Disaster Response in Missions: Do No Harm

firemanThe last few months have been rough around the world, maybe it’s always like this, but it seems as though there are different natural disasters every week. Hurricanes, earthquakes, volcanos, tsunamis, etc. It can be overwhelming. What are we called to do? How can we be as effective as possible? How can we avoid unintentionally adding to the disaster?

We all have (or should have) a natural response to help when we see people in need. Today, more than at any time in history, we can see people in need in real time. We can watch the water rising during a flood on CNN, can watch trees and houses being blown apart during a hurricane on network news, before the dust settles after an earthquake we can watch people huddled in the streets waiting for aftershocks. It’s natural to want to help; it’s part of our collective humanity to reach out in times of crisis. Please do it in the best way possible.

The people and items showing up about two weeks after any major disaster are referred to by the RedCross as the “second wave” of the disaster. People underprepared or undertrained adding to the confusion and not helping anyone. The truckloads of well-intentioned items that are sent that are not really needed, and actually take a tremendous amount of staff-hours and resources to manage. I remember hearing how, after seeing the dogs searching the rubble on 9/11, people sent semi-loads of dog food: a) dogs don’t need that much food. b) the dogs have a special diet. All of that dog food needed to be sorted, stored, managed, and redistributed. After Katrina, there were several large warehouses and thousands of staff-hours required to sort the truckloads of items sent to New Orleans. The sheer volume of used wedding dresses, old TVs, and other items of questionable urgency was overwhelming.

Right after the earthquake in Haiti several years ago, there were hundreds of people landing at the airport to “help” without the infrastructure to manage them. Many people jumped on a plane thinking they could get a hotel and then travel out to help during the day. The hotels were rubble. The transportation they were expecting didn’t exist, many of these well-meaning people just added to the crowds, confusion, and lack of food and drinking water. What was needed was first response teams with their own support, supplies, and the know-how to make a difference. I have two close friends that each hit the road to help with disasters in the last year, one to help with the volcano relief in Guatemala, one to help with the flooding in Texas and then the hurricane in Puerta Rico. They were both only effective because they went with a plan, with the needed supplies, and most importantly they partnered with on-the-ground leaders who knew how to direct them. They were a help, not a burden; they were not people that got in the way, or stretched supplies even thinner.

So what should we do in the face of natural disaster?

1) Almost all relief organizations will tell you, the best thing you can do is send funds. People often feel better offering items but if the items are not exactly what is needed it can add to the problem. Also, I know at our orphanage, we get offered items we can use all the time – if we can pick them up. Often the needed items can cost more to pick up than it would cost to purchase them locally. We appreciate the help, but funding for transportation is a huge need also. I met with one major food relief organization who told me that getting enough food donated is never a problem, the cost of the transportation and distribution is always the biggest challenge.

When you do send funds, send wisely. Do your due diligence and give to established organizations who have a solid track record of good management and effective programs. One thing that isn’t talked about with funding in disasters is: give beyond what you normally give, don’t just shift funding. It surprises most people when I tell them 9/11 almost put our orphanage out of business. We still had children to feed, medicines to purchase, etc. but almost ALL donations for about 90 days went to NewYork.

Along with the crippling drop in donations, most mission groups who make our work possible canceled their trips. We were cut off. Give generously, but continue to donate to your church, your cause, or wherever you give on a regular basis: they need you more than you might realize.

2) If you want to physically go and serve right away, go with a plan. Partnerships matter, in short-term missions, and in disaster relief. Without an on-the-ground host or hosting organization, your effort will not help, you will add to the problems. Find a church, a food bank, or some other established organization who knows the area, knows the people, and most importantly knows what the real needs are. Communicate your willingness to help, what resources you can bring to the area, and any special skills you or your team might have.

3) Plan a trip to serve a few months after the disaster. All the same rules apply about finding an on-the-ground host, but you can now address re-building needs long after the national attention has faded.

We are called to serve, we are called to be the good Samaritan in world affairs, but please do so wisely, with a plan, and partnering with people who know how to lead you to be as effective as possible.

Please share on Facebook or wherever you hang-out online.

Phil Steiner, my co-author, has a great blog also. This week, Phil also writes on the correct response to disasters and short-term missions. Check it out: philsteiner.net

The Long View in Ministry

pexels-photo-260607In orphan care, and in life, anything of quality takes a very long time. In Spain, architect Antoni Gaudi began work on a cathedral in 1882, and it’s not finished yet. At the time of Gaudi’s death in 1926, the church was approximately a quarter finished. It’s expected to be completed in 2026. The architect, and everyone working on the cathedral, knew going in that they would not live to see the completion of this project. They also knew they were building something that would last for many generations. Historic buildings and almost everything of significant value take time.

In society today, everyone wants things NOW. Fast food, movies on demand, faster computers, faster delivery. We love Amazon Prime for its next day delivery but that’s not fast enough for some people, Amazon has started same-day delivery in some areas. Somewhere, someone is screaming, “I can’t wait 24 hours for my Hello Kitty pot holders and my camouflage yoga pants!” Immediate gratification is a powerful thing.

The problem with immediate gratification is that it’s not possible, or healthy, in most areas of our lives. God sees a long picture, an eternal perspective. People need a long time to change, to heal, and to grow. Just because we want something NOW, doesn’t mean that it’s the healthy or realistic option.

A healthy weight loss plan should take a long time, a pound or two a week max. It takes a long time to put the pounds on; it will take a long period of correct diet and exercise decisions to take it off. Most people don’t go into debt overnight, getting out of debt usually takes many years of correct spending decisions. In another example of too much too soon, almost everyone who wins the lottery regrets it years later. It came too fast, and they couldn’t handle it, too much too soon destroyed their lives. There are rhythms and timing to everything; it never works well to force anything into our preferred schedule.

In orphan care, in many cases, care and healing can go on for many years, it’s not a quick fix situation. Most of the children in the system will be there for years, 70% of our children grow into adults under our care. In most cases, it takes years for a child to work through the issues of abuse and abandonment that they’ve experienced. It’s a slow, tedious process to bring a child to healing, to help them trust again, to show them that they have incredible value. If you’ve literally been thrown away, it takes a while to believe you’re not trash to be discarded.

Although we value everyone who partners with us, it’s the longterm people that make the difference. The groups that come down every year for decades, the staff and volunteers that live here for many years while the children grow and heal, these are the people who understand the long view in ministry. These people know they are building something profound, they are working to break the cycle of kids in the system for generations.

Most people who have adopted older children will tell you; it isn’t always coloring books, reading together, and hugs. The healing, bonding, and relationship issues can take many painful years to work through, but it’s worth it in the end. A child is not a quick project or a quick fix; a wounded child usually takes years of loving, patient guidance to reach a healthy place.

We see the quick-fix attitude in many short-term mission groups. They sometimes think they will come in and transform a ministry or community in a few days, where full-time pastors and missionaries have been serving for years. Don’t get me wrong; they can make a real difference. But that difference only comes through building long-term relationships, long-term partnerships, and realizing they’re playing a small (but important) part in a long string of mission groups working to transform lives and communities.

When you’re looking at what God is doing in you, please consider the long view. God knew you before you were born, He has a plan. It might not be as fast as you like but He will get you to where you need to be. It might be forty years in the desert, but there is a reason for that, even if we can’t see it. Trust that the potter will shape the clay of your life into a masterpiece.

When you’re looking at a ministry where you’re serving, understand that change happens over a long time. You and your team can’t end the homeless problem overnight; you can’t end poverty in a week, your church can’t heal all the families in your area in a few months. But over time, serving and working with the right attitude and in a healthy fashion, the collective body of Christ can change the world.

Take the long view in ministry, slow and steady can move mountains, and change lives.

Please share on Facebook or wherever you hang-out online.

If you would like to receive this blog in your e-mail each Monday, please click “follow” above.

In Missions, Eat Where the Locals Eat

54255644_sIn our area of Baja Mexico, every tourist thinks they need to visit Puerto Nuevo, a local cluster of touristy, mediocre restaurants and kitschy knickknack stores all designed to suck the money out of people on vacation. A local would NEVER eat or hang out there unless they worked in one of these tacky restaurants. I think most areas have these: San Francisco has Pier 39, New York has Times Square, Chicago has Navy Pier. It’s part of the travel experience to go, take the selfie, and say you’ve been there. 

If you want to experience a city, country, or culture, find a local. Most people who live in Baja know the wonderful hidden restaurants, the amazing unexpected views, the great weekly farmer’s markets, etc. This is true of anywhere; until you’ve lived in an area for an extended time, you just don’t know the best places to go and how to get there. You don’t know the cultural ins and outs. Find a guide, find a friend of a friend who is willing to show you where to go and what to avoid.

In short-term missions, finding the correct guide can make or break your trip. You don’t know what to do, where to go, and most importantly: you don’t know what you don’t know.

Many (many) years ago, I was on a short-term mission trip to help at a sizeable evangelistic outreach/conference in Sydney Australia. There was a host church, and we were each given a contact in case we needed anything. I was paired up with a youth pastor who asked me during the conference lunch break what I wanted to do. Without really thinking it through I told him, “What would you do if I wasn’t here?” BEST-MOVE-EVER. He yelled across the hall for a bunch of teens from his youth group, we all jumped in a van, and went straight to a local pub. They proceed to order a round of beers for everyone while we decided what to have for lunch. I was able to blend into the local crowd, listen to what was going on, and experience the non-touristy local culture. I had also never gone out drinking with a youth group before.

The best part of hanging out in a pub with the youth group was being a fly on the wall to observe how their faith played out in action, not at a conference, not at an outreach; it was just life. We had some great discussions, and I learned a lot about the culture and their views on a wide range of faith issues. It was the best part of my trip. If I had flinched at going to a pub and hoisting a pint, (something I wouldn’t normally do at home), I would have missed out on something very profound.

Too often, in missions, we think we’re the ones bringing everything to the table, we know how things should be, that we are there to save the world. If we go into missions with this attitude we will fail miserably; I see it happen all the time. Humility is a big deal in missions, and in life. It’s so much better to go into missions knowing that you don’t know everything, knowing you need to partner with people who know what to do and how to do it.

By finding a local church, ministry, or hosting team, you can learn more, do more, and have more of an impact than you would in ten short-term missions trips on your own. You need a guide, a local, someone to show you the ropes. You might be from a country where culturally it’s okay for a Christian to have a beer in public (like Australia) but if you went to a bar in Ghana your ministry trip would be over quickly, and you’d never be invited back. You need to know how to “be all things to all people.” I’m not saying you should compromise your standards, but finding someone to guide you into a cultural balance goes a long way towards learning about others, being accepted by others, and opening doors for you to be able to share with others.

My team here in Mexico hosts a lot of short-term mission groups. We spend a great deal of our time educating the groups about the local culture, what to say, how to act, and what to expect. “Yes, your yoga pants might be fine at home, but here, they’re fairly offensive.” “I know your evangelistic drama has worked before, but our town has seen it twelve times this year, and our local church performs it better than you do.” In spite of the few entitled or know-it-all groups, we genuinely do love our groups, and most of them are great. We love helping them be as effective as possible, we love guiding them in the right direction, and we love seeing their lives changed through their experiences while they’re with us.

If you’re thinking of organizing a short-term missions trip, find a host or guide that knows what they’re doing. If you have a host or guide in a destination country listen to them, ask them questions, allow them to help you be as effective as possible. Your trip will be better, your team will get more out of it, and everyone will leave enriched from the experience. (and you might get invited to a local pub.)

Please share on Facebook or wherever you hang-out online. Thanks.

If you would like to receive this blog in your e-mail each Monday, please click “follow” above.

People Are Irritating

fightPeople frequently ask me, “What’s the biggest challenge of running a large orphanage?” It’s not funding, it’s not dealing with childhood trauma, it’s not even dealing with government bureaucracy. My biggest day-to-day challenge is keeping “grown-ups” from killing each other. Think of any group you’re involved in (work, home fellowship, whatever). Now imagine living with those people seven days a week, twenty-four hours a day. If you’re honest, you might want to kill someone also.

All human beings are flawed, weird creatures with their own baggage, wants, and needs. When people work and live together for long periods of time, all that baggage tends to go on display. You’ve probably heard the saying: “Fish and houseguests go bad after a few days.” Anyone can live together for a while, but over time the quirks and irritating habits come out and grate on each other. Most of the groups we host at our ministry come in for a weekend or maybe a week. When a group books for two weeks we try to have them take a break mid-way through to spend time apart decompressing and to catch their breath. We’ve seen well-intentioned groups self-destruct after having to live together for more than a week. One group gave up and left five days early not speaking to each other. People are complicated.

In our home, we have over 100 children and about 30 adults that all live together. Our large staff is made up of multiple cultures, a wide range of educations and backgrounds, and an even more extensive range of personalities. In spite of the many interpersonal challenges that come up, along with the occasional romances, everyone gets along remarkably well. Not that we spend a lot of time discussing it, but the reason most of our team gets along so well is a sense of humility. A humble servant’s heart helps in any situation or relationship. Listed below are a few thoughts on ministry relationships, in no particular order.

Know that you have your own issues. You’re no picnic. It helps to realize you are as difficult and irritating as everyone you work with. Being self-aware is a challenging and complicated goal. It’s incredibly healthy to hold up the proverbial mirror and take a long look at yourself. “What am I doing to add to the conflict?” There is one person that I need to work with daily who is about a third of my stress. When I feel my blood pressure rise, I’ve started to look inward. Why is this bothering me so much? Does this matter? How am I hurting the situation? Sometimes it is the other person, but it’s pretty hard for any conflict to be entirely one-sided. When you’re frustrated with someone, it’s good to realize; you’re not so great yourself.

Lose the pride. Most people react from one of two places: pride or humility. I know some people who seem to be offended by EVERYTHING, I’m sure you know the type. When someone is always offended, it screams pride. “How dare they do that / ask that / expect that? Don’t they know who I am?” Pride really is the basis for all sin; it’s amazing how it can screw up relationships, workplaces, and lives. People reacting from pride are hard to work with and impossible to correct. You probably thought of at least one person after reading that last sentence, but ask yourself: “How do I respond to correction?” Do I get defensive? Or do I take an honest look at myself and see if changes need to be made? It’s a huge symptom of pride when we can not see our own faults. Throw several prideful people together, and it never works for long. Humility is needed in a ministry, in relationships, and in society, if we are going to survive.

Have grace for others. God has shown wild, abundant grace to us, way more than we could ever deserve, we need to have that same abundant grace for those around us. We need to show that grace to others, pour grace over others, and see them through our Father’s eyes. It’s easy to focus on what someone else is doing wrong; it’s harder to look at the person and see why. Everyone has been hurt; everyone makes questionable decisions, everyone is looking at life through their own warped lens and history. We need to “walk a mile in their shoes” and try to understand them as the valued individuals that God sees. When we see people with God’s eyes, they appear very different. When we truly hurt for someone, it’s hard to be hurt by someone.

When we’re looking for new staff, the most important thing we look for is a servant’s heart. Skills can be taught to anyone willing to learn, but a servant’s heart is essential for living in a community. A humble servant’s heart means someone has an understanding of what it means to walk in Christ’s example. Christ was a humble servant, and people were (and are) drawn to that. Christ was honest, He was OK with calling out sinful behavior, but it was always to teach, never to yell “gotcha.” He wanted what was best for all those around Him.

People are irritating, ourselves included. By walking in Christ’s example and seeing people as He sees them, living and working with others shifts into what God desires for us. We can live and work with others in peace, if it’s not about us.

If you liked this, please share on Facebook or wherever you want to. thanks

You Are Going To Die

graveYou might have hours left. You might be around for several more decades. But you will die. You will kick the bucket, go toes up, become worm food, start pushing up daisies. You will reach room temperature, give up the ghost, etc.. There are lots of ways to say it, but one way or another we all give up the fight, our heart will cease to beat, and our life on this world will end. When that happens (and you live in the US) the people in your life will arrange to have you put in a box, a week or so later people will put on dark clothes (weird) and will gather. Someone will say a few words by your grave, and people you’ve never met will stick you in the ground. Following this little ritual, people will get together somewhere, eat potato salad, and talk about you. Our life comes down to a plastic bucket of potato salad from Costco. (and maybe a nice sandwich platter.)

In Mexico, funerals are handled differently. When someone dies everything snaps into action in time-honored rituals. The body is placed in a box and positioned in either the home or a public location for the wake to start, all within a few hours of someone passing on. The wake is not a polite, reserved affair. People are up all night hanging out, crying, sharing, talking, eating, maybe sharing a few beers, but it goes on ALL NIGHT. It’s quite the send-off. What goes on in the background is something else. Friends and some family are out digging the hole. Digging a grave is much harder than it looks like on TV or in the movies, it takes many back-breaking hours. Once the wake is winding down, everyone loads the casket into a truck and heads to the grave site. Once again, very different than in the US: in Mexico, to “bury your loved one” actually means that. You, your friends, and the family use some rope and lower the casket into the ground. Then you grab the shovels. It takes a LONG time to bury someone. People are crying, maybe some wailing, and it takes hours. But when it’s done, there is a real sense of closure, everyone has said “goodbye,” and people start to move on. One of the many upsides to this time-honored tradition is it makes death very real to everyone involved. This is a good thing; we should all face death from time to time. We need to be reminded that our time here is a temporary gig. There is something genuine about “burying your loved one.” The sweat and dirt and blood of broken knuckles as you dig through the hard ground to make a hole to place the body is not to be taken lightly. It’s real. It makes the line between life and death very clear – there is an end.

It’s important to be reminded from time to time that there might not be a tomorrow for us. The reason I wrote the 500 or so words on funerals you just read is to remind you that you will be the center of one of these rituals eventually. What are you going to do between now and then? How will you use this precious and limited time you have?

Too many people go through the motions of life, without living life in line with the tremendous calling we each have. We need to be living our lives to the fullest, living in such a way that we will hear upon our arrival in heaven, “Well done my good and faithful servant.” We should slide into heaven out of breath, worn out from seeking to share with others, give to others, and be representing our Father well. I’m not sure who said it, but I love the quote “It’s sad to reach the end of one’s life and realize you’ve never lived.”

I work with a lot of young adults from the US who visit our ministry. Sadly, I know most of them will follow the tedious path that society lays out for them. They will attend college while they figure out what to do, they will leave college with too much debt, they will marry too young, and spend much of their lives paying back student loans. I’m not sure this is what God intended for us.

At whatever stage of life you find yourself, young adult, old fart, or somewhere in between; take a risk. Do something out of your comfort zone. I know one older female retired doctor (80ish) who still drives herself to Mexico every week to volunteer at various clinics. I know a young family that is currently looking for property to open a new orphanage. I have a friend who just got back from Guatemala where he helped with volcano relief. These are people who are actively working to bless others but are also growing in ways that are hard to imagine. They are sucking everything they can out of the time they have on this earth.

I know not everyone is called to serve internationally, but we are all called to serve. Don’t let fear of the unknown, fear of looking foolish, or any other fear keep you from trying something out of your norm. You might find a calling that will change your life, you might learn about the people in your community, it might shape you in ways you could never envision.

Take a chance, do something great with your life. Always remember: In the end, no one gets out alive.

Please share on Facebook or wherever you hang-out online. Thanks.

You’re Only As Big As Your World

pexels-photo-1008155I know an older person (not really old) who lives on their own in Southern California. For many reasons, mainly their own decisions, they’re not as active as they once were. Their only real excursions out of their home are for church, weekly grocery shopping, and an occasional doctor appointment. They’re not a big reader, and they don’t watch the news, they just kind of exist. Their world, over time, has become small. There is one aspect of the way they live their lives that’s interesting: anything that goes on in their world is HUGE. If the mailman is 20 minutes late, it throws off their whole day. If the cat sleeps in a different spot they don’t know what to do. Their world has become so small, the weight of any detail can bring it crashing down. We need to keep our world big.

Any of us can get into a rut, doing the same thing over and over again. Work, home, church, repeat. There is nothing wrong with this, but if we never break up the normal rhythm of our lives it’s hard to grow, its hard to keep a healthy perspective, it’s hard to see the bigger world. We need to get out of our comfortable routines and stretch a little. This is even truer when it comes to our faith and our Christian walk. Routine is the death of passion; suddenly we lose the enthusiasm and wind up going through the motions. Any small test or trial at that point can bring us crashing down.

We’ve all seen the effects of people living in their own small world. How many of us have witnessed truly trivial decisions at a church become massive drama when they’re being discussed by people who don’t see the bigger picture. People with small worlds get very upset when the font is changed in the bulletin; they threaten to leave the church if the service is moved 30 minutes later, they don’t understand why the donuts table doesn’t have maple bars anymore. This sounds silly because it is. These are silly, stupid, trivial trials when you look at the bigger world of faith, our Christian walk, and the challenges of the body of Christ around the world.

I’ve gone through seasons like this in my own life. Several years ago, my world had gotten smaller. I had been helping to run an orphanage in Mexico for a very long time. In spite of the ever-changing challenges, I found myself walking in a routine. My life revolved around working with the kids, raising money, helping to facilitate short-term missions, etc. There’s nothing wrong with that but our orphanage, the kids in our care, and the people who came by had become the bulk of my world. One day a regular visitor approached me and shared how she was helping a small orphanage in Africa. She asked if I’d be interested in going with her to visit that home for ten days and help with some training. I went and it rocked my world.

Our small team spent the bulk of our time at a poor orphanage in one of the poorest countries in the world. It brought into focus what was important, what children in those types of situations need, and how much need there was in the world. We spent one day visiting another orphanage that was incredible: well run, beautiful, great education for the children in their care, etc. Visiting that home was profoundly humbling and showed us how far we still had to go to improve our own orphanage. Even the travel through several airports and countries to get to our destination worked to give me a bigger perspective on the world around us. I hope we made a difference in the orphanage we went to help, I know my life was changed through the experience.

Expanding people’s worlds is why short-term mission trips are so important. There are needs around the world, but short-term missions changes and expands the people who go on these trips. At any age, we need to be constantly looking for ways to see a bigger world, to experience life through the eyes of someone in another culture. We need to hear, smell, and experience life far from what we’re used to. Short-term missions can be kind of a selfish experience. Yes, we’re going to work hard and try to make a difference, but short-term missions change us at a fundamental level for the better. It keeps our eyes open to the bigger world around us, and it lets our own vision grow; it helps us attack life and our Christian walk from a much larger and healthier perspective.

Take a short-term mission trip. If your church doesn’t have a trip scheduled, organize one. It will help to make a difference in the world, it will help your church, and your world will expand. The problems we will encounter in life shrink in direct proportion to how big our world is. Make your world huge.

Please share on Facebook or wherever you hang out online.

It’s a Person, Not a Problem

childHow many people label the recipient of their help, and then the label is all they see: homeless person, orphan, addict, etc. It’s so important in orphan care, and in ministry in general, to see the person and not the problem. We need to move beyond seeing the circumstances and see them as individual people with their own hopes, fears, and histories. God only sees the person; it’s a good model.

One of the best ways to understand someone is to put yourself in their place mentally. To “walk a mile in their shoes.” Most of us (hopefully) have no idea what an orphaned or abandoned child is going through, but it’s so important to try and understand. Before we can reach anyone, they need to know we know them, understand them and have their best interest at heart. In our experience, the most effective staff in our orphanage are the ones with the worst backgrounds. They understand our children. They’ve been there, they know the fear.

If a child is coming into an orphanage or foster care situation, it’s not like anything most people have ever experienced. Think about the times you’ve seen people interviewed after a major fire or tornado. “I’ve lost everything.” is a common response. But have they lost everything? They might have lost their home and belongings but they still have a church, a job, friends, their family is probably still around. And yet, at that moment, “everything is gone.” That is a lot to deal with.

Now, imagine what a child is going through. They actually have lost everything. Their home is gone, it’s likely they won’t see friends or family ever again, they will never go back to their school, odds are all they have in the world is the clothes on their backs. On top of the obvious loss in their lives, they are still very young, so everything is magnified in their minds. When you’re six a week might as well be a year. Any event, good or bad, is seen as huge through a child’s eyes. A child’s reactions haven’t aged to understand that life changes, that peaks and valleys will happen. To a child, something we might brush off becomes the end of the world. Layer that with the fact that children winding up in the system probably never had good role models in their lives to learn how to deal with trials, hardships, and loss in a healthy way. Most of us kind of freak out if we lose our keys or cell phone, imagine what a child is going through who has lost everything.

Recently we took in a group of three siblings. It’s not uncommon for the oldest in a group to be the “parent” if the real parents were either physically or emotionally absent. The ten-year-old was REALLY in charge of his siblings emotionally, and he was in a panic and on the edge of tears. “What if my mom is looking for us?” (We calmly explained that the social worker knows where they are.) “This is an orphanage, what if we get adopted, and our mom wants us back?” (We don’t do that, adoptions are pretty rare with older kids, and sibling groups are almost NEVER adopted.) He didn’t have the name of his community but tried to describe it to us so we could take him home. (His descriptions could have been any one of hundreds of communities around Tijuana.) We slowly and calmly did everything we could to assure him that he and his sibling would be OK.

I’m sharing this to help you put yourself into the mind of a child in the system. Some people respond to the worries and fears of a child by minimizing it. “You’ll be fine.” “Others have gone through this.” “Don’t worry about it.” This type of response does not help. We need to speak to them at their level and give their worries the attention they deserve in their mind.

The problems in our lives are frequently huge in our eyes and seem insurmountable. To God, our problems are tiny. He sees the big picture. He’s seen all this before. But He still hurts for us, listens to us, is there for us. Jesus came to die on the cross but to also walk as man, putting Himself in our place. He knows our trials, our fears, our questions that, in His mind, are simple worries. In His eyes, our problems are passing trivia, but to the children we are, they are crushing stresses in our lives. He hurts for us. He wants to be that loving, encouraging voice telling us we’re going to be OK.

If you work in childcare or any ministry, you need to be that calming voice, that attentive ear to the pains and fears people are going through. In a very real way, we are representing God. We need to be that anchor, that safe place, that understanding ear for the people we are ministering to. See the person, not the problem; walk in Christ’s example.

Please share on Facebook or wherever you hang out online.