By Nicole Leeper | State Director of Advocacy - Florida

Joining the World Orphans team, one of the things that drew me was the desire to provide "Family Style" care for children. Throughout the Bible we see the importance of family, and reaching beyond our own given family to grow the Kingdom family. On my recent trip to Haiti, I had my first experience with the difference in institutional Care and Family Style Care. It went a little something like this...

Institutional Care

While in Haiti we visited an orphanage. It was a great opportunity to share love with many little ones and to get a good view of what institutional care looks like. There was no photography or video was allowed... And I saw why. As we were walking toward the main building over a broken walkway, many toddlers were outside just roaming around and ran up to the first few of us to be held. They would laugh and smile and all seemed glad to have visitors. As we walked into the building, there were three rooms full of small cribs. There were babies and toddlers everywhere. Right away we were told that the sickest of the babies were kept downstairs. A handful of us went right down to two rooms, one large and one small, with cribs lining the rooms with only enough room to make a few small walkways. Many of the babies were over two years old, but were so sick and malnourished that they looked about one yr. One of my new friends from this trip is a nurse that spends her summers traveling to provide basic clinical aid around the world. We would look across the room at each other, eyes welled with tears... It was seriously unbelievable. She told me afterward that most of the babies suffered from respiratory conditions, that were probably caused by fevers. Some had severe cases of ringworm, and others had very obvious skin conditions. We didn't know any of their names... They simply had numbers on their cribs. The caretakers worked hard, but there were too many babies and not enough of the right supplies for them to be taken care of in a proper way. We held as many as we could, helped to feed them and showed them as much love as possible in the two hour time we had with them. Many of those babies wont live to see another year of life. I quietly sang over them, songs like, Surround Me, He's Able & Jesus Loves Me... I had learned how to say Jesus in Creole, so for a long time I just sang the name, Jesus... In that situation, there was not much more that you could do.

Family Style Care

On another day we gathered with members of the World Orphans partner church in Haiti. We split into three groups and each delivered five water filtration systems, along with a bag of food to each family that cares for an orphan in the church to church sponsorship program. Many of the parents were lost in the earthquake and the children were being cared for by either a single parent, or extended family, which is the goal. This program provides for their education, one meal a day and medical care. We got to visit with each family and pray with them. The children share dreams of becoming doctors, or president, etc. It is very important to their parents and caretakers that they value their future and that they become someone "important". As difficult as some of their situations are, the parents really amazed me! When asking one father how we could pray for him, his prayer request was based on eternity and sanctification. Awesome! The pastors I've met in Haiti have such a love for the people, and the people have a love for all the children. Sometimes they just need help to provide for them. This is where church partnerships come in... One part of the Body of Christ, reaching out to help another.

In both situations above, there were wonderful people wanting to help, but there was a difference in effectiveness and long term results. We each have to evaluate how to help in the most effective way with what God has put in our hands. The Bible has given us the keys: God, Family and Church. Now it's up to us to deliver to the least of these...