"We've built hundreds of institutions in this country to remove children from messy families. I don't believe that this was the intention originally, but that is what is happening. Most children in orphanages have families, so why do we keep building?
We see it over and over again in the Bible. God works through brokenness and dysfunction- you know, the ugly, messy stuff. We serve a God who used prostitutes, tax collectors (think corrupt people who abuse power) and murders to further His kingdom.
Not us, we run from mess. Like far away. And we do everything in our power to make sure it doesn’t find us.
Peter is one of my favorite screw ups in the Bible. Man, what a mess.
And still, when Jesus chose His disciples, He chose Peter. He intentionally chose a man of weak faith. A man He knew would deny Him. He knew Peter wasn’t going to make things easy, He knew what He was in for. Jesus wasn’t so focused on Peter’s mess itself. He was focused on how in and through that mess, His Father would be glorified.
Running from the messy makes sense. Especially when we don’t know what the outcome will be. Jesus sort of had a one up on us with this didn’t He? When Jesus took on Peter, He knew it would turn out alright. He knew He would be entrusting Peter as a leader of the early church.
When we work with families here, we don’t know what the outcome will be. Each family will have unique needs and obstacles they must overcome to make family preservation possible. We can't expect this to happen without proper supports in place.
An institution must not be viewed as an acceptable or proper support for families. We can do better than that. We've just got to be willing to roll up our sleeves. To get a little messy.
Sometimes we will try and fail. Broken families will not always become strong enough to care for their children properly, regardless of how many services or supports are in place. However, in our experience, this is the exception rather than the norm.
One thing is for certain- in working with vulnerable families, we can expect messy. It takes time. Real relationship building. Discipleship.
If we were around back then, Peter would not have been our first pick to make it on to Jesus' team of 12. In fact, he might have been one of the last.
Many of these families wouldn't have been our first pick for these children. But God chose these families for these children. Should we not be striving to provide a child the chance to grow up in the very family God hand picked for them?
It's been hard to understand why people keep building orphanages here or adopting children from families without offering support. In the last few weeks I've really been trying to understand our fear of the messy. Our fear that a child wouldn't have the future we envisioned for them if they grow up in the village. Our fear of caregivers who were pretty sucky at one point. Our fear of the time it will take to help an entire vulnerable family stay together against the time it takes to simply remove the child from the vulnerable family.
I understand those fears. I have them too.
We need to challenge them. We need to challenge them because institutional care does not replace a family. Because God doesn't just love the 'orphan', He loves and desires what is best for the entire family."
I’m Kelsey, a Philly-born American that helps run an NGO, Abide Family Center, located in Bugembe, Jinja, Uganda. Conservative Christian bred- turned-liberal Christ-captivated Social Worker with too many tattoos to be on the mission field. After almost breaking from the American church on multiple occasions, what has always pulled me back in is the Gospel in its purest form. I’m so captivated by a Gospel that transforms- that digs deep into the messy parts of our lives and our world. That’s what I love and that’s why I’ve stuck around.