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. This was a great post, Mary. What am I blessed by this week? A church that teaches truth….and a spontaneous baptism service this past Sunday that saw 30 people come to be baptized…including a 10 yr. old boy adopted out of the foster care system at 7 yrs. old. He had been in 13 foster homes prior to his adoption by a single male teacher who went to volunteer at a group home for teenagers where this little boy had been placed. His little voice rang out clear from the baptismal tank..”I’m here because God did a great thing for me…He gave me a dad.”

  2. The biggest blessing I received this week came in the form of a baby announcement of a friend I haven’t spoken to in a about a year. They completed the adoption of a little girl. My husband and I encouraged them to adopt over two years ago. It was such a blessing to see that come to fruition.

  3. This was a really great post, and I had to read it out loud to my husband. I, too, struggle with what I should do and whether I should have any extras in life or just give the money away spent on those things.

    I appreciate Shaun’s answer to this question and reminder of the need to be in continual, intimate relationship with Jesus.

  4. A great post. We struggle with that a lot too. Especially wasting food. Frequently our children won’t eat their lunches we send to school. It is so hard to throw out because you know it is more than some people eat in a day, but you can’t keep it all of it either because of food safety. We struggle with what to do. And I agree, it would be easier with a rule book. 🙂

  5. I think that Shaun’s words describe it very well. I can also identify with your thoughts about it being like a seesaw. At times I look around my home and wonder why I get so caught up in seemingly insignificant things when there are people out there who are content with dirt floors and only a fraction of what I have in my pantry. I struggle with swaying from one extreme and back to complacency. Unfortunately, complacency is usually such an easy place to end up.

  6. I posted on FB!

  7. It is a constant struggle to be grateful for what God has blessed my family with and not feel guilty for having too much. I think about these things much more often as we’ve started our adoption journey, that money spend on a want could go to our adoption fund… We sponsor a child through World Vision and it has been a tangible way to talk to our boys about the real needs in the world. I think being aware is half the battle. It’s easy to get wrapped up in our own problems.

  8. YOU are a blessing and inspiration to me, Mary, and I so appreciate your blog!

  9. And sometimes we find God’s will at the intersection of OUR need and someone else’s ability…which is truly humbling and draws us closer to the Lord, especially when we are used to being the one who is doing the helping…that’s what God is teaching me these days. Thanks for sharing, Mary! It’s always appreciated.

  10. I think Shaun hit the nail on the head when he said it’s about creating forgiving space for margin in our lives so that we are free to act without it being a burden. Before I do anything, I ask God if there is space in my heart for it. If so, I act. If not, I ask myself why there’s no space. If I try to do everything, chances are I will do nothing. I do think it’s good to try and expose myself to different views of the things I’m passionately working on. I sponsor some kids: that gives me a very focused view of what poverty looks like. I also talk to my members of congress about how their policy decisions are helping/hurting. That gives a wide view of what poverty looks like.

  11. I came across your blog a few years ago when we started the adoption process. Now that we have an adopted addition to our family, I find myself struggling with these same questions. Is that really the best way to help? We are so grateful that God lead us down this road . . . but it isn’t finished just because we adopted. There is so much more to do. What else would God have our family do?

    Thanks so much for your encouragement.

  12. I struggle with guilt off and on. I have friends that find the time to volunteer for this or that at church or wherever. But then I look around my dinner table and see two of my kids who came from a war torn country across the sea. I am painfully aware of their wounded hearts that I encounter every day. I pray for healing and continued deepening of relationship while trying not to take their wounded rejection that happens so frequently personally. I have to remember that I am ministering daily to Africa. That doesn’t mean that I stay in the cocoon of my house, but it does mean that maybe I cut myself a little slack and allow myself to focus on what it right here in front of me.

  13. I think this is the eternal struggle. I watch our babysitter go on mission trips, write my checks to support her, and hope that her stories bless my children as they bless me. Yet I wonder if it is enough. Am I to do more? I read the stories of the compassion trips and I feel God preparing me for something… I just don’t know what yet. It is a scary proposition to know he is preparing you for something, but I trust that in his time he will reveal it and it will be wonderful.

  14. Jeri Riddick says:

    Mary, I recently discovered your blog. I must admit I was drawn to it because you have adopted children, because you homeschool, because you seem to have an awesome food budget! :o) However, I think it’s these heart topics that really keep me riveted right now. We have 5 children but 7 total: 1 ds bio, 1 miscarriage, 2 dd from China, 2 ds from Taiwan, and 1 son from China that we had to disrupt. My husband is adopted even. We’ve really run the gamut in adoptions. But yet, even though we feel complete at 5 kids (ages almost 5 to 14), part of me wonders if we are finished adopting.

    Our 5th child just came to us in June at age 10 from a disruption after 3 years, she’s originally from China. Watching her makes my heart break. Her situation was like many in China, only her foster home parents beat and starved her daily. 3 years of being the unfavored one haven’t left her much better in the emotional department. So we dig deeper and wonder what we have left to give another, and of course God meets us there when we think we’re empty.

    Yesterday we had a discussion with our children about Christmas. The kids are 4, 5, 7, and 10. Our oldest really understands giving as we’ve lived that life with him since he was born. The other 4 have only known tight finances given that we adopted 5 children in 6 years. They want for nothing though. Which led to Christmas. While they all have desires for Lego, a guitar, and various other things, I challenged them on what if we could give a family chickens so that they could have eggs. What if we could buy a family a cow so they could have fresh milk. They loved the idea!

    Like you, I’ve wondered if we can do more. I’m not sure what that is at this point. But we’re stepping out. I do believe that adopting these children is the right thing. There’s a good chance that they might not know Jesus otherwise. While the sting of family and culture separation is very real, the love of a family and Jesus trumps that. Personally I feel in my gut that one of our boys will be a missionary. My mommy heart will be sad that I won’t see him daily like I do now, but my mommy heart will also be very proud. I hope that both you and Shaun continue to be blessed in your lives with your outreach. It’s an amazing journey we’ve joined in thru adoption.

  15. My blessing: having our newest little one home from Vietnam and enjoying him with all the other older ones. I also am blessed by your posts. Thanks for the time and effort invested.

  16. So much needs to be done. I am grateful for my kids and try to show them how lucky we are. I am the annoying type that says we should not waste because others don’t have our luck.
    I also think when we have extra money to spend as a family we should travel to let’s say Africa rather than Walt Disney.
    I think once you see how some live, you are more likely to become a responsible citizen (rather than one with a sense of entitlement).

  17. The lump in my throat prevents me from speaking. Oh, Lord, you are praised. What a glorious thing it is to be of one mind with Christ’s Body!

  18. I’ve had a rough week this week and I was blessed to find a Facebook message from a friend this morning who said they were praying for me.

  19. Thanks for the giveaway. Love this album so much. It blesses me every day! I was especially blessed by a co-worker today who gave me a gift of $25 gift card to a grocery store because I let her borrow some luggage. What a timely gift for us on a very tight budget!

  20. It is such a balance! I sponsor kids with Compassion and although I know God totally makes provision for me to do this, I sometimes wonder what the limit is. I still don’t know all the answers, but do know that it really is about a relationship and following God’s prompting. I don’t just go out and sponsor 10 kids because “I can’t out-give God”, but instead wait and act on that nudging for what He wants me to do.

  21. Jennifer Bubolz-Miller says:

    Its such a dilemna isn’t it-we were in chruch this Sunday and a man from Kenya spoke on how children who weren’t sponsored fared- it made our hearts hurt

  22. i am blessed abundantly, but right now i think especially by taking care of my 86 yo mother-in-law who is not well. taking her to appointments and making meals daily, as well as sorting her medicines and most of all listening to her slows me down and reminds me what’s important with my own family of my dh of 22+ years and 7 children.


  23. I definitely struggle with this, and also not being able to say “no”, particularly in church/ministry roles. Discerning what God really wants me to focus my talents and energies on instead of just trying to please all is very difficult. Will definitely be checking out Shaun’s music – the kids (3 years and 5 years) are currently addicted to FFH, so I’d like something new!

  24. I struggle with this all the time as we live our lives here in the US…but largely overseas in a developing country. Most particularly I struggle with how to live authentically in both places while allowing myself enough grace while overseas to go the long haul with people I have learned to love.

  25. Blessed in ways more numerous to count. God is so good.

  26. A person’s need and my ability=Most likely God’s will for my life. I will remember this. I

    My husband just today agreed that we can sponsor a child through Gospel for Asia. I am so excited to see our family grow in Christ through this experience.

  27. My husband is battling cancer at age 32, but God has blessed us with with all that we need (financially and spiritually) during this difficult time. Thanks for all you share on your blog…I find it inspiring!

  28. I am trying to give all I can in my work with Iraqi refugees.

  29. What a great post, Mary. As one who likes to plan and organize but is consistenly reminded by the Lord to “wait and see” what HE has planned for me and mine, I was particularly struck by one line in Shaun’s comments: “To prepare more than I plan”!!

  30. This is a difficult issue. For my family, we have been on the side of seeing and meeting needs of people around us, and in the position of needing the generosity of God’s people and having to accept that help (it’s humbling!).


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