I watched a movie the other night called Hacksaw Ridge. Have you seen it?

It’s a Mel Gibson film about a conscientious objector named Desmond Doss who joined the US Army during World War II. Though he refused to carry a gun into battle, Private Doss ended up distinguishing himself during a particularly bloody battle on the island of Okinawa. It was April, 1945. The battlefield was located on top of a sheer 400-foot cliff and was a dangerous web of Japanese machine gun nests and booby traps.

After heavy loses and many men down, Doss’s platoon was ordered to retreat, but Doss refused to leave. In an act of super-human determination, he ran back into that hell again and again, dodging bullets and risking his life to drag seventy-five wounded men to safety. Each time he made it back successfully with another fallen soldier, he is said to have prayed: “Lord, please help me get one more.”

Hacksaw Ridge is a true story. For his bravery, President Eisenhower gave Doss the Congressional Medal of Honor. And why wouldn’t he? I don’t think anyone would deny that Desmond Doss was and is a hero. In fact, he’s the very definition of a hero, isn’t he? He put his life on the line to save others. It’s inspiring. We make movies about this kind of sacrifice. We admire these kinds of people. What’s not to celebrate?

But I had a thought today. I was sitting in the office, looking at the birthday list here at the Good Shepherd Agricultural Mission when I realized: There are around seventy-five children here. And like those wounded soldiers on Hacksaw Ridge, the Mission kids were all rescued in one way or another too. Many of them were literally dying when they arrived, starving, abused, discarded, damaged in both visible ways, and in ways we may never know.

The people that save children like this are my heroes.

Which is why I find the current movement to vilify all orphanages so insulting. I see it all over the web; on TED talks, in blogs, in HuffPost articles. J.K. Rowling’s Lumos Foundation is the biggest gun in the opposing army, so to speak. They lump all group care into the same rotten basket and celebrate family reunification above all else–as if some families are not deadly battlefields of their own.

When you see first-hand, as I have, the sacrifices that people are making for children the rest of the world has left behind for dead…we should be cheering for this kind of selflessness. We should be making movies about it. At the very least, we should not be condemning it.

And not to take anything away from what Private Doss did—but to me, orphan rescue work is even more amazing than battlefield heroics. It’s not a one-time act or an adrenaline rush of bravery. Taking in orphaned children is a rescue mission that has no end. It includes the critical early hours, the actual life-saving stuff, but then includes every hour after that…as well as the food, the clothing, the shelter, the education, the medical care, the encouragement, and the love that is needed to finish the job.

Sure not all orphan care providers deserve the Congressional Medal of Honor. Some are crooks, or opportunists that need to be stopped, using children like booby traps, hoping to capture the hearts of sympathetic donors. But for the ones who are doing it right, sacrificing every day, running back towards the enemy time and again to pull another broken heart to safety…let’s at least give them our respect, our support, our prayers, and our resources, whenever possible.

Better yet, let’s all be a part of the rescue team that calls out, like Desmond Doss, after each successful Mission:  “Lord, please let me help one more.” Because there are real kids out there, right now, and they’re looking for a hero. Maybe that’s you.

If so, I encourage you to get involved. If you don’t know what to do, write to me and I’ll give you some ideas. Either way, the path forward is clear.

Like so many courageous souls before us, we just need to gather our courage, take a deep breath, and run full speed onto the battlefield.

Note: No orphaned children were hurt in the shooting of these images. Nine-year-old Ram Pal plays Desmond Doss, with a cast of his nursery buddies all scrambling to pose, flop or at the very least, hold one of the air guns.

  • Anil Patrick
    Posted at 11:15h, 17 February

    Lovely John..

  • Kelsey Urness
    Posted at 14:16h, 17 February

    My favorite quote of Maya’s is, “We did the best we could. And when we knew better, we did better.” My husband Kenny and I adopted a boy from the foster care system at the age of 14 years old. We made all kinds of mistakes, but we tried really hard. We know what it’s like to be in the trenches. We are quite interested in coming to volunteer at the orphanage. And your little videos are to blame. I know joy when I see it. And I like to experience joy as often as I can. I had my husband sit down and watch every video you made of the children. And while I tried not to stare at him so that he didn’t have any pressure to react to certain Way, he had the same melty, misty eyed look on his face that I had. There is nothing better here on earth, than A happy child. Nothing more seductive to my heart than a happy child. Well done.

    • John Marshall
      Posted at 23:00h, 17 February

      Come on over, Kelsey. We’d love to see you both. Glad you and your melty misty-eyed husband enjoyed the videos. Happy children get me every time, too.

  • Natalie Graham
    Posted at 21:38h, 17 February

    Ram was the perfect leading man for your production, John! 😀

    I agree – there will always be the good, the bad, and the ugly in even the most altruistic of endeavors. However, that should certainly not diminish the efforts of the people who are called to be heroes for the causes that speak to their hearts. It is so disheartening to hear of yet another blanket generalization being made when the first and foremost concern should be, in this case, the welfare of the kiddos.

  • Sarvinder
    Posted at 19:58h, 18 February

    What fun!

  • Susan L Miller
    Posted at 19:20h, 19 February

    I did not realize there was a movement against orphanages. I read often of children trying to find their birth mothers, and often there’s a happy reunion. But just as often, I suspect, there is not, which must be the ultimate heart break. When I read your blogs about the children, I feel a sense of happiness, but also frustration that I simply am not in a position to do anything. All I do then is pray for everyone to find a place that provides love, shelter, and purpose to each life. Thank you for continuing to write about these children, and let us know that there is so much hope for them.
    Blessings and hugs, Susan

  • Barbara Wirth
    Posted at 06:30h, 20 February

    The work you do, through your words and actions, is beautiful. I love that you follow your heart in all that you do–great work with great love!
    You inspire me, my friend
    Barb xo

  • Bill Rapier
    Posted at 07:28h, 20 February

    You are a special hero for getting the word out to combat the naysayers. Thx for all the unreal love you pour out to “your” kids around the world!

  • Ana Katsuya
    Posted at 09:41h, 20 February

    Dear John,
    Thank you for sharing your thoughts through this beautiful post. Ram Pal is such a star!
    We will be there in June. Please let us know how we can help.