Apr 282014

We don’t like to embrace the messy.   Whether it’s our kids rooms or the complications of life, we don’t like to embrace the messy.    It’s hard, it’s difficult, it is rarely fun and it requires a lot more patience than most of us have.

But God calls us to embrace it.   God’s world is rarely neat and clean and organized.    Good Friday was messy, very messy.   Easter was messy and loud and full of questions and wondering.    But it was good.

As my time working for an orphanage in the “adoption” side of things comes to a close, I’ve been doing some looking back.   If you want to read more of my personal story, go to http://tomvanderwell.net.  When my wife and I began our trip down the adoption road (12 years ago this coming fall) and when we brought our kids home from Haiti (10 years ago this coming June), if I had to describe my view of the answer to the orphan crisis, it would have looked something like this:

The Way I Used To See It

Now don’t get hung up on the actual numbers, but at that point in life,  I believed that the answer for virtually all of the vulnerable children in the world was to get them into a new family as quickly as possible.    The picture was fairly neat and clean – children can’t be provided for in their home country, get them to the first world as soon as possible and get them into a family there.

I really really didn’t see the whole picture at that point.    I didn’t want to see the whole picture – because the whole picture isn’t nearly as neat as that picture is.

The whole picture is messy.    The whole picture involves pain, involves hard questions, involves tough decisions, involves hard to measure components, involves putting others first.

Here’s the way I see things now – once again, don’t get hung up on the actual numbers – they are illustrative…….

The Vulnerable Children Problem

There’s a lot of messy involved.    But before I get into talking about that, let me make one thing perfectly clear.    Adoption is and will always be an important part of the equation.   There will always be children who have lost their parents or have been abandoned by their parents and the only option for them, short of abandoning them to institutional life, is finding them a new home through adoption.

It is important and always has been.    And always will be.

But guess what?   That’s not the whole story.

There are a lot of people who are struggling.    People who are going through tough times.    People who have lost a loved one who is the primary wage earner.   People who are victims of a natural disaster.    Many of these people have children.   Children that we would very easily call vulnerable children.   Children who are very close to becoming orphans.

But they don’t have to.    With the right support and the right assistance, they can make it through their valley, they can make it through their trial and keep the family together.   And then the children can avoid the trauma that comes from institutional living, avoid the trauma that comes from being abandoned and moving, in most cases to a new home and new country.

That’s where the messy comes in:

  • What works for one family might not work for another family.
  • What’s needed here won’t work there.
  • What this family needs is emotional support – and that’s hard to measure.
  • What this family needs is medical care – and that’s not readily available in their part of their country.
  • What this family needs is job training – and job training isn’t readily available in their part of their country.
  • What this family needs is drug and alcohol treatment – and the success rate of those programs in their area aren’t very positive.
  • What this family (and that family and 50,000 other families) need is an improvement in the economics and the employment situation in their country.    How do you do business in a 3rd world country in a way that benefits the workers?

It’s messy, it’s hard, it isn’t simple to measure.

But that doesn’t mean we don’t need to do it.   Instead, it means that it’s all the more important.    If it is difficult, that means that Satan is fighting against it.

And that means that we must embrace the messy and dive in and make a difference.

Stay tuned as we explore what it takes to embrace the messy and to help the vulnerable children of the world…….


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