By Jeremy Resmer | Senior Director of Projects
Working in orphan care, I frequently hear people talk about the latest orphanage and residential care models and how they are different from the ones that came before them; how the homes replicate a small, family environment where a widow (or house parents) cares for five or maybe up to ten children and provides the love and affection of a mother (and father). The children receive adequate shelter, food, medical care, and education. At times, they even take classes to learn important life and vocational skills and, in some cases, attend university. To be sure, these are good things. I get especially excited when I hear that these children are given opportunities and training that empower them to be economically independent and help themselves and their communities as they grow up.
Families Are Best However, the fact remains, children grow best in families. Biological families to be exact. This idea is backed up by years of evidence-based research as well as scripture. Any attempt to replace the love and care of a permanent biological (or extended) family should be secondary. Truly, orphanages of any kind are not a permanent solution to the complex challenges and needs facing orphaned and vulnerable children, especially when the children in orphanages have living parents. For those that do not, many have extended family members in the community or nearby that are willing and able, albeit financially, to care for these kids. It may not look exactly like we, in the West, typically expect and there may be economic hurdles the family will face, but it keeps children in families and connected to their communities. We believe that children growing up in financially-challenged families are better off than children growing up in freshly, painted orphanages with nice beds.
At World Orphans, we talk a lot about preserving and strengthening families and working with the local church to develop appropriate solutions in the context of the culture and, particularly, the community. We believe, wholeheartedly, that the church maintains the relationships and, in connection with local governments, NGOs, and businesses, has the experience to offer encouragement and the best solutions for vulnerable families.
An Example: Verbo Sur Let’s look at one of our partners in Nicaragua. Heyler Rodriguez is the pastor of Verbo Sur Church in Managua. He has an incredible vision for families in his community. Not only is he passionate about sharing the gospel, he wants families to experience a better life in this world. Right here. Right now. He lives in his community and knows it well. Pastor Heyler is constantly listening and looking for ways to serve and meet real needs. His ministry isn’t focused inward toward his church property but rather pushes outward, overflowing into the community of Colinas del Memorial Sandino.
A few years ago, Pastor Heyler noticed several problems facing single mothers. There were no options for affordable daycare. Every day, many single mothers were forced to make very difficult decisions: stay at home and care for the kids with no income, go to work and leave the children home unsupervised, or take the children to work. As you can imagine, each of these creates problems. The family has to pay rent and eat. Not working is seldom an option. Leaving the children at home exposes them to significant risks including physical and sexual abuse. Taking the children to work prevents them from attending school and receiving an education that is so desperately needed.
Based on his observations and discussions with members of the community, Pastor Heyler was determined to help. Through partnership with World Orphans, Verbo Sur Church created a child development center that offers very affordable, and in some cases, no-cost daycare for families in the community. This ministry allows parents to drop off their preschool-aged children at the church for the day and enables mom and/or dad to go to work and earn a living or attend school in hopes of obtaining better employment opportunities. The child development center provides nutritious meals, quality classroom instruction, and teaches stories from the Bible. It focuses on meeting the physical, spiritual, mental, and emotional needs of the children in a familiar community setting while freeing parents and caregivers to earn livelihoods and meet the financial needs of the family. There are between 12 and 25 children in the program at any time.
This ministry eases the burden on parents, especially single mothers, protects the children and offers early childhood education while strengthening the family unit. Most of all, the child development center gives families options and flexibility, not to mention an open door to the gospel of Jesus Christ. We believe that every church is equipped with unique skills, relationships, resources, and the biblical mandate to minister to the physical and spiritual needs of their community. There’s no better delivery mechanism than the local church and Verbo Sur is one of countless examples of the Church being the Church, utilizing its creativity, resourcefulness and compassion to advance the Kingdom.
Would you pray with us today for the continued ministry and fruitfulness of Verbo Sur Church?
As you pray, enjoy viewing the precious children at the child development center.