Child Abuse and Facebook

For the last several days, the following profile picture meme has been going around facebook:

change your facebook profile picture to a cartoon from your childhood! The goal is to not see a human face on facebook by Monday, December 6th. Join the fight against child abuse! Copy & paste this message to your status to invite all your friends to do the same. Lets Stop Child Abuse.

I personally find this “game” banal and ineffective.

The instructions say the goal is “to not see a human face til Monday.”   Wait?  who’s being abused –  cartoon characters or HUMAN children?  When I, and probably most of the people on Facebook, see one of the cartoon characters on someone’s profile, we don’t stop and think “oh poor child who’s getting beaten tonight…I’m thinking of you.”   We’re thinking, “HECK YES!  I LOVED Rainbow Bright as a kid!”

Ineffective.

There are those out there who believe in the power of prayer.  If you do, and you changed your picture, I’m curious…have you really prayed for these children?  I hope so…but I doubt that many have.  They’re still thinking about how much they loved the smurfs when they were 8.

The meme instructions also say, “Join in the fight against child abuse” and “Let’s stop child abuse.”  I understand that many people do not have the financial means to donate to charities that are fighting daily for abused and neglected children.  (Even though I have no doubt that most people are spending hundreds of dollars on their own children this Christmas but can’t afford to donate even $20 dollars to children who’s parents have neglected them during this joyful season).  But even if you truly haven’t budgeted to donate to child charities, or perhaps you’ve already donated to other worthwhile causes, just changing a picture does not fight against child abuse.  It’s trite and too simplistic.

A true fight begins with EDUCATING one another on the issue.

Share Statistics. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Service’s Child Welfare Information Gateway has a plethora of statistics.  You can search through them HERE.  Perhaps find a few statistics to post in your Facebook status throughout the next week.

Learn the Signs of Abuse. It’s not enough just to know the statistics.  You must be able to recognize symptoms of abuse and know how to intervene on a child’s behalf.  Helpguide.org gives detailed information on understanding child abuse, lists warning signs that point to abuse, and ways you can help save the abused child. You can go directly to this information by clicking HERE.

Once you’ve got down some of the statistics, facts, and intervention techniques, TAKE ACTION!  And you can do more than just donate money.  Prevent Child Abuse America has some great (and effective) suggestions for raising awareness of the issue, such as printing posters for your workplace bulletin board, or writing elected officials asking for more funding.  Check out more financial-free ideas by clicking HERE.

I understand that most people have good and honorable intentions when they participate in the “change your profile pic” game.  …

It’s just not enough.

Lines

Lines in America…

...for $60 toys and $200 game consoles

Lines in Haiti…

... to see a nurse after not having any medical care in months, possibly years.

Lines in America…

...for $10 coffee pots and $1000 tvs

Lines in Haiti…

...for half a peanut butter sandwich and a small cup of juice

Lines in America…

...for $300 computers and $170 mp3 players

Lines in Haiti…

...for one used piece of clothing that someone in America no longer wanted

Tents in America…

...to be the first in line for Awesome deals

Tents in Haiti…

...because this is where they live.

Teacher Talk

As a teacher, it’s easy to fall to the temptation of negativity and bad-talking students – harping on their low grades, big attitudes, and inappropriate behaviors.  We want to vent our frustrations about assignments turned in late, half-done, and scribbled in chicken scratch.

Their apathy irritates.

Their vocabulary stinks.

Their never-ending talking and laughing and farting noises and snide remarks dig into my brain like nails on chalkboard.

and, damnit, I want to SCREAM!!


But it doesn’t mean I should.

Nor do I really want to.  I don’t want to be one of those teachers who only sees the negative in her students and voices it to all the other teachers.  I don’t want to be the teacher who ends up bitter and unhappy with life, wishing she had chosen another profession.  I don’t want my students to look at me in fear or disgust as a sour-faced, cold and merciless old hag who enjoys giving big fat “F’s” on major grades.

If I aim to be a compassionate, caring, and sincere teacher, who embraces every one of my students (and all their idiosyncrasies) , then I must have integrity in my thoughts about them.  I mustn’t look at their failures and shortcomings, but instead view them through the lens of Christ, who sees them as his precious creation, unconditionally loved.  I must remember that God has a purpose for each of them, and God has a purpose for placing them in my classroom under my direction. And for those reasons alone, I need to speak of them in love…even in the midst of my frustrations.

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.  ~Philippians 4:8

A Must-See Video

I saw the following video on a blog that I follow (Aspire2) and had to share it.  It’s a must see…and then go hug your children and pray for those who never had a chance to enjoy this life God has blessed us with.

(for some reason, I can’t get it to embed…so to view video click HERE and then press play on the video.)

Pics: Orphanage at Tamazeau

I wrote about our orphanage experience in Haiti, but wasn’t able to post pictures.  (You can read the story by clicking HERE).    The pictures are now posted below.  Click the picture to get a larger view and more description.

You’ve heard of Mayberry…

Now you’re going to hear about Ganthier, the complete opposite of Mayberry.  In fact, if you can’t pronounce “Ganthier” just call it “Mayhem”.

It’s important to understand that not every ministry experience that a missionary participates in is all fun and games (just ask any full-time missionary…they’ve got all kinds of horror stories).  We don’t always leave an outreach site with smiles and positive, life-changing thoughts.  Some days can be downright frustrating, exhausting, and a temptation to pack up early and get the heck out of dodge.  Today was one of those type of days for me and most of our team.

The townspeople of Ganthier greeted us with outstretched arms as we parked the bus.  We still had a small 5 – 10 minute trek to the wood and tin church where we would set up our last clinic.  Several women and children helped carry our boxes and supplies, while the rest of the crowd gathered around and paraded down the road alongside us.

As the word spread of our arrival, the space in front of the church became packed with people wanting to visit the nurses.  As the lines grew, so did impatience, greed, and tempers.  Women flung small children around by their shirt collars, boys shoved each other around, and grown men screamed at anyone nearby.  Anytime any of us walked out of the church with some kind of equipment or supply in our hand (for example, gloves we used as balloons or the papers we used to take names for the clinic), we would be swarmed and pushed in upon.  Out of all the places we’ve been this week, these people were the most aggressive.  The worst was when the pastor of the church and some other men took tree branches and started beating the kids.  One man even took off his leather belt to whip small children who pressed in to get in to see the nurses.

Along with the aggression, there was conniving, disrespect, and lying at a level we had not seen in the previous cities.  Don’t get me wrong, there were definitely instances on the previous days of people lying to get more stuff or trying to sneak (aka steal) things, but they were never disrespectful or mean, nor was it occurring on a large scale.  But today, these people were downright mean and ugly…purposely ignoring our directions, blatantly mocking us, and at one point, throwing rocks onto the church we were in.  One group of 4 – 6 teenage boys kept preying upon the women of our group, encircling them, and even tried to get one of us to follow them away from the area.  However, we’ve got some wise ladies who refused to heed the hoodlums requests and would go and stand by our men for protection.

In our group time tonight, I asked who thought today was frustrating…12 out of 13 of us raised our hands.  In all honesty, it’s very difficult to see the positive in today because we were surrounded by such unGodly behaviors.  But, we KNOW that God was still glorified.  Besides helping medically and nutritionally (we fed them), every member of our team remained focused on the goal – to be the hands and feet of Jesus.  This like-minded purpose enabled us to encourage each other through the difficult moments and kept us persevering, even when we wanted to give up.

As we looked upon the ugliness of the people around us, God taught us a few things:

  • We do not fight against earthly enemies, but there is a spiritual battle going on all the time.  Sometimes that battle is more difficult and more apparent than other times.  Today was definitely a great spiritual battle.
  • God showed us our own ugliness…in our reactions, in our thoughts, in our attitudes, in our motivations.  We all sin and fall short of God’s glory.  We just sin in different ways.  Sometimes, though, we are just like them…angry, greedy, manipulative…
  • God loves them just as much as he loves us.  He does not show favoritism, but his gifts of grace, mercy, and salvation are free to all people who call upon him.  Because of that love He has for all of us, we, too, must love all.  Even when they respond in hate.
  • Even when all we see is Chaos, God is still working.   We may never know the results of our actions today.  Perhaps the young boy who asked Jeff about Jesus will grow into a strong, loving Christian leader who will one day guide his neighbors into a deeper relationship with God.   I don’t know…but I do know that God was still glorified today.

The Orphanage at Tamazo

I’ve visited at least a dozen or so orphanages throughout Europe, Mexico, and S. America.  The one we went to yesterday wins the award as the worst orphanage I’ve ever experienced.

Honestly, I don’t know what I was expecting –  maybe a simple concrete structure with dormitory style rooms, a large meeting room, small kitchen, etc – you know, a basic setup to take care of all the needs of children.  That would have been heaven for these kids.  Instead, they had one strip of a concrete shell divided into rooms, except the rooms had no doors, most had no roofs, and most of the walls were missing chunks of bricks.  If you ever visited old castle or monastery ruins, picture those…except surrounded by trash and green overgrowth, and inhabited by children ages 4 – 15.  No electricity.  No plumbing.  No kitchen (except for an outdoor fire pit with two bowls and a pot).

Right now there are 25 children sharing 2 tiny rooms.  Each room has 5 cots (the size of twin bed mattresses).  Small shirts and pants hang on a single line strung across the wall.  Clorox bleach bottles fill the spaces under the cots.  One room has a microwave stuffed full with papers, a plate, and a spoon.  But the children are proud of their space.  As I walked into the rooms, they would run in with me, smiling ear-to-ear and eager to show me the few things they do possess…a toy made from string and bottle top, a pair of craft Styrofoam glasses made with the last mission group to visit, their dogs that roam about the grounds and sometimes get “trapped” in their rooms (kids are still kids…bringing home strays 🙂

Next to the bedrooms are two rooms that serve as classrooms during the school year.  Thin, cheap chalkboards lean against the gray walls.  A few wooden chairs sit scattered in the corners.  One room has 2 desks. It’s hard to believe this placed is used as a school.  There’s nothing there.   And the worst part…this is the only school for many many miles.  For some of the people in the mountains, the children travel 6 hours to come to this school.  In Haiti, there is no free education.  All schools, even the government schools, require families to pay for the children to attend…sometimes up to $2,000 U.S. Dollars per year.  I’m not sure how much this “school” charges, but people pay.  Not only do many of the schoolchildren just attend the school, they live there as well.  When school’s in session, there can be up to 150 – 200 children staying on the “orphanage” grounds.  10 cots will not sleep 150 kids…so they sleep wherever they lay down.

The orphanage is located in one of the mountain regions, on the outskirts of a small village, which also has no running water and sparse electricity.  Although a water well has been built in the town, the land owners on which the well is located, charges villagers to buy the water.  The main water sources are the streams that run from the mountains.  They dig irrigation tunnels to help stream the water.  On our drive in we witnessed a variety of activity at these streams…a group of women bathing, children gathering water for their families, a few families washing clothes, and the animals getting something to drink.  For the orphans, these streams are off-limits.  For whatever reason, the villagers refuse to let the children gather water from these streams, so they must walk 45 minutes into the mountains to get water.  Remember the clorox bottles under the beds?  They serve 2 purposes…when empty, they’re used to carry water.  The remaining bleach is used to treat the water they bring back to make it drinkable.

This place is basically child exploitation and slavery.  The Owners have received thousands upon thousands of dollars in donations (not including the school tuition money) to improve the condition of the orphanage.  Even GCOM sent a couple of thousand of dollars and new shoes just a few weeks ago.  The new shoes were nowhere on the grounds, the children wore old shoes or flipflops.  As for the money… no one knows…but the director took a vacation to America with her husband this week…(not accusing her of stealing the money or the donations…but where is everything that’s been given?  And why are the kids still suffering in horrid conditions when the owners are traveling abroad and building/expanding a lavish house?)

Once over the initial shock and horror at the orphanage conditions, we set up the clinic and treated all the orphans plus over 175 village men, women, and children.  We also were able to feed them and pass out donations of clothes, baby products, and toiletries.  Despite the conditions, I personally thought this was the best day of ministry…but, I have a special reason…

One of the best activities you can do with children on a mission trip or outreach is to make “Salvation Bracelets”.  These simple-to-make bracelets use colored beads to tell the salvation message.  I set up the director’s office as a craft room and held mini-classes for about 6 children at a time.  We talked about the different colored beads and about Jesus.  I asked questions and then answered their questions.  I was so blessed to hear the children’s knowledge of Jesus.  Most of them were already Christians, but not all.  After the class was over, I pulled aside the ones who admitted they were not Christians, and had the opportunity to speak more personally about Jesus with them.  In the end, 2 boys chose to accept Christ as their Savior and Lord!  I asked lots of questions to make sure they understood what they were doing and why.  I told them that this had to be their decision, and if they weren’t ready, they didn’t have to pray….but they thought about it and said that this is what they wanted!

One boy, Bobo (age 11), touched me deeply.  His parents practice Voodoo.  He remembers attending a local Christian church when he was little, but they never go now and his parents don’t talk about Jesus.  As we talked about his family and how they might react if he becomes a Christian, I could see by his facial expressions that he was truly thinking about what he wanted to do.  When I asked him, “Are you sure you want to do this now?” He looked me straight in the eyes and said, “Yes.  I want to ask Jesus into my heart.”  After we prayed, we talked about how it may not be easy for him, but he needs to try to learn as much as he can about Jesus…read the Bible, pray, talk with his christian friends about God, and go to church when he can.  Once again, he turned his big eyes towards mine and asked, “Can you please pray that I can get some church clothes?  I want to go to church, but I don’t have any clothes nice enough for church?”  As sad as that request was, I rejoiced.  It showed me the heart of a young boy who truly has a new heart to serve and grow in his relationship with God.

As with all the days, we all have heartbreaking stories from this experience.  But through it all, we rejoice because God IS working there…He is revealing himself to these children and they have a strong faith in Him.  It’s that faith, when they grow out of their childlike innocence into an adult realization of how horrible their earthly circumstances are, that will sustain them.

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