My last blog was filled with a lot of information about our personal experiences here with orphanages.
Now I want to combine my perspective with a book I am currently reading called "Orphan Justice" written by Johnny Carr.
Have you visited an orphanage on a short term trip?
Have you held precious kiddos in your arms and played with them- laughter bursting forth?
Have you spent any time in a Children's Home that is known for being "one of the good ones?"
I have spent time in many different orphanages here in Haiti and it fuels my desire for orphan care TO CHANGE. Johnny Carr says it in his book:
As followers of Jesus, we cannot be satisfied with children living in orphanages as a long term solution.
If you have visited, or if you have not, the reality of playing with children and you bringing them joy simply because you are visiting is NOT ENOUGH to offset the lack of quality living that only a family can give.
Imagine yourself as that child's parent. Would you be content with TONS of strangers coming into your home to love on your child and maybe take pictures? To play with them and bring out their joy but not have any boundaries? Then add in the fact that these strangers do not speak your language so there is no possible way for them to share teachable moments with your child. These strangers are coming in with the best of intentions, however, they are only bonding and then leaving the attachment behind.
"Perhaps you have fond memories of holding an orphan at one of those orphanages. But as we investigate what orphans need, I want to challenge you to be willing to consider the idea that while you might have good feelings associated with visiting orphanages, living in an orphanage might not be the best option for children."
Aside from attachment issues or whether or not you want to shut all the orphanages down (side note: I am not endorsing that because that would create a whole separate crisis at this time), I am simply suggesting we reconsider our stance on building orphanages, opening orphanages, funding orphanages that keep the children in the orphanage for their entire upbringing.
The only way to truly care for "orphans" and believe me- there are situations where children really are orphaned, abandoned, or the family is not fit to care for them- is to push for every child to have a forever family where they belong.
Look around you in your community, adjacent community, throughout your whole state and I will promise you that you will not find an orphanage. This next statement might sting a little but after living here and living out orphan care firsthand I am here to tell you it is the absolute truth and it needs to be shared.
"After all if we don't allow orphanages to exist in the United States, why are we content to build and sustain them in other countries? The goal of orphan care is caring for orphans, not the good feelings we get from our generosity in building or supporting an orphanage. Orphan care is not about us; it's about them."
The point of this blog is not to make you feel guilty, ashamed, hateful toward me for educating you on the hard truths, or make you want to shut down all the orphanages. The point of this blog is to relentlessly pursue justice and quality care for these kids. The children who find themselves victim to poverty, desperate for a momma's hug, missing the smile of their own brother or sister who Dad decided to keep, longing to belong and be loved unconditionally in a family setting.
No good-hearted person should be wanting to keep children in these institutional settings, deprived of all their basic needs. We should want better for them, we should want family for them.
In a blog to come, I will explore with you the ways Alex and I feel led to empower families here. I will share with you the heartbeat of this next year.
But for now, one last quote for you to chew on:
"Man made orphanages for children, but God made the family for children... He never intended for the growth, nurturing, and development of childhood to happen in an institution."
All of these quotes are mainly from chapter four of this book. Please consider looking into statistics of orphanages or reading a few books on the issues.
Prayerfully consider finding new ways to empower these kids to Abide in Love. Prayerfully consider how your impact can be one that truly mirrors God's heart for orphans and orphan care, instead of how man-made orphan care looks.
Thanks for checking out the tough stuff with me <3
THE OPPOSITE OF A FAIRYTALERead Now
Well it kind of began all magical and fairytale like, except not at all.
I can look back on our first year here and realize we had NO CLUE of what was going on around us and no idea of what Haiti really needed. At times, we even felt like we were helping when instead we were just hurting. We learned the hard way to humble ourselves and stop trying to save these kids- we will never be the Savior they need, that's what Jesus is for and what He alone can do.
We were rounding out our first year of ministry at the orphanage. Early on we learned the kids do NOT view us 'white American visitors' as family. They actually ALL had families of their own, most even had parents and none of them were a fan of our 'American Way.' Our rules and systems were wasted on this institutional living where attachment disorders of many kinds run rampant. They heard and mostly participated in our nightly bible study. Who knows what they thought of us as we implemented ourselves into their daily living. We had high hopes and BIG hearts for changes to be made and "orphans" to realize their true potential as Co-Heirs with Christ. We still have those desires for them; however, we learned in the first few months the kids we thought were "orphaned" by terrible/incapable or dead parents were really just "orphaned" by poverty. Despair and a better chance of being taken care of led these loving momma's and papa's to give over their children to the orphanage and its caretakers.
Sure their living situations were not ideal at some of the houses they came from but these children (along with 80% of "orphans" worldwide) are poverty orphans. The term poverty orphan comes from the fact that a lack of money or resources will lead parents to give up their children in hopes that they can find a better life. While trying to meet physiological needs (and not doing a fantastic job at even that) the orphanage was neglecting the rest of Maslow's Heirarchy of needs. The children were not cared for in ways that promoted their safety needs, their sense of belonging or being loved, their self esteem and importance was neglected and belittled in every way possible, and their self-actualization (the drive to become the best version of themselves) was not there. In fact, a few of the kids struggled with suicidal thoughts on a regular basis and self worth issues which included eating disorders. We learned about the mistreatment of the kids in the orphanage, previous abuse from nannies who watched them, physical abuse from various people, and molestations between the children themselves. After almost an entire year of staying in it for the sake of the kids and trying to change how things were- we realized after many conversations with trusted missionary friends- we were only supporting what was going on and not thwarting it.
Our funding, our positivity, our rules and regulations, our American mindset was aiding vile behaviors because we truly had no control over the situation. Toward the end of the year a lot of truths came out we were unaware of and recently even more has been made known to us.
As Maya Angelou said:
"Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better DO BETTER."
So here's how we are following Maya's advice:
After stepping down from our "fake" position as administrators (which was never official at an unregistered orphanage anyway) we have begun our pursuit of orphan prevention through family preservation and job creation. These fancy terms made simple just mean we do not want families to feel so desperate that they must hand over their child to the first place that can meet their physiological needs better. We want to help create jobs and expand businesses here in Haiti for Haitians. We want to pursue opportunities for families to learn and grow together to find hope that God will do exceedingly and abundantly more than their family could dream of!
We do not want the desperation poverty brings to send parents knocking for someone else to care for their beloved baby. We want to not be the Saviors just because we are white and more priveleged but instead we want to point them to the one and only Savior who is mighty TO save. #amen!
Stay tuned for the GIANT dreams God has placed in us to begin this year! Stay tuned for how they unfold.
We are about to embark on a whole new adventure and are excited to pursue God's Goodness to His people in new ways. We are praying for an enormous impact on families to want to stay together, for children to not be orphaned by avoidable circumstance or simplistic needs, and for a wave of empowerment to rush this community!
Sure, our story is the opposite of a fairytale in many ways but especially in the sense that:
ALL OF IT IS REAL.
We live in a messy reality, a heavy world full of suffering, and we are no longer sugar coating the truths we are learning. I love a good, fluffy fairytale but I LOVE a true story of heroism, inspiration, and empowerment EVEN MORE. Join us in the nitty, gritty messy life we live and just know we are not the heroes I am referring to above... but you'll see ;)
As always friends- Abide in the one who leads us into deeper waters, not to fear, but to walk with Him!
Today July 10th, 2019 marks our two year anniversary since we moved to Haiti. Let me tell you a story:
Once upon a time in a land far, far away...
Let's go back two and half years to when we visited Haiti and fell in love with an orphanage. Many of you know our story, many of you are still walking it out with us.
If for some reason you have not been following- WE NO LONGER WORK WITH THE ORPHANAGE. (A lot of people ask us when they see us so here is our current story).
We moved here in love with the idea of having twelve kids become our family and in many ways they have. These kids changed our hearts and the entire rest of our lives in ways they may never know. We have cried with/for, prayed over them in ways only a parent can, we have been broken for them and that will never change.
We were rounding out our first year of ministry at the orphanage and had been learning so many things about the reality of orphanages. I will get into those details some other blog post so stay tuned. Our biggest revelation was that Jesus says in John 14:18, "I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you." We began realizing that the set up of this situation was keeping the kids as orphans. The orphan mindset was used to oppress them and steal their worth as somebody's children. They were not given unconditional love from parents even though many of them had real parents and all of them had families who loved them. They were treated as less than in many ways and it wrecked us as we began realizing our presence made no difference in how they felt about themselves. Orphans are often portrayed in American culture and media as heroes and overcomers; however, the sad reality is that we in America have romanticized our ideas of orphans and orphan care. Orphan care means not leaving them as orphans. It means placing the lonely in families.
We moved to Haiti to become parents but learned our kids were not true orphans at all. We became all too familiar with bonding and attachment issues, self worth issues, pain and suffering beyond words, and all sorts of heartache that we only funded by putting our money and time into our idea of "orphan care". This began in us the dream of orphan prevention and a heart full of dreams for families here in Haiti.
We realized the need for job creation, safe places for families to visit and spend quality family time, bible studies, literacy classes, basic first aid, and training centers. A way for Haitians to encourage Haitians, families to rise up, and leaders to be empowered. So we proceeded to start a community center last August. We fundraised and rented the space but two days before moving in they received a higher offer and told us our deal was off. We did receive our money back but then we had nowhere to live or do ministry.
We began our crazy hunt for a house which took about a month and a half. Through that process we were able to realize we needed a ministry partner and a year to just learn Haiti. That brought us to work with Upstream International. We have spent the last year well- we have built beautiful relationships with our neighbors, we have met many amazing people through the work Upstream does, we have improved our language skills tremendously from the first year, and we have been able to help a handful of families start up business or increase the ones they already had.
THE BEST IS YET TO COME
We are excited going into this new year of ministry to announce God has revived the community center dream in our hearts. He continues to give us visions and hopes for programs to come. He instills in us a heartbeat that families are our first ministry and a peace that surpasses all understanding when we are DREAMING SO BIG. He is not done with us here yet and has been reminding us the best is yet to come for the Bradshaw's.
Please continue to cover us in prayer! Catch up on our blog posts, stay tuned for more updates to come on social media, and prayerfully consider partnering with us financially! We are in awe of what God has done in and through us already and confidently expectant in what He has to come!
We are also hoping for some visitors this year (a shameless plug to let our friends and family know your presence in our home would mean the world to us <3 )!
Thank you for continuing to support us as we humbly learn to Abide in Love!
Kristen & Alex Bradshaw