Another Hero

Living here at the Good Shepherd Agricultural Mission, we get emails every week from random people asking for information on how to start an orphanage. Judging by the sheer number of these inquiries, starting an orphanage is a very common dream—which is encouraging. There are millions of desperate children in the world who need homes, and lots of people feel called to do something about it.

It certainly is a romantic notion that I fully understand. When I meet someone who has had the courage to trade the safety of his or her former life for a life of challenge and service on behalf of orphaned children…these people are my heroes. So I’m not surprised that this type of selflessness speaks to others who yearn to make a difference. Don’t we all want our lives to count for something? Don’t we all hunger for more than the emptiness of the earn/spend cycle that modern life has to offer? I know I do.

The thing is…starting an orphanage is not easy. In India for example, you can’t just move here and open one up. There are visa restrictions concerning how long you can stay in the county, and there are strict laws that protect children. Kids are not stray dogs you can legally pick up off the street. The police and local authorities need to be involved. And you need certain government registrations that are not possible for foreigners to get. And land is incredibly expensive. And the bureaucratic Indian system is designed to chew you up and grind you down like a tiger-elephant wrestling duo.

Still, I get the urge to start something.

Several years ago, I woke up in the middle of the night with an idea for how to save all the orphans of the world. It felt like a blast of inspiration and I wrote it all down right there in bed. The next day, I called a woman I’d been following online. Her name is Caroline Boudreaux and she started an organization called The Miracle Foundation. Based in Austin Texas, The Miracle Foundation finds poorly run orphanages in need of support, gets them to commit to a series of improvement standards, then finds funding for the operation to improve the lives of the children. With years of experience under her belt, I wanted to run my big idea by her.

After I finished with my “Here’s How I’m Going To Save The World” speech, Caroline said something practical that I’ve never forgotten. She said, “I can tell you’re passionate about this, but I’ve learned something over the years. Starting your own organization is great for your ego, but you’ll waste a lot of time and money that way. If you really want to make a difference, find someone who’s already doing the work you feel called to do and help them do more of it.”

At the time these words felt like a bit of a wet blanket, but in retrospect, it was good advice.

Today, we offer this same kind of suggestion to all those who write to the GSAM looking to start their own orphanages. Find someone who’s already doing good work and help them do more of it. Work with us if you like what we’re doing. Or pick a country that most calls to you and find a hero who’s already there. Or choose an organization closer to home, in your own state or town, and make your difference where you live. You don’t have to travel all the way around the world to serve children in need. They are, quite literally, everywhere.

That said, if you absolutely, 100% must start your own project…go do it. Or if you’re out in the world and trip over an urgent need that you simply cannot ignore…have at it. Maggie Doyne is doing this in Nepal. Katie Davis in Uganda. India Howell in Tanzania. Scott Neeson in Cambodia. The late Hanley Denning in Guatemala. The list goes on and on and beautifully on.

What you should not do is ignore the calling. Whether you help an existing project or start your own, the children of the world are waiting for another hero.

I hope that hero is you.

  • Marty Coulter
    Posted at 10:53h, 22 July

    Powerful and oh so true!, I love your heart and feel your passion and know how dearly you love “your kids” at the GSAM. I too have falling in love with them even from Tallahassee. God has certainly blessed you in this work and you are passing on that blessing to all of these children.

    • John Marshall
      Posted at 12:55h, 22 July

      And the blessings are simply returned with interest to me, Marty. Thanks for all your support, especially for Malika. That girl is a star. I’m so glad she has us both. Lots of love to you and your family. I will definitely plan to see you the next time I’m down in Florida. It’s been too long. Cheers from India.

  • Wayne Kerrison
    Posted at 18:06h, 22 July

    Very well said John. I have found that volunteering is also a great way to support, encourage and boost the work and the workers. I am so looking forward to my 6 weeks at GSAM in October, November. There’s nothing like participating on the ‘ground’, but don’t let your inability to go stop you from boosting the workers and the work. Sponsor a child, raise funds, support a project or develop a prayer list and a support-group. Any of these contributions will make a huge difference to the work and extend the legacy of people like Rick and Clifton and team.