By Kathy Davis | Director of Wholistic Care I just returned home from Wholistic Care Training for our church partners in Guatemala City. Following a full day of travel, I found myself pondering the tender moments in our week together. During my short drive home from the airport, I was reconnected with a friend who was in significant emotional pain. Attempting to see the road through my tears, I wept with her and breathed prayers that Jesus would be her hope and help.
My drive home was followed by a couple of hours with my oldest daughter, eating out of the same bowl of banana pudding and diving into anything I missed while I was away. Catch-up time with my precious adult daughters typically begins something like this … “So, my girl, how is your heart”? We processed through some of her struggles; shared some tears and then she paused and asked me, “So, Momma, how is YOUR heart, and what was the highlight of your time in Guatemala?” As I shared, she entered into the stories, landing both of us in another bucket of tears. As we considered the harsh reality of suffering against the sheer beauty of Christ’s redemptive work in hearts all over the world, how could we not weep?
World Orphans and AMG Guatemala Partner Together
I invite you to journey with me through an impactful few days in Guatemala City. World Orphans is honored to serve alongside the ministry of AMG Guatemala (Advancing the Mission of the Gospel). Together, we have the blessing of seeing the global church engage and care for the most needful families and children in their communities. The tireless pursuit and love of God, who came to us in our sin, is what moves us out of our comfort zones and into the lives of others. I often hear it said ‘the church has enough needs of its own’ but the Guatemalan church is busting through this paradigm.
The Reality in Guatemala
The sobering and tragic reality is that resources are limited and the need is great in that two thirds of the Guatemalan population live in poverty. Violence, drug trafficking, and sexual abuse are common and “In nine out of ten cases, the culprits are family members, and in eight out of ten cases, the abuse is committed in the minor’s house,” (IPS News Agency).
Adoption Is An Act of God
From the onset of our combined training, World Orphans President, Scott Vair, had all of the attendees roped in as he addressed the biblical view of spiritual adoption, saying, “Adoption is not an idea of man, but originally an act of God” (Eph. 1:4-5). The intentionality of God to reach mankind who is born into sin, provide forgiveness through His son, and adopt us into his family compels us to love those who are marginalized.
Scott passionately reminded us that ‘rightly motivated love is not based on how we feel.’ Rather, it is focused on Christ who suffered, willingly laying down His life, shedding His blood for our sins, and pouring His love into our hearts! Sacrificial love that is focused on the Gospel compels us to love because He first loved us (1John 4:19). Ministry that is motivated out of love is not an obligation. It is a privilege. It is a calling. It is an honor.
Every Story Matters
I have trained alongside Scott for years now. As an adoptive father and one who understands the significance of caring for vulnerable children, there is a specific and personal message he brings every time. It goes something like this:
Every time you hug a child, it matters. Every time you spend time with a child, it matters. Every time you tell a child you love him, it matters. What you are doing matters because children matter to God.
The simplicity, yet significance, of these words get me every time!
“But Jesus called them to Him, saying, “Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God” (Luke 18:16).
As I sat with my daughter, recounting the extravagant love of the church to engage suffering families with insurmountable needs, I kept coming back to the significance of what it requires to ‘enter in’ to the hardship of another. The struggles are real. The need is great. Time is short.
Whether rich or poor, young or old, every heart has a story to tell. World Orphans ministry partners generously donated 50 Jesus Storybook Bibles in Spanish, which we brought to Guatemala. Scott Vair had the privilege of communicating that every child’s story finds his/her identity and purpose in the greatest story ever told; God’s story.
Practical Tools-Real Hope
Hearing some of the painful situations that children walk through is utterly heart breaking. Children who live in the effects of abuse learn to bottle up their pain. They fade into the background. They suffer in silence. They hide. Taking time with children aids in unlocking a child’s story and helps to bring it into the light where genuine hope and help can be found.
I introduced a booklet entitled ‘My Hope’ in an effort to help children cultivate trust through verbal and non-verbal expression with their caregivers. In the context of loving relationship, trust is built and healing is likely to begin.
Saying NO to Sexual Abuse
I loved meeting and learning from AMG’s Psychologist, Jenny Barrios. Jenny had us all engaged as we were each given a red hand that says ‘NO’ and participated in learning a portion of what is masterfully being taught in AMG schools. AMG’s Child Protection and Restoration Program is teaching children to say NO, which is imperative because sexual abuse generally begins in children who are too young to understand appropriate versus inappropriate touch. With the use of a piece of yarn, children are taught that they have their own personal space that is not to be violated without permission. Educating children about the anatomy of their bodies and regions that are private is helping them to understand what is off limits. Teaching children to say NO is empowering them to obtain and use their voice.
Relationship Over Resources
You may ask, “How does one measure the developmental progress in the lives of children who come from extreme poverty, abuse, and neglect? How much is the church really able to do? What we do know is that care for the vulnerable will require relational engagement and specific attention.
The provision of wholistic care through global church partnership provides for some of the tangible needs of food, education, and spiritual discipleship. However, the measure of these tangibles may not result in their attending college or obtaining a lucrative career. Measurement is important and we must do everything we can, but I believe the heart of the matter is best expressed in the following way.
“The measure of success for children who have come from hard places is for a child to know that he is precious and loved” (Dr. Karyn Purvis).
I become more and more aware of the impact that is being evidenced in the context of family and loving relationship, one precious life at a time.
Wholistic Care Training in the countries we serve is rooted in ‘heart transformation’ made available through the death and life of Jesus Christ, which is continually empowered by the Holy Spirit.
So, to answer my daughter’s question, what was the highlight of this trip and how is my heart? My personal highlight was the tender blessing of holding a Guatemalan sister, who is serving children in her community, in my arms as she wept through a deep place of personal grief. It was an honor to ‘enter in’ to her pain. It was a privilege to weep with her. It was a blessing to tenderly remind her that God loves her, that He is good, and that He is binding up her broken heart … even now.
How is my heart? My heart is stirred by the vast opportunity that is right in front of me; wherever I am. Disappointment, struggle, sin, and hardship place every tongue and tribe on the same playing field. My heart is most present when the Spirit of God moves me to ‘enter in’ to the story of another as an adopted child of God, whether here or there.
“The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor” (Isaiah 61).
Though all is not well in this world, there is the bright Hope who is ever present. His name is Jesus. Families are being visited. Children at risk are being educated; but most significantly, hearts are being healed as the global church ‘moves out’ and ‘enters in’ to human suffering.
Jesus, Healer – be lifted up!
A couple of ministry friends who we were blessed to spend time with last week, say it well:
“World Orphans, and their partnership with AMG, has reinforced the principal of Biblical relational ministry. Seeing first hand the work and fruit of this model of mission in Guatemala City broke my heart and filled it, both at the same time. How spot on ... to come alongside, support, encourage, and build relationships through Church-to- Church partnerships that help local churches be Christ's hands and feet, a light in darkness to those in their communities with whom they will have a lasting relationship.” - Mike Yount
“Your wholistic care model works … is unique … scales … and is so full of humble and infectious servant leadership!” - Jared Faellaci
Questions to ponder:
- How is your heart?
- How might God be compelling you to ‘enter in’ to the heart of another and the ministry of World Orphans?