When Mission Teams Become Family
Posted on Tuesday, April 19, 2016
They consider him a big brother, a trusted friend, a mentor. For the children at Gan Sabra HIV Home in Aizawl, Mizoram, India, Givorgy is a welcome presence. He and the rest of the team at Westport Church in Oregon have become more than visitors to a faraway land.
They’ve become family.
Givorgy remembers the first trip to Aizawl. “It was in 2013, and our church as a whole took a more traditional short-term mission trip. Then the Westport staff took a vision trip in the summer, and when they met with Lucy, they knew they had found a partner. They were looking for a place to create a relationship. Lucy wanted relationship. It was a very God-driven decision.”
Westport has returned and returned again, multiple times each year – focusing most of its attention on simply spending time with the kids. Givorgy says that can be difficult for first-time mission team members. “Sometimes they have a hard time with the fact that there’s not a lot of building projects or that type of work, but what I try to tell them is that what’s important first is the relational component.”
And for Givorgy and Westport, relationship comes through child sponsorship. In fact, almost all of the children at Gan Sabra are sponsored by Westport church members. Givorgy’s sponsor child is Andrew, a young man who lost both parents to HIV/AIDS and was then abandoned when it was discovered he too was HIV+. “Andrew won me over the first time I met him.
“Sponsorship in general has changed me a whole lot. Before going to India, I really had no desire to go to global missions. In 2011, I went to Kenya and the Lord planted a seed. But going to India and falling in love with those kids - I was then truly changed. I remember on our first trip, we shared a story about Heaven. Andrew was the first to get up and share. I remember every word he said. ‘I can’t wait to go to heaven, but I have a purpose here. I can’t wait to see my parents in heaven, but I have family here right now. I have family across the world.’ He revealed a whole other side of God’s character never experienced – his joy and his true thankfulness, his gratefulness for who he was and where he came through.”
Givorgy is not the only person at Westport who has been impacted through child sponsorship. “Every time I come home I want to sponsor another kid. The folks on our teams can’t wait to see their sponsor kids because those relationships are real. It’s not like so many programs where you don’t know if a letter ever gets to your child. But these sponsorships are real – these kids are truly family. Andrew is my little brother, he is my family.”
Givorgy and the team at Westport have seen change happen not only with the children at Gan Sabra, but in the community as well. “I was a participant on our very first trip, and it was my first time to India. We saw the community at a whole different level because we were the first North Americans there. Every time we return, we see the community more open to use as a whole – they aren’t afraid now to ask, ‘why do these strangers come here? Aizawl is beginning to open to to care for Gan Sabra too. Every Westport participant who has ever gone to Gan Sabra has been radically changed. The children have been changed. And I believe Aizawl is being changed. Good, thought-provoking conversations are taking place. We are being taught patience – we are witnesses to the Lord’s goodness through slow change.”
As Givorgy volunteers to help Westport teams prepare for the journey and the time they’ll spend with the children of Gan Sabra, his prayer always has two common themes. “I’m always asking for God to work through the people, to use them and let Him be known through them. And to break down walls that we have, break our hearts, don’t let us get complacent or commonplace.”
It was his third trip where Givorgy himself noticed that he was growing desensitized to some of the issues of poverty. He prayed then that his eyes wouldn’t grown dim, that he would never stop being affected. “For me, personally , that’s been my rotating and constant theme of Gan Sabra. It’s coming to terms with my own brokenness. Yes, these kids are broken and the places are broken, but we are truly all broken and it’s unity in Christ that allows us to serve and work together. We are guests in their home, and God is going to change our hearts to His heart. Our world views are informed by our environment – and we need to let go of our American world view so that we can encounter the Lord fully.”
“My world view was shattered the last time I was at Gan Sabra,” shares Givorgy as he holds back tears.”We were preparing to leave, in the new home, and the evening before we were departing. We asked the kids what part of the week was most beneficial to them. Andrew said he was so thankful that God decided to give him HIV/AIDS so he would have the family he had in Westport. He was in a posture of complete thankfulness to see what God was providing through Lucy, through the mission teams, and through Orphan Outreach.”