I have been so blessed to get to know an amazing woman behind a ministry called Children In Families (CIF) in Cambodia. Thanks to the gift that is the internet, I have been able to correspond with her, learn about her, her family, her heart and her ministry. Today she shared this video that spoke straight to my heart...
I recently read this article about Cambodian orphans and was particularly struck by the idea of orphanage tourism. While I am not an adoptive parent, I have had the privilege of serving orphans and adoptive parents in a variety of ways and countries over the past several years. I have observed, that something that is very common when families travel to adopt, is orphanage visits. While as a parent, I have always thought how if I were adopting, I would of course want to see where my child had come from, I must admit that I hadn't stopped to consider the fact that an orphanage is a child's HOME while they are there. How confusing and threatening to have strangers visit and "tour" your home. How many times in my church-filled life have I witnessed and even supported these type of most well-intention but often short sighted mission attempts? All the while, dreaming of a chance to go myself. Is it possible that we have indeed missed the mark? For me, I have been challenged in the depths of my heart to reconsider my own definition of "orphan" and it has not been easy.
I'm a somewhat fidgety person. A person who needs a tangible way to serve. You know, a Martha! Yep. I'm a Martha. Practically minded. Busy, busy, busy DOING for the Lord. Funny thing is, He doesn't need my doing...He needs my heart. It's easy to see a need, especially when that need involves a suffering child and want to find a solution. But doing so in haste can often intensify the issue. Even worse, what if my efforts are fueling the very thing I wish to see solved? This makes me shiver! And Oh! how it challenges my impatient desire to just fix it!
Frankly, I hadn't stopped to connect orphans and human trafficking. Those two were entirely separate issues requiring entirely separate services and solutions. Not so. As much as it aches my heart to consider, the orphan is the most vulnerable to trafficking. They are often an unprotected market for predators.
Another fact, that from where I sit in the US seems incredibly far fetched at times, is that children classified as "orphans" or living in an orphanage aren't always without parents (which is what my original definition of orphan consisted of...a child without parents either by death or abandonment). I think the first time I had to consider this reality was when the earthquakes happened in Haiti early last year. It's easy to have a quick response that if a parent would allow their child(ren) to live in an orphanage then that child would be better off with a different family. The fact is, I have never been faced with some of the decisions, poverty, lack of food, water, shelter and basic needs that many of the parents in other parts of the world have, so I can not collectively judge. Culture is entirely different all over the world, and must be considered. Assuming that because I have more education, money and resources than I have more to offer is a dangerous slope.
Now, this does not in anyway discredit the genuine need for adoption in many cases. As I mentioned, I have been ever so blessed to follow and witness many adoptions both domestic and international. The gift that adoption is to these families and those that know them is remarkable! Lives have no doubt been forever changed. I think what is important though, is to realize that adoption certainly is not the first option to consider and may often not be the best option either. The orphan crisis is certainly a reality. The solution must come from a variety of measures and a joint effort.
Family is something I hold extremely dear....the absolute most precious and important thing on earth to me. Partly because of this, I find myself pulled to the idea of investing in Family Based Care. This really shouldn't seem too new an idea to those of us in the US, since this is exactly why there aren't orphanages in the US. Family Based Care offers what institutions can not and prevents additional orphans, therefore lessening the possibility of child trafficking and providing an opportunity for developing a more healthy, connected individual. For this practically minded Martha, it just makes sense to start where the issue can be prevented rather than solved.
Trusting Him to continue showing the way,