Eight years ago believing it best for our Orphan's Care Center in South Africa, we decided to turn the center over to a board of wonderful South Africans, and return to the United States. Unexpectedly, years-long supporters turned into ardent critics.
Reasons for the decision were sound. As our Orphan's Care Center grew it was evident that South African resources were needed to secure assistance in dealing with the increasing numbers of orphans. In hand with this, was a need to increase staff and expertise to meet the ever increasing demands.
Now, while money was plentiful from donors in the United States for the actual construction of the facilities, funds dried up all most entirely for staff training, development, and salaries. Some very gracious donors from other countries stepped up to the plate. Soon I realized what was best, and in accordance with South African laws, the Head of this NPO, Not for Profit Organization, would indeed need to be South African. As we reconstructed the board, a very capable South African took over the reins. My twenty-two years had come to a successful end.
Returning to the States, the criticism we received from some of our supporters was crushing. I remember hearing the words by a person whose only exposure to Africa was a three week trip to visit us, "So, you're a quitter now?" Another supporter informed me that he felt betrayed. Their contribution towards our Orphan's Care Center was $75.00 per month. It was if I'd burned my bridges with my supporters over doing what was actually best for the organization.
As of the most recent reports received from South Africa, fifty-two staff are employed at our Orphan Care Center most of which are doctors and medical staff. Hundreds of people are being treated for HIV-AIDS, and hundreds of workers are being trained to care for thousands of orphan children. And, some great research is being done to combat HIV-AIDS at the Qhakaza Mbokoda Research Clinic which also resides at the facility!
More importantly perhaps, is the hundreds of Care-Givers that are trained to take care of thousands of orphans in the Northern Natal area of South Africa. Literally, thousands of children see hope because of this center. And, what is the key to all of this? The Orphans Care Center is led by African leaders, paid for with African money, and owned by African people.
Clearly, stepping aside as director in favor of a South African team proved best. I am very glad I did not listen to the critics. Even though our decision was not celebrated by many of our supporters, I celebrate it today as the most effective and efficient decision made.
Sometimes with leadership comes the inevitability of leading from the middle of an arena surrounded by spectators in the stands; many of which judge your every move. Criticism is part of leadership. What secures a leader is the knowledge and conviction that what that leader does is right and best for everyone concerned.
In the end, right decisions are based on truth. Good leaders make their decisions based on truth. Truth always prevails.
One of my principles is, "Life is too short to spend it standing in long lines." For that reason, I try to stay away from the big stores lending themselves to the Great Wall of China type lines. Yet, on one particular day I found myself in quite a lengthy "queue" as the Brits call it. Behind me no less than five people stood in painful impatience. In front, was a woman loaded with her cart of goods and no less than five children. Four of those children were under five years of age. Perusing other isles for an opportunity of expediency, quickly I realized none existed. Here we all stood whether we liked it or not.
As the cashier rung up the woman's items, suddenly her propensity for speed and efficiency abruptly derailed as a host of items qualifying for payment by WIC coupons needed special attention. WIC is a federal assistance program of the Food and Nutrition Service of the USDA for healthcare and nutrition of low-income pregnant women, breastfeeding women, and infants and children under the age of five. As the cashier scrutinized each item matching it with the appropriate coupon, those behind me began to verbalize their restlessness mumbling under their breath.
The red headed women in front of me with all the kids did not waiver nor did she show any emotion to the deep exhaling gawking heads in the line. As the process labored on, the fellow directly behind me began mumbling, "I bet she doesn't even know who all their fathers are . . . &%$@@#*&&." Biting my tongue hoping those words might be his last, with raised voice a new barrage of lunatic cranial feces spewed out from his mouth. "Hey lady, do you even know who these kids' fathers are?"
Since two of the children were black, one special needs, and the other white, I'm sure in his keen observational mind he thought perhaps some deep truth existed. Yet, the red headed woman who so patiently took care of all those well behaved kids, and worked with a handful of organized WIC coupons carefully matching each coupon in sync with each qualifying item, expedited the matter as she quietly carried on with her tasks. At that point, the carbon air-breathing unit behind me uttered another cruelly insensitive accusation suggesting that perhaps this woman employed herself in some extracurricular nighttime activity producing so many different varieties of offspring.
In those few short minutes as I began to turn and confront this X chromosome, the oldest little girl of about seven years old looked at me puzzled and confused asking, "Papa, what is that man talking about?" The question itself totally uncovered the man's ignorance, cruelness, and insecurity. As this "papa" got ready to verbally confront the man, my daughter-in-law said assuredly, "Dad, just leave it alone. Obviously, the man has never heard of foster parenting." His ignorance served up a huge helping of shame and embarrassment upon himself.
You see, I agreed to go to Walmart that day to help my son's wife with the children. Two of those wonderful children are my grandchildren! The third little boy is my adopted special needs grandson, and the two little black children are foster kids. My son and his wife have now cared for close to a dozen special needs foster infants over the past six years.
A blister is a small to large bubble on the skin filled with puss, fluid, or serum caused by friction, burning, or other damage. That day blistered me, my daughter-in-law, and impacted my oldest granddaughter as a man in complete ignorance leveled inhumane charges against a mother who is a pediatric nurse and foster parent caring for five children. My wounds and anger over what I termed a "verbal crime" blistered me and took quite some time to recede. But, this wonderful lady my son married cautiously corrects me, "Dad, it's not the first time this happened and it will not be the last. You can't engage in people's ignorance and stupidity." She is correct.
I thought of Jesus' words when he said, "Better a millstone tied about one's neck and cast into the deepest sea than to offend one of these little ones." Those words give me some comfort, but I can’t help feel sorry for the man, and his unmet needs that cause him to be so hatefully unkind.
Jesus taught us to forgive those who trespass against us. Surely, this man trespassed upon our emotional premises that day. His ignorance caused great blisters in our lives. Those blisters challenge us to be just as understanding as my daughter-in-law was that day and as innocently inquisitive as my granddaughter too, and more importantly to be as loving as Jesus who said, “Father forgive them they know not what they do.”
By Don Mingo
Just My Thoughts Blog