This article was just featured in the summer edition of Outcomes Magazine.
Recently, I traveled to India to research and develop a special new partnership with a network of pastors who were visiting orphans in their distress (James 1:27). Nearly 3,000 children in this area are enslaved, forced to work and live in illegal rock quarries. By God’s grace, 330 of these children were recently freed. Now the pastors are faced with the task of caring for the children.
One of the children, named Priscilla, told me that she arrived at the quarry when she was 11 and had lived there in a shelter made entirely from slate rock for the past seven years. A difficult road stretches out before her as she overcomes the tragic physical abuse she suffered there. And just as challenging, local pastors must figure out how to help heal the emotional and physical scars of children like Priscilla, balanced with their full-time work pastoring local churches.
While Pricilla’s story may shock you, her experience is sadly all too common today on the global mission field. Numbering close to one billion, such children are neglected or abandoned, forced into slavery, or worse yet, sold to human predators. Ministering to these children requires the comprehensive knowledge to address a broad range of developmental and community issues. The solutions must be smart, sustainable and scalable. They must solve problems related to health and nutrition, education, spiritual mentorship, and micro-enterprise.
The copious number of children, and the sheer complexity of ministering to the oppressed, demands that people form kingdom partnerships. These partnerships are both critical and difficult. If you ask a pastor to give you a biblical reason to work together, the pastor would most likely quote Paul in 1 Corinthians, where Paul used the human body as a metaphor for the body of Christ. “Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body — whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free — and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many.” (1 Cor. 12:12-14)
While this is the best example of how kingdom partnerships should function, it is not often realized. Taking Paul’s metaphor further, it can be difficult for the eye to stay focused on the nail held by the left hand while the right hand swings down the hammer. Many times on the mission field, the eye looks for a better place to put the nail while the left hand reaches for a better nail and the right hand opts to use a screw gun. In the beginning, each partner works through challenges, agreeing on style, approach, and beliefs. But over time, the partnership becomes disjointed as each organization grows tired of agreeing and chooses to pursue its individual set of ideals.
In my experience, organizations that have abandoned kingdom partnering are typically choosing to build up their kingdom instead of God’s. By contrast, great kingdom partnerships start by giving up control and power and then committing to seek first the kingdom of God (Matt. 6:33). When this is the posture of each partnering organization, I have witnessed tremendous results.
I can’t imagine tackling complex situations like Priscilla’s on my own. Kingdom partnerships are critical to helping these children. It takes a kingdom partnership to ensure that, by God’s grace, these children’s physical, educational, and spiritual needs are met — equipping them to live the life that God planned for them. Local pastors provide spiritual mentoring. Caregivers feed and guide the children. Government teachers educate them. At the same time, a family at a church in the U.S. can sponsor the children to provide resources needed to operate the local program. International health professionals can provide medical care through short-term medical teams, and university students can provide sustainable solutions, like safe drinking water. Teamwork is required.
Over the last eight years, I’ve flown almost a million air miles to developing nations in an all-out effort to transform several thousand of the world’s neediest children. There are millions more waiting for the love of Jesus. We must work together to use our collective talents and resources to maximize his kingdom results!