Have you ever thought of yourself as a super hero? The Hobbits had Aragorn to protect and guide them. Gotham City had Batman. Then there’s the Avengers, Wolverine with the X-Men and had it not been for the spider that bit Peter Parker, the world never would’ve known Spider Man. Sometimes it takes a mere mortal to step up and become a hero in order to battle the forces of darkness bringing about positive change.
Joe Brandi, Founding Steward for the Unity 4 Orphans Ministry is making that heroism possible. Though modest about being a hero himself, Joe says, “Part of helping out orphans is, we’re in this epic battle to expand God’s kingdom against the forces of darkness; only now we fight with the sword of the spirit.” He goes on to say, “I don’t think that most men see themselves as warriors of love and truth. When it comes to these orphans, we can help! We can provide for them and protect them against the forces of evil just like Aragorn did for the Hobbits even though Aragorn was scared at first of becoming a king!”
Liz James Photography
For the past 15 years, Joe has been deeply involved with ministry and evangelism. This coupled with a warrior-like attitude in competitive sports. Joe liked to win. After a while of competing with other churches and their ministries, maturity mixed with exhaustion brought him to realize that what was really needed was unity. Unity is needed among the church to bring about the needed change to help the masses of children without at least one parent. He reflected on John 17 where Jesus prayed for the disciples in front of him and for the disciples throughout all time; “I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; that they all may be one. . .” Joe soon learned the orphan problem was so big it led him to the realization that “instead of building up one particular church, we all need to build the One body of Christ and come together to help do something good for these orphaned children”.
For Joe Brandi, this all began in 2008 when he was living in Florida. He was living the American dream – owned a house and getting paid a nice wage, but he realized a discontentment was present and evident in his heart. Considering this discontentment to be his (at the time) current situation he couldn’t pinpoint where the feeling was coming from. Yet, his love for travel and other cultures was concrete within his heart. Still, though he felt a stirring in his spirit, he was not sure what it all meant. At that time, it seemed most all of his friends were getting married, or the ones who were married were having children. The indirect tugging continued on his heart. He could feel a love for children growing as he would see and interact with his friends and their children.
In 2008, Joe’s best friend got involved with an orphan ministry called World Orphans and began telling him of the estimated 143 million orphans worldwide. Joe thought the number was outrageous! No way there can be that many children without any parents! It was then Joe’s education began. Meanwhile, his heart was still discontent as he missed California and not being able to travel due to work and his other obligations with the church. Joe longed for more.
With his best friend involved with World Orphans, Joe would hear more and more about the plight these children faced every day. It was during this time he saw the movie “Slumdog Millionaire” and the 3 orphans in the movie somehow became real. “I felt God’s hand pressing heavy on my heart and heard His voice saying ‘This is a real problem. These are not just statistics.’” Joe’s calling had been confirmed.
It was then that cancer came into Joe's life. The diagnosis magnified his mortality. He thought “Okay, if I were dead would all the worries and fears I have remain real?” This thought and the realization of its answer lit a fire in Joes’ very soul. He became even more of a warrior. He knew he would not only have to fight for his own life, but the lives of others could very well depend on his survival. With surgery, radiation therapy and much prayer Joe fought the cancer and by the grace of God, he won!
With cancer now behind him, he traveled to Kenya. Visiting the slums of Madurai and now meeting orphans for himself, he felt the doors of his heart being thrown open and those very children filling his heart making it their new home. This was the defining moment where Joe told God that he would give up everything to help start an orphan movement.
Getting others to feel Joe’s urgency and dedication to help further this more-than-worthy cause was difficult. Even his best friend who had first educated him on the orphan situation had quit. Joe felt alone – orphaned for the very cause that he had come to love. Still, even with no staff and being decentralized at the time, he would lead trips to Nicaragua and Haiti. For some reason, those who helped at the time were never seen afterward, leaving him once again to champion his cause alone.
When Joe returned to San Diego the ministry leaders of the Rock Church inquired of his dream ministry - what if he could start one of his own? The answer of course was a 'no brainer' for Joe. A ministry that helps orphans! That’s when he was introduced to others at the church who also had a heart to help orphans. Together they would all travel to Tijuana visiting orphanages to fellowship, to begin the process of getting to know the children and to see how best they could help them. Joe says “What I want to do is to help make the orphan become real to the guide who is helping”. Meaning to make the child(ren) not just a nameless, faceless, far-away statistic. Unity 4 Orphans networking capabilities bring guides to an entire community without parents by unifying people spread throughout San Diego and the west coast to come together building a counter-culture community uniting different churches. Even those outside the church have become involved. The common denominator they all have is a heart to help in a way that is Christian-centered. (Meaning there are people of different walks of life who are expressing agape love, teaching these children about Jesus and the Bible.)
“Still”, Joe says, “there are not enough resources”. “If we can bring people to these orphanages to make the orphan real, then hopefully God can ignite their hearts to help to bring a change into the lives of these children. Hopefully, they will see and the world will see there is a God that’s real!” Luckily, the seed to do this has been planted already by God regardless of a person’s core beliefs. God has put on their hearts that to love and care for children is a good thing.
One of the long-term goals of Unity 4 Orphans is to pair an orphaned child with an adult through actual monthly interaction and tax deductible donations. Even if a person is not able to travel with Unity for Orphans for the regular monthly visits, a tax deductible donation is highly encouraged and very much welcome since orphanages in Mexico are not state or federally funded. Any and all outside help makes a world of positive change for these children. These donations go toward food, clothing, healthcare needs, schooling, utility costs for the orphanage and nominal pay for those who work at the orphanages.
Liz James Photography
On the Unity 4 Orphans web page, there is an area where one can donate simple change. That giving tab is called “Change for Change”, https://www.mogiv.com/sdrock/unity4orphans/. If you can give a mere 75 cents a day, you will indeed become someone’s hero!
Currently, Unity 4 Orphans travels to Mexico once a month. Eventually the group would like to make this trip twice a month. As resources come in, more hope is realized. Though progress has been slow in bringing volunteers, Joe is hopeful as people learn about the ministry, more volunteers will step forward. More volunteers mean more orphanages can be reached. The more orphanages that are reached, the more lives are changed!
Though a non-profit organization and not just a “ministry”, Unity 4 Orphans is in need of other assistance to continue its success of reaching and changing lives for these very precious children. Please contact Joe Brandi; [email protected], if you can donate your time in any of the following areas: Web Design; Writers; Prayer Group; Fund Raisers; Musicians; Photographers; Video technicians; Lawyers; and Marketing. Please also contact Joe to inquire or to sign up for the next trip to Mexico!
“A child you have never known awaits a heart to call their home.”
For more information about the Orphans Ministry, click here »