Freedom to Go

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Freedom to Go

As Americans, many of us are accustomed to going on short-term trips because of our freedom. Globally speaking, those of us born in the US have a degree of freedom and safety not found in a lot of other places. A passport gives us the freedom to leave and re-enter our home country without fear of being detained or denied re-entry. Most of us are free to work and speak as we choose, and we have the space to prepare for and pursue short-term mission trips.

To be in a position to have the time, energy, and finances to willingly choose to travel to another country—with the goal of learning and serving—is an incredible freedom…

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Poverty, Unfreedom, and the Ability to Choose

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Poverty, Unfreedom, and the Ability to Choose

It can be easy in development work to become paternalistic by coming in, assessing the situation, gathering resources, and dictating a plan of action. But this approach, in reality, only replaces one unfreedom, one type of poverty, with another. And desperate people in desperate situations may see no other alternative than to go along with the plan. However, it is incumbent upon us all to understand that poverty, at its root, is founded in unfreedom, and we must come alongside our brothers and sisters as they pursue their own dreams…

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From Prison to Purpose: The Gospel at Work in Guatemala

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From Prison to Purpose: The Gospel at Work in Guatemala

I earnestly believe that God is working in Guatemala in an amazing way, and I am excited that I get to be part of his work. It’s a joy to nurture families to health, equipping them to be instruments of God grounded in the Bible—to show compassion, love, and protection to vulnerable children.

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Can You Imagine?

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Can You Imagine?

“I can’t imagine” is a phrase commonly expressed by team members on our short-term mission trips. “I can’t imagine putting my child in an orphanage. I can’t imagine refusing to care for my nieces and nephews if they needed me.”

Can you imagine?

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Dreaming Beyond Our Expectations

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Dreaming Beyond Our Expectations

Imagine living in a constant state of stress because there is never enough. Unexpected expenses are always emergencies. …You have little time and even less energy to consider the future or imagine alternatives. You struggle to fully engage with little moments of joy. You are enslaved to your daily responsibilities.

Those living in extreme poverty know this reality all too well.

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Choosing Hope in Suffering

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Choosing Hope in Suffering

What words do you use to provide comfort to a man who has just buried his child? When I sat down with Ahmed and his family, the question of what had caused so many birth defects was briefly raised, but then quickly swept under the carpet. I knew no words could soothe this type of grief…

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Set Free

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Set Free

Americans are typically familiar with freedom being built into the fabric of our country. We are free to go where we want, eat what we want, live where we want, say what we want, believe what we want, and worship where and how we want. The concept of freedom is an identifying marker of life in the US.

However, when we look at Scripture, we see that our human condition is that of slaves—slaves to sin, the law, death, and dark, spiritual forces. We sin because we are sinful; however, by the grace of God, there is freedom from sin. …

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Sacred Rebellion

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Sacred Rebellion

When we consider meals, we often think about the way they bring families together. As food is laid out, everyone gathers around the table, conversation flows, and families bond.

But traditionally, eating together has not been encouraged in India….

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Pumpkin, Sweet Tea, and the King's Fellowship

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Pumpkin, Sweet Tea, and the King's Fellowship

I have a lot of memories filled with mouth-watering foods and beverages. Pumpkin takes me back to a dining room table where my family gathered for Thanksgiving, finishing off the experience by eating pumpkin pie. Sweet tea always makes me think of my grandfather and the huge glasses of sweet tea that he had in his refrigerator—tea so sweet that my teeth would ache from the sweetness. Those memories now make my heart ache, longing to still have him here with me. 

However, I’ve realized that travel—especially international travel—changes the way I see the world around me, including the food I eat and the beverages I drink. …

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The Way Our Memories Taste

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The Way Our Memories Taste

She sets the fried plantains in front of me, and my mouth immediately begins to water. Fixated on the food, I forget about the unanswered question hanging in the air between us.

Realizing the food she has spent hours cooking is already captivating me, she laughs and says, “Did you hear me?”

She wants to know what meals are like in the US, and she is curious about the value Americans place on meals and eating in general…

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What the World Didn't Tell You About Guatemala

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What the World Didn't Tell You About Guatemala

If you visit someone’s home, you will most likely be welcomed in with warm hospitality, regardless of your social class. Drinks and food will be offered to you. In Guatemala, we rarely visit with people quickly; instead, we take our time to relationally engage with one another, placing a high value on quality time. Thus, if you go to someone’s home, make yourself comfortable and plan to sip your coffee slowly.  …

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The Holy Table

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The Holy Table

One of the dominant memories I have of childhood is our family dining room table. In and of itself, it was an unremarkable piece of furniture: dull, brown oval of oak perched on a nicked and scarred pedestal. I didn’t realize it then, but there was more to that table than wood, glue, and a few bolts…

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Welcome to the House Owned by God

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Welcome to the House Owned by God

In the New Testament, the name Emmanuel means ‘God with us.’ God desires to be with us—to be in relationship with us. Out of his desire for relationship, we understand the human craving for it, and in this, we see the very nature of God reflected. …

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From Table to Table

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From Table to Table

An estimated four million people now work remotely in the US. World Orphans is part of that growing statistic, with a decentralized ministry model, staff throughout the US, and team members across the globe. We have experienced many advantages of decentralization: lower overhead costs, access to a larger geographic area with minimal travel, and personal connections with local churches across the country. Decentralization provides many opportunities that are critically valuable to what we do. But being decentralized can make it very challenging to maintain community with peers. …

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Eight Reasons Why Investing in Local Leaders Matters

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Eight Reasons Why Investing in Local Leaders Matters

Training in Ethiopia being led by local women

Training in Ethiopia being led by local women

Whether an international project or a US-based project, we have all watched this situations unfold, and some of us have been a part of it. We have witnessed well-meaning, compassionate people walk into a community, assess what they believe the shortcomings and struggles of that community are, and then we have watched those people create a plan to address the shortcomings and struggles. And we have watched difficulties unfold through this. Some of these efforts do more harm than good, unintentionally rob locals of their dignity, and ultimately, these well-intentioned people have frequently been unable to complete the projects they once believed were infinitely important. At World Orphans, we have learned hard lessons, and we have grown from those experiences with the help of our local teams.  

US Church Partnership Trip team members with a Guatemalan pastor

US Church Partnership Trip team members with a Guatemalan pastor

Is there another way? Is it possible to do good, care for the vulnerable, and empower a community in a healthy, productive way? Is it possible to honor the dignity of people while simultaneously equipping them to find work, supporting them through the process of saving money, or helping them learn other valuable skills?

Yes.

And it starts with letting someone else take center stage. It starts with a listening ear, a spirit of humility, and a willingness to learn. It starts with local leadership—the pastors of the local churches, the matriarchs of the villages, the highly esteemed elders. The value of investing in local leaders cannot be overstated.

1) They know the local culture.

No amount of research can equate to the knowledge a local person has about the vast amount of idiosyncrasies within their own community. Traditions that may be considered perfectly acceptable and normal within a Western culture may be deeply offensive within another culture, and sometimes a Google search doesn’t quickly explain this. For instance, if you traveled to India, you would never eat food with your left hand, as this is considered unclean. This is a simple example, but a handful of offensive actions can keep an outsider from building relationships. By choosing to come alongside a local leader rather than trying to supersede that leader’s authority, you demonstrate a humility and a willingness to learn about the community. Additionally, you are suddenly equipped with a wealth of knowledge about the culture.

2) They know the people.

I think that it is really important to rely on local leaders because we know the people, we know how things are going here. If someone makes a decision from abroad without taking our advice or listening to us it could destroy the foundation of what we are doing here.
— Nihad, Local Leader in Iraq

Local leaders know what the local people eat. They know the beliefs they carry. They are aware of the customs and traditions. Certainly, a local leader will not know every intimate detail about every single person within their community. People are intricately woven by their location, circumstances, and upbringing. However, a local leader will carry a wide array of knowledge about both the struggles and triumphs people in their area may be facing, as they too have perhaps faced those same struggles and triumphs.

3) They know how to manage work flow, establish and address priorities, and deal with the nuances of their culture better than anyone else.

World Orphans Haiti Team

World Orphans Haiti Team

When you live outside the community, it is difficult to anticipate interruptions in projects, prioritize daily tasks, or even understand why a certain program is not meeting expectations. Local leaders are vital to establishing reasonable timelines, properly prioritizing, and creating innovative solutions.

Domestic Church Partnership Director Lindsay Allen shares the following about her own learning experiences working with our smart and talented team in Haiti:

I may ask our team members to meet with a pastor to discuss an upcoming team's itinerary. What I don't anticipate when I give a deadline . . . is that the church might not be accessible. If it rains, it might be too muddy to drive to the church, or the bridge to the church may be collapsed, or the pastor may not have any more minutes on his phone, so he can't be reached. In the US, we are accustomed to instantly accessing people through text messaging, phone calls, and even safe roads to travel. Local leadership can help set more reasonable expectations of when and how something can be done.

I’ve also learned that many Americans tend to have a very specific idea of a family/home structure—one or two parents plus children. But in most developing nations, the people in a home can be very fluid. Sometimes grandparents are there. Cousins, aunts, and even non-relatives might live there for a time. The number of people in a home can change year to year or month to month. As we focus on caring for a family, sometimes it's even difficult to know who exactly that includes. Our local leaders—who regularly visit homes and build relationships with families–are able to help us gather information on individual needs. 

4) They are known and trusted in the community.

Local, established leaders have spent time pouring into their communities. They have attended birthday parties and weddings. They have visited the sick and grieved with those who have lost loved ones. Consider your own friendships for a moment. Who is in your inner circle? Who do you confide in the most? Which friends do you call when you feel like everything is crumbling before your eyes? The person who held the door for you at the grocery store yesterday probably didn’t come to mind. The person who unexpectedly paid for your food in the drive-through line didn’t suddenly pop in your head either, did he? Though you undoubtedly appreciated those acts of service, the people that know you—those that have invested in you and have taken time to build your trust—are the people that you reach out to when you need a friend. Likewise, in communities around the world, mothers have best friends in the community that they can contact when parenting or running a small business is hard. Fathers have friends in the community that they can contact when they need an extra hand on a project or when they suddenly face unemployment and need work. The local leaders we partner with are the friends that show up for others in their community.

5) They have a pre-existing investment in the community, and it is likely that they will continue being invested for the long term.

By supporting local leaders that have already invested in their local community, it’s possible to help those leaders capitalize on the investment they have already made rather than trying to create a new program without the support of local leadership.

World Orphans Middle East Director Billy Ray shares the following:

Middle East Director Billy Ray and Iraq Country Director Hersh Bradosty

Middle East Director Billy Ray and Iraq Country Director Hersh Bradosty

We have had the fortunate experience of being led by the Kurdish people here in Iraq, and they have brought about all the success that we have had up to this date. God forbid we ever turn from that philosophy and bow to pressures from the outside to focus on this or that or to do this or that. World Orphans champions local solutions and local leaders. World Orphans is the organization that places their trust where it matters the most—in the local people.

Authority is granted, nay earned, by those who take the most risk. So, how could we subject ourselves to be led by those who take no risk at all, have no compulsion to understand local laws and customs, and hardly venture beyond the shores of America? [ . . . ] Trusting local leadership is the only way to get it right.

Supporting local leadership is not only wise. It’s a far better investment than attempting to create new leaders from scratch.

6) They are able to network and partner with other local leaders.

Local leaders—unsurprisingly—know other local leaders. And as you pour into one leader, you ultimately end up pouring into other leaders, creating a ripple effect. Empowerment never stops with the first person being empowered, but it inevitably is passed from one person to another. Perhaps this is never more powerfully witnessed than watching leaders from local communities work together to care for those around them. At World Orphans, we have watched our international team members endlessly pour into, cheer on, and rally around the local pastors that are caring for vulnerable families in the community. And as those pastors are supported, families begin empowering other families, sharing the knowledge they have learned about savings, small business ownership, or taking care of their children.

Ethiopia Program Director Belginesh Tena with an Ethiopian child

Ethiopia Program Director Belginesh Tena with an Ethiopian child

7) This approach helps create financial integrity.

Working in partnership with local leadership creates a system of checks and balances that allows for financial visibility and creates accountability between the local leadership and the external organization. By allowing multiple partners to have knowledge of how the funds are received and how they will be used, no one person is left to manage funding—a situation that can be compromising. World Orphans is dedicated to using finances with integrity. As part of this dedication, World Orphans works with US church partners, international church partners, board members, and international team members to ensure money is being used to its full potential.

8) This approach is Biblical.

Throughout the Bible, we repeatedly see examples of local leaders being poured into with intentionality. Perhaps the most notable example was Jesus pouring into the twelve disciples. Could Jesus have accomplished his work otherwise? Certainly. But, Jesus cared about people. He valued relationships, and he saw that infinite worth in celebrating what the disciples could offer to the ministry. Likewise, as the early church grew, we watched small churches pop up as Paul traveled, investing in leaders as he went.

Unlike Jesus, we cannot do the work we seek to do without our local leaders. They are vital to our efforts, as we seek to care for the orphaned and vulnerable. Without local leaders, World Orphans would not be the ministry it is today.

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Sacred Laughter

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Sacred Laughter

In an open air church sanctuary in Haiti, she walks over to me with a twinkle in her eye, seemingly holding in giggles. Taking both of my hands in hers, she positions each of her hands directly underneath mine. Before I know what she is doing, she swiftly pulls one hand from underneath mine, and gently smacks the top of my hand while erupting in a deep belly laugh. I begin laughing too, surprised by the quiet girl with braids in her hair. Though we cannot speak each other’s language, we spend the next five minutes taking turns trying to catch each other off guard with a swift movement of the hand. Her friends start to push her aside, eager to prove their own skills in the game, and the laughter starts to spread from one child to the next. 

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A Baseball, a Jersey, and Belonging

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A Baseball, a Jersey, and Belonging

The city streets of Guatemala—with few green spaces and most of those infested with negative influences—are not a welcoming place for childhood play. Growing up in Guatemala can be a dangerous and lonely experience . . .

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Caring for Families Through Church Partnership

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Caring for Families Through Church Partnership

Earlier this year, a group of people from Morey Community Church of Michigan visited their church partner, Iglesia Nueva Vida Alfa y Omega, in Guatemala for the first time. Congregants from each church tripped over one another's languages and laughed through the initial awkward interactions.

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Why We Go

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Why We Go

Averaging 30 teams and 300 people each year, World Orphans sees the value in short-term mission trips. We send teams because we believe healthy relationships can be motivating, empowering, and life-giving.

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Stories of Transformation: The Impact of Economic and Family Empowerment

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Stories of Transformation: The Impact of Economic and Family Empowerment

What happens when you invest in the talents of a widowed mother in Ethiopia? Something beautiful happens. What changes when you teach a group of Guatemalan women a new, profitable skill? Everything changes. Who is impacted when a collection of mothers routinely sit down together to share their struggles, learn how to save money, and challenge each other in their business ventures? Entire families, communities, and towns are impacted. 

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