Changing One Life at a Time
About the Guest
Troy Wiseman, former co-founder of retail clothing company B.U.M. International and founder of The InvestLinc Group, talks today with Dennis Rainey about his passion for orphans and his ministry, World Orphans, an organization that comes alongside local churches to build orphanages worldwide.
Troy WisemanTroy Wiseman co-founded the organization World Orphans, an organization that funds the creation of orphanages in developing countries.
Troy Wiseman talks with Dennis Rainey about his passion for orphans.
Changing One Life at a Time
Troy: It's a church-based home, a small-group environment. The church commits to taking care of the kids, educating the kids, feeding the kids, teaching them about Jesus, mentoring spiritually. It's basically, you know, all their needs, and we just provide the non-glamorous, brick-and-mortar beds parts so they can do what God's called them to do.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Monday, August 6th. Our host is the president of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. Because of what Troy Wiseman has done, there are children in other countries today who have a place to sleep and to have food to eat. He'll explain how it all works on today's program. Stay with us.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today, thanks for joining us. I was recently with my daughter up in Manhattan. We were walking down the streets of New York City and, you've been up there, you know, so …
Dennis: I have.
Bob: On each corner there's somebody set up with knock-off purses.
Dennis: You have a real nice-looking Rolex, in fact.
Bob: That's right, yeah, do you think I could get another day or two before it goes out? In fact, we were talking about all of this stuff that's for sales on the street corners, and I turned to my daughter and said, "Do you need a new $5 purse that will last you for a week?" And we were chuckling about that, and then one of her friends said, "You know, when you buy one of those purses, you're chaining an orphan to a sweat shop in some foreign country – in China or in Cambodia, someplace like that," because he said, "They've got these kids who are mass-producing these knock-off purses, and they're sitting at their desk seven days a week. They're 11 years old.
Dennis: Virtually in slavery?
Bob: Yeah, and I thought, "Is that true?"
Dennis: That kind of changes the picture of those knock-offs, doesn't it?
Bob: You don't want to buy the $5 purse at that point, and then I thought, "Well, I don't know if that's true, but maybe our guest today who has seen some of those factories and some of those orphanages can help us understand whether that's true.
Dennis: Well, we have a guest who has been all over the world and has got a heart for the orphan. Troy Wiseman joins us. Troy, welcome to FamilyLife Today and welcome to some comrades who also share your passion for orphans.
Troy: Good to be here.
Dennis: Troy is – well, honestly, Troy, I've seen a lot of bios, but yours is one of the more difficult. You serve on several boards, both nonprofit and for profit, you have a heart for the orphan, you had a heart for the lost, you have a heart for business. You're a multi-talented, former BUM clothing designer. He actually invented BUM clothing as a young man at the age of …
Dennis: Twenty years old.
Bob: Did you draw those letters, that BUM on a napkin or something?
Troy: No, we actually had a lot of different labels. The BUM brand, we actually – we actually bought the name, but …
Bob: Yeah, but the outlined letters, who came up with that?
Troy: Well, we actually just put the dots in to make people wonder what the dots meant.
Dennis: And you had no meaning at all for what it …
Troy: No meaning – whatever they said it meant we said that they were right.
Dennis: Well, you and your wife, Tina, have four sons.
Troy: That's right.
Dennis: And you have a heart for orphans, and let's go to Bob's question – what about it? Are orphans fueling the knock-off industry?
Troy: Well, yeah, I mean, it's more the slavery of children and how that really works is some promoter will go into a village in India where the parents are having a hard time taking care of the kids saying, "Hey, we've got a great opportunity. They can go work in this country. We have lots of kids there. They can make the money. You can't provide them school, and you can't provide them a better life. We can, and you're doing them a favor," so it's really – they're not educated enough to know that their kids are going to become slaves.
They take them to this far-off land to make clothes or these purses that you're talking about – or watches or carpet. As soon as they get to the country, they take away their passport – remember, these kids are 7, 8, 9, 10 years old and say, "Look, you have no passport, you're in a foreign country. If you go to the police, you're going to jail," and they're slaves.
And, you know, the girls are kind of herded into the sex trade, and the boys are into the mining or the carpet or whatever, but it's scary.
Dennis: Rough estimates – how many children involved in slavery of all kinds around the world? There are numbers being debated. What's your take on it?
Troy: You know, I'm not really an expert on that part of the, let's say, sinful environment. I just know that they're kids and they have hearts, and they're scared, and I don't even think it's the work that is so horrible. It's they don't know when they're getting out.
I mean, they're little kids, right? They're crying, they're scared, they're hungry, they want friendships, they want to go to school. I mean, it's bondage, it's emotionally – that's tough.
Bob: When you were setting up factories for BUM and for your other clothing businesses in other countries, is that where you first became aware of this phenomenon and is that where your heart for the orphan began to develop?
Troy: Yeah, definitely the heart for the orphan – we ended up having factories in 19 countries, and so the first factory we built was in Mexico City. My wife and I moved there shortly after we got married, and it was really just seeing the kids on the street. We weren't smart enough to really understand that there was a sweatshop trade in those days. We just saw these kids out there sniffing glue and homeless, and we just said, "Look, if God allows us to survive this business, we're going to try to make a difference with these kids that are parentless and homeless.
You know, sometimes they run away because they're a single parent, or there's abuse or their parents are alcoholics or whatever. I mean, listen, you can be an orphan in the States. I mean, how many people in my neighborhood where I live never see their parents because they're working 24/7. To me, that's an orphan.
Dennis: You begin to see these children and, as a result, develop a heart for the orphan. When were the dots connected where you said, "You know, I've got to do something," and you went ahead and created World Orphans?
Troy: The passion came the very first day I was trying to get to the factory, and I see a five-year-old kid out there trying to wash my window or sell me Chiclets. So it was immediate.
My wife got pregnant four months after we were married in Mexico City, and so when you're a parent, everything changes, as you know, right? And to think of your little son or little daughter at five – I mean, we cry when they go to kindergarten, right? On the street with 20 million people in the middle of traffic selling Chiclets?
So that happened to my wife and I both at the same time, and she's a special ed teacher by degree, so her heart's always kind of been compassionate, anyway. But we didn't start World Orphans until we actually had some funding to honor the commitment when we told each other we would do it. So that was 1993.
Bob: And World Orphans exists to try to do what?
Troy: World Orphans was really to assist in the brick-and-mortar aspect of a children's home. Orphanage sounds a little bit more institutional, it's not really what we do. What we wanted to do is – we knew that there was a lot of ministries and people that could pay 25 bucks a month or 30 bucks a month to take care of a kid, get him food, medicine, clothing, school, whatever. But even for a local church here, who had a parachurch, you know, in a Third World country to go to their congregation and say, "You know what? We need $10,000 or $20,000 or $30,000 to build a home for 40 kids you're never going to see." There's no emotion, you don't get a letter, you don't – so there was a big void in "Okay, we can take care of the kids, but we can't put them anywhere."
And so we didn't need the letter, what we needed was to provide a vehicle that would facilitate the other part of the equation and so it was really to partner with a church …
Dennis: You're speaking of the church there in that country?
Troy: Yeah, indigenous church, right. And the referral might have come from a church in the States, but it has to be a church, because the church becomes a family of the kids, and so if they already have a church building, they already have the land – the cost is just the brick and the beds and it's a lot, you know, more economical and what happens is the church becomes the family for the kids.
We typically will put a widow, especially in countries like Cambodia or places where the parents got killed by a land mine or – you know, these kids lost their parents, right? And a widow can relate to that loss much better than, let's say, a house parent who has three of their own kids that's there trying to take care of the kids.
So, you know, over time, the model developed a little bit differently, but it's a church-based home, a small group environment, the church commits to taking care of the kids, educating the kids, feeding the kids, teaching them about Jesus, mentoring spiritually – it's basically all their needs, and we just provide the non-glamorous, brick-and-mortar, beds part so they can do what God's called them to do.
Dennis: And since 1993, how many of these – you don't want to call them orphanages, but …
Troy: Children's homes.
Dennis: Children's homes have you built alongside a church?
Troy: Over 500 in about 46 countries, and sometimes the church will send a missions team to build it. Sometimes some other people have kicked in. So we were certainly the catalyst for all 500. Sometimes we funded the whole thing, sometimes it was a portion thereof. But we certainly were the catalyst for that.
Dennis: Troy, you know this about FamilyLife – four years ago we started Hope for Orphans, and Paul Pennington giving leadership to that and helped form a coalition of ministries – Focus on the Family, Stephen Curtis Chapman, Saddleback out of Southern California, a bunch of churches and ministries joining together to really become the voice of the orphan.
And we've created a book that is called "Eight Steps to Launching an Orphan Ministry in Your Church." And one of the reasons why I wanted to ask you to come and be on our broadcast to share your story is I would hope that as laymen and women launch these orphan ministries, foster care ministries, adoption ministries in their church, that some of them would end up partnering with you.
I mean, I think this is a great opportunity we have today with 143 million orphans worldwide, 14 million children aging out of whatever system they are in into adulthood without a family. I mean, 14 million a year. I mean, this is a crisis of enormous proportions, and if the Christian community doesn't do it, no one is going to do it. In fact, the church has been the one that's done it throughout the years, over the past couple of thousands years, it's been the church that's led the way.
And, frankly, the thing that impressed me most about what you're doing and your model is, in many cases, it's tied to a church here in the States, and you won't do it there in that country on the continent of Africa or in other countries throughout the world unless you have a church to tie that children's home to it.
Troy: That's exactly right. You know, a lot of the institutional orphanages, when we first started World Orphans, were more of a hospital, they were these huge buildings. Listen, obviously, adoption and foster care are the best model. In our opinion, we'd much rather see an orphan with a family. But in places like Kenya and sub-Sahara Africa there is overload. They can't take anymore. There's no more – that's not an option.
But the church, we believe that the kids should stay in the same community that they grew up in. They already lost enough. That church brings them in, they know the culture, they can go to the same school, they're in the same environment, they have their same friends and, not only that, the church now is viewed by the community, the non-Christian community saying, "Look what they're doing. They're taking these kids and they're" – you know, even sometimes with the adoption, the local community says "You know what? They're just doing it because they make money, or they're selling the kids or whatever." They don't say that when they see you take 40 kids off the street, and you're feeding them, and you're getting them to school, and you're loving them and whatever.
So the church is really key, and the accountability is even more phenomenal.
Bob: The church that I attend is connected with a church in South Africa where there is a house set up for children who have AIDS. I mean, that's the exclusive population group. These are orphan kids who have AIDS or who are HIV positive.
And, you're right about the impact of that in the local community; how that is a witness; how it adorns the Gospel; how it makes people aware of what the message of Christ is all about; and how it fulfills the command of Christ to care for the widows and the orphans. And our church is thrilled to be playing a small part – in fact, I wish we could be doing more, and
I'm sure folks listening to our program think, "Well, this sounds like something that would be a great thing for a church to do, but we don't have the connections, we don't know a church in Africa or in Asia. If some church had an interest but didn't know what to do beyond that interest, what can they do?
Troy: Well, relative to world orphans, I mean, they can certainly go onto the website or call, and we can hook them up with a parachurch. One of the things that we found is it's got to be the people, it's go to be the congregation in the church getting behind the pastor.
You know, everybody seems to always want to blame the pastor – we're not doing anything, we're not being proactive, whatever, but, really, it's the people in the congregation. You have to form a small team to say, "Hey, we're going to lead this. We're passionate about this," and instead of just talking about it actually doing something about it.
That's what I like about the Orphan Conference. You guys said we're going to empower, we're going to be a catalyst for making the world a better place and rescue more orphans. You guys were first to do that, in my opinion, from a big organization, and that inspired me and it inspired a lot of people that I know because we got out of the way and let God kind of move.
And so we're going to be the same way. Listen, it's not about the brick, it's not about is it better to have clean water or AIDS orphans or medical, it's about the child and what God is going to do in the life of that child, and so there's no – which is better – it's whatever God is calling you to do. Just get involved and do something.
Bob: So does World Orphans help a church in the States find a church to connect with and put the two of you together and help you figure out how to do all of this?
Troy: Let's say we could. Normally, a church calls us and says "We have a need. We have missionaries in this country, we have the pastor, we have the church, we have the kids getting dropped off at our doorstep. We have 40 people in our congregation that have agreed to take care of a kid each. We need a building."
So typically they're calling us and saying we will educate them spiritually, physically, mentally, we'll do everything we need to do, but we need a building. So typically that's how it comes. A lot of these churches are called the "planting" churches, internationally, and one of the models that we have is – well, you're already building a church, and we want to build a children's home. So if we put the children's home on the second floor, the cost for both of us go way down.
So we've done quite a few children's homes where the second floor is the children's home, the bottom is the church, and the costs are half for both. Now it's really, really cool for the church to be going there, and the kids are there all the time, and they've got the small group going on, and it's amazing.
Dennis: You send me an e-mail back before Christmas of something that took place to one of your homes that you built for a group of children where there were a group of extremists who came and literally destroyed the children's home.
Troy: Yeah, they did. It was a Muslim group that basically was an extremist group and, fortunately, for us, they gave the kids and the house parents a chance to get out of the home, and they destroyed the church. They torched everything, they bulldozed it down, and you're going to have those situations. We just rebuild. What are you going to do? You can't run and hide, and so it was a sad situation.
Dennis: That was pretty terrifying for those kids.
Troy: It was very terrifying for those kids.
Dennis: I mean, they could have all been …
Troy: They could have been killed.
Troy: Absolutely. And it wasn't – that act of terrorism was about the message of Jesus. It was about – it was a spiritual battle, and we're going to have to fight those battles.
Dennis: There's a passage of Scripture that says, "Do not be overcome by evil but overcome evil with good." That's really what you're doing, isn't it?
Troy: That's what we're trying to do.
Dennis: You know, here is the thing I want our listeners to see – here is a man, a couple, a family, just like your family, you might live next door to them, who saw a need, stepped out and did something on a very small, very modest scale initially, just trying to make a difference. And now, since 1993, 500 children's homes later, I think you're an inspiration to a lot of people who wonder if they can make a difference.
And I think one of the great ploys of the enemy is he takes people when they have a seed of faith, they have a thought that perhaps God gives them to step out and to make a difference. And the enemy comes along real quickly and goes, "It's not going to matter. You're not going to impact that many. It's only 40 children in one home."
But you know what? If you build enough homes and impact enough groups of 40 children, you can make a difference.
Troy: Yeah, we always say one life at a time, and then we also say "Until they all have homes, you've got to do it one life at a time." And giving of your time, talent, and treasure is all equal. You might not have the treasure yet, give your time, give your thoughts. Writing a check is probably the easier one of the three.
Dennis: My challenge to the listener is FamilyLife is looking for 1,000 churches to start an orphan care, foster care, adoption ministry in their local church all headed up by laymen just like you describe – laymen and women who are willing to step out.
And we've got a simple book called "Launching an Orphan Ministry in Your Church." It's eight simple steps of how you can go about it. It's got a DVD included. It's all about empowering people who care to make a difference with just one life at a time.
And if we've touched you today, and you think maybe God's calling you to consider doing something like that, I'd just challenge you, as a listener, to go online at FamilyLife.com or call our 800 number and order the book and take a look at this because you know what? You may be the next Troy Wiseman. You may launch something that may someday far exceed your wildest imagination.
Bob: If you do go online at FamilyLife.com, you will see a red button that's near the middle of the screen that says "Go." If you click that button, it will take you right to the area of the site where there is more information about the book you're talking about on starting an orphan ministry in your church and, as you said, it comes with a DVD in the back of it.
This is a very helpful guide for laymen and women, for anybody whose got a heart for this, to be able to follow what we've laid out and get something started in your church – reaching out to the needy kids all around the world.
Again, the website is FamilyLife.com, click the red "Go" button you see in the middle of the screen for more information about this book, or call us at 1-800-358-6329. That's 1-800-F-as-in-family, L-as-in-life, and then the word TODAY, and we'll have somebody get you the information on how you can get a copy of this book sent to you.
During the month of August, we are asking all of you, as listeners, to consider doing a couple of things for us. August is the end of our fiscal year. At the end of this month, we will close the books on one year, and we'll start a brand-new year, and so what we're asking folks to do is consider making what amounts to a year-end donation to the ministry of FamilyLife, and I know in August it doesn't feel like year-end, but for us it is our financial year-end, and so if you can make a donation this month, it would be very helpful.
But we want you to do more than just make a donation. We want you to consider issuing a challenge to other listeners to join with you. We have set up a Challenge Fund where FamilyLife Today listeners can challenge other listeners like you to help support the ministry of FamilyLife as well.
In fact, we just had a listener who called in and issued a challenge. She had read Dennis's new book, "Interviewing Your Daughter's Date," and she wanted to challenge other folks who have teenage daughters who have either gotten a copy of that book or have had to wrestle with these kinds of issues to also match her donation of $50 with a donation of your own.
We've been hearing from folks who are challenging listeners of other FamilyLife Today stations like a listener in Chattanooga listening on WMBW who wanted to challenge other Chattanooga area listeners to make a donation to support FamilyLife Today.
We've heard from listeners in Los Angeles, listening on KKLA, and a listener who tunes in on KCBI in the Dallas-Fort Worth area – all of them issuing a challenge to other listeners and say, "Join me and help support the ministry of FamilyLife Today here during the month of August."
So if you would consider not just making a donation this month but also issuing a challenge of your own, we'd like to see if we can get this year's challenge fund to help us end our fiscal year in a healthy place.
You can make a donation online at FamilyLife.com or you can call 1-800-FLTODAY and make a donation over the phone. If you're donating online, there is a space at the end of your donation form where you can issue your challenge, and if you're calling, just tell whoever takes your call about the challenge that you'd like to issue and let me say thanks in advance for your partnership with us. We appreciate hearing from you, and we look forward to seeing some of these challenges.
Well, tomorrow we want to invite you back. Troy Wiseman is going to be back with us, and we're going to hear about how God really stirred his heart on this issue of orphan care, and we'll hear more about what he's doing in response to that. We'll also hear how he first came to faith in Christ, and that's kind of an interesting story. I hope you can be with us for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We'll see you back tomorrow for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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