I was helping with a project at my church to make finger puppets for orphans in Eastern Europe. The group members going told us they'd recently found out that the orphanages they would be visiting will actually have kids up to age 15. After that they get kicked out into the street to join gangs, end up in prostitution, or maybe get low paying work and live in poverty for the rest of their lives.
(From bits and pieces of other things the trip participants said, it sounds like the
churches our group will visit don't actually interact with the orphanages unless American
short-term missions trip people are coming. They know the Americans
like this visiting orphans thing, so they do it because we're their
guests. There is no mentorship program, not financial help, no ongoing
relationship between the church and the orphanages.)
The craft was planned before the group knew their audience would be broader than the under 10-ish set. We made lion finger puppets out of felt because the orphans will be told the story of Daniel in the lion's den. The storyteller will end the story by saying, "Whenever you're in trouble, you can call out to God, and He will rescue you!"
I was stunned. I was not sure whether I wanted to weep or leave. The audacity of relatively rich foreigners traveling to another country to wave their ignorance around while telling that untrue platitude to kids--especially girls who will likely grow up to be raped or sell themselves to strangers or gang members to survive--makes me rage. These kids have it hard enough. Why lie about this? Maybe the kids old enough to know what their futures likely hold won't care; maybe they're already too cynical to buy this falseness; maybe the little ones will forget by the time reality smacks them hard. (How sad that I'm actually praying for that.)
What we should be saying to these kids is the real, true good news of the gospel, things like "you are never alone (God is with you)" and "you are loved (God suffered and died for you)" and "this broken world is not all there is for you (God offers hope and redemption and grace)." The church should be working with them on an ongoing basis, showing them the truth and love of God.
I have decided to go visit a church that I've heard is good at being a family and serving others even if it's a bit mushy on doctrine. If they're living out the faith in service to Christ and others, I can probably stomach some mushy doctrine. This last episode at my church makes my stomach hurt bitterly enough that mush sounds almost tasty.