Video Interview of Josiah’s Covenant
This summer I (Kevin) was interviewed through his running of the prayer-coach.com blog. The interview quickly delved into how Allison and I started Josiah’s Covenant. It is kind of a Founder’s Story of sorts.
In the interview, I share:
- Why we felt to start Josiah’s Covenant
- How we came about the name
- What has been hard for us in this process
- How have our kids done
- How did we get our farm
I think this interview will encourage you and excite you for what’s ahead for Josiah’s Covenant.
I will add this one disclaimer: I share a lot of our personal faith in relation to these answers as it deeply affects why we started Josiah’s Covenant. We appreciate the many different faiths of those who support us to help teenage orphan girls in China. The goal of sending you this interview is not to convert anyone, but help you understand our heart and motives.
Prayer For Our Staff
This past month one of our caretakers at the farm, Lao Niu, was diagnosed with stomach cancer. He is the father of our farm manager, David. David and Phoebe recommended their parents to come work with us a year ago because they wanted to be closer to them (they were a 20-hour train ride away before).
Both Niu and Ai have been great workers, keeping the farm looking nice and maintaining the crops and animals. Lao Niu really took to our dog, and they would daily go on walks around the farm together.
Lao Niu has recently had surgery and is scheduled to return to the farm this week. Please pray for a healthy recovery and comfort to Ai and David.
Thank you for your belief in this work in China. People’s lives are being changed because of you.
Josiah’s Covenant Interview Transcription
Introduction of Kevin
NATALIE: Welcome back to the Power Up Master Class, and I’m so excited today that we have Kevin Shorter here with us. Kevin is known as the Prayer Coach, so I am looking forward to some excellent content today from him.
Kevin is also a businessman, but he has a very tender heart for people. He runs and writes the excellent Prayer Coach blog, so be sure you check that out. Really that is articulating God’s heart for us. He addresses a lot of the misconceptions that we all have that hold us back from going to God in prayer.
He and his wife, Allison, (and I can’t wait for you to share more about this with me here in a little bit)… they started a nonprofit called Josiah’s Covenant that creates jobs for Chinese orphan girls to help protect them from human trafficking.
He and his family are changing lives wherever they go, they are radically living out their faith, and I am really looking forward to your insights on how we can each radically live out our own faith, as well.
So, Kevin, welcome! Glad to have you here.
To kind of open up, tell us a little bit about how you’re discovering God’s plan for your life, how you are living out your relationship with Him?
** How Are You Discovering God’s Plan For Your Life? **
Why Did We Start Josiah’s Covenant?
KEVIN: It is probably best to go through what we are doing now. You mentioned about our nonprofit that we started, Josiah’s Covenant. That has been a four-year journey now.
When we started that, we were in a transition part of our lives. Actually, we didn’t know we were in a transition point. I had a job, nice income, worked from home. I was able to be with the kids a lot.
We were just at a place where it seemed every week, my wife and I would pray whether we were supposed to stay here. We were living in California at the time. There was just something that was moving in us, like are we supposed to stay here. We loved where we were at. We loved our friendships, relationships we had. There was a men’s group I was involved with and leading a small group with, and I really enjoyed those guys. But I got to a point where I felt I had to give up the group. So, I handed it off to a different guy to run it.
My wife had a couple job offers that we felt that she was supposed to decline. And, we were just at this point where we thought, ‘God, are You setting us up for something?” We just didn’t know what it was.
We Felt To Go to China
And then October 2012, we felt God just kind of birthed something in us. It was just like God was impressing on us a lot of things He was doing in our lives, and it felt like in the midst of that we were to go to China.
As my wife and I talked about it, we felt it was from the Lord, but it was really just a vague as that… to go to China. We didn’t know what that meant or where to go. I mean, China is a big country. Where are we going to land when we get there?
It set us on a four-month journey praying together, getting our kids involved to pray, and asking God what we felt like He was doing. And we just felt like He was saying we were to work with orphans.
We Felt We Were To Work With Orphans
When you think of orphans, most people who work with orphans work with the very young orphans helping them to be adopted or taking care of special needs orphans, hugging them, loving on them, and taking care of their needs. We just didn’t what to do that.
You just have to know yourself sometimes. And, we knew that working with young kids is not what we wanted to do. We love our kids and are happy other people have kids, but we didn’t exactly want to take care of little babies. And, that is what most orphan work is.
But we felt this burning to work with orphans, so as we continued to discuss with one another and with God in prayer, we felt like it was supposed to be these older, teenage orphans. So, we started looking into what happens to them when they have to leave the orphanage.
We Felt We Were To Work With Teenage Orphans Girls
It turns out that when orphans age-out of the orphanage, in most countries it is age 18 because they are considered adults, they leave. But in some countries or situations it is age 14 because they cannot be internationally adopted after that. So, sometimes they are pushed out at age 14. Not all orphanages, but some do that.
So we looked into what happens to them when they have to move out. They are very little statistics, but most of what I have seen is that 10% of those kids that come out of the orphanage that haven’t been adopted and are out on their own… 10% of them commit suicide.
And, out of the women, the girls that come out, 60% of them end up in prostitution (I mistakenly said 70% – 70% of the boys become criminals according to those stats). And so, that was the burden for us. We want to do something to rescue them and help protect them from that life of prostitution and human trafficking. And, if we can get them as they are coming out of the orphanage and have a safe place for them, we can help transition them from the life of being fully taken care of at the orphanage to a life where they are fully taking care of themselves on their own.
NATALIE: How does that come all about? You covered a lot of time there. You’re sharing that it was bathed in prayer. But what else is going on while you’re going through that? Are you giving up homes? Did your jobs prepare you for something like this? Or is this purely you got the call, you finally figured out what it was through prayer, and you just went?
** Were You Prepared For This Adventure? **
Kevin’s Professional Background
KEVIN: I think in a lot of ways we were prepared for it, but we didn’t know that going into it. My wife and I when we first got married joined staff with Campus Crusade for Christ, which is a huge parachurch organization, so we had some ministry experience. And, after we finished our time with them, we joined staff of a church, so we did a little bit of time in a church.
Then I felt called to go to business school. so I came out of the ministry experience and started business. I got an MBA and started working with large fortune 500 companies. I was in with Lowe’s Home Improvement. I was in adidas. I was inside these big companies doing work for them.
So, this was what I was doing before going to China. And going in to China, they really value business experience, so it gave me a lot of open doors when I went into China because I had this background. And, what were were doing, we were not setting up a nonprofit in China because we would not have been able to stay long if we had done that.
We Were Creating A Business In China
So what we did was create a business in China that is actually running as a business then we hire these girls to come and work for us. We give them jobs. It is common in China for your employee to give you a place to live. So, they are living at the farm with us. And, we give them on-the-job training giving them job skills that they can then take and use other places once they are away from us.
And, we are also addressing some of the heart issues they had because they grew up orphans. All that is considered normal within the business experience. It’s not normal, but the fact that they get training and all that stuff, it fits what is expected. And we are able to do that because one we have the background of caring for other people but we also have the business experience that can tell us that these are things we need to do to set up an active business in China.
And so, it did kind of come together. But, it was only as we were progressing forward did we actually know that was what we could do. The main thing we did know was my wife’s heart for orphan girls.
Allison’s Burden For Chinese Orphan Girls
When she was 13, she read about the One Child policy from one of the Newsweek or Time magazines. And, at that time it was just coming out. She was reading about how little girls were being left on the side of the road or in front of police stations. She just felt that this was just wrong. Because that could have been me. I’m a girl, and if I was born in China that could have been me that was left on the side of the road.
We are older and now it is common to adopt from China, but at the time nobody was adopting from China. And, nobody was really adopting internationally. It was some, but it was not as prevalent as it is now. And she was at that point age 13 said, I may never want kids of my own, but I want to adopt Chinese girls.
So, when we were dating, thinking about marriage, she told me, “I may not want kids of my own, but I want to adopt Chinese girls.” It was like, “I just letting you know now because I may so no to you if you are not interested in this.”
We Tried to Adopt Twice
We actually tried to adopt twice. One time is fell through because we had our youngest daughter, which is a wonderful blessing, but we didn’t get our money back from that attempt process. The second time we tried to adopt we got a referral from China. We got the picture. We were set up. We going to go over. Then a few weeks into it, our agency called us back and said that China gave that girl to someone else. It just tore us up and we had to stop the process. We just couldn’t go emotionally through that again. And, it was probably three years after that that God said go to China.
And so, when He said to move to China,…
The Seed That Died To Bring The Harvest
Sometimes in your relationship with God, you feel like He tells you stuff and it doesn’t really make sense, but it’s just kind of personal between you and Him. When that second child was given to someone else, we felt in our heart that that child was ours. And, we were to lay her down as a seed that was going to produce a harvest later on. And, we didn’t know what that meant, but we did feel that she was still our child and in some way, some weird way, that was going to be the case. She was going to produce a harvest of some sort.
So when God said to move to China, it was like He was saying, “you were only thinking about helping one girl, but I am going to open it up where you are going to help a thousand girls. It’s nothing we could have dreamed of. It wasn’t like we could have planned it out, so I can say, “yes, I was prepared for it,” but it wasn’t like I was planning for it. He was planning for it, and He slowly was letting us know when it was time for us to move on to that next step.
That is the beauty of the relationship with God. He did create you for a purpose, and He did have certain things for you.
Do You Know the Wonderful Adventure?
Dr. Bright, with Campus Crusade, He used to always introduce his gospel presentation with, “do you know the wonderful adventure of knowing God personally?”. He always said it was an adventure.
For most of us as Christians, we know God personally, in the sense that we invited Jesus into our hearts, but we really don’t know the adventure. As we continue to press in and know God personally He takes on an adventure because He is allowing us to know more about what He has put in us and what He has for us to do in this life.
I had no idea when I went to business school… There were times when I was in business school that I thought I had done something wrong. Like I had failed at ministry, and now I had to go and get a secular job. I knew God had called me to it, but I guess it was that religious aspect that the best job out there had to be doing something for God.
It’s wrong. It’s not true. But, there was something in me that felt that. And, I had to deal with it. And, I was good at business. I really enjoyed it. I had no idea He was planning this other thing the whole time. You just follow where God has you at that time, trusting He has something in store for us.
NATALIE: Wow. Wow. It is easy for me to sit here and listen to your story and see that providence throughout the whole thing. But, I’m just curious, what was the hardest part in going through that step by step not knowing what that next step is?
** What Was The Hardest Part of this Process? **
Is God Going To come Through For Us?
KEVIN: You think about that you’ve seen God do so much and so you think it will be easy to believe that He is going to come through again. But it is not really. Because you don’t have control whether or how it is going to come about.
When we went to China, we felt God’s call on us to do it. We felt like He was going to take care of us. But, there were many times when our finances were about to run out. And we were like, God we don’t know what You are going to do.
The Forced Vacation to Thailand
There was one time… My wife came back to the States for a recruiting trip because we had interns that came over to join us and helped us a lot. Part of our story is these interns. But, she did this recruiting trip and it cost a lot to come back to America, so it used a lot of our money. And, when she came back we had to renew our visa.
But in the midst of this, we originally had a student visa in order to learn the language. In the midst of this, we were starting up a business in China. One of the things about having a student visa is you are agreeing to not make money in China. So, we were in this weird place. They would let you start a business until you prove you can make money, but you can’t make money unless you have a work visa, which you can’t have until you have the business set up.
So we weren’t taking the money for ourselves. The business was making money and fed back into the business expenses. But when she came back our school, which our student visas were through, knew we were starting the business and decided they could not renew our student visa. They knew we were not making money, but since we had the business they said they could lose their school license and then everyone else lose their student visas.
They were very kind, but it meant that last minute we had to leave the country again. Allison just got back from the States. We had to leave the country again to request a tourist visa, which allowed us to stay a shorter amount of time until our business and work visa came through.
Big story, but what it meant was that we had to leave last minute during Chinese New Year. Think like you are buying last minute tickets over Christmas. You can imagine the cost of everything is sky-high and everything is expensive.
So we felt as we were praying, God what are you doing? We felt He wanted us to treat this as a vacation. We were like, we don’t have money for a vacation. But that was what we felt. So we all went because the kids also needed tourist visas. So, we went down to Thailand, which was close to where we were in China. So we enjoyed it. We went to the zoo with them. We ate Western food, which we couldn’t find as much in China.
We had to stay there a week because that was how long it took to process the tourist visa. So the whole trip cost us $5,000. So, we enjoyed it. We had faith during the trip.
But we got back and we were like, “God we don’t have money for this.” We got back on a Sunday, and Monday we were praying as a family we came together and worshipped God. The next day I had an email from a friend I was in business school with and he said he had a big tax refund and he gave us $10,000.
Not only did God cover that vacation, He gave double what we needed. And, it covered other expenses we had going forward.
God Likes Faith; We Like Certainty
Your question was what was hard. So, yeah, He came through, but you don’t know how He is going to come through…
Hebrews 11:6 says that it is impossible to please God without faith because you need to know that He exists and that He rewards those who seek Him. I think a lot of times He tells us some things but leaves a lot of room for doubt in there so that we can choose to have faith because that’s what pleases Him.
A lot of times we want to be like Gideon. We throw out our fleeces until we get to the point where we have to believe it’s God. We don’t know how this is not going to be but we know it’s You. We don’t know how it’s going to work, but You made it clear. And, He does that sometimes. But, other times He doesn’t.
Other times, we ask God how can this be possible and like Zachariah, we can’t talk anymore. I’m not saying He’s mad; I’m just saying He loves faith.
We Think People Need Evidence; God Thinks They Need Faith
We love… When I first started hearing God and thought He was saying stuff, so I am going start telling everyone so when He does it then everyone can say God does this. But, that is not really what God wants. He wants us to have faith so that we will have a relationship with Him.
It used to be like, if we just found where the ark was, then everybody would believe that God is real. That big boat that supposedly is in Turkey and maybe it’s there and maybe it’s not. I know that it really happened. But people are like if we really found it and show that we found then everyone will have to believe that it happened.
But I don’t think God wants everyone to believe that way. He wants them to have faith. I choose to believe because I know you are real here (in my heart) not just here (in my head).
So, I think that is the hard part, you still need to have faith.
We Are Still Walking In Faith
We are back in the States now. We handed off our business to Chinese locals to run it now. We are managing it from America. But it’s hard.
The other day we went as a family to Lowe’s. I told you I used to work for Lowe’s. I’m remembering that I used to work here. We used to have that rug. We used to have that lamp. We used to have these nice things. And, we sold it all to go to China. Now we don’t have anything. And so, it’s like “Alright God, You reward those that come to You.” It may not be that He will give back to me that lamp or that rug.
But He does say that no one who gives up father or mother or house will fail to be rewarded in this life or the one to come. So, some way, if we believe He will have some reward in heaven for us, then there will also be some here. We are at the part where that reward hasn’t seem to happen yet, but we believe that He is good, and it’s going to happen. We have seen enough good things. We’ve seen the stuff started up in China and how He was able to do that. How ridiculous it happened. How quickly it happened. We are going to continue to trust Him in the process.
NATALIE: So, Kevin, if you don’t mind, tell me what this experience has been like for the kids.
** What Has This Experience Been Like For Your Kids? **
KEVIN: You know, if nothing else, if the only reason for us going to China was for them, then it was well worth it.
When Are We Going Home (China)?
When we came back to visit. We had been there for about three years, and our family came back to visit for Christmas in 2015. It was the first time back for myself and the girls. The whole time they loved it seeing family and couple other things. But they kept saying, when are we going to go back home. And, to them home was China.
It was beautiful because we had been missionaries before and we were there overseas and some would consider us to be missionaries but we setting up a business. We would see other people and see their kids (foreigners who were living there) and their kids hate China. And, they hate God because God made them come to China. It’s so sad.
Even if God had called me, my kids are not worth it. They are our first ministry. But, they were included in the very process. Josiah’s Covenant was set up because our oldest had a dream.
Why Are We Called Josiah’s Covenant?
She had this vivid dream that Allison was pregnant. It was early September before we even knew we were going to China. Allison was like that is just not possible. We are done having kids.
But our daughter was sure she was pregnant and it would be a boy and his name was Josiah. She had several dreams about this.
So, Allison was one time coming out of church, and she saw a book about Josiah’s generation. She stopped and thought she would look at the book to honor our daughter’s dreams and see if there is something there.
The book was mainly about how the young people were going to come out and have this influence because they were going to have these experiences with God at an early age and influence their whole nation. That was the theory of the book.
So, when we felt God was calling us to China, we felt this was what she was dreaming about. We were to birth this ministry. And, the fact we were going to go for the teenage girls, they were the Josiahs of their nation. And, they were going to bring change into their nation. So, that’s why it’s called Josiah’s Covenant, the promise of Josiah.
The Dream About a Farm
And, when we were in China, she had another dream. Our goal was to get a farm to be able to house the girls because it gives us a lot of space and jobs they can do. So, we always wanted a farm. We felt there was this idea that as we healed the land we would heal the heart. There was something about this that was important.
So, we were in China for a year, and our oldest daughter had this dream that a foreigner would give us a farm. We had been praying and had ideas of what the farm would look like. Her dream was very specific.
The farm had a three-story building on it, it was full of fruit trees, there were dogs around, as you came to the farm there was this path that came around into the main building. And there was something about the foreigner and 90 and 10. She is 11 now, so she was 8 at the time having this dream. It was very clear, so again we are going to honor her dream. Not saying this is what’s going to happen, but we are going to honor it. So God if you are giving her some piece of information that we need, then we are going to listen.
But it wasn’t giving us any information we could use. We could pray into it, but (1.) I didn’t know at that time a foreigner could own a farm. Then (2.), even if they did, how do you go up to someone and ask, “Do you have a farm? Can you give it to me?” It’s just not something you can practically do.
So, a year and half after having that dream, we had two interns and went to the local fellowship. The way that China does it they don’t want foreigners fellowshipping with locals. we had a foreigner fellowship.
So, our intern was meeting someone new, and this guy asked our intern what he was doing in China. He said, “I’m working with Kevin and Allison and we hope to get a farm to help teenage orphan girls.” And the guy responded, “I have a farm. You can have it.”
Our intern was shocked. Let me introduce you to Allison. So, we went out to lunch with him afterwards, and he was talking to us about the farm. The next day we went out to the farm.
When we went to the farm, we were driving up this path that curved around into this big three-story building that was this huge dorm. With all these stray dogs around cause they had all these guard dogs to protect the place. And, it funny because most farms in China have vegetables, but this farm had two to three thousand winter peach trees.
For my daughter, she was walking into her dream that she had.
What Was this Like For Our Kids?
So, you are asking the question what was it like for our kids. Our kids were very much a part of this whole thing, and they saw God work in miraculous ways throughout the process. And so, later on, it is not my mom and dad’s faith; it’s this is what I saw God do. That is something we cannot belittle in any way.
I want to help teenage orphan kids, don’t get me wrong. But my kids have been entrusted to me and the fact that they are getting it and they are falling in love with God and wanting to follow Him in that way. And, knowing that they have a personal relationship with Him as well, that is more important to me.
NATALIE: Kevin, that’s an incredible, incredible story. And, you have a very powerful mission. And, I want to thank you for sharing that with me. I think I can sit here and talk to you for another hour and a half. But, I do want to ask you really quickly before we have to go… what would you say, maybe to a new believer, we say our night night prayers, we go to church and sit in the pew and say the Lord’s prayer, something like that. Have those more routine prayers, but what advice would you give somebody who is going, I just really not certain on how to talk to God?
** What Advice Would You Give On How To Talk To God? **
We All Need To Know God Wants To Speak To Us
KEVIN: Well, the example we have from the disciples is asking God to teach us how to pray. We can look at the Lord’s prayer and that does help us, but I think that the one thing that is most important that every Christian needs to know especially early on is that God wants to speak to them.
Obviously, He speaks to us through the Bible, and that’s probably should be the first thing we help them to read because it helps give guidelines to that relationship. But, there are so many other ways God speaks to us. Henry Blackaby, I don’t know if you are familiar with him, but he is a Southern Baptist preacher who wrote the Experiencing God curriculum. He has a quote,
“If we are having trouble in hearing God speak, we are in trouble at the very heart of our relationship with God.”
If all we are doing is relating to Him through what we hear at church or only relating to Him through what we read in the Bible and we don’t have this conversation with God, then it becomes more of a religion.
God Create Us to Overflow Their Love
So we look in Genesis and God created man. “Let us create man in our own image. In our likeness, let create them male and female.” It is God within the Trinity, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Their relationship with each other of love and intimacy was so strong that they wanted to create something to overflow their love into. So, let’s make man in our own image.
It’s like marriage. Paul says that marriage represents God’s love for the Church. And one of the commands of marriage is that we be fruitful and multiply. That you together with your spouse, in that love relationship, that you would create this being that would contain the DNA of both of you that you can bestow your love into. It’s like your love is so great, you have to overflow it somewhere.
So that is why Jesus and the Church, we represent that because Jesus love for the Church and our love for Jesus is so great we want to overflow it somewhere. So, we make disciples of all nations.
Our Love Of God Will Look Differently Than Anyone Else
And each one of us is different. My kids are not going to look like anyone else’s kids. And, the things that I create with God are not going to look like anyone else’s. I told you how we started the business in China and the orphans. I didn’t even know I had all that in me. So much less is someone else going to have that same background and same experiences to be able to create this.
But other people… someone we know his love and energy was in skateboarding. He could professionally be a skateboarder. And, he related to all these Chinese teenage guys and girls who like to skateboard. And he loved that so much and he loved the Lord so much, they overflowed really well. I couldn’t do that. I wasn’t called to do that.
But, as we connect with God in relationship with Him, we start overflowing in a very unique way, that’s who we are.
There are people who are great speakers, great pastors. And, in a lot of ways they get all the credit as what we should attain to. But that is not what all of us are created for. Paul says we are not all the eye. We are not all the ear. We are the body and we all work together in our own way.
Our Connection To God Leads Us To Our Destiny
We have to have a connection with God to know what that is for us. As He speaks to us and as He shares with us His heart and as we start coming alive in certain areas. I’m telling my story about the orphan girls, and I’m starting to cry because that is what’s on my heart.
You may be speaking to someone about the homeless and they start cry. That is God speaking to them. This is what I created you for, to help these people. So listening how God is speaking to us in ways that lead us into that passion. Because if we don’t have a passion for it, if all we are doing is making disciples because I’m told to make disciples, then (not to say it’s bad or that God can’t use it) but it is very likely that person you are sharing with will see themselves as a project. They are not going to see themselves as loved.
But if you are doing it as your passion, you can actually mess up the whole gospel presentation but they know that they are loved because it comes out of you. And, because they know that they are loved, they can see God’s love through you. And, they start responding even if you start saying the wrong verse or whatever.
Love covers a multitude of sins. It covers those mistakes. You don’t want to intentionally make mistakes. But as you love…
Our Love Leads Us To Do; Doing Doesn’t Always Come From Love
It’s like Peter. Peter is called to be the Rock on which the Church is built. So, Peter gets super excited and says, I’m going to die for You, Jesus. And, then he tries to die for Him by attacking the whole Roman guard that is arresting Jesus. I don’t know if he was fully brave because he went for the servant first. Still, he went after someone. And, Jesus stops him.
Peter was like, “Jesus, I am trying to die for you. Let me go. Let me do this.”
So it sends Peter into this confusion. “You wouldn’t let me die for you. I don’t know who you are. All my courage is gone because I thought I was doing what you would want me to do.”
So when Jesus comes back and meets with Peter. We know the whole reinstatement. The whole thing is, “Do you love me?” “Then feed my lambs.” “Do you love me?” “Then take care of my lambs.” “Do you love me?” “Then feed my sheep.”
“I don’t want you to do this on your own. I want to be a part of it. I want to be with you in the midst of this. This is how we will grow. This is how we will birth something together. Because if you go out doing your own thing trying to win my favor, you are not going to realize you already have my favor.”
NATALIE: Thank you. Thank you so much. If somebody wants to get a hold of you, support your mission, if they want to reach out to you and have you strengthen them in their prayer life, how can we get them in touch with you?
** How Can People Get In Touch With You? **
KEVIN: Josiah’s Covenant is our nonprofit, the work we are doing in China. We have a monthly update that we send out. If they go to JosiahsCovenant.com, there should be plenty of places where they can sign up for that.
The other way for Prayer Coach is prayer-coach.com, is the blog I do. It is something I do on the side. It’s my journal of thought about my relationship with God. There is also an email newsletter that goes out with that.
NATALIE: Well, thank you again, Kevin. Your heart is apparent, and I really, sincerely appreciate your time.