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Mission Trips and Tangible Hope (#ServeOrphansWell)
by Ronne Rock
Posted on Tuesday, September 13, 2016
The tears fall as Maria steps inside the room and sees the stove for the first time. A prayer has been answered. Eleven cinder blocks and galvanized steel mean healthier days ahead. Soot clings to the walls and to her skin, and a grandchild’s constant cough reminds her of why she prayed. She has longed for better days for her community, and this day alone has seen six stoves installed in homes near the Ravine in Chimaltenango.

“You are my family now,” she says. “You visit me, you have helped my family, you are providing a future for my children.”

Maria holds the flame from the open fire pit that has prepared food for decades, as the mission team that built the new stove circles round her to pray for health and safety. She lights the wood in the new stove, and feels the heat radiate from the cooktop. “I have prayed for a stove for so very long. God has heard me today.” 

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Sometimes it takes eleven cinder blocks to answer a prayer. Sometimes it takes a classroom or a garden or the simple words, “I believe you are worthy of great love.”

Orphan Outreach has engaged short-term missions as part of its ministry plan since its inception in 2007, partnering with nationals in the six countries it serves and responding to specific needs of orphans and vulnerable children. Short-term mission trips are a piece of their long-term investment through programs designed to strengthen individuals and transform communities in Jesus’ name.

“One only needs to meet the children of Gan Sabra in India in order to see the value of mission trips,” says Mike Douris, Orphan Outreach President. “Westport Church (based in Hillsboro, Oregon) has traveled many years to the home that serves children with HIV/AIDS.  I challenge anyone to look at the video 'Go Lucy Go' and not see how mission trips and relationship have brought tangible hope to the lives of the children.  The children have told Westport that if it becomes too expensive for the church to visit - that they will pray for the resources to do a mission trip to the United States.  Why?  Because they feel loved in a community that for the most part ostracizes them, due to their illness.”

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Lucy Maruati, founder of Gan Sabra HIV Home, says the impact of the visits from not only Westport but other short-term mission teams reaches beyond the walls of Gan Sabra. “Mizoram only opened its doors to outsiders in 2010 – and we became partners with Orphan Outreach two years later. Since that time, 131 people have visited us. Every American has to register at the police department, so the Mizo community sees the foreigners traveling from the other side of the world to work with the children. There is still discrimination and fear here associated with HIV/AIDS, but the community is taking notice and asking questions. And culture is shifting. We are now even caring for families affected by HIV so those families may remain together.”

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In the Mathare slum of Nairobi, the Orphan Outreach ministry partnership is young but flourishing at Patmos Junior School. Precious few mission teams have had the opportunity to visit the students who live in one of the largest and poorest slums in Kenya. Yet their presence has already influenced the school and the community. Headmaster Richard Wanjala Manya says confidence and pride have grown as the children meet teams that bring much-needed school supplies, textbooks, and personal hygiene items. Richard says the donations lift the spirits of the children and their families. “For many children in Mathare, it is a luxury to receive such items because every day is a struggle for their families to literally survive. When the children see that the items are donated by parents with children in the United States, it motivates them to work even harder.” Mission team members have gone on to help provide nutritious meals at the school, and a growing number of sponsorships are ensuring quality education and family counseling. Plans are being made to enlarge the school building so that more families may be helped.

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In Chimaltenango, ministry efforts began with a single mission team and a few bags of shelf-stable groceries. The team stood in a field near the Ravine and waited patiently. Twenty families cautiously walked over to receive prayer and the gift. “The mission team had heard about the people of the Ravine – the incredible poverty and struggle to survive, says Tiffany Taylor Wines, Orphan Outreach Marketing Director. “It’s difficult to talk to someone about hope when their belly is empty. So the team did what they knew to do – they provided basics so that meals could be prepared by the families, and then they prayed.” Soon, the families invited teams inside the Ravine area itself, and friendships were established between the people who dug through refuse to find sustenance and the people willing to give time, talent, and resources to help. The families were interviewed to determine the best ways to lift the community – education, medical care, and improvements to living conditions became priorities.

“Mission teams have been such a blessing to our ministry in Chimaltenango,” shares Dan Ucherek, Missionary and Project Leader of the Ravine Ministry for Orphan Outreach. “The families that work in the garbage dump always look forward to spending time with the teams when they come, and they are truly blessed by the support that the teams provide for their families. Mission teams have installed more than 70 wood burning stoves in just two years in the Chimaltenango area. This means more than 70 families and hundreds of individuals have benefitted from the advantages of having one of these stoves. Seventy families have less health issues and save money every day with less consumption of wood.”

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Short-term mission teams have been instrumental in working alongside locals to begin a new ministry in Chimaltenango – a Comprehensive Care Center that provides Maria and others with a safe place for their children to receive tutoring and training. The center also provides emergency relief for families in crisis. Classrooms have been equipped, computers donated, and essential supplies have been purchased for the center, and the first after-school and higher education tutoring sessions have begun.

Over the years, one essential quality of relationship has been honed and refined. The art of listening. Sarah Herbek, Missions Coordinator for Central America, says it’s part of every conversation she has with team leaders. “We’re continuing to learn what quality community development looks like in every place we serve. We don’t want to create projects for the sake of mission teams, and we don’t want to provide something locals can provide for themselves. Our partners share their needs because they trust us. We work alongside them to meet those needs – and we ask, ‘Will this reinforce dignity?’”

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For Maria, the ability to care for her family has given her renewed hope. “I’m going to cry,” she says as she gives thanks, the tears falling again. “The gratitude that I have, the tears come. Everything we have received, the provisions, the help with the stove, has been a huge blessing for my life. I don’t have a lot of things, but I receive you all with all of my heart and I love you very much. I enjoy the groups that have come to visit. I tell my children that when our family cannot do much, we receive strength and great blessing from God through our friends at Orphan Outreach.”

You may be part of the historic work of the Comprehensive Care Center in Chimaltenango through sponsorship of one of the children in the after-school program or higher education program, or by investing in the Ravine community outreach program. For more details on special opportunities, please contact Amy Norton, Director of Programs, at anorton@orphanoutreach.org.

 #ServeOrphansWell is a five-part series on the impact of short-term mission trips in caring for orphans and vulnerable children. Our thanks to Tom Wambulwa, Katherine Cheng, and Vince Williams for their contributions to this article. 


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