You, God & Orphan Care

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By Cameron Talbot

6 minute read

The call from God to care for children in an orphanage is not a small one. And I know for myself, my first few years in orphan care forced me to assess and reassess the spiritual partnership I had with the Lord. My spiritual walk changed very suddenly, as I was tasked with the care and provision of wounded and suffering children.

“God, I can’t do this. I can’t heal them on my own. I can’t protect them from everything. Where are you? Will you step in where my wisdom and abilities end? What exactly do you expect of me, here? What can I expect of you?”

Many days, it felt like I was teetering on the edge of spiritual burn-out.

But stepping into a God-given calling is entering into a communion and covenant with God, wherein both parties are active and take on two distinct roles with responsibilities.

I had to learn my role and responsibilities within God’s context.

Many missionaries and orphanage workers burn out because they assume the responsibility of God. Many missionaries do not fulfill the mission despite their efforts, because they do not fulfill their responsibilities to the fullest. Knowing what the covenant is, and what each party’s responsibilities are decreases the risk that you will burn-out or end unsuccessfully.

The Steward Manager

An excellent analogy that assisted my understanding of the relationship between God and man in mission is that of a land owner and his steward manager. Jesus used the analogy many times in parable form to teach his followers how to live rightly as God’s children.

In this example, God takes on the role of the owner of the field. Because he owns the land, he is personally invested in the harvest and what he can achieve from the field. Man takes on the role of steward manager. He is responsible for overseeing the field. He is also invested in the success of the harvest, because he serves at the pleasure of the owner.

Practically and metaphorically, here is the job description of a steward manager—

  • Manages and utilizes resources
  • Protects resources
  • Initiates work energy and activity
  • Works closely and personally with the owner
  • Raises himself to the standards of the owner

 

Implications

There are multiple implications that are made when viewing our role in missions as a steward manager.

The first and most important, is that we are not the owners of the mission. God is the owner. This means that he has final say on the important decisions. He decides what the mission should look like. He has preeminence over the methods used. In all of these things, we should be in prayer, taking our cues from the owner.

Once direction is given from the owner, our responsibility is simply to obey with excellence. When a field owner tells his steward what the plan is for the next harvest, the steward is responsible for taking action with excellence; he is responsible for seeing it through.

Obeying with excellence means that we:

  • Maintain our spiritual connection with the owner
  • Do not deviate from the directions given
  • Do not make major field decisions without consulting the owner
  • Work hard, not lazy
  • Treat the workers with compassion/love
  • Remember the resources (finances, buildings, vehicles, etc.) are not ours
  • Care for the harvest as we would our own lives

“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters” (Col. 3:23).

The Good Owner

God is the owner of the field. At the end of the day, the mission to love children in alternative care is His vision, and we follow through because He decided to call it ‘good.’ As a steward, this is important to remember.

Practically and metaphorically, here is the job description of a good owner:

  • Identifies and chooses a capable steward
  • Has the most invested (it’s his field)
  • Decides purposes and gives direction
  • Provides the tools and resources
  • Trains the steward to meet expectations

Implications

There are multiple implications that are made when viewing God’s role in missions as the good owner.

Notably, the overall mission itself is His responsibility. He must supply the resources, make the critical decisions, and choose the right people to follow his direction. As such, he has the first word that decides a successful harvest or not.

But He is no ordinary field owner; He is also the God-owner. Scripture teaches us that the God-owner takes on even more responsibility than a regular owner—He also has the final word on the harvest outcome.

The God-ower’s primary responsibility is to enact growth to fulfillment. This means that He is the energy and cause behind growth and success. Credit should be given to him for every dollar fundraised, every child rescued and every network connection that becomes an asset. He even decides the outcome, oftentimes in spite of the steward’s decisions. Where we make mistakes, he fills in the gaps. He takes on this role that he might receive all the glory in our going, our doing and the ultimate victory.

A perfect example of this in scripture comes again from Paul. His mission (or field) was to preach the gospel to the Gentiles. In his first letter to the Corinthians, he mentions a fellow believer, Apollos, whose mission (or field) was to further disciple the new Gentile believers. He says,

“What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe—as the Lord has assigned to each his task. I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow. So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. The one who plants and the one who waters have one purpose, and they will each be rewarded according to their own labor. For we are co-workers in God’s service; you are God’s field…” (1 Corinthians 3:5-9).

Bringing it Together

Our job in orphan care is to obey and work with excellence. The owner’s role is everything else, including the actual growth, healing and protection of the children in our care. Problems arise when either one of those two positions is misaligned in our thinking.

Upon realizing that God is the ultimate decider of the outcome and grower of the mission, many stewards become lazy. They use “God will fill in the gaps and mistakes” as an excuse to be unattentive, wasteful of resources and make foolish choices that might even put others in harm’s way. Some even mistakenly call this “living by faith.” This is not the covenant we agree to in missions. The God-owner, who sees our hearts, directs us to, “work at it with all your heart.” When the steward is investing his/her whole heart, the God-owner honors the field we are working with His authority.

Contrarily, though, many issues arise when we do not recognize the preeminence of God over the mission. Someone has to take responsibility for the major decisions. Someone has to take responsibility for the growth and the outcome. Stewards who do not know God as the owner falsely assume these responsibilities.

When things go well with the mission, those stewards take all the glory. This glory is not theirs, though. When things go poorly with the mission, as they often do when stewards make all the decisions, they carry the burden of failure. The burden to make major decisions, enact the growth, ensure a positive outcome and carry the weight of any failure is too much for any steward to handle. Inevitably, the result is a burn-out.

It’s important to remember our place in the covenant of mission. It’s equally important to recognize God’s supremacy. He used wisdom and chose us to participate as stewards. And stewards who wisely set Him on the throne over every critical component of the work will see a harvest in their children and missional life.

Cameron Talbot

Founder of Oak Life, he has been working alongside children's homes since 2015. His passion is to learn and share the tools to help heal children of abandonment. Sustainable alternative care. TBRI® Practitioner. Proud husband and father.

Cameron Talbot

Cameron Talbot

Founder of Oak Life, he has been working alongside children's homes since 2015. His passion is to learn and share the tools to help heal children of abandonment. Sustainable alternative care. TBRI® Practitioner. Proud husband and father.

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