Occasionally a message will burn so strongly in my heart that I cannot rest until I get it out. It feels that my chest will explode if I cannot find a way to share what is in my heart. This is one of those times. But, before I do, I want you to understand my tone.
Writing can be dangerous for a passionate guy like me. As you read these words on this page, you cannot see my face and decipher my tone as easily as you decipher these letters. So something that is written with tears in my eyes can easily be construed as being written with furrowed brow and scowl. I want you to know that as these words flow from my heart there are tears in my eyes and not a trace of anger. There is no judgement. This is just a heartfelt plea to God’s people. With that in mind, please continue reading.
Twelve days ago, a riot broke out in the Guatemalan government-run home, Hogar Seguro Virgen de la Asunción. The resulting fire ended in the deaths of 40 adolescent girls and injuries to others and served to expose the abuse and neglect that had occurred in that nightmare of a home for years. Over 750 children and teens were housed in a place meant for 400. As I hear more of the testimonies from the children who were in there, my heart breaks at moments, only to be consumed with rage moments later. And the cycle continues to repeat.
What make this story especially sad is that it should never have happened. When I say that, you probably think, “Of course not! No one should ever treat a child like that!” And you would be right. What was done to those children is inexcusable. But that is not what I am talking about.
The abuse, neglect and deaths that occurred should never have happened, because Hogar Seguro (ironically the name means “Safe Home”) should never have existed. And it should not have existed because the government should not have been caring for orphans. That has always been, and always will be, the church’s responsibility.
Go to your Bible on your phone, pad or computer. Do a search in scripture for the words “orphan” and “fatherless.” What do you see? You see God repeatedly instructing His people to care for them. To feed them, clothe them and take them in. Old Testament…New Testament…doesn’t matter. They are completely in harmony on the topic. As God’s people, the orphan crisis in Guatemala and around the globe is OUR PROBLEM. And it is our responsibility to put an end to the crisis. In fact, according to James 1:27, resolving this crisis is at the heart of true and pure religion.
Right now there are around 650 children that have been thrust out of their orphanage and who need placement. Of that number, 43 of them had pronounced special needs. All of these have been placed into the same home in Guatemala City. They are crowded together into two big, open rooms where they live until another spot can be found. They are being fed and changed, but little else. This is not because the people caring for them are bad, but because they are overwhelmed. It is taking all that have to give to provide these basics. And the church has to do something.
There are two reasons why the church needs to be involved in caring for these 650 children, as well as the other children who are still in government homes. The first reason is obvious, because these orphans need the church…desperately. They need the body of Christ to care, and give, and go, and love them. Without the intervention of the church, many of these children will end up in gangs. Without the church, many will turn to prostitution. Without the church, many will go to jail. And, without the church, many will die. Each of these children need us desperately.
But there is a second reason that we often miss. THE CHURCH NEEDS THEM!
Go ahead and read that again, just to make sure you didn’t misread it the first time. Yep, you read it right. The church needs the orphans. The church needs the displaced, the poor, the refugee, the broken. We need them, because without them we will never truly know Jesus.
I have known Jesus for over 34 years. During those years I have had one consistent prayer on my lips that has followed me from church to church and ministry to ministry. That prayer is this: "Jesus, let me know You as you really are without the filter of tradition, culture, or preconceived ideas." But it wasn't until I truly began to walk among the broken and taste their suffering that the layers of facade were stripped away and His face began to be revealed. And, now that I have experienced that, I can never go back.
I have learned that sharing in His suffering and the suffering of those He loves is necessary to know Him as He truly is. But that element is missing from most of the US church, and the church is suffering as a result.
Likely, some of you reading this right now are feeling an emptiness. You came to Christ and you are trying to follow Him. You go to church. You give. You try to show others Jesus in the way you live. But, somehow, there is still an emptiness. You can’t escape the awareness that you are missing something. You want your life to really matter for Jesus, but you wonder deep down if it really does. You want to feel God’s presence and hear His voice, but it is seldom that you actually do.
There is a false theology that has snared the church, and it is robbing us of the rich fellowship of Jesus Christ. It is the theology of comfort and security. We have been told that the responsible act is the godly act. Good parenting means keeping our children safe and sheltered. Good stewardship means savings accounts, retirement plans and never doing anything unless we have the money in-hand. Good discipleship means cautiousness. Keep your hands clean and your circle tight. And US Christianity proclaims “America First” and shuns risks.
But in the midst of the world’s suffering, out where things are dangerous and uncertain, is where we find Jesus. The Friend of sinners walks among the broken, poor, homeless and fatherless. And we will never truly know Him until we do the same.
We need the orphans as much as they need us. And, until we know that truth, we will consistently miss Jesus.
I write these words with tears in my eyes and pleading in my heart. Fellow believer, if you want revival in your life and in your church, step out in faith and walk with the poor, broken and orphaned. Please. It is the only hope for both the church and for the world.
That is finally off my chest, and I feel better. Now, let me share with you what our ministry is doing in response to the current crisis.
We want to take in more children, but we do not have the space. So, we have spoken with CNA and that have agreed to allow us to rent a second house close by and receive children under our current license. This is special permission to allow us to help them with the current crisis. Once the crisis has passed, we will either have to have that home licensed or close it down.
So, here we go. We are currently trying to rent a home just down the road from us. It is all on one level and is handicapped accessible. We will need to install a better bathroom, but it will otherwise be good to go. We are going to hire additional staff and receive ten more children with special needs.
Our daughters, Carissa and Taryn, are returning from Uganda. God has made it clear that the doors to open a group home there have been closed firmly by the government for now. In addition, the ministries with which Taryn had volunteered to serve have all cancelled on her. The only explanation for these events is that God is closing the doors there to send them elsewhere. Carissa has long-term plans that we will share soon, but in the short-term both of them are returning quickly to Guatemala to help us with this second house.
This is a huge step of faith for us in every way. This will increase our budget significantly. It will stretch Wanda and I and our staff in numerous ways. It is downright scary on almost every level. But God is never the source of fear, so we press on.
For right now, here is what we need:
- Financial provision - We will have to hire at least three additional staff, purchase equipment and furnishings, install a bathroom, and increase our purchasing of food and supplies.
- People to help - We need volunteers to come and serve. We especially need interns to serve from two months to a year. But we also need long-term workers to open additional homes and serve as support to the homes.
- Prayer partners - We need people who are really interceding on behalf of our ministry and these children.
- People to spread the word and share the needs - Could you share the first portion of this blog (down to the dotted line) with your congregation or small group? Could you talk to others and let them know about the crisis this country is facing? Then direct them to ways they can help. (Note: We are not suggesting that you funnel financial support to us. You can instead direct them to Orphan Resources International who is helping all the homes that are receiving children.)
- In other words, we need you.
I have noticed an interesting phenomenon. Whenever there is a crisis, you would assume that most people would jump in to help. But most do not. It is not that they don’t care, but that they make a false assumption. Namely, they assume that there are others who are more qualified and better equipped who will step up to help.
Through years of experiencing this phenomenon, I now have a very different assumption. I assume that no one else will step up, so it is up to me.
Might I make the recommendation that the church make that same assumption with me? What would happen if every believer and every church assumed that it was up to them? I sometimes like to sit and imagine that. And then I pray that God will make it reality.
So, here we go again, stepping off a cliff and praying that God will catch us as we catch these children. So, what do you think? Wanna take a leap?
Daryl, Wanda and the Crew