing to step in and help.  The road to recovery is never easy, but there are many hands to help you and your child in the right direction.  Every single time you pray, the Holy Spirit moves.  It may not be noticeable at first, but He is working in the heart of your child.  As his heart is changed, so too will his behaviour.

Addiction is a spiritual and a physical problem.  Only 6% of chrystal meth addicts are able to get off this drug without help.  So, while we as parents need to be praying, we also need to find immediate solutions to the physical problem.  The brain damage caused by chrystal meth can be irreversible and it is essential that you do not delay in finding a rehabilitation centre or support group.  Going 'cold turkey' to get off tik won't work. Will-power alone won't work either.   Rehabilitation will teach your child skills to stay clean and avoid relapses.  Relapse will always be a possibility because this is a life-long struggle.  Your child will need every mental, emotional and spiritual resource that he has.

Often your child will deny there is a problem and will refuse to accept any form of treatment.  The key is to keep praying for God to find a way to touch his heart.  Sometimes it takes a face-to-face encounter with the horror of drug-abuse before an addict sees he has a problem.  He may be arrested, he may have a frightening hallucination, he may lose relationships and fail in school.  It may mean 'learning the hard way' for your child to admit he has a problem.  But he will.  Prayer never fails. You cannot force someone to be set free.  The addict cannot escape the hold of addiction if he is not motivated to do so.  The spiritual and physical journey of deliverance takes 12 to 18 months of withdrawal and healing, during which depression and anxiety, poor memory and scattered thoughts will occur.  The brain heals slowly from the damage caused by chrystal meth and it is not an easy journey.  The addict needs to want to be delivered before he can be set free.
Once your child is ready to enter rehabilitation it is crucial for you to help him to break off all relationships that will tempt him to use drugs again.  Any friends and places that will put him in contact with drugs need to be cut off immediately.  He needs to develop new relationships to help him stay clean.  It is essential that your child joins a support group, such as a church group that knows how to deal with addiction, or Narcotics Anonymous.  It is important to see how other drug addicts have been set free in order to have hope that you yourself can be free.

However bad it may seem, no matter how far down the road of addiction your child has gone, there is hope.  God has the solution and He will bring your child to freedom.  Keep praying, be there for your child, and be ready to offer support and solutions for rehabilitation when he is ready.  Any addict can recover if he really wants to.



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