Tuesday, February 02, 2010

What Were They Thinking?

Surely by now you've heard of the 10 American Christians who were arrested in Haiti for child trafficking. The story goes that the children's parents gave the children up in hopes of a better life. These "missionaries" acted in good faith, believing they were doing the right thing. In fact, this same sympathy drives the popularity of foreign adoptions by American Christians- the idea that adopting a child out of a "godless" country to raise him or her in a Christian home is an effective form of evangelism. When the earthquake hit Haiti, it was not surprising that one of the first concerns was of the orphans left behind, just as it was for the Indonesian tsunami.

But there is a right way and a wrong way of "saving" these children. I just watched an interview with a woman from a local adoption agency that was in the process of arranging for the adoption of Haitian children before the earthquake. When that news broke, this woman took the first flight she could to Haiti to ensure the safety of these children. The group that went to Haiti from Lifechurch in Pennsylvania, went because of the orphanage they supported there. The group from Idaho however, had no prior experience, no existing relationships, and no required paperwork. Like I said, they went in good faith, but ill prepared.

In classic evangelical terms, what would Jesus do? I think of Matthew 9, "Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd." (Mt 9:35-36) Here, Jesus went to where the needs were. He did not remove people from their needs, but he stopped there to meet their needs.

This is a tragedy, no doubt, and it is encouraging to see the millions of dollars raised for relief. But once the Red Cross leaves, once the US military leaves, once the donations stop coming, there will still be a need. If you are so concerned about the welfare of the children in Haiti that you would spend your life savings to get there to save a few, then you should stay there. Save them by rebuilding homes and schools. Stay there to feed them. Stay there to care for them. Because stripping children away from their parents is not saving them. My first link above had some statistics that are telling that the updated article doesn't- nearly two thirds of Haitian children attend schools operated by Christian organizations and a majority of hospitals are Christian-run. That is meeting the need. Jesus "went" to meet the need. We should be so bold as to do the same. If hopping a flight to Haiti is out of the realm of possibility for you, look around your own city, your neighborhood, your schools. Find a need and go and meet it.

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