We slowly walked along the road and as we talked about her life and ministry, she quietly shared that she was tired, it was all a bit overwhelming. As a pastor’s wife, a mother of three, an overseer of the church-based orphan home, and a leader in a school that serves hundreds of poor children, she had a lot on her shoulders. “But,” she said, “But we are encouraged to know that our friends in the US are praying for us. It makes a big difference to know that we are not alone.”
I think of her often. It is people like her, with her quiet, yet courageous and sacrificial spirit, that remind me why World Orphans works so hard to facilitate church partnerships. Like my sister and her tireless commitment to care for the vulnerable children in her community, the leaders and caretakers in our partner churches around the world compel me. It’s so much more than just the funding. On a heart level, it makes a difference to not be alone in the challenging call of caring for those in need.
So I have an encouragement and exhortation to our US church partners....do not underestimate the value of your friendship to your international church partner. Yes, finances are a piece of your commitment, but just a piece. It means more than you probably realize to your partner that you are committed to a relationship with them, to standing with them in prayer; that you want to get to know them so you can join them to rejoice in the good and grieve over the struggles.
Take the time to reach out to your partner just to tell them that you’re thinking of them and to ask how you can join them in prayer. It’s easy to get caught up in the details of project and trip planning. I would offer that it’s important for the emails and skype calls to not just be ministry updates and trip logistics (although important). It’s essential that there is communication for the sole purpose of encouragement and seeking to carry one another’s burdens.
After this post was already solidified in my heart, I read the post my co-worker wrote last week. He told of a recent trip to Haiti where US and Haitian partners were meeting for the first time. He wrote:
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.
I had to smile at the similarity between what he wrote and what I was preparing to write. It’s an exciting time at World Orphans as we learn more and more about how to be good partners and facilitate good church partnerships...to see children cared for and communities transformed by the power of the Gospel.
“I always thank my God as I remember you in my prayers, because I hear about your love for all his holy people and your faith in the Lord Jesus. I pray that your partnership with us in the faith may be effective in deepening your understanding of every good thing we share for the sake of Christ. Your love has given me great joy and encouragement, because you, brother, have refreshed the hearts of the Lord’s people.” - Philemon 1:4-7