Announcer: Welcome to the Adopting and Fostering Home Podcast. Whether your family has been on this journey for years or you’re just getting started, we’re here to support and encourage you along the way. Now your hosts Lynette Ezell and Tera Melber.
Lynette Ezell: Welcome back to the Adopting and Fostering Home Podcast. Today we want to continue our conversation with Tony Brewer. You know, I was thinking this morning, Tara, how do we tell someone what love truly is? John, the beloved disciple makes it clear that Jesus’s love is active. This disciple, he wrote that, “By this we know love. That He,” meaning Jesus, “laid down his life for us and we ought to lay down our life for our brothers,” in 1 John 3:16. That just brings to mind Tony and his wife Cindy and their five beautiful daughters. They spend each day pouring into the lives of the least of these and we just felt it pertinent to have Tony back today so that we continue to hear what God is doing among the nations in the life of orphans.
Tony Brewer: Glad to be here. Thanks for having me.
Lynette Ezell: Sure. Tony, a few years ago, your family felt the Lord leading you to do something pretty radical with your five daughters. Share with our listeners the life change that Cindy and you felt called to do.
Tony Brewer: Well, we had been working in the adoption world for 13 years. All along, we had programs for children that were not being adopting in developing countries, whether it was Guatemala or Ukraine or China or Vietnam or Myanmar or Cambodia. What we normally did was we worked with pastors and funded it, funded some sort of outreach in the various countries. Then I would go visit them once or twice a year. That part of the adoption work grew in our hearts and became almost obsessed with that group of children that were never going to be placed, never going to be adopted. For every one child that is adoptable, I don’t really know the figures, but I think I can say that there’s 100 that are not going to be adopted and have great need.
Lynette Ezell: Right.
Tony Brewer: The Lord increased that burden on our hearts to the extent that we knew that to continue in obedience, we needed to devote ourselves full time to that part, to that group of kids that were never going to be adopted. To that end, we turned over our adoption work to others and that work is still continuing and still doing great work. We’re not a part of it. We owned Orphan Voice with the idea of just continuing to work with the kids that were not going to be adopted just like we had been for all those years anyway. Not really a different group of kids, not a different country, we just continued and focused on those programs that were designed for non-adoptable kids. Of course, to do that, you have to move. I mean you just have to go.
Lynette Ezell: Right. Yeah.
Tony Brewer: You just have to go.
Lynette Ezell: That’s a big step.
Tony Brewer: So that’s what we did.
Lynette Ezell: How old were your girls when you went?
Tony Brewer: They were from nine to five.
Lynette Ezell: Wow.
Tony Brewer: The oldest, Jillian, was nine. I had built up over a million miles of frequent flyer miles. That’s how we got over there.
Lynette Ezell: That’s awesome.
Tony Brewer: When you do that, you have to say when you’re coming back. Our thought was, “Okay, we’ll do this as a trial and we’ll go over and we’ll do a three month trial.” We went over there. I didn’t really realize that you can hardly get over jet lag in three months.
Lynette Ezell: That’s true.
Tony Brewer: At the end of three months, we’re faced with this decision, do we come back?
Tera Melber: Right.
Tony Brewer: That was the first decision we made is, “No, we’ll pass up on the return tickets. We’re going to stay.” We’ve been there for nine years.
Tera Melber: Oh, wow. Did not realize it had been that long. You know, the Lord doesn’t give you the whole picture at once, does he?
Tony Brewer: No.
Tera Melber: If he did, it would scare us to death. When you first arrived in Southeast Asia, what did you see as the greatest need there among the orphans and the children and just those living in poverty? What did you see as the greatest need there that you and Cindy felt you just had to begin with?
Tony Brewer: Well, God’s love. The combination of poverty but also spiritual poverty and the oppression that comes with the dominant religious belief in Vietnam as well as the communist aspect of the government. You had a group of people, you marry all those things together, and you would have people that are just really like just hopeless. Hopeless.
Tera Melber: Right. Yeah.
Tony Brewer: Lack of hope and children abandoned for that reason. The biggest need we could see and the greatest way we could be used if God could create His love through us. His hope and give people encouragement and help them to see that there’s love out there and there’s a God who loves you. That’s what we’ve been … We live in a closed country where to openly preach the gospel would cause us to lose our Visas and also would cause Orphan Voice to lose its license.
Tera Melber: Wow.
Lynette Ezell: Yes.
Tony Brewer: We can’t go out on the corner. We can’t rent a facility and have evangelistic meetings but we can go to where a family is in crisis. We can go with an outstretched hand and with the love of God coming out of it and that’s what God wants for us right now. Some people do come to Christ. You’ve seen some people come to Christ, but mainly we … People know love. People know the love of God. It draws people toward God. That’s just what we’re busy doing. We pray. We have an opportunity, we go fulfill that mission, that opportunity. We pray again, God gives us another breakthrough. That’s just the way it’s been for nine years.
Tera Melber: Total step of faith, isn’t it? On a daily basis.
Tony Brewer: Yes, yes.
Lynette Ezell: Tony, you make a statement that Orphan Voice desires to keep children out of orphanages. How do you do that?
Tony Brewer: Well, one specific program that we have designed to do that is aptly called Keeping Families Together. We will identify families that are in crisis and where it’s likely that the parents are going to ask the government to allow them to put one or more of their children in orphanages. I suspect in many countries, but in Vietnam, most of the children that are in orphanages are not true orphans.
Lynette Ezell: Right.
Tony Brewer: Very few. Not like the children we worked with in Chinese orphanages, Lynette. There’s lots of families that feel like that the best way out for them and for their child is to put them in an orphanage. We work with the family, with counseling. Our particular effort is intense 18 month program to come along the side, to encourage, to provide training. A lot of times just basic parenting skills. Often times, there can be an alcohol problem. Part of that is helping them to make more money because if we can help them make more money, that’s going to take away the pressure. We’re working. We graduated. It’s a new program. We graduated seven families and we’ve got seven more right now that we’re working with, 42 family members in those seven families.
Tera Melber: Wow.
Tony Brewer: It’s been successful. I can’t say that every family we’ve seen … Two of the first seven, we didn’t achieve what we wanted to achieve, but for five of them, for five of the seven, they’re stable. There’s no more talk about the child going to an orphanage. They’re paying their bills. There’s enough money to buy food and so we consider that a great success.
Lynette Ezell: Sure.
Tera Melber: Absolutely. Absolutely. Tony, I know one of my favorite ministries that I read about on Orphan Voice and in the newsletter is called Hope House. Can you tell us more about that?
Tony Brewer: Yes. Hope House came about really as most of all of what we’re doing came about. That is where we see a need and we pray about how we can address the need. For Hope House, we got a call from a pastor in the countryside. One of his church members came to him in crisis and the story unfolded that the church member was a single mom, had a 12 year old daughter, rural village. An older boy came to the village over the course of a couple of years to stay for a couple of weeks at a time and leave and come back. He courted this little 12 year old girl. She fell in love with him. One day he says, “Let me take you to Saigon. Let me show you the wonderful things in Saigon.” She didn’t tell her mother anything about it and she said yes. He came and got her with some other people in a van and it was part of a trafficking ring all along.
Tera Melber: Right.
Tony Brewer: It was planned from the beginning. They took her into the Highlands toward Cambodia. I learned afterwards that that’s a favorite destination. They stop in the Highlands and there was some abuse there. She was able to get away before they got her out of the country. She eventually made it back home. The boys came to her village and threatened her and her mother. The police didn’t help them much, didn’t help them. The pastor didn’t know what to do. The lady went to her pastor, pastor didn’t know what to do. Pastor called us.
That was the beginning of Hope House. Hope House is designed as a restorative place, a place of safety for girls that have been trafficked or had been sexually abused. Several of them that have gone through there have had sexual abuse and not technically trafficking. It’s one of our ministries. It’s not our focus, it’s just one of the many ministries that God has given us. This little girl has been with us ever since. She’s still with us. Her mom has since passed away. I remember the first day I saw her smile again.
Lynette Ezell: Oh, wow.
Tony Brewer: It took her forever to be able to smile, but God restored her. He promises to restore the years that the locusts eat.
Lynette Ezell: That’s right.
Tony Brewer: We claim that for all of them.
Lynette Ezell: Yes.
Tony Brewer: Not only the girls in Hope House but the children in orphanages. They’ve been deprived a lot. God is faithful to restore and no man can stop that. That’s irrespective of whether you can preach openly or not.
Lynette Ezell: Right.
Tony Brewer: That is just a fact of life that’s happening. This little girl, we helped her and of course, she got through school and go through high school and now she’s about ready to graduate from college, where she’ll be able to provide for herself.
Lynette Ezell: Wow.
Tera Melber: Well, there’s a testimony on the website that just really touched my heart and it was a young girl that was with you all for three years. She was cared for by a loving housemother. She improved her study skills. She was able to bond and make friendships and learned how to be a friend. She worked hard. She earned a college degree and she now has a good job. To me, this is the goal. It comes full circle. She’s working, paying rent, living with a roommate. She’s taking care of herself. She’s a member of the local fellowship. What she said to you on the website, she said, “Thank you from the bottom of my heart. I wouldn’t have a college degree without your help. I wouldn’t have a good paying job without your help. I wouldn’t have anything if you hadn’t helped me. You have changed my life and that’s what the Lord Jesus does for the least of these.”
Tony Brewer: Amen. Amen. Amen. That’s our victory house program and there’s several girls like that. We just recently graduated our first boy. That’s designed for girls that are having to leave orphanages with no place to go. That’s a preventive, it’s a trafficking prevention program to not let somebody snatch them up but to say, “Hey, you got a safe place here. Let’s get you some training. Let’s get you some skills. Let’s get you to the place where you can take care of yourself.” Several girls have gone through that now and it is a blessing. Some of them, this particular and other ones, have come to Christ and that’s even better.
Lynette Ezell: Absolutely. That’s the goal. That’s the goal. I love what you said about people know the love of God and it draws people to him. You know, I hear you say that even though you can’t openly share the gospel, that people there, where you are, and how you’re ministering these children into these families, see a difference in the way that you love them and I’m sure that they’re drawn to want to know why. That, I’m assuming, is how you are able to share the love of Christ. Would that be a correct assumption?
Tony Brewer: You’re right. Yes. You’re right. Jesus said, “Let your light shine before men. They’ll glorify your father in Heaven.” Vietnamese people, not just children but people in general, we love our partners, our government partners. We love the police. Sometimes the police chastise us and have chastised us but we love them. They need Christ.
Lynette Ezell: That’s right.
Tony Brewer: There’s a great story on the police. With this little girl, this first child that came to Hope House, the boys that were persecuting this little girl in their village, the first thing we thought was we’re not really experts in this but we ought to get her where she’s safe. We brought her to Da Nang where we live. The boys came to Da Nang as well. They threatened her there. When we found out about it, by that time, we had developed a relationship with the police at least where they knew us. They knew us well because they had investigated us so thoroughly.
Tera Melber: Right.
Tony Brewer: They didn’t like the fact that people might come to Christ. They didn’t like that part, but they know we were real. We came to them and said, “Look, we’ve got this girl. This is what happened. Here are the guys that did it. They’ve come here and they’re bothering her. Will you help us?” Boy, did they ever help us. They might not like us in some ways, but they really drove those boys away.
Lynette Ezell: That’s great.
Tony Brewer: It’s a blessing how God used that relationship to help one of our programs.
Tera Melber: That is amazing. Well, I see you’ve kind of taken the friendship team model to Vietnam and you’re able to help over 5,000 children who live in public orphanages and boarding schools. You are able to reach out to 12 boarding schools there at Vietnam and I know they’re in the poorest regions, come from the poorest families, and they have great needs. You buy shoes, coats. You deliver food on a daily basis I’m sure. I’m just overwhelmed and I’m thinking about families who are listening that maybe God is calling them to get out of their comfort zone to move past the new car and the biggest house and all of that. Those in ministry are limited resources but there is something we all can do. Tony, can you speak to that?
Tony Brewer: Well, please pray. The Holy Spirit is the one who changes lives. We’re really believing for a great revival in Vietnam and believe for it that we’re going to see multitudes brought into the kingdom and also that we’re going to see orphans become the head and not the tail.
Tera Melber: Yes. That’s a great story.
Tony Brewer: So, pray. We welcome friendship teams. We’ll have two next month. We’d love to have people come, church, Sunday school, grew some churches, families, come and get your hands dirty and see it and smell it and touch it. We have children that need to be sponsored in orphanages and in others of our programs. It’s a great way for a family to change a life and in a way, adopt a child in an orphanage or in a special needs facility. Just this week, we’re working to open a second therapy center. We haven’t talked about our ministry special needs children, but in three districts, a districts corresponds to a county, in three districts there’s over 600 children without any type of help. We’re trying to open up a therapy center for them. We need skilled people that can come and volunteer, somebody with resources that might be interested in special needs children. We’re trying to help them and there’s just … Anything that anybody can do, any kind of a skill, we can turn it into an outreach so come and visit.
Tera Melber: That’s right. Absolutely. Well, Tony, I know you and I share a passion for this passage but, “He’s the father of the fatherless and protector of widows as God and his holy dwelling. God settles the lonely in a home.” I know he’s calling out his people to do that and to see the least of these to see orphans to see those are struggling in poverty and will never hear the gospel. God’s calling out his people to go out and to share and to open their homes and open their pocketbooks and to just be used to change lives.
Tony Brewer: Amen. Take the step of faith, whether it’s to adopt, whether it’s to foster, whether it’s to sponsor a child, whether it’s to take a vacation and go to an orphanage. God will be there. He will catch you and He will enable you.
Lynette Ezell: That’s right. Well, Tony, we thank you so much for being us today. I know that once our family was faced with many of the facts that you shared that you just unknown those things. Once we’re faced with that, then we have to sit before the Lord and ask him what are you asking of us? It’s a privilege to hear your story and to hear of God’s faithfulness to bring glory to his name to your family’s obedience. We really do pray that our listeners will explore your website, which is orphanvoice.org to see how they can join in God’s work.
You’ve been listening to the Adopting and Fostering Home Podcast. We’re so glad you’ve taken time to listen today. Keep in mind we are a ministry of the North American Mission Board and funded through the Andy Armstrong Offering and your giving to the cooperative program. We look forward to talking more about adoption, fostering, and orphan care, and how you can be involved.