This blog post has been rolling around in my heart and mind for a few months now. Ever had a topic that meant so so much to you, that to try and put it on paper seems almost to hurt or just exhausts you? In order to do so, it means delving into the deepest parts of your heart to pull out and wrestle your emotions and thoughts so they are more simple and clear…so you can share and finally communicate them with others.
Well, this blog post is one of those.
When I have strong feelings like this, I tend to avoid the conversations that elicit them. I hate defending the way I think or feel or ever trying to convince others of anything. I like to leave that job up to God. Let Him be the Defender. Let Him convince or change others to see things the way He does. I don’t want to enter into arguments or competition.
This blog post though is about the controversy that seems to be erupting and even being fueled by other Christians regarding short term missions to “visit orphans”.
My very first response to this when it started happening was, “Obviously they truly do not know the scriptures or this would not be a controversy. They would not be questioning it. They would know the answers to the questions they are naively putting out there which are causing others who don’t know scripture to respond and react to.”
Yes, we can all know scripture…but do you take the time to really dive deep into them. Have you used a concordance and dissected a scripture that is on your heart? That is one of my favorite things to do as just about always God will reveal SO much through this time of research.
So let’s dissect James 1:27 together in this way. Most of us reading this blog post knows what it “says” already on the surface. We’ve memorized it. Here is what it says at deeper layers:
Vis-it (1980) (episkeptomai - see study of episkopeo from epí = upon or intensifying already existing idea in verb + skopeo = regard, give attention to, look at, contemplate) literally means to look upon, to GO to see, to examine closely, to inspect, to examine the state of affairs of something, to look after or to oversee. The idea of visiting is more than just making a social call.
As Hiebert writes...
In classical Greek, it was commonly used of visiting the sick, whether by a doctor or a friend.' In Jewish usage, it commonly denoted to visit with the aim of caring for and supplying the needs of those visited (Job 2:11; Jer. 23:2; Ezek. 34:11; Zech. 11:16; Mt. 25:36, 43). The term implies concern and personal contact with the needy; it involves more than a matter of charity by proxy.
This verb expresses careful regard of those in position of responsibility. It depicts one going to see another with the intent to render help. In some context it means to have regard for, care for or be concerned about (Acts 15:14, He 2:6-note). It is often used of visiting the sick. In the Septuagint it speaks of a visitation from God, most often a visitation for good.
So, when God inspired James to write this, He was using the word, “episkeptomai” which means SO much more than just our word Visit. In English the word “visit” sounds like we are just coming to see a friend, have coffee, hang out for awhile. That is NOT what James means. He means to search out, find, meet those in distress (and in this case he means orphans and widows), talk to them, find out their needs and pains AND DO something about them!!
Short term mission trips to visit orphans, like we do at Visiting Orphans are intended to do just that. Our staff at VO prays…asking God to show us those ministries on the other side of the world, orphanages, hurting communities which are hidden. Which need to be found and visited so that we can see what they need and with future teams, come back to make a difference. This difference can be made by future teams bringing donations or financial help, or what I love even more is when a past team member visits those in distress and feels a call from God DUE to that visit and sacrifices current comforts to go help them long term. Or, they return home to adopt a child, or they return home and help promote a cause so that more sponsorships can happen for those in distress.
So, WHAT is the controversy all about? When you ask God … are short term trips really Your will? Will I really make a difference visiting an orphan? You now KNOW that scripture is defining this for you. God is saying, “YES”. Go….VISIT an orphan… Be my hands and feet to them here on earth. Find them, meet them, “check in” on them and make a difference in their lives.
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