Sometimes I describe our work in Russia as a dual thrust: developing leaders and serving the needs of orphans. Although this is a true picture, I see the two coming together over time. Here is my present understanding of how God is working to that end:
We all know the story of the kid who saves the starfish washed up on the shore. Even though there are countless thousands of them that he can’t save, he is content saving the ones he can. This is truly the heart of the Father, who will leave the 99 to go after the 1 lost sheep (Lk. 15:4). Yet, since we know that God is not willing that any should perish (2Pet. 3:9), we know that it is not an “either/or” dilemma with God. Our Father has given some of us a heart to rescue the lost, one precious soul at a time. Others he gives a burden to reach many at once or to help change the structures and systems that keep them in bondage.
My work in Richmond showed this tension: during our 10 years there (post graduate school) I served simultaneously as a family counselor and as the head of a ministry dedicated to bringing leaders together so that they could find one heart and mind for large-scale change in the city. At the time, I considered my leadership in this ministry to be my main calling. I now see it differently. My calling is to work with leaders and potential leaders one-on-one as a means of cultivating a team of leaders from all sectors of society who can work together to see the “whole Church bring the whole Gospel to the whole city.”
Now to the connection with orphan ministry. I am beginning to think that the key concept here is fathering. Men are spiritually neutered in Russia (and in most of the world, but particularly here). Paul commanded Timothy to pass on what he had given Timothy “to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others” (2Tim. 2:2). This is spiritual fatherhood. Ideally, our biological fathers should be our main spiritual father as well, but this is sadly far from the case. I feel called to father those who can father others. Once this “spirit of adoption” returns to the Church, it will manifest itself in physical adoptions, which are quite rare among Russians (hence the Westerners take them). In the mean time, I will work with orphan ministries to teach the staff how to have this kind of father’s (Father’s) heart towards the kids.