Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Bonding and Empathy

Our team met last night for the third time. There are 19 of us: our Orphan Outreach leader, two leaders from WCSG radio and 16 of us from various backgrounds, occupations, and with an age range of late teens to 60ish.

You might wonder what is done to prepare a team to travel together to minister to children who have lived most of their lives not having their physical and emotional needs met. After we discussed travel details, our team leaders led us into topics that are usually reserved for a counselor’s office or a close relationship in which it would be safe to share such personal things. As I said, this was only the third time this group had been together.

At the second meeting we were given an assignment that made many of us squirm. We had already shared cherished and happy memories from our childhoods. The assignment for the third meeting was to prepare to share memories from our childhood that caused us pain, distress, or deep sadness.

As people shared last night, it meant ripping off carefully concealed emotional bandages to reveal deep childhood hurts. Within our conversation were vivid descriptions of family life ending through divorce or death, of illness, of abuse, of shame, of blame, of confusion and disappointment, and of childhoods lost. As we listened, heads were shaking, and tears flowed. We left the room last night loving each other in new and deeper ways.

Not only do we have new depth in our relationships with each other, we were reminded that the children we will be meeting have experienced the same pain, confusion, and loneliness. The difference between our cultures and our ages doesn’t matter. Pain, hope, and love are universal. We realized that our childhood experiences can become tools that God can use to help us relate to the children we will be meeting.

Many of the people who shared, went on to say that God didn’t leave them broken and without a future. We realized that our empathy isn’t enough to share with the children. God had a plan for each of us in that meeting last night and God HAS a plan for each of the children we will meet.

Here is a verse God had several people point out to me when I have been in despair:
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and future.” Jer. 29:11

This is the mission of our group, to show God’s love by helping meet some of these kid's needs and to be living examples of God’s ability to bring a childhood of pain into a life with hope and a future.

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