“I couldn’t do what you do. I would bring all of them (orphans) home.” I often hear this phrase when talking with friends, acquaintances, and strangers about the short-term trips I take with The Boaz Project.
If I had a list of phrases that I wish people would not say when discussing orphan care, this one would easily make the top five. While this phrase is meant with the utmost sincerity, it makes me cringe. There are a few issues with this phrase that I would like to address.
**Before I begin, I will make a disclaimer that I am speaking specifically about the children and homes that The Boaz Project works alongside.**
The first issue is that this idea of bringing all the orphans home comes from an idea of needing to “save” them. A majority of people who say this phrase have this idea that the orphans The Boaz Project works alongside live in a terrible place and are starved for food and love. If that were the case, I’m sure that everyone who works for and who has gone on a trip with Boaz would have adopted at least five children. Of course, we would all want to bring them home. No person who has empathy would be able to walk away from such a situation without having the urge to do something to fix the problem.
But when you take a trip and see the homes and children that The Boaz Project partners with, you see that these kids have what they truly need. They have adults who are consistent in their life, who they know they can trust. These adults have the children’s best interest in mind. You will quickly learn that after having a short conversation with either child or caregiver. These caregivers have truly sacrificed the unimaginable to be able to love and provide for these sweet children. They have worked hard and have created a family, not by blood but by love.
Secondly, we as Americans may have more in terms of material and financial wealth, but that does not mean that we are “better off” than the child who has very little in regards to finances. Yes, visiting a country that lives below the poverty line is startling, but so is the idea that throwing money at them will fix it. On trips at least one team member will comment that despite the lack of material possessions, there is great wealth in terms of spirit, compassion, generosity, character, etc.
In Kenya specifically, though the poverty is great, these children live in a place that values community. The valuing of community comes with the understanding that when someone is in need, you sacrifice and do all that you can to help. And yes, this applies to the people who aren’t in your immediate family. But not only do Kenyans help; they give all of their resources.
Yes, all of them. I believe that they truly understood what Jesus meant when He said to sell possessions and give to the poor (Matthew 19:21, Luke 12:33).
Finally, I’ll admit that I have also thought once or twice before I ever took a trip with The Boaz Project that I’d want to bring children home with me if I ever visited an orphanage overseas. Before I understood a healthy way to care for orphans, I too was naive in thinking that I could provide everything an orphan seemingly lacked. Sometimes, this thought catches me off guard, it makes me question if I am as compassionate and empathetic as I thought I was. [It’s a little unnerving when you hear a statement about how someone can’t do something, especially when that thing is your job, because they’re so “compassionate.’]
But after understanding the effects of trauma on children and after seeing the homes in which The Boaz Project works, I can say that I would not be helping anyone, and in some cases I would be causing more trauma if I were to take them home with me. After working closely with these children, bringing one home would be the same as taking them from their family and all things familiar would be cruel and selfish, not compassionate or empathetic.
Don’t get me wrong, there are still moments that hold hard emotions and big questions to process through. The children’s lives are not perfect and trauma still exists. I do often joke that I will stay in the country we are visiting, but it’s because I see the love in these places. I see the healing that has taken place and continues to take place. I see God moving mightily. And I want to stay because it’s me that needs to have more of what they have. More community, more generosity, more love.
So, I challenge you to not avoid things which may seem difficult. Don’t avoid the spaces where there are hardships that can cause emotional responses. But dive into them. Step in and see the goodness that is there.
For starters, come to an Encounter – a one hour session hosted by The Boaz Project- and hear the stories of these children and hear how God has worked miracles for them. I promise you won’t be disappointed.
“Doings small things with great love”,
The Boaz Project, Inc.