Friday, March 30, 2007



Twenty-one servants ushered in the New Year in Voronezh, Russia. Working with East West International has taken me to the former Communist country 14 times; this would be my seventh trip to Voronezh. The thought of Russia in winter isn’t a warm one, but the mission to bring Christmas to the orphans who had no family to spend the holidays with certainly did warm our hearts, and brace us for the cold weather. Most of the American’s on our team were new to mission and orphanage ministry. It brought its own dynamic. There are a lot of “nerves” to work through, as well as the basic chaos of how to smoothly transition in the program from one “station” to the next, what to do with the children during down time, and lots of other little kinks that typically work themselves out in one way or another. The children we were seeing in Semiluki were “true” orphans. We would be their “family” for the holiday, there to provide them with comfort and hope for their future. It was a task not without its critics.

One team member’s interpreter wondered if we weren’t just giving the children a “false” hope. Happiness for one day, only to leave them longing and hoping for more. It was, and is, a valid question. Do these “visits” produce more pain than the short-term, short-lived pleasure and presents are worth? The veteran team members and leaders expressed the “purpose” of our time with the children. A time to illustrate “God has a plan”: a plan to prosper and not to harm, a plan to give them a future and a hope.

Jesus was not an economist, a psychologist, a politician or a lawyer. He came as a human who entered in to the suffering of humanity. He did not address the economic plight of the people by making them all millionaires. He did not analyze their problems and issues and offer a “ten steps to happiness” program. His nation and people were in bondage to a foreign land, and yet He was no diplomat negotiating for their freedom or moral justice.

What He did do, was to walk, talk, eat, sleep and teach among the people. He touched and His touch healed. He taught, and His lessons changed hearts, lives and eventually, the world. He “dwelt” among them. He didn’t strategize, He simplified. He isn’t asking any more of us today with the children. Our in-country leader reminded us the “operative” phrase in the well-known, oft-quoted verse: “pure religion undefiled is this, to VISIT the widow and orphan “IN” their distress”.

The verse does not say fix their circumstance, share the gospel, bring money, rescue or adopt them – it merely says VISIT.

VISIT: to go to and stay with (a person or family) or at (a place) for a short time for reasons of sociability, politeness, business, curiosity, etc.

While it is said 90% of mission work is “showing up”, perhaps the other 10% is to keep in mind the “strategy” is in the simplicity of the VISIT.