Challenges to Overcome

Advice for a young leader who wanted to start an orphanage

One day an experienced Christian worker picked up the phone to call a young woman who was planning to open an orphanage in Haiti. This is what she said.


A group learns from Hatians in Haiti

A group in Haiti learns from Hatians

Over the past two years, I have had the privilege of leading multiple teams overseas with World Orphans. Part of my job that I love is getting to educate and teach team members what the Bible says about orphan care, about our role and responsibility in tackling orphan-causing issues, and about the various models of orphan care that other organizations employ.

I have noticed in the past decade or so that God is doing an amazing work in the hearts of His people in regards to orphan care. The Church is finally starting to rise up and carry out the mandate in Scripture to rescue and care for the fatherless, widows, and the poor around the world. Social media, the Internet, photography and video, and the ease of travel in this day and age have only increased our awareness of the orphan crisis and extreme levels of poverty in the majority world.

I am excited that we are finally starting to respond; however, I feel a huge burden to speak into a particular issue that I have come across time and again while working with individuals along the way.… Keep Reading

The weary widow: when orphanages recruit kids

Written by on May 16, 2013 in Articles, Challenges to Overcome with 0 Comments

What happens when orphanages have beds to fill and and warped priorities?   


wearyI can still see the tears streaming down her face, the hopelessness in her eyes, and the burning sting of defeat that grew with each tear falling onto the toddler she clutched close.

The weary widow stood on the steps of our child development center, aptly named Brave Seedlings of the Andaman Sea by survivors of the 2004 tsunami that devastated the coastal regions of southern Thailand.

“It takes courage to make the right decision to give your child away,” the Christian missionary orphanage director said, confident and calm,assuring the weeping widow her precious son would never know hunger again.

Carrying a clipboard with paperwork and photos of a beautiful cement home, the director came prepared for this young mother to sign her child over. Every three months she could visit her son, and he would have the opportunity to complete high school and possibly attend university.

I arrived while the ink was still wet on the orphanage registration form. As I realized what was happening, my righteous anger turned ugly.

“How dare you show up here asking to meet with vulnerable parents?” I yelled at the orphanage director.… Keep Reading

Touch-starved: The hunger of children in orphanages

Why do children in orphanages often run and hug visitors as soon as they arrive?  Why did Western nations stop putting abandoned children in orphanages? For answers to both of these questions look at the work of a genius named John Bowlby.


Dr-John-BowlbyJohn Bowlby (1907-1990) has been described as a genius and one of the three or four most important psychiatrists of the twentieth century. Every student of psychology or psychiatry, and many of a number of other disciplines would have heard of his watershed work on separation, loss and mourning. Perhaps more than any other figure in recent decades, Bowlby has had profound influence over the treatment of bereaved and separated children in the Western world.

Anyone who has visited an orphanage will have experienced the effects of what Bowlby described as “Indiscriminate Attachment”. As soon as you arrive, the children crowd around, hungry for attention, the attention of a complete stranger. Younger ones cling to your legs and look up endearingly, silently imploring you to give them the nurture and love they desperately needed.

Most of us think their indiscriminate friendliness, clinging and attention seeking conduct is cute. But anyone familiar with John Bowlby’s work realise the situation is much sadder.… Keep Reading

Five reasons not to put children in orphanages

Written by on May 16, 2013 in Articles, Challenges to Overcome with 0 Comments

Why not start an orphanage? That’s a good question to ask before committing many years and untold resources to a task most experts agree is, well, questionable. Here are five answers one Christian worker in Cambodia found when he considered the question.


urban-haloOrphanages continue to be the default response of many to the challenge of caring for orphans and vulnerable children. However, mounting evidence suggests children are best cared for in their own communities and extended families. In my book, The Urban Halo, I outlined some of the reasons we decided not to build an orphanage. Here is a brief summary of the most important factors.

1. Science

For decades, researchers have found that residential care has a negative effect on the psychosocial development of children.

Children in residential care demonstrate a significantly increased level of social maladjustment, aggression, attention demanding behaviour, sleep disturbance, extremes of over-affection or repelling affection, social immaturity and tendency to depression. Attachment theory suggests that many of these difficulties result from the lack of availability of appropriate, nurturing, stable “mother substitutes” in residential care.

Dozens of contemporary studies have also documented medical and psychological abnormalities arising from institutionalization in residential care facilities such as orphanages and children’s homes.… Keep Reading

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