Are We Building Walls or Bridges?

I have a confession.  I almost applied for a job as a Child Protection Specialist for the State.  I am coming to a point in my life where I am considering full-time employment and this job description was challenging, nearby, paid well, and required (almost) every degree that I have.  But as I read it again, I couldn’t get past the sentence that required me to remove a child from their home.  Despite those circumstances that legitimately call for this, the image of having a child in my hand who desperately wanted to be with his mom, yet I was pulling him away, visually formed a wall of judgment and separation between me and “the other” that I have spent the past several years breaking down.

You see, I have spent the last several years volunteering and working for Safe Families for Children.  While it has been hard and messy, it has changed my life.  I have also spent the last several years going on short-term missions trips (STMTs) and recently had the opportunity to lead a team in Uganda.

In preparing for this trip, I spent some time researching how to avoid doing it wrong.  The rescue mentality, using these trips as an excuse to see the world, attempting to change people, and doing for verses being with have brought a bad reputation to what missions trips should be.  They are not to bring treasures to others, nor to take them home.
“They are to help discover treasures that are present among the people with whom we serve” (Dearborn, 2003).
They are to learn the culture of the ones we are visiting.  
They are to spend time loving the people that we are with.  
They are to support the ones who are there for the long haul and then integrate this experience with how we live our lives back home. (Corbett & Fikkert, 2014)

Why am I discussing STMTs and Safe Families?  Because I am now seeing that Safe Families IS a
short term missions trip in the home.  It is a bridge to love, learn, and support those with whom we would not normally rub shoulders with.  While the job with the state seemingly formed a wall of judgment and separation, Safe Families builds a bridge between two families who never would have crossed paths before.  A bridge of grace.  And while this placing family was originally the “family in crisis”, the lines soon become blurred as to which family is actually benefitting from the experience - the host family or the placing family.

Just like STMTs, Safe Families is not about doing for, but being with others.  It is not about rescuing another family or child, but rather discovering treasures in them and ourselves through sharing our lives and being there to support each other and learn from each other for the long haul.  Whether I have a child in my home or not, I can choose each day to walk with others and seek to build a bridge rather than a wall by how I am seeing.  Learning to "be with" is a wonderful school to be in.  I'm not sure I ever will graduate.