Orphans, poverty, my place?

(Music giveaway below!)
I first met Shaun Groves in a waiting area in the Miami International Airport.   We were on our way to spend a week together in the Dominican Republic along with several other bloggers, where Shaun (who’d invited us) would be showing us the work of Compassion International.   I hadn’t really met a ‘real’ recording artist before, so I wasn’t sure what to expect, but my overwhelming impression after the week with him was one of humility and heart.  OK, and a good sprinkling of corny humor.  The trip was an amazing experience for me  (more here).  I ended up so gratified and happy to see what Compassion is doing with our money.  They’re headed in the right direction regarding this orphan crisis:  supporting families so that there will be fewer orphans in the world.

Shaun and Keely hoping for late-night blogging inspiration

I’ve been a fan of adoption for years, obviously.  But adopting our older girls, and seeing the tremendous pain they’ve experienced losing family and country all in one fell swoop has given me a more nuanced view of adoption. Yes, it is a good solution for some (many?) children.  But in many cases, a better solution would be to support the families who would parent their own children if they could afford clothes and food and school.  We in America are not ignorant to the poverty in the world. It exists even here.  But to walk into a shack and literally see the lives that people lead…well, it gave me a whole new understanding. The picture above is of Shaun and our awesome photographer Keely, pounding the keyboard late at night, getting words out to describe the days we spent in the Dominican Republic.  Boy, that was hard for me– wanting to come up with exactly the right words to bring others there with me.

Shaun-Groves-Third-World-Symphony-iTunes-banner-120x240Shaun has dealt with this same issue in his music– wanting to make a difference with his words.  And I think in his latest CD Third World Symphony he has done exactly that.  It’s been played at my house at least 5 times a week since I’ve gotten it.

One of the things that was hardest for me about coming home after the trip was assimilating the memory all those real faces — those real struggling people —  into my everyday life.  It made me really rethink where our resources go.

Frankly, it’s an ongoing seesaw:  seeing need, wanting to help, taking a step to do something.  Then there is a slide back to complacency and comfort.  Almost a forgetting.  Granted, by many people’s standards, we have contributed to solutions through the adoption of our children, and through the sponsorship of others.  But when I’m being searingly honest about our life, there is more that we could do.

I asked Shaun how he wrestled with this issue.   Here’s what he wrote:

      “I battle the Schindler syndrome, yes  – struggling with not doing all that could be done, looking at even the smallest comfort in my house and wondering how many more could be saved if I did without it. How austere, how simple, how generous am I to be?
      “We sold our dream house and moved into one much smaller but many third world homes could fit inside its walls. We support a local food pantry and homeless mission with time and money but we still throw out leftovers and expired groceries. We sponsor three children and one college student through Compassion International but when I’m losing my battle with addiction we could sponsor a couple more with what I spend on morning soft drinks. We’ve adopted recently but we have space and love for many more.
    “I wish God gave us a program, some rules to follow when it comes to simplicity and generosity. To keep us from the extremes of gluttony and asceticism. But instead of a program God gave us a Person: Jesus. And all I know to do, Mary, is to spend time with Him, in real intimate relationship with Him and other Christians who know the details of my life –  regularly, constantly. And in that relationship to do much more listening and pleading for direction than I do talking. To prepare more than I plan. To create margins, leftover time and money and energy, so that I’m free and ready to give or go as He leads me.
      “A wise mutual friend of ours, Brian Seay, taught me that God’s will for my life will often be found at the intersection of someone’s need and my ability. I stood in an Ethiopian orphanage looking into orphan eyes and found God’s leading there. I have an ability that matches their need. I had a neighbor who had a medical need but couldn’t afford to get treatment and I had extra in the bank that month – God was telling us something wasn’t He? And on and on we go, with hands and eyes open, looking and listening for the intersection of our ability and the needs of others.”
Shaun has graciously offered me three Third World Symphony CD’s to give away today. I think that you will really enjoy his music.  To enter the drawing, comment below– if you wish, you may share how you wrestle with this dilemma. Or just comment and share one person or thing that is a blessing to your life today.  For an additional entry, share the link to this giveaway post on facebook or twitter.  And thanks for reading today. When you take the time to visit my blog you bless me!

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  1. Annie Steinle says:

    Man, did I need this today! I soooo resonate with the struggle of doing and resting. I love Shaun Groves and I love your blog. Thanks for doing a giveaway!

  2. We just attended our first international adoption seminar last week. I left feeling much like you described in this blog, this is great, but is it the answer? Is this the way to help? Is there a better way? Can’t we do more? Ugh, it can get so overwhelming. One step at a time right? So we’ll move forward, looking and listening, and being open for that next opportunity to love, give, serve…

  3. Thanks for offerring this giveaway! My family is blessing my life today…

  4. it is a seesaw, isn’t it? thankful for grace as we wrestle with this.

  5. “taught me that Godโ€™s will for my life will often be found at the intersection of someoneโ€™s need and my ability” ~ this strikes a cord in me and allows me to see that there can’t be a formula since God makes our abilities and needs so unique. No wonder we need to be intimate and rely on our Creator for the solution.

  6. Compassion International is a wonderful opportunity to help others! Love it! Two of my girls had birthdays this week, and while I put “no gifts needed” on party invitations most people ignored and they were showered with toys. While it was sweet to see them enjoying receiving the gifts, I cringed inwardly at how to keep “the horde” of toys in check. My girls are 5, 2, and 1 and I pray I can instill healthy priorities in their lives!

  7. I really like this: “Godโ€™s will for my life will often be found at the intersection of someoneโ€™s need and my ability” A rule for generosity and simplicity does appeal, but if we are being honest I’m sure we benefit more by being force to seek after God in desperation each day.

  8. Shared on FB, hope others are drawn to give!

  9. We adopted from Ethiopia and brought home our 3 & 5 year old kiddos in Feb. 2010. Adoption has always been on my heart… something I knew God had planned. However, through the process, you are forever changed in so many ways. One very way is the desire to go and do more. Friends and I have decided to do just that… we have begun an organization LIGHT WILL RISE (www.lightwillrise.org)to cultivate community among local Ethiopia-adoptive families to provide much needed support and fellowship at home, but we are also mobilizing them to act within Ethiopia. We are partnering with other organizations to minister through sponsorship, family preservation, and root cause issues: clean water, medical care, education, etc.

  10. Istruggle with this a lot. You can always find someone doing less and someone doing more and it is hard to find your own way, just like most things in life, I suppose! Plus, getting your spouse and kids on the same page is a challenge, too.

  11. I loved this post. I know so many of us struggle with this all the time. I think the way he phrases it is PERFECTION! If we seek opportunity to help inevitably God leads us just to where he wants us to be. Mary I struggle with your comments on adoption. We sponsor two beautiful twins in Liberia and I daily pray that adoptions reopen. However, our sponsorship has allowed their Aunt and Uncle to recover them from an orphanage and care for them. I ask Gods will be revealed because my heart aches for these two.

  12. I live on the edge of a big city and there are numerous ways to help meet the needs of others right here at my fingertips. It’s a battle within me to know how to maintain margin, how to share my time between my children and the other people I love around me, and how to use my resources. How much of my resources do I channel locally? How much do I channel out, when there are still unmet needs right here in my city?

  13. As for who I am blessed by today…I am blessed by my wonderful first-born son who is mature and compassionate. I so appreciated this individual that God has allowed me to be in relationship with!

    I have often thought adoption was in my future, but I have struggled with just parenting the six children we have now. After being mistreated and stolen from by our accountant (we are business owners) we are just getting back on our feet. I feel so restricted as to what I can actually do right now. It’s easy to say, just give up this or don’t do that. But when you’ve been making just enough to feed and house and clothe and school your own children, I’m not sure how you work into that equation feeding and housing and clothing and schooling someone else’s a seeming world away.

    I read the blogs of all those faith-filled mommies who have adopted. I love their passion for it! Yet at the same time, I feel guilt, maybe even condemnation, for not having enough faith to get beyond my own restrictions – babies, and homeschooling, and depression, and finances. It’s frustrating to feel like you should be doing something, and yet when I have tried to speak to someone who has adopted about some of these things, I *feel* like they think I just don’t have as much faith as they do. Faith that God will provide, and pour into me the ability to do, what I currently in my own strength am unable. And that just makes me feel guilty.

    I love the idea of an organization like Compassion, because it’s small enough that even in the midst of struggle, one can do SOMETHING. So for now I content myself with that something. Push away the weight of the guilt that I’m not doing enough – even though I’m completely overwhelmed – and refuse to live under that.

    After all, He did say His yoke is easy, and His burden is light.

    • I came here because of the link a friend (Hi, Jody!) put on her FB page. The struggle of where/how to give resonated with me…but so does your comment. We have a daughter adopted from Ethiopia 2 1/2 years ago and our experience has been anything but a bed of roses. It has been really, really difficult. I have learned a lot from the journey thus far, but one of the biggest things I have learned is that no one talks about the hard stuff. (I mean the relational stuff, not the process stuff.) Many who do adopt continue to adopt and appear to do so without the slightest difficulty. We had always hoped to adopt another, but our experience has shattered our ability to even consider it. I don’t say this to critique adoption, but just to say that I hope that you can not feel guilty about taking on an adoption…because it isn’t always this spiritual, blessed experience portrayed on so many blogs. I wish that folks could be more objective/honest about it, because everything out there does make it seem like its the way to go and that if we all would just do it, then the world will be a better place.
      Anyway, I know I digress! I guess my point is, its not about faith…its about being honest with yourself and the Lord. He knows what you can and can’t handle — and if He wants you doing something different, He’ll let you know AND give you what you need to do it.
      Please, please know that God has called you to your own journey, that your children and your home are your mission field right now — a mission field that is no less significant than any trip or donation or adoption could ever be. Take care of yourself spiritually and physically so you are better equipped to take care of them. Do what you can each day and leave the rest. I love the ESV version of Matthew 6:34, “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” ๐Ÿ™‚

      • Sarah, We also have experienced much challenge with our most recent adoption of older kids. It is definitely easier now than it was 4 years ago, but still challenging. Hang in there, Sarah!

  14. I too have struggled with the balance in life between gluttony and asceticism. I have been blessed with a husband who reminds me that we don’t necessarily need to get rid of it all to be able to help and sometimes what we have is the blessing that someone needs today. A quiet dinner in a simple home and time to talk through the problems of life and try to find the solutions can bless someone in need as much as a bag of groceries to the single mom who can’t make her dollars stretch far enough to feed her children this week. I really believe that it is being aware of what is going on around me and not just sitting back and letting it pass but jumping in to do something. Don’t get me wrong I don’t follow through anywhere near as much I should.

  15. for each family it will look different. For our family it means giving to organizations who we trust to meet needs. It also means adopting 2 little boys. For some families it means supporting others in adopting. The key is to not forget and to do what God has called your family to do. It means not just wanting to do something, but finding something you can do right where you are.

  16. I have been trying to count my blessings lately – my family is such a blessing and it’s hard to remember that on a day-to-day level.

  17. My children have spent large amounts of time in India, Africa, South Africa, Iraq, Iran, Scotland, Ireland, Mexico and the Philippines to name a few of the more prominent countries and have seen first-hand the poverty spoken of. Even now, they are happy to have running water and flushing toilets not to mention the top-notch healthcare in the United States.
    Every few months, we clean out the house from the attic to the basement to the garage and yard–everything that we have not used twice in that time is given to a local thrift store that sends monies to the food shelf. By doing this as a family we all re-learn the importance of helping others and an added benefit of getting rid of clutter.
    As mentioned it may not be a bag of groceries that is needed, but a ride to the doctors, help cleaning the house for an elderly person, preparing a garden for winter, or even reading to a nursing home resident–whatever you are able to do in your own community is where you can help.

  18. my children (along with my hubs)are the biggest blessing in my life. as i snuggled with the littlest while she fell asleep, i found myself hoping the moment would never end — even as my arm fell asleep, too ๐Ÿ™‚

  19. I also struggle daily if I am giving enough of my talents and treasures! Right now I am totally immersed into my seven yr. old and 4 yr. old adopted daughters and our journey together to become a mom whom they can learn to trust and love! We both have a many days of learning and loving ahead of us! My husband and I give to our community in several ways but deep down inside I have such a need to give back to Ethiopia the country from whom we adopted our two beautiful girls!! God’s Blessings are what gives me Hope for a Better Day for all of Us!!

  20. Keeping from the extremes of gluttony and asceticism is a great thought. Either we get complacent and don’t do enough or we feel guilty for having margins. It is a fine and challenging line to walk.

  21. Thank you. I think I can safely say your post blessed me today. We do what we can, but it never feels like enough. Thank you for validating how I feel and assuring me that we are doing okay! I understand I cannot change the world, but I would sure like too! ๐Ÿ™‚ I think I will start with the corner God placed me in and work my way out.

  22. I’ve heard many great things about Shaun’s new cd. Guatemala holds a special place in my heart, we adopted our oldest son from there. We sponsor a child through Compassion, he lives in Guatemala and his age is right between my 2 boys. We plan on going back to Guatemala in a couple years as a family, and we would love to meet him. My sons are learning Spanish so they will be able to talk to him is his language. We really are so blessed here in the US and I try not to take it for granted.

  23. We sponsor a little girl through World Vision. We try to give as generously as possible. We try to do both local and more worldwide. As in we sponsor that little girl but also support our church and the soup kitchen etc they run. We’ve adopted once and are trying to adopt again. Our first was through foster care and the 2nd will be regular domestic. My husband’s office is very Christian and really looks for needs. They adopt a few families each Christmas ones that are totally struggling with major illness etc and if they see a need they try to fill it. They just collected at back to school time for a coworker who is a single parent of 4 and currently being treated for cancer. We’ve always done Angel trees at Christmas with our kids. We try to keep gifts simple but we still have so very much. I wish we had started simpler earlier in our marriage.

  24. We sponsor two boys through Compassion and since finding the joy of giving away – it is way more fun to give than to buy more stuff for us. Not saying I would turn down a shopping spree at Nordstroms – but finding the extra $20-$50 to help someone else really IS a lot more fun. We quit having cable tv years ago and find – ain’t no loss! Compassion and Samaritan’s Purse and a certain medical missionary or two in Ethiopia come to mind when we find some “extra”.

  25. I am feeling very blessed with my family, my wonderful huibby and my four amazing kids!

  26. This is a topic we really struggle with at our house, our big question revolves around: What kind of sacrifices is it fair to ask of our kids? How do we balance the responsibility we have to them with the responsibility we have to the rest of our Christian family?

  27. I recently stumbled across a twitter hashtag #firstworldproblems. I love it that name – a reminder that the problems so many of complain about (ie, i hate the new facebook) are nothing compared to the rest of the world. We are so blessed.

  28. So thankful for you – your example, your expertise, your friendship. Thank you, Mary.

    But…corny humor? CORNY? I think what you meant to type was the word “brilliant.”

    ; )

    • Love that bit about wishing we had guidelines but instead were given a person. that pretty much says everything.

  29. I do what Shaun does. I look at something I have and wonder if possibly I should give that up so that I could sponsor more children. I gave up cable TV–I didn’t watch it anyway except for sports–so that I could sponsor more. I have given up going to professional sporting events. And yet, I look at my Apple gadgets and think who many children the money I put into those could sponsor. Yet, I know Christ wants us to have fun things, as long as we’re wise, so I do the same thing. I see where God leads me. I recently saw a young boy from Ecuador on the Compassion website whom I considered sponsoring. I felt led, but doubted myself. Then I looked at his birthday and caught my breath. January 20th. Same as mine. I sponsored him.
    I’m not married. People ask me why (kinda ticks me off). I have no children. People ask me why (kinda ticks me off). So I’ve thought, maybe I could save another child by adopting. But I don’t have the money for that, so for now, I will deal with inconsiderate questions and stick with sponsoring and writing many letters to MY children.

  30. Kelly Maine says:

    Such a struggle. Debt is something that makes us slaves so that is something that has been on our hearts. We are considering downsizing in a drastic way (5,000 sq. ft. to renovating a 1,500 sq. ft. 90 yr. old house) so we can be possibly debt free in the not so distant future…I’ve been blessed by my 9, soon to be 10, children, 3 of whom are from West Africa. ๐Ÿ™‚

  31. PastormacsAnn says:

    We have been RICHLY blessed by sponsoring children through Compassion International for 20 years!! Truth!

    And we have been the privileged parents of 2 Ethiopia children (of our 7 kids) for the last almost 4 years. Has it required sacrifice? Definitely in many many ways and not just financial ones, but the return has been more than we could ever know.

  32. PastormacsAnn says:
  33. My pastor, Mac Brunson, has definitely been a blessing in my life. I’ve been at three churches with him and he has really had an influence on my life.

  34. We sponsor children with Compassion. Our son is a missionary in a third world country. And my husband is the most spontaneous giver of whatever is in his hand to give that I have ever met. You might be interested in a the 10 Day Giving Challenge sponsored by Christian Personal Finance. Here’s the link: http://christianpf.com/the-10-day-give-challenge/

  35. I forgot to say, I’d love to be entered into the drawing and shared this on Twitter and FB.

  36. rich breton says:

    Mary thanks for the fantastic post. This was pretty timely for me and Im glad I saw it on facebook. I’m thankful for my wife who is the biggest source of encouragement I have ever had and the God that brought her to me.

  37. My husband and I are trying to get out of debt as quick as we can so we have more resources free to give. We hope to adopt internationally in a few years after we are done have a couple more children.

  38. Mary such a great post to challenge us where we are with what God has given us. We have in the past sponsor a great kiddo through compassion, she has since graduated from it and not longer needs us. I am a firm believer in Compassion. I think God is doing great work through them. I so desire to adopt as well and we have 6 kiddos ourselves and I am feeling the stretch and not sure if I we could make it. So I am leaving it up to the Lord for now. But I do believe I can go before Him and ask what can we do here and He will be faithful to reveal it to me.

  39. Love the words Shaun quoted from Brian Seay. I also love what Shaun wrote: “โ€œI wish God gave us a program, some rules to follow when it comes to simplicity and generosity. To keep us from the extremes of gluttony and asceticism. But instead of a program God gave us a Person: Jesus. And all I know to do, Mary, is to spend time with Him, in real intimate relationship with Him and other Christians who know the details of my life โ€“ regularly, constantly. And in that relationship to do much more listening and pleading for direction than I do talking. To prepare more than I plan. To create margins, leftover time and money and energy, so that Iโ€™m free and ready to give or go as He leads me.”

    This is beautiful. This is the heart of the great commission.

    I hope to win one of the cds, but if I don’t, I’ll definitely purchase.

  40. My Mama is a blessing to me today!! She is coming up to stay with our kids so we can attend a conference to {hopefully} learn how to better parent our two soon-to-be-adopted kids. We are SO thankful for a Grandma who is willing to be inconvenienced and a bit uncomfortable to be a blessing to orphans!

  41. Thanks for sharing this. My 2 (adopted) sons are my blessing today. I am privileged to parent them!

  42. My nursing baby is a blessing to me.

  43. Such a tough dilemma. I often wonder if we steward well the resources God has given us. We have been blessed abundantly and we try to share that by sharing our home- fostering and adopting. I appreciate Shaun’s comment that we need to be aware of the needs in front of us and how they intersect with our abilities.

  44. I have been struggling with this daily lately. We have adopted four times because we felt God calling us in that particular way to help orphans. Now I am 99.99% certain, we are complete as a family. I feel our mission to the orphan is not however. What to do? This is my constant question lately. My husband and I discuss various options including uprooting our family and moving some place where we can serve orphans. But, is it best for our family? I look around at the waste in our lives – the leftovers that go uneaten because of picky eaters, the toys, books, games, and puzzles that are strewn all over the floors of rooms just stepped on and overlooked while little ones constantly ask for “more.” The new countertops I desire while the old ones are perfectly serviceable. The boxes of “stuff” that we have moved from one house to another because it supposedly means something to us or we might use it someday, but there it sits in boxes.

    I am desiring more to simplify, let go of things, and focus more on giving, but we have to do it as a family or it won’t really work. My husband and I are praying though and that’s a good start.

  45. I’m going to come out of lurking to thank you for this balanced look at adoption and orphan care.

  46. How can we not struggle with this issue? There is so much here to buy. Knowing how little, how much with all the things that eat us – our food, our time, our money, our love. Someone posed the question the other day in SS of what stops you from fishing for men? The man behind me answered, “Fearing that we might catch one – and then what.” The implication was the cost of time, effort, love, self. I will be dwelling on the idea of margins, something to think about for sure. Thanks for always handling this so effectively, Mary. Blessings.

  47. We sponsor 4 boys through Pearl Buck. I love being able to help them and give them a better life. I also enjoy learning about their lives, as it makes me appreciate more and more of what we have and often take for granted. I hope to meet them some day!

    My son is my blessing. I waited a long time for him and love that I am able to be a stay at home mom, and look forward to homeschooling him in the years ahead. Seeing the world through his eyes is a blessing and helps me learn and grow as a person.

  48. We do struggle with the balance of sacrificing for the needs of others and making ends meet to meet the needs of our own family within this N. American culture/standards.

    We are blessed to live in a city with many Compassion workers and their work is so inspiring and definitely has a lasting impact on the lives of so many!

  49. Shaun’s words are such an encouragement to me today. Thank you for a chance to get his new CD, which I haven’t heard yet.

  50. You know, I linked to this post on my fb not b/c I wanted an extra chance to win the cd, but b/c it expresses SO MANY of the things I wrestle with in our involvement in Ethiopia and with Compassion and locally, etc. I am constantly turning over the same questions and have come to the same point at Shaun, walking wherever God is leading and meeting the needs He reveals if we are able. Ultimately, I am just amazed He’d be willing to use me anyway, so I am happy to go and do where He leads! ๐Ÿ™‚