It’s the question we’ve been asked more times that you could imagine. And rightly so. We’re an orphan care ministry in Latin America. You see us posting photos from our homes all the time. It’s normal for someone to assume that we own and operate an orphanage. But the truth is we don’t. These homes are fully operated by teams of individuals that we simply partner with.
Sound a little counter-productive? Are you wondering what we actually do, now that you know that we don’t run a home? Today we want to spend some time reframing the conversation around orphan care. We want to talk about what our goal has been from the very beginning, and how it affects everything we do in Latin America.
“Dreaming of an Orphan-less World”
It’s a phrase that has rung in our hearts since the very beginning. Sometimes when people hear it for the first time they just stare back at us, unsure of what to say. Probably something like, “That’s a little unrealistic.”, or “How about you start a little smaller.” It seems like we’ve all just accepted that this world will always be stricken with broken families and more abandoned children than our orphanages can hold.
We decided to tell a different story.
When Jaclyn was growing up she spent time with her family almost every single year volunteering in a home (orphanage). They would visit the same people at the same home every year, and over time they forged a relationship founded on trust and love with both the directors and the children. When the home needed an extra hand, guess who they called? When the directors were feeling burned out and worn down, guess who was the first to notice and offer support?
When Marked was founded, Micheal and Jaclyn decided that they wouldn’t aim to create new structures and programs, but they would add strength and guidance to systems that were already put in place. Why start new when you can partner with someone who has been there for years, who knows the people and the community, and just needs some help?
So from the beginning our dream has been to give aid, support and refuge to tired and discouraged home (orphanage) directors. To show up regularly at these homes and create relationships with the kids that just need a little consistency in their lives. We decided to identify the programs that shared our heart and values, and add our strength to theirs. We will never claim to know it all or have it all. But we have something to offer, and if we can use that to empower the ones that have given their lives for the sake of the orphaned and abused, we’re so happy to do that.
Instead of offering a systematized program for each orphanage, we’ve taken it slow. When a new home comes to us and asks for support, we spend months getting to know them and spending time in the home before we offer support through resources. Relationships will always come first for us. Once we know their hearts and have identified their needs first-hand, then we cater a program specifically to their situation. It’s for this reason that every single home has a different level of aid and involvement from us. We don’t want to just be a crutch, or to offer support that they really don’t need. We want to actually empower them to succeed, and create sustainable solutions for both the directors and the children in their homes.
We’re not into the “orphan care industry”. We’re into wholeness.
Our long-term goal for these homes is to invest in these kids and young adults so they grow up knowing who they are, knowing that they’re fully loved, and that they don’t have to repeat the cycles they were born into. Our goal is to link arms with communities and homes all over the region, and invest in families (keeping families together, and children out of orphanages), and shout the gospel of family and wholeness from the rooftops, until orphanages are no longer a necessity. We dream of an orphan-less world, because we know that God designed us to look like family, and the more that Heaven comes to Earth, that’s exactly what it will look like.