With limited time and fading light, you might think that a photographer’s priority is to push through and get great photos. But for Adelyn Boling on our last trip to Zambia, it was not enough just to capture the images. She took time to treasure these children showing glimpses of themselves that they had never seen.
And isn’t this what Jesus does?
While the disciples brushed away the children, Jesus welcomed them.
“Let the little children come to me,
and do not hinder them.”
But Jesus didn’t stop with welcoming them. He treasured them.
“(F)or to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.
He treasured them instilling into them value, worth, and dignity.
And that’s what we are doing with RiverCross. As Sanderson Sianjina, our community coordinator in Lusaka, Zambia, says,
“Because Jesus treasures children, we treasure children. How could we do otherwise?”
How do we do this? With RiverCross, how do we treasure children?
- We respect their dignity
This impacts the images we share and the stories we tell. While we won’t shy away from the brutal realities that these children face, we will do so through a lens of hope. And we will always change details to protect the identity of the children. While there is value of sharing the true stories of real children, we realize that we are walking a razor’s edge. Respecting their dignity will always trump reaching for dollars.
- We value their connections
Swooping in for a week, or even a month of direct ministry with the children can be more harmful than helpful. Orphan tourism is a thing, and we want nothing to do with it. We value the connections the children already have with family, caregivers, and other significant adults in their lives. Because we value their connections, we’re not going to elevate our feel-good moments. We may play with the children, but we do so respecting that the people who are on-the-ground with them day-by-day, month-by-month, year-by-year, are truly the ones who make a difference in their lives. We value their connections.
- We celebrate childhood
For many of these children, their childhood has been obliterated. They have had to grow up way too fast, and experience tragedy that most cannot imagine. We work to restore their childhood to them. We do this by equipping the adults in their lives in the basics of therapeutic play using the arts, games, make-believe to help restore what has been lost. And, when we have the opportunity, we play with kids, but only alongside their caregivers. We celebrate childhood.
- We validate their worth
In Holding Esther, Sarah says to her sister, “Being abused is who I am.” She has been used, abused, exploited. And while her sister celebrates her rescue, Sarah labels herself as deserving of the abuse. It’s like the trauma that she has experienced has seeped into her heart, her soul, and has become her identity. We equip caregivers to help children see that what has been done to them, and even what they have done, doesn’t define them. Jesus defines them. And he says they are fearfully and wonderfully made. We validate their worth.
- We view them with vision
When Jesus welcomed the children, he saw “kingdom” in them, and we do too. Because of what they have experienced, they are often viewed as throw-away, damaged, even beyond redemption. But we see them as daughters and sons of the King. We believe that Jesus redeems the captive, brings beauty from ashes, and exchanges a wreath of mourning for a crown of joy. We know that God has created these children for good purposes. And through them communities, cultures, and countries can be changed. Though the heart-healing may take a long time, it’s worth it. Because the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.
While it may be a simple thing to take a moment to show a child an image of himself in the viewer of the camera, it speaks of the deeper work we are doing. We are treasuring children.
Because Jesus treasures children, we treasure children. How could we do otherwise?