In preparing to open our new families to take in kids, we are also starting to focus our energy on another aspect of what we are going to be doing here, and that is hosting visitors. It is one of the components of what we do here that makes us really excited, we love sharing our heart for orphans with others, and we enjoy watching how God works on people when they get outside their comfort zone. No one goes home unchanged!
When we start to think about this topic, we never get far before we start talking about our role as protectors of these kids. And when it comes to that we dig our heels into the ground, and really get some backbone about us. “If you want to come see these kids, these vulnerable, on-the-path-to-healing-kids, you are going to have to get through me first.” We say as we widen our stance and grit our teeth. We take this protecting stuff very seriously! We feel that not only is this something that comes with the territory for our work here, but it is something that all of us are called to do as Christians. Fight for those who can not fight for themselves.
When it comes to letting people come into see the project, there are a few things that are important.
The first is this. These kids that we care for are no longer orphans, they now have a family, one that they are going to grow up in and be with forever. We want people who come to spend time with these families to treat them as they would want someone to when visiting their own family. Understanding that these kids here are not “poor” and “unloved” but rather they are loved and blessed beyond measure. We want people to understand that visitors can be a blessing to the kids as well, so long as they come with an attitude that they are coming to see a model for giving love and a future to orphans and widows, and not coming to visit poor destitute children who are unlucky and are still in need.
This is paramount for the kids! It is not good for them if people come to see them like you would visit a zoo. Everyone must first understand this before coming in.
So often orphan care projects in developing countries make the mistake of thinking they are in the “business of poverty” meaning that they start doing things like putting dirty clothes on the kids when visitors come, and deliberately not purchasing anything nice because it gives the impression that there is no longer any need. To that we say NO! Although we are happy to host visitors, we are not beggars. We do what we do by the faithfulness and grace of God, and if someone comes in and feels led to give than great, but we will never put these kids in a place where they are being used to raise money, nor are we putting on a show. We have what we have to bless the kids, and we will do just that every single day no matter who is watching.
The statement that these kids are already in a family is not made just in words alone, but in our every action as well. We will respect their families, and respect them as children just as we would want someone to do with our own children.
Secondly, and yet of equal importance is this; Ethiopia is a wonderful country! The people are beautiful, industrious, loving, and kind. We make it plain and simple up front to those who want to visit our project; If you are coming in with another idea about this country, than you need to go visit somewhere else! I know it sounds strong, but we are working with everything in us to create a sense of personal empowerment, endurance, and pride, something as simple as a statement by a visitor like this one…
“Oh, these poor kids, I just wish I could pack them all in my bag and take them back to America where they can be safe”
Can ruin everything we have worked so hard to instill in these kids and their caregivers. This is not a terrible place to be! Ethiopia is beautiful, and these children are lucky to call this place home. More importantly God has called them to be the leaders that are going to lead the next generation to spread the gospel, build businesses, create strong communities, and develop Ethiopia into the country that God has called it to be! We are here as stewards of that call on their lives, teaching, guiding, and assisting them to be able to stand up to the challenges that lie ahead.
If no one will rise up in this place and help, than the future will look no different than the past. It is almost as if you can not even call our project an “orphan” project at all, it is a leader project, a bright future project, a plan to stop the cycle that got these kids in this position in the first place project. And we are happy to stand up and fight for these kids.
We are digging into the responsibilities that God has placed on our table, beginning to stand with pride in our new shoes, and do our best to take up the challenges set before us. At times that might mean telling a visitor or two that they need to hold their tongues, which I know, sounds a little strange to tell someone who might possibly support the work your are doing financially to “back off” but really in the end it is all about the kids, and the responsibility that God has placed on us and the mothers who are raising these kids.
All that being said…. We would love to have you! If you or your church are ever thinking about a missions trip to Ethiopia, we are getting ready for you. Just be sure that you come in willing to sit down with us and get some good old direct-instructions before you get to meet any of the kids. We take this protector thing seriously, and you are going to have to get though us first!
In a way this is what we are all called to, every one of us has been asked by God to stand up for orphans and widows, we are all responsible for making sure that they are safe and given a chance in this world.
Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress.