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C. Thomas Davis is an international missions consultant and serves as Assistant to the President of Children's HopeChest, a missions organization bringing hope to orphans around the world. He served as a pastor for ten years and has an M.A. in Theology from The Criswell College. Tom is also a professional speaking consultant, training speakers in presentation and communication skills. His greatest joy in life is raising his four children, Anya, Hayden, Gideon, and Scotlyn with his wife, Emily, in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Let's begin by talking a little bit about your background. How did your family background influence your commitment to a ministry of compassion?

C. Thomas Davis: It had a ton to do with it. Let me tell you a little bit about my background. I was a kid whose parents were not married when I was born. They got married and it didn’t work. So at that point I got handed off to my grandparents. Then my mother married the proverbial wicked stepfather and then left him 7 times. I was caught in the middle of that. Since there was no stability in my family I really searched. I remember that as a kid of 10 or 11 I walked four miles to church. I had something inside that was churning and causing me to search. I wondered is there a God? What does life really mean? A lot of these questions came out of my pain. So the instability of my family, the lack of any Christian background and being in an abusive situation with my stepfather left me in a particularly vulnerable state.
Fortunately, about the sixth time my mother was leaving my stepfather there was a youth pastor who made a significant investment in my life. I told him the week before we were leaving my stepfather that I was leaving and might not ever be coming back. He responded to my situation by showering me with a wealth of compassion and being Christ to me in a simple, yet significant way. He took me out on a Saturday, made me a part of his family for the day, threw the football with me and treated me like I was his own child. That had such a profound impact on me because it was the first time that anybody else actually was the flesh and bone of Jesus to me in a tangible way that made sense. That kind of love effected me. That really did lead me to the path that I am on now. You currently serve as the assistant to the President of Children's HopeChest. Can you tell us a little bit about the background a vision of Children's HopeChest?

C. Thomas Davis: Children’s HopeChest was started out of a project of the International Bible Society (IBS). Right after the fall of communism the IBS was doing a project called “My First Bible.” George Steiner, the founder and President of Children’s HopeChest, who was at that time an assistant to the President of the IBS, went over to Russia and saw how horrible conditions in which the children lived. He was shocked not only the physical conditions, but also the spiritual depravity and what faced these kids once they got out of the orphanage. Based on that experience and the inspiration of James 1:27, George established Children’s HopeChest in order to minister to widows and orphans in their distress. We feel like what God has called us to work amongst churches to help them connect with orphanages so that they can have a direct impact on the life of these kids. So we create strong relationships that last for years and years with churches and they commit to being involved in these children’s lives on a regular basis and serving as surrogate parents to these children who have no parents. They help not just financially but they visit the kids and they are very committed. Our primary emphasis is on the child who gets kicked out of the orphanage or leaves at the age of 15 or 16. We try to help them during that critical part of their life so that they can make it out of the orphanage and develop a healthy life. Otherwise, there is a good chance these children will end up as a statistic. As the book as well as your current ministry make perfectly clear, your primary passion in life is extending compassion to those who are Fatherless. Although you discuss the identity of the fatherless at length in your book it might help our readers if you can briefly describe whom the Fatherless are and explain how this group of people is emphasized in Scripture.

C. Thomas Davis: Biblically the fatherless are three groups of people: the widow, the stranger and the orphan. It talks about that pretty clearly in Deuteronomy 24 and God tracks that all throughout the Old and the New Testament. So I grouped that under this term called the “Fatherless.” I think that the reason God has a special bias towards these people is that they’re vulnerable, they’re completely alone, they’re isolated, they’re abandoned, and they’re in need not only of things physical and material, but of love, support and community. For example, in contemporary America I believe that the primary group of widows is single moms. In America we really live in a Fatherless generation and that could be because either dad is gone or, perhaps just as often, dad is physically there but is not a significant presence. God has shown over and over that he has special favor that he bestows on this group that he calls the Fatherless. And the responsibility that he lays is on his people, the church, is to reach out and show the compassion of Christ to these people who are in a very vulnerable state in life. So it is not just a matter of providing for their needs by giving them clothes or food, though that is a part of it, but rather God wants us to be intimately involved in their lives and give a piece of our lives to theirs. Paul says in Thessalonians that we came not to share just the gospel with you, but also our whole lives. It is not just a matter of what we do, but a matter of how we invest our time with the Fatherless. How does serving the Fatherless help us to understand who we really are?

C. Thomas Davis: I think we can begin to understand our affinity with the Fatherless by considering the Scripture where Jesus is about to go to the cross and he’s telling his disciples that he’s about to leave them. As a result of Jesus’ statement the disciples panic, they come completely unglued because the loss of Jesus’ presence in their lives is devastating to them. In the midst of the disciples’ chaotic state Jesus says something to them, which is very profound and very interesting, “I will not leave you as orphans.” It is very amazing to me that he used that word. And I think the reason that he did is because he realized that both the disciples and his believers throughout the ages are in a sense orphans and strangers in this world, who struggle to find their place in life and constantly question why we are here as well as our purpose for being here. I believe that we are all aware that something is just not right about who we are. Everyone deals with these questions concerning our spiritual identity and purpose to one degree or another and, those who come from a background like mine, really struggle with it because their literal circumstance in life really agitates the spiritual things that are going on inside of them. Fortunately, when we connect with and serve the Fatherless, with those that are hurting and suffering it does something to heal those needs inside of us. In other words by being a person who fills those needs of others we are healed in the process. Also, we come in touch with something that is the essence of who we are and why God put us on this earth. I strongly believe that ministry is not programs it is not about building bigger places to congregate as believers, but it is all about people, about how we invest in our lives in their lives. Its all about opening our home so that the single mother can come over and find out what family looks like. It is the hard part of ministry but I think that it’s the part that God is calling people too. There is no shortcut around that. You can’t have enough Christian concerts or discipleship programs that will ever take the place of investing your life in the life of another person. I think that if most people think about where there life turned around or where their spirituality deepened, I would be willing to bet that 95% would find that it was not because of some profound experience by myself in my prayer closet, but it was become somebody profoundly impacted me in a way that changed me forever when they invested their life into mine. That is the key and is what God is calling us to. How does extending compassion to the Fatherless help us to understand the person and passion of God? Or how is the character of God revealed to us in the process?

C. Thomas Davis: God is pretty clear about telling us what his burdens are in Scripture. We know that he has a burden for the whole world, he has a burden for people to come to know him, we know he has a burden for people to be set free from their sin, but what occurs over and over again in Scripture is the burden he has for the Fatherless. In fact he defines himself in certain verses by how much he cares and loves the fatherless. For example, in Psalm 68:5 it says that “God is a Father of the Fatherless. A defender of widows and orphans.” His very nature is such that he has care and compassion upon those who are hurting and suffering. So when we take God’s burden upon ourselves and we share in that burden we come in touch with a place of his heart that we can’t find any other way. He is a compassionate God and when we align ourselves with what he is passionate about it does something inside of us and we understand more of who we are and more about whom he is. Most of us try to do so many things to live a better spiritual life, such as praying more or attending more Bible studies, but when we begin to do the things that God cares the most about, and arguably I think that Scripture is clear that it is ministering to those who are in need, the widow, stranger and orphan, then that does something to us that enables us to experience his pleasuring in ways we wouldn’t otherwise…we have a sense of fulfillment, a sense of meaning, we have a sense of giving definition to our calling, because we are doing exactly what Jesus himself did when he walked this earth and what he is still doing through the life of His church. While reading Fields of the Fatherless it becomes apparent that your intent in writing the book is two-fold. One, you wrote the book the proclaim God's love for the Fatherless and to teach the reader how loving the Fatherless is an essential component of our love for God. Two, you intended the book to be a prophetic call to the church, encouraging her to set aside her thoroughgoing self interest as well as her fear so that she can lavish compassion upon the Fatherless. Thus, your purpose is not just to change individuals but to seek the transformation of the entire church. With that in mind, how can church leaders, small group leaders and youth ministers both create compassionate communities and enable those communities to serve in the fields of the Fatherless?

C. Thomas Davis: First of all, its not the easiest ministry in the world to begin. But I think it is one that is critical. I think we cannot fail to invest our lives in these kinds of ministries. I’ll speak from the perspective of being a youth minister for quite a while. One of the things that I really became weary with was the same camp experience we went through each summer. We brought in the big speakers, rode on wave runners and did all sorts of fun activities (which you need to do from time to time), but what bothered me was that my kids would go from an emotional high back to being the very same person they were two weeks before. So many of us struggle so much with trying to change and become a “better Christian,” but more Bible studies and more rigor in our devotional life often leave us unfulfilled. I honestly believe that instead of the myriad of things that we have been doing we should shift our attention to being involved in the lives of people and participating in ministries that serve the most vulnerable. As we deepen our involvement in the lives of the vulnerable and establish ourselves in ministries such as this we will find that our sacrificial service in the Fields of the Fatherless is the huge missing piece of the puzzle that is Christianity. Of course, there are a number of shapes that such ministry takes, but I’ll offer one example. As all of us know there are people all over our communities who are in need. It might be the single mom across the street who is breaking her back day in and day out just to put food on the table. And in the midst of doing this she is paying hundreds of dollars to have someone look after her children during the day as she is separated from them so that she can earn enough just to simply scrape by. As the people of God we can come alongside someone like that and do simple things like take them a bag of groceries from time to time or babysitting so that we can invest in their life and help make it better. These things make all the difference in the world to them. What authors and works have helped you understand and live out Jesus' call to this great compassion?

C. Thomas Davis: The first person is Henri Nouwen. He wrote a book called the The Road to Daybreak. As he taught at Harvard and Yale he realized that the more he taught about God the further he became from God. In this book he discusses his transition from the University to this community to the Daybreak Community where the people couldn’t care for themselves or do many other substantial things for themselves. He explains that ministering to them was more the gospel, and he saw more of Jesus in the lives of these shattered, broken people than he ever had before. I was reading that at the time I was going over to Russia and initially serving the orphans. That book tremendously influenced my life.
I would also have to say that Philip Yancey such as The Jesus I Never Knew challenged my faith and helped me look at life with an entirely new set of glasses.
Also Jean Vanier, Becoming Human totally opened my eyes to what it means to be human and to live compassionately in the lives of other people. Is there anything else that you would like to add?

C. Thomas Davis: I think that the question we have to answer today, as the church is “What does it mean to be the church?” Does it mean bigger congregations, does it mean getting transfer growth, does it mean being visible on the political scene? I think the answer, in large part, to that question is to go back to what the church was founded upon. When you see in Scriptures like Acts 2 an unbelievably loving, thriving, generous community that it effected people to such a degree that unbelievers couldn’t help but exclaim, “Look at the love that they have for one another!” They were on the outside of that circle wanting to know how they could get to the inside of that circle so that they could be loved in that way too. They also loved the poor in that way, leading outsiders to wonder why they took care of the orphans and widows when there didn’t seem to be anything in it for them. Note that in Acts 6 it was the Apostles themselves took on the care of the widows because they knew how important it was to God. When it got too big they appointed other Apostles to handle that. We need to learn from that and ask what we need to do to be that kind of loving community, so that the unbelieving world looks at us and does not see an irrelevant, politically driven organization that is pretty self centered and all about their own needs, but a body of people who are so filled with the love of Christ that compassion flows out of them to such an extent that people ask how they can get in on that kind of love or that kind of community. That’s what transforms the life of people. That would be my heart as a member of the body of Christ. We need to move towards being more of a loving church. We need to act out on our love so that our churches are filled with those who are hurting, the single moms, the orphans, the strangers who come from other countries. They first place they would go would be the church because they would know that they can receive love there that they would not get anywhere else. The power of community is that because of Christ and his love and because people can’t get that kind of love anywhere else except in a Christian community. We need to be a powerful magnet that draws people in and transforms their lives.

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