A Journey Into Orphan Work
By ANNIE WESCHE
A Brief Recap
In the first installment of this article, I shared how the Lord awakened my heart to the plight of vulnerable children worldwide and began my journey into orphan work. He gently opened my young, 12-year-old eyes to behold the devastating realities of children who had been orphaned, abandoned, and abused. And as the horrors and heartbreak came into clearer view, it ignited a deep longing within me to somehow, in some way, be spent for the rescue, love, and care of these little ones.
As I grew up and matured in the Lord, He continued to cultivate this passion through various opportunities, information, and connections with others involved in such work. And eventually, He opened the door for me to travel to China and spend a brief time in an orphanage there. That small, real-world introduction to orphan work was a tremendous walk of faith for my very timid self. But with that first step into the dream of my heart, God not only grew my longing to love and serve these children, but He greatly grew my trust in Him for all that such work would require.
When I returned from that trip to China, it was many years before I would take any active role again in serving orphans. And at times, I felt such a desperate longing to go and do, yet had no clarity or peace about where I should begin. This led me into one of the most significant and precious seasons of fervent prayer — and in that intimate time of wrestling with the Lord, some of the richest heart-preparation truly began to unfold.
A Perfect Assignment
By my early twenties I had become settled in Colorado working for Eric and Leslie Ludy and their growing ministry. I had an abundance of work to pour myself into and had also rediscovered my love for photography as I handled their family photo shoots and candid snapshots of their kids.
As thoughts of orphan work remained continually in the back of my mind and my photography began to develop, I longed to combine these two heart-passions — using my love for photography to somehow serve the needs of orphans. I had no idea how to pursue things practically, but a seed was planted.
As the longing for a hands-on opportunity in orphan care intensified, I wrestled with discouragement over how unlikely it seemed that anything could happen at that time in my life. Due to my ministry responsibilities, there was no way that I could leave for more than a week or two at most. I had no extra resources for trip expenses, should an opportunity arise. And I had no real leads or contacts.
So one evening, I took again to my knees and asked God for three very specific things. I prayed that He would open a door for a short trip focused on orphan care, that I could use my photography to serve these children in some way, and that the trip expenses would be fully paid. Night after night, I set these three desires before the Lord, unsure of what He would do, but offering up the longings in my heart to the One able to fulfill them.
It was just a few weeks later when Eric and Leslie shared that they’d had an unusual request surface that involved me. An adoption agency had contacted them to ask who had supplied their family photography on our ministry website and if that person would be interested in joining them on an upcoming short trip to Haiti in order to photograph the agency’s waiting children. And while they didn’t have the resources to pay me, they would gladly cover all of my expenses.
I was over-the-moon in awe. God had so quickly orchestrated the perfect assignment, answering each specific prayer! And every hindrance had been cleared by the hand of the Lord.
I went on that trip to Haiti, and it was both challenging and glorious. I snapped photos from dawn to dusk of children waiting to be matched with families, and took new photos of those whose adoptive families were awaiting their homecoming. And with the setting of the sun, I cradled sick babies in my arms into the late hours of the night. Every day my heart so full. Every day teaching me more about the heart of my Heavenly Father. While not without hard things or immensely stretching moments, that trip was a dream fulfilled and the realization of countless prayers answered.
And God had done it.
A Heart Made Ready
In the following years God provided additional trips to Haiti — each one a short trip that perfectly fit with my responsibilities at work and home. And with every trip, I learned more of God’s enabling grace and grew more in love with the children He had allowed me these pockets of time to love and serve.
But at the end of my fourth trip to Haiti, God did something new within my heart.
You see, I was so thankful for the trips that God had given and it was unquestioningly God’s grace that gave me the courage to step out in faith with each new opportunity. But I was still acutely aware of the challenges of third-world living. The culture was so drastically different from my “comfort zone” at home. “I love to visit, but I couldn’t live here” was the private declaration in my heart.
For a short time, I could endure the constant sweating in sweltering heat, power outages, endless bug bites, cockroaches in the cold showers, noise from the streets at all hours, and seeing the heartbreaking realities of extreme poverty every time we walked the streets. It was all part of the experience and unquestioningly worth it to be spent even in small measure for the precious children I was there for. I could toughen up and walk it out, clinging to God’s grace for the short duration of my trip. But the idea of living there? Uh-uh. No, sorry, this girl’s just not made for that. I loved my trips to Haiti. But I was always very ready to come home at the end of the two weeks.
That was, until God made His move. I didn’t know His strategy or recognize His preparatory grace at the time, but I was undeniably aware that God had changed something in my heart. While walking through the local village on the last day of my trip, I felt a deep ache at the thought of leaving. I was no longer afraid walking the dirt roads, and as I took in the final moments of my trip, I felt a resounding love for the people and a desire to remain there among them.
What I would have once thought impossible, now beat loudly within my heart — I feel at home here and I don’t want to leave!
On the flight home to Colorado, with this new ache for Haiti stirring within my heart and tears slowly rolling down my cheeks, I prayed. God, I’m going home out of obedience. I’ve made commitments there and have responsibilities to fulfill. Yet I know that You’ve done this work in my heart. So I trust You to fulfill it … whatever that means, whatever that looks like, I give this new longing over to You.
A Grand Adventure of Faith
Returning home, I wasn’t sure what God was going to do with this new desire. It made no sense to me, except that it was there and that only He could have done such a work in my heart.
A couple days after returning to Colorado, Eric and Leslie joyfully shared with me how God had orchestrated something very exciting for their family while I’d been away. They had been approached by an adoption agency to consider two newly orphaned babies in Haiti … and they had said yes to adopting them! As they told me the precious details and how their little ones were in need of urgent prayer over their unstable health, I heard these words within my heart as clearly as if they were audible, “You’ll be in Haiti with those babies.”
Instantly, I dismissed the thought as unrealistic, and figured it was merely the lingering longings of my heart for Haiti. I celebrated with Eric and Leslie and agreed to wholeheartedly join them in prayer for the adoption and the babies’ fragile health.
Over the next few days, however, I couldn’t get their little ones out of my mind, nor shake the strong desire to go and be with them in Haiti. Practically, it looked completely impossible. I had our ministry’s magazine to keep up with every two months and multiple design projects in the lineup with no additional designers to whom I could hand things off. But the desire pressed upon my heart until I purposefully paused to give it over to the Lord’s handling: Okay, Lord, if this is from You, I know that You can make a way. I don’t see how it can work, but I do desire to go, Lord. If this is of You, put it upon Eric and Leslie’s hearts to ask me to go.
Days later, Eric and Leslie asked to meet again. They shared how they had been praying the past few days about who could go down to Haiti to provide full-time care for their little ones. And though they admitted they didn’t know how it would work practically, each time they prayed, I had come to mind as the one who should go. They asked me if I would be willing to consider it.
My heart leapt within me! “Yes!! I don’t know how it will work either, but I had prayed that if this was God’s will, then He would have you ask me. And I knew my answer was yes if you should ask!”
All of us were in awe of God’s faithful leading! He began to light the way and provided for us that treasure of peace that “surpasses all understanding” and a great expectancy for what He would do.
When I had left Haiti with a new ache in my heart, unsure of God’s purpose for it, I could never have imagined that ten days later I’d be getting back on a plane — this time to move there and care for the Ludy’s two wee babes, Rees and Lily. I was in awe of God’s goodness, knowing that I would never have been ready for such a yes had He not first worked in my heart the needed preparation.
That adventure with Rees and Lily turned into 29 months of living in Haiti until God brought them home into the waiting arms of their family. It’s a story all its own for another time, but what stands out so beautifully is that each step of the journey, orchestrated and authored by the Lord, prepared me for what He was leading me into next. I could never have fathomed at 12 years old what God was planning to do. In fact, would I have been told of all that was to come, I would have shook my head in disbelief and loudly declared, “Oh, no, I’m not built for that!” But that is the joy of offering up our life into the hands of Almighty God — He is the Master Builder.
O Lord, You are my God; I will exalt You, I will give thanks to Your name; for You have worked wonders, plans formed long ago, with perfect faithfulness.
Isaiah 25:1 NASB
As I recount each of these chapters of my journey into orphan work, there shines the breathtaking wonder of God’s faithfulness. Undeniably, I’ve had many moments of struggle, impatience, uncertainty, fear, and tears. But I see so clearly the Father’s love and care in how He took me by the hand and led me faithfully through it all. The heartache He allowed. The desires, ideas, and hopes that He grew. The delays that were intentional. The agonizing waiting that was so purposeful. The seasons of prayer that He provided. The doors that He opened. The discomforts He allowed. The deep joy He gave. The enabling grace He supplied. All given so that I might grow in the knowledge of Him. That was the greatest need I had for the journey ahead — to truly know and trust in my God. Knowing Him throughout each season, experience, trial, or adventure has been the anchor of my soul … and He is the One who has held me fast.
What I have shared here with you has been my own unique testimony — the beginnings of a journey with the Lord that I pray is long from over. Your testimony, dear reader, will have its own beautiful scripting by the Lord of your life, if you will allow Him. And God writes the best stories! Whether you too have a passion within your heart to be poured out for orphans and vulnerable children, or there beats within you a longing and vision for some other purpose unto the Lord, know that He is eagerly waiting to receive the surrendered pen from your hand so that He might write His best story for you. Trust Him unreservedly. Pursue Him daily. Cry out to Him faithfully. Surrender your own way continually. Walk with Him unwaveringly. And take all your desires and lay them into the Hands that were pierced for you. There are no more worthy, faithful, mighty, or loving Hands to be found. And what He gives will be His best for you.