While not every Christian is called to adopt, every Christian is called to care for the orphan. As ex-orphans in Christ (those who have been adopted into the family, sealed with the precious blood of Christ), we have the responsibility & privilege to care for & protect the vulnerable. It's like a crazy twist of bring-your-kids-to-work-day, but the Father still invites us in to join His mission. This is the sweetest news. Many disciples act on this responsibility by going on short-term mission trips. In the church (& especially the online Christian community), there are mixed thoughts about how this should be done... Ranging from "do not go on a mission trip at all because it will do nothing but harm" to "go on a trip because your eyes will be opened."
During the past few weeks as I have been getting ready for an upcoming short-term trip, both sides of the discussion have been spinning around in my head & I think I finally have a response. So, for what it's worth, here are my thoughts on orphan care & short-term mission trips.
1. Going is good, but do not go with a "needs-based" approach. When you focus on what they lack and you have to give, it is easy to have a superior mentality. Also, the cycle of poverty is difficult to break when people are simply given things from the outside world. Going with an asset-based approach, though, helps the ones you came to serve & the community as a whole. Acknowledging that yes, there are problems, but overcoming them by identifying & mobilizing resources within a community is, I believe, a more holistic solution.
2. They are not helpless. If you sign up to go on a trip, please know the people you will be serving are not helpless. They are people made in the image of God, who have dignity & self-worth. They might be in poverty, they might lack a job or clean water, but they are not unseen by the Lord. They are known by Him deeply, & they are precious in His sight. They are our dear brothers & sisters, & we are there to encourage them... & to be encouraged when we hear of how mightily the Father is moving in their lives!
3. Orphan care for orphan care's sake is insufficient. If we tend to the orphan while neglecting to speak of the wonder of the cross, we are doing nothing but comforting them in their bondage. Our primary reason for going should be to make much of the name of Jesus! He alone is worth serving; He alone is worth giving our lives to. Good deeds alone are insufficient to save, the children desperately need to be hearing the power of the gospel through our words.
Biblical missionality doesn't mean our job is finished after a week, it means walking with people... in the mess, in the chaos, in the unknown. Biblical missionality doesn't mean having all the answers or supplying all the needs, but pointing them to the only One who can. Biblical missionality doesn't mean being the hero, it means identifying with someone we otherwise wouldn't, solely because the gospel unites.