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Episode 72

Celebrating the Miracles of 2022

Hollen Frazier, AGCI President

You are listening to Together by AGCI. I’m Melissa Rush.

Today we’re celebrating all of the miracles that AGCI got to experience in 2022. I can’t think of anyone more equipped to speak to this than AGCI i’s President Hollen Frazier. Let’s get into our conversation. Well, we are so excited to have AGCI, President Hollen Frazier joining us today to talk about all of the incredible things that happened in 2022. Thanks so much for joining us, Hollen. Oh my gosh, thank you for having me, Melissa. I’m so excited to get to chat with you today. Awesome. Well, 2022 was a pretty incredible year for AGCI. I would love for you to start by just sharing a little bit about all that AGCI was able to accomplish this past year. Gosh, we had such a great year, and I will just say it’s amazing to see how God just continues to go out before us and open doors that are allowing us to have really wide, wide scale impact. But a few highlights probably of this last year for me that stand out is we were able to support over 10,000 families in our prevention work, which means that’s, that’s 10,000 wow children that are not entering institutions this year because of the preventative work we were able to do this past year.

So, I think I’m really proud of that work and our team. Another highlight I think, is that we’ve placed over a hundred children into adoptive families this past year and you know, as you know, a lot of the kids were advocating for today have different levels of needs and are enlarged sibling groups. And so, to watch our adoption team just be so passionate about finding the right families for these kids, that’s definitely a highlight to see these kids now have the arms of a forever family around them this next year. So those are a couple. And I think the other highlight for me this year is that a hundred percent of the young women in our independence program in Colombia have all been at or above their academic standings. Wow. We, we watched three young women graduate this year and all of them are actively participating in some pretty significant therapies. So those are just the highlights for me to get to see the deeper work that we’re doing individually with children and young adults, and then also kind of more of the macro scale as well. Awesome. Yeah, and it’s so cool to think about, you know, obviously all those individual lives change, but the ripple effects of that too, like those girls in the Independence program, like kind of the impact that they’ll be able to have in their future and a totally different life than would’ve been possible.

So, it’s just, I mean, we can’t even know what the future holds obviously, but it’s super exciting to see, you know, new doors being opened and yeah, just excited to see what the future holds for them. It’s awesome. Oh, you know, I, I took a trip back to Colombia, I guess, gosh, my days get kind of put together I feel like as I get older. But in the fall, I was in Colombia and just got to spend time in the home where, you know, we’re, we have this beautiful safe haven for these 24 young women to study, go to university, but also just live and be supported in an environment that allows them to grow into adulthood. But oh my gosh, they’re so fun, you know? Yeah. Outside of the traumatic past that they’ve, they’ve had and have experienced just to see their grit, to see their empathy, to see just how God’s working and moving in their lives. It’s just powerful. So, you know, I always tell people I’m, you know, they’re like, oh, it’s so great the work you do. And I’m like, no, you don’t get it. Like, I’m the one that gets blessed to be able to interact with such incredible young people, children, and families. It really is amazing. Yeah. Yeah, it is. And I, I was also blessed to get to travel to Colombia this past year and see the girls at that home and you’re so right.

I mean, it’s kind of a miracle just when you know the background of all that they’ve been through the joy that’s present and that’s because of like the deep work of our, our team there and the healing that’s happening. And I don’t think that that would be possible without that. But it’s just so cool to see, you know, when you really kind of walk with someone and help them through that journey, like what’s possible and the joy that’s possible at the end of that. Yeah. And it’s so hopeful. It’s so hopeful that that is, you know, something that is possible for, for everyone. No one is too far gone for that healing, for that joy. So yeah, it’s kind of hard to explain, but it’s really cool to get to see. Yeah, so, so neat and probably just my last one that just hit my head, but it’s, it’s definitely a highlight of this. Last year we were able to, in partnership with the Karyn Purvis Institute for Child Development, help host the second Trust-Based Relational Intervention© practitioner training in Latin America, over 120 leaders from across 10 countries participated. And so, we’re just seeing this movement really grow as far as understanding the impacts of trauma in our kids and families we’re serving. And so, to just get to see that ripple effect out has been really fun to watch. Yeah, it’s so cool.

It’s just so exciting to see what, what will come from all of that. So, what surprised you about this past year? Was there anything that happened that you just never thought that you would see happen? Gosh, probably a number of things, but the one that probably comes to my mind back in January, our adopt our adoption team came to us and said, hey, I really think we should look at expanding into Ecuador because it’s right next to Colombia. They’re bar– they were barely doing any adoptions, but they were like, we know that there’s kids that are there, they’re stuck in institutions. Yeah. And we think we could help them find families. So, we ended up getting licensed to do adoption in Ecuador and on the very first meeting in the country on the day one, which was just an adoption kind of trip to go see the needs of the kids so we could be advocating for the right families. There happened to be a minister that was sitting at a breakfast table near where our team was meeting with the director of the central authority. And she ended up inviting that minister over. And as our team just started to share about the work that AGCI is doing globally, specifically in Colombia with our child advocacy center, he invited our team back to his office where they went on to spend the next five hours drawing out our child advocacy model.

They had nothing on them because again, this was like a adoption advocacy trip, but they kind of just shared how we had this really strong momentum years ago when we did this national training of leaders on trauma in Bogota. And at the end of that meeting he said, if I can get you a meeting with the first lady of the country, would you come back with a proposal to do the same type of meeting here in Ecuador? And of course, the team said, yes, if you can get that meeting, we will be back. And 30 days later I boarded a plane taquito. And you know, they told us we’d have probably about 20 minutes with the first lady to kinda walk through a proposal of what a two-day conference would look like. And Melissa, it was one of those moments where we’d go to the presidential palace, and we walk in and we’re thinking we’re gonna go into her office and meet with her. And we get escorted into this massive ballroom with every president of Ecuador around this massive U-shaped table with nameplates and microphones and full-on screen with projector. And I’m sitting there like literally holding a handheld paper document. So of course, I’m calling the team and I’m like, I’ll have 15 minutes to have a PowerPoint proposal, which our team’s amazing. They did.

But what was supposed to be a 20-minute meeting, actually we met with over 10 of their ministers and vice ministers over child welfare. They, they had their, I mean, you name it, economics, like all these vice ministers. And we kind of just went deep into our child advocacy model and how we’ve really, we’re looking at that root cause of trauma being the reason why families are dissolving children aren’t able to flourish when they’re placed in institutional care and the lack of support systems on the backend when they age out. And at the end of that, what ended up being hour and a half meeting in that room, the first lady, she actually looked at me and said, can I invite you to come up? I’d love to show you our presidential home at the palace. And so, we went upstairs and she so graciously like walked us through all the rooms and it was just beautiful. But at the end of that evening, we were standing on top of her patio overlooking downtown keto and the churches, and it was just beautiful. But she turned to me and said, can I ask you a question? And I said, yes, you can ask me anything. And she said, do you have faith? And I said, actually, I do have faith. I said, it’s for me personal. Yes, but it’s also the foundation for all God’s children.

And I went on to tell her that, you know, this, this tool that we use called TBRI, trust-based relational intervention. It really is just a discipleship model. Like if you really look at what it’s doing, it’s bringing healing to hurting people and we’re connecting with them first. We’re empowering them with the Holy Spirit and then looking at correction. And so, when you really look at the response of people, it really is the Lord in this work that’s doing it. And she looked at me and said, you know, I share that same deep faith and I know God brought you here for a reason, and together we’re going to bring healing to my people. And I will just tell you, walking out that palace that day, there was such a, I mean it’s definitely a highlight not only of this past year, probably in my 27 years at AGCI, just to see how God, only God could have knitted that story together. We didn’t go after doing a national training of leaders in Ecuador. We were just taking one step forward to seeing if we could help a handful of kids through adoption and to just see how God is going out before us and opening doors for us to walk through. It was just also a huge confirmation as we’ve spent the last couple years really praying about vision and future and where the Lord wants us to step into.

It was just a confirmation of, wow, Lord, what we’ve been praying about. We haven’t even gotten it all fully yet to paper, but you’re already doing it. So, it was a highlight on a lot of yes levels. And she’s amazing. Let me just say that she, Maria is a fantastic leader, godly woman. Ecuador is really, really lucky to have her and her husband leading their country. So definitely a privilege for me this year. That is a crazy story. That is so cool. I just have to ask like in these moments where it’s just like you, I mean you, all of these doors open so suddenly and it’s like things you never could have imagined or a or asked for. Like what’s going through your head? Like, are you just like, okay, I guess we’re doing this and you kinda roll with it? I mean you, you kind of sit there for a minute and go, okay, Lord, I don’t think I’m qualified for this job at all. There are definitely moments of that and then you just really quickly center yourself on, you’re just being a voice for voiceless kids and for hurting people. And so, you know, you, you center that panic, that quick panic of, I was not prepared for microphones and translators and PowerPoints and Lord have me say the right words to just going, okay, this isn’t about me.

And in my panic, like, how can I really like bring glory to him and help more kids and families? But definitely Melissa, you don’t, I never walk into those moments feeling capable or prepared. So for anyone out there that thinks, oh, I wanna lead one day and I’m gonna be all these great, I think there’s always a piece of it where you’re just like, Ugh, I’m not quite, I don’t know Lord if I’m the one, but somehow he, he opens the door and you just, I keep at least walking through it. Yeah. So that’s a good thing. Absolutely. Wow, what an amazing story. Thanks for sharing that. So, from your perspective, what was a, what was a prayer that was answered this last year? Hmm. Well, hands down for me it would be that we, we got to see a peace treaty be signed between the Ethiopian government and the north that, you know, we have not been able to get boots on the ground up in Northern Ethiopian, the Tora region now for, gosh, we’re gonna be going on three years and just some of the reports that we’ve heard from the north and just the devastation there. We had hundreds of families in our sponsorship program there that yeah, even today we don’t know where they’re at and if they’re, they’re okay. So definitely this fall when that came through, massive answer to many, many, many prayers. Yeah. Yeah.

That was such an awful time and so difficult for so many people on, on our team and obviously, you know, around the world and yeah, that’s definitely a huge, huge answered prayer. So, at AGCI, we, we always wanna, you know, we kind of, we focus on the, the macro and all these big numbers and which is amazing, but it’s so important to us to always bring it back to the one to the child. Can you share a story of a child that was touched by our work this last year? Yes. This is one that I’ve shared with a few people the last few months cuz it just was really, really impactful to me. And I wish, I know this is a podcast so you can’t see the visual, but yeah, I wish everyone could see the visual of this little girl the day she entered our home in Ethiopia and the day she left. But this little girl entered, well, let me back up and say this little girl was born to a single mom who had six other children and she was unable to literally put food on the table for all of these kids. And so, she ended up sending, let me just call her, I wanna make sure I’m protecting her name. Let, let me call her Kaist.

Kaist was sent to go live with her uncle, and she had actually a great relationship with her uncle, but as she was starting to get older of school age, he was, he lived too far outside the city, and he was unable to get her education. And so, he ended up, I wanna say she was with him about three years. He reached out to another aunt that was living in Addis Ababa and asked if he sent Kaist to her, if she could help her get to school, which she said yes sadly for her, when she arrived at that home, she was not able to go to school. The family ended up having her, which we see time and time again in Ethiopia. But she became kind of the servant of the home, but more so than being the servant of the home, she started to be abused by the uncle in that house in, in pretty terrible ways. And so, it ended up being that the aunt, and I wanna say at this point she’s 11, the aunt accused her of having an affair with her husband. Wow. To the point that she took her to the police station, and she filed formal charges against her. And Kaist ended up spending 30 days at the police station, some days going days without food as this case went to court, which thankfully the judge that got the case found her innocent.

And so, the day she arrived to the AGCI and Tim Tebow House of Hope in Ethiopia, it was the day she was found innocent. And if I could describe the photo or the picture of her that day, I mean, I just imagine a little girl that literally has nothing in her eyes. I mean she’s just despondent, totally detached from reality. And we saw that as she entered the home, I mean, fearful, unable to trust a lot of different like hard behaviors. Yeah. And so, we just, our team, which is so phenomenal in that home, I mean they just wrapped her, wrapped her in their arms. Just so much love, so many interventions with her to slowly start building her soul back up to how and where God intended it to be. We ended up locating her birth mother who still said she was unable to care for her and we were able then to locate her uncle, the original uncle that she lived with for three years, who was devastated to hear about what happened to her. Oh. And he really loves her. And so, after really working with him in his grief in what happened to her this fall, we were able to reunify her with her uncle and she’s going to school. We’ve created a plan so she can go to school while she’s living with her uncle.

And if you could just see that first photo on the day she arrived to, you know, all the girls in our, our house, they, there’s a huge painted tree and when they leave the home, they put their hand print on the ski to signify not only their presence in that home and that they’ll always have a family within us, but also as a visual for the girls that are there to know that’s the outcome. We wanna see them be reunified with their family members of origin. But that picture on the last day of her putting her handprint on that wall and just the biggest smile and light and joy brought back again to her eyes and it’s just a testament to God and like yeah, just the healing power of the Lord and what he can do in our lives, even sometimes in the worst circumstances. But her story just stands out because just some of the things we see within the children and families we serve, I mean they’re hard, they’re really horrific. But to get to see, because of the work we’re doing, the backend of those stories and the hope and the blessing and what can come of it and really the the permanency for kids, which is what yeah, we want to see those pathways back to faith and family and independence. Absolutely. Her story just sticks out in my mind. Wow. Thank you for sharing that.

That’s such a beautiful story and I, I was blessed to get to go and see the AGCI and Tim Tebow Foundation House of Hope in Ethiopia this fall. And I just, the work that our team is doing there is unlike anything I’ve ever seen. You walk through that home and like you said, all the girls there have had just trauma that is, I mean, unimaginable, just horrific things so hard and they’re so young, but that home is truly a place of joy. Just the girls are laughing, they’re playing games, they’re singing worship songs, they’re, and the connection that they, the connections that they develop with the staff there, it’s, it’s just unlike anything I’ve ever seen. And it’s so, so healing and the fact, fact that there are other organizations that are doing reunifications, but generally what they’re doing is they are just placing the kids back into their family without doing that work. And that unfortunately we see that that doesn’t work. And so, I just think it’s so encouraging and so exciting to see where this is headed and that like our team is going there, they’re really walking beside these girls with, and they have very, a lot of times very, very difficult behaviors that it’s, it’s hard. Yeah. But they’re working with the family as well and then we are seeing that be successful. Yeah. And like you said, I mean what answered Prayer Miracle?

I mean it’s just unbelievable. Unbelievable. Well, and I’m so proud to be able to share that we’ve cared for 35 kids this year in that home, and we’ve been able to reunify 24 young young ladies and of those 24 a hundred percent are still reunified with their families. And globally, if you look at percentages of reunifications that last after six months, very, very small number. So, for us it really is about that permanency piece. It’s, it’s doing the pre-work going really deep to identify what was the root cause of why these kids fell out of family care to begin with. And not only working with the children on their trauma experience, their traumatic experiences, but also simultaneously going deep with the caregivers of where they’ll be reunified to, to ensure that we’ve done that same deep work with the family. And that doesn’t always mean that the recommendation is to reunify. So, it is a very long process. But then also ensuring we have the supports post services once they’re reunified and back home. So, you know, the care we see in that, that house is really our vision of the care we wanna see for every child around the world that if they’re, they’re in the extremely unfortunate situation of having to be placed in an institution, at least having it be one where you have connected and healed caregivers that can bring connection and healing to kids.

So that’s definitely a part of what we’re striving to accomplish in the future. Yeah, it’s exciting to think about what lays ahead. Well on that note, what are you most excited for in 2023? What’s next for AGCI? Well, in 2023, speaking of vision, it actually this, this year we did launch a three-year campaign, it’s called Unlocking Hope. We’re working to raise 22 million to reach over 1.275 million children and families across the globe. And as part of that campaign, what is really, I think a big focus for us is looking at how we can take the work that we’ve done through our child advocacy center in Colombia and really bring that out to an national scale level. We’re seeing such a response from leaders in the country that are asking us to go into these different sectors. And so even on the institution side, we’re right now working and piloting a program that would literally be working to bring healing to every child caregiver and leader in institutions in Colombia. And so, as we’re working kind of through this campaign and what some of those initiatives are, we’re looking at taking that national scale that we want to do in Colombia and then looking at how that spreads throughout Central and South America. And I mean, we’re just seeing doors open left and right because of what’s already taking place in Colombia, which is just really neat to see. Yeah, those doors opening.

And then simultaneously as we’re kind of focused on South America, central America, also looking at how we start to go deeper with that same model in Ethiopia and Africa. And then we’re looking to open our third child advocacy center maybe next year at the latest, probably 2024, but in Asia. So really excited to be seen. Like the goal was always to have three different child advocacy centers globally, one in South America, one in Africa, and one in Asia. So, I think Asia could be coming up around the corner. So, we’re excited about that and the work that we’re doing there. We just, you know, for us, we really wanna make sure when we go into a new place, we’re meeting unmet needs. We’re not going in and just replicating programs that exist on the ground or we’re just opening a program to open a program so we can tell people about it. Like we really want it to be filling a gap in a hole and something that we know that we then can be empowering local leaders to find those solutions for the long term. And we want it to be scalable. So, we’re, we’ve been working this year on some needs assessments, and we have some ideas and we’re testing some of those right now. But excited to see what is happening right now in Asia for sure. Wow, that’s so exciting.

Well, and I’m sure there’s gonna be when we, I will obviously talk to you before this point, but when we talk again about this at the next year, there’s gonna be all these other miracles and things we never could have dreamed of, which is, it’ll be exciting to see what the doors God opens just to end us. I’m curious for someone listening to this, do you have, is there anything that people can be praying for for for AGCI, for the kids that we serve? Gosh, I would just ask for prayers specifically for our families and children that we’re serving. Just that God can meet them where they’re at and that we can continue to really come alongside them and and walk in in a discipleship model and bring healing to their lives. I also think just prayer surrounding our kids that wait today for adoptive families, definitely the landscape of adoption is older children, it’s children with different needs, large sibling groups. Not every family is equipped to handle the needs of the kids we see, but we see some of the most precious, endearing children that need those, those families to step forward for them. So I would just say prayers for families, just that feel equipped and called to, to let this be a year that doesn’t hold them back or the fears to step forward if they really feel that that’s something that God’s equipping them to do.

Because there really are so many children waiting around the world and their biggest dream this year is to have someone say, yes, I, I want your mine. And we see that day in and day out. So, I think that’d be another prayer, always prayers for our young women in our Home in Independence program in Colombia. I guess another, just to backtrack, but exciting thing. This next year we actually are opening a second home in Colombia for an additional 24 young women in partnership with the Tim Tebow Foundation. So awesome. Super excited. We’ve located that building, we’re doing renovations on it right now, so that will just extend that reach a little bit further so that that more girls can have that pathway to independence. So maybe just prayers surrounding that home and that the Lord will just bring the 24 young people that he wants to enter its doors. But yeah, I guess there, and then definitely for this upcoming campaign that as we’re, we’re kind of have these plans and we’re just meeting with families and kind of sharing some of the specifics on what God’s calling us into, that we’ll just continue out and and see that this campaign can be funded, and we can continue that reach to more and more children and families across the world. Awesome. Well thank you so much Hollen. That was so inspiring, and I just can’t wait to see what happens in 2023.

There’s a lot to look forward to. So excited. Thank you so much, Melissa, for having me on today. It’s good to see you and connect. Thank you, you too.

That was AGCI President Hollen Frazier. Thanks for listening to Together by AGCI. As always, if you liked what you heard, please rate or review us wherever you listen to podcasts. If you’d like to read or watch even more stories, check out our website, all God’s Reach out to us and let us know what you think on Instagram @AllGodsChildrenInternational or email us at We look forward to sharing another story of hope the next time we’re together. We’ll talk to you soon.