I want to ask you to do something with me in the coming months. I’d like us to think deeply, critically, prayerfully, about this whole “caring for the least of these” thing. If you didn’t already care for orphans, for mortal-risk children, for peripheral people, you almost certainly would not be reading this, so we start with that assumption.
However, I am convinced that much of what we do for people in need amounts to little more than conscience-salving, and has little or no impact on those we are “serving”. Let’s spend some time over the next few months talking about the kind of difference we actually make in their lives.
I’ll use a story as a conversation starter. I’ve told it here before, but I come back to it today to ask a really hard question.
Prostituted by her mother at age nine, Natalie herself became a mother by the time she turned eleven. I remember seeing Natalie stand before the graduate church, confidently telling her story. It was hard to believe she was the same scared, horribly abused child the juvenile authorities had brought to Hope seven years earlier. In a very real sense, she wasn’t the same; she was, in fact, transformed during her time at Hope.
As she ended her story and introduced her young daughter to the church, I could not help but think how different life would be for the little girl. Natalie’s transformation was not only hers but, as our mission statement says, it belongs to her future generations as well.
Hope Unlimited for Children is not – and never has been – a bowl-of-rice-in-a-warehouse kind of rescue organization. From day one, Hope has consistently focused on providing transformational care for the children placed in our trust. That means comprehensive programs; living as family, solid academics, marketable trades, and most important, the real-life transformation that miraculously occurs when a heart is made new.
So, to my question: Should we (in the larger sense of the word) invest in rescue, or should we invest in transformation? When I see any child in need, I want to grab them; save them immediately. But what does saving them mean? Is it a bowl of rice or beans and some clean water? We can do that cheaply, for pennies a day. OR should we spend that sum of money over and over again to provide really transformational care — a family, academic and vocational training, the foundation for a meaningful future?
I know where I come down on this question. Breaking the cycle, although much more expensive and focused — at least initially — on many fewer children, ultimately means that many more lives are saved. Obviously, such approach involves doing more than simply combatting hunger or digging a well.
It is a tough call, and by no means will I ever stand in judgment of anyone acting to save kids. But this is a conversation that needs to be had.
Think about about it … and next week we’ll take up where we left off.