Victims of the ‘Orphan Paradox’Rich Stigall
by Nate (serving as a GO Fellow in Haiti)
Husbands and wives reinforcing their marriage, mothers and daughters growing closer, genuine friendships built, the inability to resist the love of God, tears of authentic joy…
These are the things I get to witness leading vision trips with The Global Orphan Project in Haiti. There is this idea our CEO Joe Knittig calls the “Orphan Paradox.” When you think Orphan, you think vulnerability, insignificant, forgotten, overlooked, desperate. That’s essentially the reality, but there is something else going on and it’s quite mysterious. You can’t really put your finger on it at first. You can’t really explain it in words, but you can experience it and you SURELY can’t ignore it. There is something about sharing life with true Orphans that breaks your heart in such a way that it shifts your whole paradigm of thinking. Correction, it doesn’t just break your heart…it rebuilds it. It crushes your expectations coming in. It changes the way you love your friends and family. It changes the way you work. It changes where you invest your energy. But beyond any of those things, in the middle of Haiti’s excruciating poverty, God shows up and speaks to us.
This past weekend, I had the privilege of leading a team of 17 people from a church in Northern Illinois. Most of them were first timers in Haiti. Under most circumstances, my job is to plan the trip in a logistical sense, make sure everything goes smoothly, represent our ministry, help them engage, and do my best make sure they take home a piece of Haiti. With this trip, I found myself somewhat of the spiritual leader. Whether it was riding on the bus or closing the day with a time of group reflection, I found myself with opportunities to help people dig in spiritually. In all honesty, those things don’t really come easy for me. I largely don’t know what I’m doing, but this time it was different. It felt simple. The pressure was off. People responded and God moved in profound ways. I grew so much from being a part of this specific trip.
A lot of people visit us in Haiti thinking they are going on a “mission trip.” People come to Haiti with their Mr. Fix-It agendas and problem solving intentions. People come down here to do “missional” things (whatever that means), but don’t understand the realities of Haiti (lets save that for another blog post). “Why don’t we build something?” “Why don’t we do a VBS?” “Why don’t we ‘bless’ them with nice things?” Why……fill in the blank?
We don’t do “mission” trips. We don’t do work trips, and we don’t try to fix things the American way. We DO Vision trips. Yes, GO Project implements a model. We facilitate orphan care, but we do it internally and in partnership with Haitians. We do it very slowly and carefully. Vision trips provide a chance to experience the rawness and beauty of Haiti. A chance to be challenged spiritually, broken down, and pieced back together by the grace of God. It’s only 5 days in Haiti, but this place is addicting. The people here wear their faith on their sleeve. Why wouldn’t they? Jesus Christ is in fact the Savior of the world. Indeed, The Global Orphan Project is a ministry, but its a ministry where Orphans have a far greater impact on us than we could ever have on them. Children that teach the love of Christ by their honesty, simply asking us if we know Him as our Savior. (That’s happened to me several times now, and I always find myself answering timidly in my broken Creole. A kid just asked me if I knew Jesus, and I don’t think I convinced them I did). They sing their hearts out to God, knowing that He will sustain them forever. By revealing our insecurities and realizing its OK that our lives are messy because God’s grace is right there to receive us. The craziest part about all this is that the kids don’t even know the impact they have on us. They surely don’t understand the “Orphan Paradox”. Any decent amount of time spent in Haiti will make you realize that our manufactured lives back home are large-in-part a mirage. American success, 401(K)’s, having a clean-cut polished life, my iPhone, my expensive jeans….it’s fake. It’s not necessarily wrong, it’s just not real. Kids that know that Jesus is their Savior and aren’t afraid to let you know….now that’s real.
The team from that church in Northern Illinois were victims of the “Orphan Paradox.” They came to Haiti with expectations but left with full hearts. Those expectations were wiped away. Maybe they left with more questions, maybe they left with an itch to do more, maybe they left uncertain where to go from here, but indeed, they sure left with full hearts and an encounter with the Almighty God.
I guarantee that they return to Haiti soon.