Saturday, May 14, 2011

Unintentional Consequences - Short Term Missions in the Orphanage

A few weeks ago, I was looking for pictures of a particular orphanage in Guatemala.  I was hoping to see a little boy that Cupcake really loved.  In my search, I found a video of a different orphanage - one whose name is inscribed on my heart.  Two very precious children are cared for at that orphanage.  This was a 10 minute video of a short-term mission trip.  This church spent the afternoon at the orphanage at the end of a week of missions.  I watched the footage with intensity as I tried to catch a glimpse of these kids.  Once I saw one of the kids, I watched the video over and over trying to see every shot of her, straining to see if the other child was in any scene.  This video looked like many other videos of Christians serving orphans in third world countries.  Nothing would have stood out to me, except that one of those kids is not some orphan.  She's my friend's precious daughter, and someday she will come home and try to function in a family.

And suddenly, what came into focus made me angry.  Well, not only angry, more like sober and sad. 

One of the ladies brought out a box full of bubble jars.  It's fun to give a bunch of orphans bubble stuff.  When she brought them out, the kids mobbed her, everyone pushing and reaching and grabbing like a mob of animals.  The woman was clearly overwhelmed and gave a "Phew!" when the last of the bubbles was gone.  It was a sweet and well-meaning gesture.  She was trying to do something nice for the orphans.  Instead, she encouraged them to trample on each other to get what they thought they "needed".

They don't need bubbles.  They need love.  They need someone to show them how to function as civilized human beings.  They need dignity.  They need a family, but that's another post.

So how could it have been handled differently?

Three months ago, I would have done just what that woman did.  In fact, I have done that sort of thing when I've taught kids in VBS.  But now I have experience and (hopefully) some wisdom.  The team would be trained and prepared ahead of time.  I would have given each missionary 5 bottles of bubbles.  I would have gathered the kids into groups of 5, I would announce that we have bubbles.  I'd make it clear that we have enough bubbles for everyone.  Each missionary would go to a group.  I would announce that the smallest children get to go first.  Each child will get a bottle when they look at their missionary and ask politely.  (Some kids would not be able to do all that, but I would encourage them to make eye contact through their fingers if they need to.  The bar has to be set pretty low for some of these kiddos to succeed.)  Each kid would get real loving contact with another human being and bubbles to boot. 

You use what they want to give them what they need.

Eye contact and respect for others - these are the basic building blocks for self-worth and attachment.

Blessings to you,

1 comment:

ManyBlessings said...

You know my thoughts on this as we continue to try undo the damage done to our child by short term mission groups. Like you, my thoughts have swung 360 degrees.

Love you.