I hesitate a little to share today’s story because I don’t want to make anyone feel guilty about what they might have said before. Please know that I’m not calling you out in any way if you have ever said this, but that I’m only trying to inspire some further thought on poverty and orphan care.
One misconception a lot of people have is that impoverished children are incredibly happy. While it’s true that these children find joy apart from material possessions and American comforts, I think labeling African orphans with a broad label of “they’re always happy” can be damaging to relief work.
So I will be clear. Suffering children aren’t always happy. They’re malnourished; their stomachs ache from hunger and their bodies are physically weak. They have diarrhea from parasites caused by drinking unclean water. This makes them feel fatigued and nauseated. These children miss their parents—and that grief and trauma is very real. When you see a slum in a developing country, tragedy is there. Sorrow is there.
Truly, I don’t want to make anyone feel silly for having said that poor children are happy. There are many reasons to say this. The children’s happiness is not tied to material comforts, unlike many American children’s. I have seen so much more graciousness and thankfulness for small things among orphans than I have among American kids—they know what it is to go without, so many are thankful and joyful when they do receive. There is joy that extends beyond the lack of nice toys or a soft bed. Also, when you visit a school full of children receiving help, they still do experience hardship and grief, but they are flourishing. For the first time they’re able to live as children, and this is a wonderful reason for the joy that you see. And finally, when you meet children who love Jesus, his joy is in them—and that shines brighter than everything.
So there is joy among people who live in poverty. But there is also grief.
Please remember that if an orphan is malnourished and ill and without a family, they’re not always happy. They experience unimaginable pain. This is why your support matters—because when you sponsor a child, you are easing those burdens. You are providing hope to a child that is hurting.