In January I was able to lead a team of 45 students and teachers from Wheaton Academy (a local high school from West Chicago) to meet and serve their church partner in Haiti. Let me be clear, I have always had fantastic experiences on partnership trips, but since this was such a large group and Pastor Timothee had never met anyone from the group, I was a little anxious about their first meeting. I knew from dialoguing with other employees at World Orphans that Pastor Timothee is happy to be part of the Orphan and Vulnerable Children program and that his church, Assemble Chretienne Unie d’Haiti, has a huge passion for orphans. I knew they are doing everything they can to care for the many orphans in their community, but simply cannot run the OVC program without financial help. Still, did he really want this big high school to come and serve each year? Were they more of an inconvenience than a help? Would it be better if they just sent a check each month?
My concerns were relieved the minute that Pastor Timothee was introduced to Jeff, Wheaton Academy’s trip leader. Pastor Timothee gave him a long hug then stepped back to show him the church and said, “We are so happy you are here, welcome to YOUR church.” I have come to expect this from indigenous pastors, but you could see the relief on Jeff’s face. After a short conversation, Jeff looked at me and said, “That went well,” as he considered how their partnership money, given over the previous five months, and brief interaction had already created a unique and incredible bond between these two men.
A few days later the group leaders were able to sit down with Pastor Timothee and the other pastors of the church to ask questions and get to know each other better. Pastor Timothee started off the meeting by looking directly into everyone’s eyes with tears and said, “We started this church 25 years ago and have been praying for a partner for 25 years…and now we finally have one. We are no longer alone…thank you so much!” More than ever before, I learned in that moment that churches across the world do not just want money, they want a relationship, a commitment to prayer, friendship, and generosity. Simply, they want to partner with other believers where they are encouraged in their ministry and given the chance to impact their community in ways that they could not before. This pastor had been laboring in his church for 25 years waiting for others to come alongside him so they could do ministry together and dream about what God could do through them together.
Interestingly, as I reflected on this, I realized that not much has changed in the past two thousand years in this regard. The Apostle Paul’s churches were regularly taking up offerings and praying for other churches and leaders in need (2 Cor 8:1-7; Rom 1:9; 2 Thess 1:11; 3:1). Their bond was Christ and so is ours. It would have been impossible for Paul to imagine living the Christian life and taking part in church without a passion for other Christians and churches around the world in need and involved in gospel work. This is the beauty of the model of World Orphans: communities of believers connecting with churches across the globe to care for orphans, love on people, pray for and encourage each other, and partner in reaching the world with the good news.