“A typhoon had temporarily stranded a monkey on an island. In a secure, protected place along the shore, while waiting for the raging waters to recede, he spotted a fish swimming against the current. It seemed obvious to the monkey that the fish was struggling and in need of assistance. Being of kind heart, the monkey resolved to help the fish. Fortunately a tree precariously dangled over the very spot where the fish seemed to be struggling. At considerable risk to himself, the monkey moved far out on the limb, reached down and snatched the fish from the threatening waters. Immediately scurrying back to the safety of his shelter, he carefully laid the fish on dry ground. For a few moments, the fish showed excitement, but soon settled into a peaceful rest. Joy and satisfactions swelled inside the monkey. He had successfully helped another creature.” – written by Duane Elmer, originated by Ann Templeton Brownlee
There are often two sides to a story. No doubt, the monkey saw himself as a humble, sacrificial savior “rescuing” the fish. With even less doubt, but a lot more truth, the dying fish on dry land saw himself as an innocent victim at the hands of a murderous monkey. Clearly, in the end, we see that good intentions don’t always guarantee good outcomes.
At World Orphans, we’re all too aware that American missions often resembles the savior monkey. For decades, the tunnel vision of American missions in regards to serving the “least of these” has often led to us unintentionally identifying ourselves as the “most of these.” Our good intentions to bring people out of relief and into development have often buried those same people in a deeper need for relief.
It makes you wonder if the fish (i.e. those in need) was thinking, “Stop ‘serving’ me! You’re killing me!”
To counter these good intentions, World Orphans prioritizes relationship and understanding in how and whom we serve. We call it Church Partnership. Our goal in these partnerships is not to build dignity in the servant but to build dignity in those we serve.
Duane Elmer, author of Cross-Cultural Servanthood, defines serving as the ability to relate to people in such a way that their dignity as human beings is affirmed, leaving them more empowered and equipped to live God-glorifying lives.
True serving is relational. It builds dignity. It affirms the self-worth of those being served. It empowers people. And, most importantly, it equips people to live God-glorifying lives.
So, do you want to serve? I mean, really serve? Will you consider partnering your church with World Orphans and journeying with us to equip more people to live God-glorifying lives?