By Jeremy Resmer | Senior Director of Projects
If you pay close attention, you’ll see poverty everywhere you look. If you don’t, it could be that you’re only viewing poverty through an economic lens. While material poverty is only part of the story, it seems to be the most observable and difficult to hide (especially in developing countries). It’s a leading cause of family breakdown that often results in separation of family members and placement of children in orphanages, among other issues.
When we carefully consider the best interests of a child, there is no greater need than to be in a loving family. Truly, a loving family is more important than shelter, food, education, medical care, and so on. Yet these things are also needed, and children trust family - usually mom and dad - to provide these basic financial resources in order to experience shelter, adequate food, clothing, medical care, and attend school.
There are a lot of organizations involved in various forms of family preservation. Some are doing incredible work and making a real impact. It’s unbelievable how big our hearts are to give financially and to go and serve. To be sure, we must continue and do more. But it’s time that we utilize our brains as much as our hearts.
While I believe real transformation comes through Jesus Christ, we need to bring more than Bibles and fish to our brothers and sisters in need. We must bring fishing poles too. You see, the church (individuals and collectively) is responsible for meeting the spiritual and, at times, physical needs of its people. The church has a critical role to play in family preservation.
To preserve is to exist. To empower is to advance. And until we develop and implement local solutions that go from preserving and stabilizing families to empowering and strengthening families, we will continue to bang our heads against the wall trying to reduce poverty and, ultimately, keep families together. If the root cause of our problems is sin, then poverty is one of its most effective weapons. In the same way that we can’t take on sin without Jesus Christ, we can’t take on economic poverty without relationship. Through relationships with local leaders and the people themselves, we create conversation. Through conversation, we include the very people who understand the problems and, more importantly, the solutions. As our relationships deepen and trust builds, we begin imagining a better world and casting vision together. Until we can imagine a world we desire to see, we will never be able to develop a plan to get there.
Here’s where I’m going with this. Now is the time for individuals, churches, NGOs, and governments to put aside our agendas for the greater good. We talk about it but it seldom happens. Every single one of us has unique personalities, skills, knowledge, and resources, but none of us can do everything. Instead, we do a little bit on our own when, in reality, we can be far better and accomplish much more by working together.
World Orphans strength is to partner international churches with US churches to encourage each other and work together to serve vulnerable families. In addition, we are effective at equipping and mobilizing churches to care for orphaned and abandoned children. We hope both churches inspire each other and serve their communities around them more effectively and compassionately as a result of that partnership. We play a role in family preservation, whereas other organizations excel in the areas of vocational education, business training, apprenticeships, and microloans. Every day we work with the MOST vulnerable families in the communities where we work. We do our best to encourage them, pray for them, share scripture, and meet physical needs, but without fishing poles we can’t teach them to fish.
What’s encouraging is there are many individuals and organizations out there with fishing poles that could teach marketable trades to single mothers and youth so they can provide for themselves and their families without becoming vulnerable to prostitution, drugs, labor exploitation, and all sorts of other dangerous activities. Yes, helping to pay for school fees, medical expenses, food, clothing, and housing, when appropriate and led by local leaders is essential, but family empowerment initiatives that improve the economic outcomes of parents and children including skills training, leadership development, financial stewardship, business training accompanied by access to credit, and apprenticeships are equally important. It’s not an either/or but a both/and. Can you imagine the impact we could realize if we put aside our own biases and agendas and actually witnessed NGOs working with other NGOs working with churches working with governments?
This dream is happening! Two organizations World Orphans is currently partnering with are AMG Guatemala and Bethany Christian Services in Haiti. Next week’s blog is dedicated to sharing about our new partnership with BCS. Through these partnerships, children are restored and communities transformed by the Gospel. Won’t you join us?