I’ve had the privilege of knowing Kristy for about, I believe, 4 or 5 years, from when her husband became the youth pastor at the church we were then attending.
From the very beginning, she always had a “soft spot” for my two adopted kids (that sounds creepy – but it’s not) even though it’s obvious that she loves all kids. It was only until a few years later that in addition to the fact that my kids are awesome, there’s another reason she’s always been “there” for my kids.
Kristy is an adult adoptee. She’s been there. She knows the big feelings, the good, the hard, the unknown. She knows the strange questions people ask, the impact that school assignments can trigger.
She’s the real deal.
Kristy has written a piece about her experiences and her feelings being an adopted child and now an adopted adult. She wrote this a few years ago but as she and I were talking yesterday, it still applies today.
Kristy has graciously allowed me to repost her article here. Her (and my) hope is that adoptive parents, adult adoptees and the relatives of adoptive families (as well as teachers etc.) would learn and grow a bit in their understanding of the emotional challenges in the lives of all people involved in adoptions.
So, come back tomorrow, Kristy’s got some good stuff for you……
So, this is the 10th installment in the 10 things I’ve learned in the last 10 years. What’s the last thing I want to add?
I’ve learned that I’ve got a lot to learn. This thing called life is hard.
This thing called being a Christ follower is hard.
This thing called being a husband is hard (though for the record, my wife makes it easy).
This thing called being a parent is hard.
And I’ve got a lot to learn.
And I’ve got someone I can trust to help me learn.
And that someone has a flashlight showing the path.
But he will often not show very far down the path.
I need to learn, to learn to trust and to trust His light.
Things I’ve Learned #9
Yeah, I’m going to tackle this one. I’ve learned a LOT about short term mission trips in the last 10 years. First I’ll spell out the do’s and then the don’ts.
The “do’s” of short term mission trips:
- Do focus on God and what He’s up to.
- Do build relationships with your team mates and go with the intention of supporting the organization long term.
- Do encourage the long term staff on the ground.
- Do attempt to learn as much as you can about the culture and the people.
The “Don’ts” of Short Term Mission Trips
- Don’t do any work that would be stealing employment opportunities from the locals who are most likely struggling to keep body and soul together. Instead, raise the funds to pay to hire them to do the work.
- Don’t wear matching T-shirts that say something like, “Bringing Jesus to Haiti.” Jesus was there before you got there.
- Don’t go to “love on” the children at an orphanage. The constant coming and going of people who “love” them and then leave them causes significant damage to them long term. When the children are taught that someone is always going to leave, they don’t know who to trust and they end up suffering from Reactive Attachment Disorder – not all of them – but in significantly higher amounts. Google RAD if you want to know more about it.
- Don’t go with an “I know best” attitude. Unless you’ve lived in the country for 30 years and are just now bringing a team, you don’t know as much as the people on the ground. Listen to the long term people.
- Don’t attempt to get the long term staff to work 12 to 18 hours a day. You can do that for a week – but they can’t do that for 52 weeks a year. Instead, take some of that time to enjoy the culture, to encourage the staff and to learn from them.
In short, short term mission trips can be useful if they are done well, if they are planned well and if they have appropriate training and guidance. Most of them don’t.
Most of them are very damaging – and it shouldn’t have to be that way.
If you or someone you know is planning a short term mission trip and would like to discuss some of this further, please get in touch with me. I’d like to talk further and help.
Things I’ve Learned #8
I’m sitting in my favorite coffee shop as I write this and as I look around the room, there’s something that strikes me that I would never have seen before.
If I had the super power to be able to see inside everyone’s heart and soul, I’d see that every single one of the people here is dealing with a struggle.
Some of the struggles are very obvious – like the older gentleman in the corner who has been coming every day for years – I don’t know whether he’s a widower or if his wife is ill and doesn’t remember him but he’s obviously lonely.
Some are less obvious – like the older lady and college age girl sitting at a table with a Bible open in front of them – obviously a mentoring situation. Obviously a learning process.
Some are invisible – like the two ladies sitting by the fireplace chatting and laughing and enjoying their time together.
But they all have struggles – and it would be good if we’d all remember that. If we all lived our lives with the mindset that the person we’re talking to is hurting and struggling, then we’ll see a kinder and gentler community and then the world can see the love of God through God’s people.
Things I’ve Learned #7
Trauma – what does that mean?
To many people, it is what happens when someone is injured in a car accident. They are referred to as a trauma case – because something real bad happened to them very quickly.
That’s part of trauma but it’s not the whole picture. I’ve learned a lot about trauma in the last 10 years…..
- Trauma can be a single event – abuse, witnessing or being part of a violent act, surviving a major natural disaster, those can all be and cause trauma to someone’s system.
- Trauma can be a long term event or series of events. Being abandoned by your family, spending years in an institutional setting (the World Health Organization says that 15 months is the point where living in an institution starts causing damage), spending a significant amount of time with substantial fear for your safety, your ability to eat and have your needs met. These can all qualify as trauma and can leave scars – not only external but also internal scars.
Instead of explaining more about what trauma is, I’m going to link you to an article that an adoptive mom wrote. She describes better than most if not all of what I’ve read what trauma does to an adopted child and the adopted child’s family.
Read it at Parenting Trauma Kids.
I need to share one story with you that has haunted me for over 9 1/2 years now. My wife and I were in Haiti and a birth father brought his son – maybe 2 years old – to the orphanage. I don’t remember the circumstances of why he brought him there – but that’s not important right now.
His son was playing with some volunteers and seemed to be doing okay. When his dad turned, walked out the gate and never looked back, the son screamed.
It was a scream like none I’d ever heard before.
It tore at my soul and heart – because I knew this little boy would carry the scars from that exact moment for a very long time, if not for the rest of his life.
That’s trauma and that’s something that affects all adopted children to at least some degree.