Yesterday’s post highlighted the critical importance of study, preparation, reflection and diligence in seeking to serve orphans. The assumption that good intentions are sufficient often makes for ugly outcomes. True love always seeks to serve wisely and well.
As noted, thoughtful Christians have every reason to draw from insightful researchers and effective practitioners of all stripes, including ones that see the world from an utterly different vantage point—even those most critical of Christian-led initiatives. Whether or not we ultimately agree with an approach or analysis, we can continually refine and improve the way we seek to serve.
In this vein, I’d highly commend the Joint Council on International Children’s Services (JCICS) Child Welfare Symposium. Although not faith-based, JCICS has increasingly sought to be faith-friendly in recent years under the effective leadership of CEO Tom Difilipo. Tom has become a true friend, and consistently expresses a desire to forge partnerships with the Christian community. The national Symposium, now in its 36th year, represents a first-rate gathering of leading practitioners, researchers and advocates, joining together to engage critical OVC issues. Especially if you’re a professional in the field of child welfare, the JCICS Symposium is an event you don’t want to miss.
Yesterday, I also received notice of the release this week of a new report from UNICEF: Partnering with Religious Communities for Children. This well-crafted document seeks to encourage and guide UNICEF and other agencies’ field staff toward expanding partnerships with religious communities to more effectively serve the vulnerable. Certainly, there are issues on which UNICEF and many thoughtful Christian orphan advocates would differ, both philosophically and practically. (This is one reason the report at times carries the feel of a guidebook for visitors to an exceedingly foreign land.) And yet it clearly represents a growing recognition on the part of UNICEF of the vital role faith-based institutions play in addressing human needs, and also a sincere desire to build stronger bridges to faith communities. There’d be much more to discuss on this point, of course, but the bottom line is that the Christian community should receive such efforts with sincerity—and would do well to seek out such “culture-bridging” opportunities as well.