17 April 2014

In Pursuit of Orphan Excellence

 In Pursuit of Orphan Excellence is a recently published book that brings together multiple contributors with combined lifetimes of experience caring for orphans around the world. I think this is going to be a great resource for all who are currently involved in orphan care, and also for those who want to learn how to enter into this important work with wisdom. I'm encouraged by the recent rise of books like this from Christians involved in different kinds of international development work, because they are showing that there is an increased value being placed on gaining wisdom from past experiences. We need more humility and grace in the work we do, because rather than working to complete projects or build better programs, we ultimately need to be working to love God and love people better.


Here's the description on Amazon:

How can we love with excellence the millions of orphaned and vulnerable children in our world who have lost their parents, have no relatives to love them well, and likely will not be adopted?

In Pursuit of Orphan Excellence frames a conversation around this question through a collaborative effort involving fifteen authors from orphan care organizations around the world, bringing to the table an often-neglected component of orphan care. After discussing why everyone in the world, Christian and non-Christian alike, should care to the core about caring for orphans, In Pursuit examines a framework—from family to spiritual formation (and a whole lot in between)—of what excellent, best-practice orphan care looks like in situations where kinship care, legal adoption, quality foster care, or reunification with biological family is not possible, feasible, or likely to occur.

As you read this book, you will be invited to learn from others seeking best-practice orphan care, engage in the conversation, and advocate for orphans around the world . . . and in your own backyard.

I'm excited to begin working my way through, what I believe will be, an important book. And there's good news for those of you who have a Kindle. The book is available as part of the Kindle Owners' Lending Library for free!


25 March 2014

World Vision Between a Rock and a Hard Place: When "Christian" Nonprofits end up between "The Church" and The Scriptures

A lot of people are talking right now about a recent statement on policy change by World Vision, whose board voted to allow hiring Christians in same sex marriages, and I don't like what most of them are saying or the way they are saying it.

Essentially, if you've missed it, the World Vision U.S. board voted to allow the hiring of people who claim to be Christians united in same sex marriages. The rationale is that World Vision receives support (donations) and potential workers from a broad range of church denominations and WV would rather fall in line with what churches believe instead of requiring that churches bow to their policies. On one hand, I believe it's a great philosophy. I believe too many para-church organizations end up dictating to churches what they should believe and how they should serve instead of the other way around. On the other hand, it highlights one of the biggest challenges I've encountered in all my years working for Christian nonprofit organizations. How do you faithfully serve churches when they are all so divided among themselves? Choosing to appease some of them, often means alienating others. You will never be able to please everyone. The result is more division. A group of denominations or churches will end up supporting an organization that most closely aligns with their own theology, and those para-church organizations become the very theological arms of denominations that World Vision claims it is trying to avoid becoming.

Russell Moore seems to think that the whole gospel is at stake over the issue. Rachel Held Evans thinks you should be able to work with people who call themselves gay Christians, as long as you are working together to do some other good thing that God commands. She also blames conservative evangelicals like Trevin Wax, who pointed out that this whole battle hurts the children more than anything, because she thinks we should be able to help the children without caring about other things that God says are also important to Him. I don't even want to spend anymore time reading what everyone else says. I worked in the Christian non-profit relief and development community for ten years and I know it better than all of them. Their shouting matches and debates rarely move us any closer to making any kind of real progress in alleviating poverty or bringing about real unity.

Before we go any further, let's go back in time to the late 1940's and early 1950's. The world had just emerged from the Second World War, and everywhere we looked we could see children suffering the effects of war. A movement of Christians decided to start organizations that could draw support from churches to send relief to widows and orphans. Primarily, it was Christians who felt the responsibility to care them.

As the organizations continued to grow, they saw the need not only for relief but for development, to rebuild communities and strengthen them for the future, and to provide structures in which children could grow and thrive. We learned about all kinds of suffering in the world. As the organizations grew, churches also grew and changed. The culture changed. Everything changed.

Many of the organizations stopped equipping local churches to do the work, and started doing it themselves. New organization were formed to bring emphasis back on serving local churches, but they soon learned many of the same lessons that the older organizations had already learned: that churches are often restricted in many nations and that you can get a lot more done, more effectively when you allow experts to do the work instead of giving the responsibilities to uneducated, untrained, and unprepared church workers.

Now we are in a situation where everyone is starting to question whether we are even going about this whole thing in the best ways possible. Could it be that these organizations have run their course? Why is it that every single organization that started with a specific mission ends up changing it's mission over time? Why aren't any of them bringing about lasting changes, that would allow them to actually complete their work?

This is the problem every nonprofit has: If you have a mission that is attainable, you will eventually have to close down your organization. And if your operation is dependent on the donations of others, you will have to make those others happy if you want to continue receiving their support.

One of two things happens: you continue to make supporters happy and continue to receive support, or you make them unhappy and you lose their support. Most organizations cease to exist, not because they have accomplished their mission, but because they loose focus on their mission and begin to focus the majority of their efforts on maintaining their existence.

In it's latest decision, World Vision has made a lot of people happy and a lot of other people unhappy. They will maintain the support of those who are happy and lose the support of those who are unhappy. They will also gain the support of a lot of new people who affirm their recent decision.

One of the saddest things about the whole situation is that poor children are getting caught in the middle of adult wars once again. This time it's not a physical war, it's a spiritual war. It's a war between groups of people fighting over what they believe is most pleasing to God. So many churches are at war with each other and at war with God, and refuse to yield to His wisdom.

You want to know what I think you should all do if you are supporting a child through World Vision. Stop sending your money through World Vision, where more than 15% of it goes to administrative and fundraising costs. And I'm not even saying you should do this particularly in response to their recent policy change. You should do the work yourself. Find out where widows and orphans live and visit them yourself.

The command in the bible did not say that pure and undefiled religion is to give money to someone else to care for widows and orphans in their distress. James says that "pure and undefiled religion in the site of our God and father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself unstained by the world."

As long as we want to keep personally avoiding what Jesus commanded instead of doing the work ourselves, we will continue having to choose which organization to pay to do the work for us. And we will continue to leave children in the middle, wondering who God the Father is and why his kids can't stop fighting each other.

03 February 2014

Some Things are Worth Fighting for Everyday

The Locust Effect - Chapter 1: What Are We Missing?


I'll warn you up front that this is not a book you will be able to read quickly, nor should you try to read it quickly. You should let each story and statistic sink into your soul. In the first chapter you will encounter three stories: 1) Yuri's Story, 2) Mariamma's Story, and 3) Laura's Story. Each one is from a different part of the world. You'll be transported to Latin America, South Asia, and East Africa to learn about the devastating reality of what women and young girls face every day in developing nations. Millions have experienced the same trauma that these people have been through. They are representatives, and their stories are true. It will be hard for you to read. It made me angry to hear how easy it is for the powerful to use their wealth and influence to oppress others.


The prevalence of violence against young women is so great that we have all been affected by it. Whether you're familiar with the story of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Taken, or even one of the latest episodes of Downton Abbey, you know that our global society is beginning to tell these types of stories and expose the kind of evil men who carry out violent sexual crimes against women and young girls.

The first chapter of The Locust Effect will lead you into a world that is often easy to look away from because of how painful it is to engage. It took me a while to finish because I couldn't take in all the suffering at once. Each story and the accompanying statistics will leave you with sadness. There is, however, an underlying sense of hope that our knowledge of these things positions us to respond.

What are we missing? We're missing how big the problem of violence is as both a cause of poverty, and one of the main factors that keeps people in poverty.


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