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"Don't stand on the sidelines." Stephen Spencer (#ShareYourStOOry)
by Mary Katherine Tiller
Posted on Tuesday, October 09, 2018
Having a heart to serve others can take you all over the world. It has certainly done so for Stephen Spencer, founding board member of Orphan Outreach.

“Oh, I’ve been to Guatemala, Honduras, Russia, India, Kenya…” lists Spencer, “...I’ve been to Nepal and Bangladesh. I’ve not been to Ukraine, yet!”

Spencer has traveled the world with Orphan Outreach, but he calls Dallas, Texas, home.

“I have two sons and I am the owner-operator of a commercial real estate business. I like to think I have a good balance of work, pleasure, and service.”

While he has served with Orphan Outreach from its inception, Spencer’s love for charitable work did not begin there. Rather, it began during his four years at the University of Texas in Austin. While in college, Spencer served with the Big Brothers and Big Sisters program. After graduating, he continued to volunteer at the YMCA in Dallas, leading an English as a second language after school program.

“In the mid- to- the late ‘90s, there was a lot of discussion among the churches in Dallas about helping orphans. That sort of piqued my interest but there wasn’t any real connection. Then in 1998, I married a woman who was from the Soviet Union, Russia, and we had an opportunity to travel over there. I had heard a lot of stories about the plight of the Russian orphans, so while we were there, I started looking around. When we came home, I called Buckner International to see if they had any work going on over there. That’s when I met Mike Douris (now President of Orphan Outreach) and Amy Norton (Director of Programs).” says Spencer.

Spencer volunteered alongside Douris and Norton for several years through Buckner, focusing on orphans in Russia. During that time their friendship grew, as well as their desire to serve orphans all over the world.

In 2007, Douris contacted Spencer and asked if he might be interested in helping him found Orphan Outreach. Spencer agreed and together they took a month-long trip around the world to explore partnerships with foreign orphanages. The pair traveled to Guatemala, Honduras, Russia, India, and China in those four weeks, meeting with personal connections both men had made throughout the years.

“There is no shortage of orphanages looking for help. We also had several that contacted us,” explains Spencer, “Of course we wanted to partner with a like-minded group that had Christian principles, so we spent that trip interviewing founders and directors of the orphanages and seeing if we felt there was a good synergy between us and them, as well as a like-minded approach to taking care of orphans.”

Spencer’s heart for orphan care boils down to one thing: meeting their needs right where they are.

“The vast majority of orphans don’t get adopted. So, our mission is to help them where they are and improve their lives, their education, their healthcare, as best we can,” says Spencer.

One particular ministry that has captured Spencer’s heart is the Gan Sabra HIV Home in Aizawl, India. A woman named Lucy runs this home for children with HIV/AIDS.

“In so many countries, kids that have AIDS are outcasts.” explains Spencer, “The rest of the community doesn’t want to socialize or have anything to do with them. To be able to see how dedicated Lucy is and how happy the kids are is simply amazing. You can go into some orphanages and tell pretty quickly just by looking at the kids that they’re not doing a very good job caring for them. At Gan Sabra, though, they’re always beaming, always happy, very engaging kids. You can tell that it’s a very special place.”

Spencer’s love for the mission and organization of Orphan Outreach is evident. He takes joy in serving on the board and considers it a privilege to working alongside so many bright and dedicated individuals.

“My prayer for the board is that they’ll continue to follow the Lord’s guidance, do his work.” shares Spencer. “We can serve the Lord by serving the children. If we can do that well, then we’ll be successful.”

To anyone considering getting involved with Orphan Outreach, he says this: “Go on a trip! You have to experience it and see first-hand what we’re doing. Don’t stand on the sidelines. Get involved.”

Join us on a mission trip, sponsor a child, dive deep through church partnership. There are so many ways to get involved in serving orphaned and vulnerable children well!  

 


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