By Frank Decker
Perhaps the most significant work for the Kingdom of God is conducted by people who are unlikely to become famous—those who quietly and faithfully serve in places that most others avoid. You won’t see their photographs on the jacket of a best-selling Christian book; nor do they dwell in pulpits that are visible to thousands. And yet they are custodians of lessons that we must know.
In most cultures it is orphans and street children who represent the most vulnerable and sometimes most invisible members of a society. That’s why over the last few weeks I have compiled a selection of comments—in response to questions I asked them—from six missionary friends who serve in ministry to “children-at-risk” in three different regions of the world. These cross-cultural workers range in mission experience from four to fifteen years.
I’m sharing this simple progression of quotes because in these remarks are reminders of what mission is about when it is transformational, having moved beyond the theoretical and into the reality of revolutionizing broken lives, lessons that can reach back into my own world and speak into situations visible from my own orbit.
I find it refreshing to look up from my Bible study or sermon preparation and just sit at the feet of those who are serving in other contexts and listen.
Here are their entries.
• You know, these kids have faced so much loss and displacement at such a young age. First they may be sent to a shelter, then moved from the shelter to an orphanage, and then at a later age to yet another orphanage.
Popular society here tells our kids that they are worth nothing. “What good can come of an orphan?” So, sometimes we lead them in an exercise to just be quiet and “ask God what he thinks of you.” They are usually shocked by the messages that the Holy Spirit conveys to them about how highly they are thought of by God.
• We serve as foster parents to five former orphans, all of whom in their relatively young lives have experienced more significant life events than most of us ever will. Some never met their earthly father, which often negatively affects their perception of God. Rarely did they hear encouragement. I believe the most effective act of parenting we can do is to encourage them with simple words of affirmation, such as, “I believe in you,” “you are special,” or “I knew you could.”
We thought our kids were too messed up for God to help them. That was before we reached a turning point in our ministry that caused us to realize that we had to depend on the power of God.
• Our orphan ministry is about relationship and loving and bringing some little spot of something pleasant and nice into the kids’ lives…. But what is necessary for there to be actual change in the orphan’s life? Supernatural, divine intervention is the ONLY effective thing. The problems these kids face, the pain in their lives, and the self-destructive survivor instinct that drives every decision they make cannot be encountered by mere human intervention. Their only hope is for the Lord to touch and restore those broken places inside. The cycle has to be broken and only Jesus can do it.
Inner healing will take time, as their level of trust is understandably low, but that is why we believe inviting these children to live with us as family in our home is the best kind of ministry we could imagine. It gives us daily chances to speak words of truth and healing, and enabling the Lord to take back what may have been lost. He does the healing, and He is faithful and able.
A sign of progress for them is not the absence of struggle in their lives, but when they are “struggling successfully.” Early in our ministry we felt that we had to come and rescue them every time that they fell into a “pit.” Now we see growth when they have learned to trust God to lift them out of that pit. When we see this, we know that they are growing.
The last thing these kids need is empty, ritualistic religion. But the greatest tool you can give them is intimacy with God. Intimacy with God destroys the work of the devil.
Missionaries in three regions giving testimony to the same axiom: The reality of the living Jesus brings inner healing, victory in spiritual warfare, and the assurance of one’s adoption as a child of God. These are essential elements for a ministry of transformation, regardless of the context.