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The Global Orphan Project

Trace ThurlbyTrace Thurlby is the president of The Global Orphan Project – (GO Project or GO) a global orphan care ministry headquartered in Kansas City, Missouri. They care for the world’s neediest kids in the world’s neediest countries. Trace earlier had spent twenty years in the Air Force, financial services, and Christian broadcasting.

Interviewed by Stephen M. Thompson, Ph.D.

Welcome to OpenBeast. Tell us about yourself.

Thanks for inviting me. I’ll encourage the readers to stick with the story.  It will get more interesting once we get through background information about me. I grew up in a small town in Arkansas.  Joined the Air Force, got married, entered the business world, started having children….on one level, a very normal narrative.  Below the speaker’s bio, in my mid-twenties, I had a transformational, personal encounter with Jesus. I followed Him, and the resulting adventure has been richer than ever imagined.  He’s taken me from the Great Wall of China, to earthquake-ravaged Haiti, to rural African villages to show me His heart for His children.The last three years I’ve had the privilege of serving full-time with The Global Orphan Project.  After being a husband and dad, the “work” at GO Project is one of the great joys of my life.

What is The Global Orphan Project all about?

The Global Orphan Project (GO Project) exists to see lives transformed through orphan care.  We serve as a pipe connecting people here who have a heart to care for orphaned and abandoned children with people there who are providing the day-to-day care.  After years of “doing” (and plenty of mistakes), we are convinced that we are to work through the local church on the there side.  Though imperfect and often criticized, the local church has a global presence and local knowledge of language, culture, and people’s stories (needs, gifts, etc).  They also have a call to action to care for the orphan, and in many places, they are doing an excellent job!  We want to find those churches, partner with them, and help them care for more children.  On the here side of the ministry, we welcome and celebrate anyone who wants to help.  Caring for children in need is compelling on many levels.

We not only want to help the church own the ministry, we want to help them operate it without the need for perpetual foreign-based funding.  So, we help locals launch economic and agricultural ventures that provide jobs, reduce operating costs, and provide an income stream to help cover the costs of caring for children.  Currently, we are helping care for more than 2,600 children around the world.  This year, we expect to see orphaned and abandoned children coming into GO Project partner care in at least three more countries; the one that may be the most surprising to readers is the US – caring for orphaned children right here in our own backyard through a movement called adoptlKC.

How and why did you get involved with the cause for adoption?

For my wife and I, adoption is very personal.  Seven years into marriage, it didn’t appear we’d be able to have biological children.  We looked into adoption, and our heart changed from viewing it as a noble PLAN B to seeing adoption as a beautiful PLAN A.  Our first two children were biological, but soon after we asked, “What was that whole adoption thing about?  Just because we now can reproduce doesn’t mean we shouldn’t adopt.” That may sound silly, but it was a light bulb experience for us. That week, we went to a meeting on adoption and soon began the process which led to bringing our third daughter into our family two years later. At the same time (2006), I receive an invitation to go on a Vision Trip to Haiti with The Global Orphan Project. The five days there opened my eyes to children I had never seen before, and I was, what we call here, ruined for the average.  From that point on, we haven’t looked back….seeing people get adopted into God’s family has become our family’s passion.

Describe your Tour d’Uganda  experience?

15 people cycling past zebra on African plains flirts with the surreal.  At times, the diversity of God’s creation almost demands worship.  Uganda is gorgeous, deserving of the “Pearl of Africa” title that Churchill bestowed decades ago.  That said, we are shameless at GO Project.  We’ll do almost anything to get people to look in “the orphan window.”  Some people want to bike.  Some want to do a trail run.  Others want to paint, or help launch a business.  C’mon!  Let’s GO!  We want to help connect people’s passion with the opportunity to express it for the benefit of others.  So, at the end of the day, the Tour d’Uganda was a really cool and memorable way to use bicycles to expose more people to what God is doing around the world to care for His kids.  We’re grateful.

So did GO get involved with the Haiti crisis (Haiti’s earthquake in Jan, 2010)?

Yes, we were very involved in relief and redevelopment efforts. The key was we had been in Haiti since 2006.  We had hundreds of children in care living in the Port Au Prince area that we needed to check on. Thankfully, they were all OK.  The relationships and knowledge from previous years allowed us to help hundreds more in the coming days, weeks, and months.Frankly, it also helped that we are small. When you raise $30+ million in a texting campaign (like one big aid organization did), people expect you to do big things; go in through the front door.  But, what happens when the front door (the airport and the naval port) is broken.  As a smaller organization, we were nimble and could make quick decisions. We landed in the Dominican Republic the day after the earthquake, drove over the border to Haiti, and started a string of food shipments via 18-wheelers that arrived every third day.

The news media was saying distribution was impossible.  That was true during the day when people were lining the streets, but people would sleep at night, and the roads would open.  From 10 p.m. to midnight, local pastors would arrive in whatever vehicles they could find – dump trucks, pickup trucks, etc.  They would load up, head to their churches in town and pass out the food to those in their community before the sun came up.  In the first week, when others were trying to figure out just how to get around, we watched a handful of local pastors deliver more than 100,000 pounds of food to their community.  Regardless of one’s personal faith, any objective observer would have marveled at the effectiveness of the local church as a distribution network. Our ministry and partnerships in Haiti remain strong.

Currently, we are working with 18 local pastors whose churches are caring for more than 1,400 children and who are educating twice as many.

Talk to us about upcoming GO events and how could our readers help or get involved?

The Run d’Haiti and Tour d’Haiti II (cycling) just finished.  If you have an adventure bent, please check out www.goadventures.org  We also have 40 Vision Trips to Haiti per year and about three to Africa.  Locally, we’re hosting an outreach this Thursday at the Kauffman Center in Kansas City to help mobilize churches in Kansas City to provide family for the hundreds of children who lives as wards of the state in our own metro area. This spring, we’ll launch a line of products made in the third world whose first-world sales help fund orphan care, as well as our annual GO Project Family 5K this May in Parkville.

There’s a lot going on, but our favorite upcoming events are the ones we don’t plan, but rather are planned by those in the extended GO Project family.  A ten-year old boy recently gave up his birthday – with proceeds for orphans as his presents.  Ladies are hosting in-home parties to sell goods made by other ladies in Uganda and Haiti to support orphan care.  A sixteen-year-old girl wrote a song “Heart for Haiti”, made it into a CD, and raised more than enough to build a children’s home.  When we hear these stories, we can’t stop smiling.

So, when someone asks us, “What can I do to help?”  We generally respond with, “What do you want to do?  What do you like to do?”  Do you want to GO with us and experience this ministry yourself? (Generally our top recommendation.)  Do you want to host a party?  Do you want to walk across America?  Sing a song, write a book, paint?  We’ll help you….because whatever is on your heart to do, that’s what you’ll be best at…that is where joy is! Lots of people are doing their own ‘GO Projects’. You can check a few of these stories, or better yet, start one of your own at www.my.goproject.org.

What are your leisure time activities?

I love being with my family at the lake, watching my kids ski, playing tennis.  I like to sing hymns in our living room when my wife practices her oboe.  I love to write. I like getting with a group of men over the Word of God and talking about where we are as husband, fathers, and servant leaders.  God has been so ridiculously good to me.  I consider myself a blessed man, and I am so grateful.  Thank you for the opportunity to share about what we see the Lord doing to care for His kids.

Thank you.

For more details about The Global Orphan Project, visit www.goproject.org

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