Dr. Jamie Jenkins: Using Good Judgment While Helping Others

There is a wrong way to the right thing. News headlines in the past few days have offered an example of this.

Ten Baptists from Idaho have been detained in Haiti after attempting to leave the country with 33 children without proper documentation. The authorities accuse them of child trafficking. One member of the church group said, "We were just trying to do the right thing (by rescuing the orphans)." The government of Haiti has charged the group with kidnapping.

The rescue mission's stated purpose was to "share God's love with these precious children, helping them heal and find new life in Christ." The group was acting independently, without guidance from the Southern Baptist Convention's North American Mission Board according to Mike Ebert, a spokesman for the board. He said, "It would be wrong to present them as up to anything other than trying to rescue these children. It was unfortunate the way that they jumped in but we have to trust that the safety of the children will be kept in mind."

"Laura Silsby, spokesperson for New Life Children's Refuge, said the group had received the children from a legitimate orphanage in Haiti and did not realize that additional paperwork was needed to take them out of the country. She said this was nothing more than an effort to save abandoned, traumatized children.

I don't know the details but I suspect that these were well intentioned people who simply wanted to help. Like many of us their hearts were touched by the suffering and devastation they saw. In an emotional response their hearts overruled their head. That is not always a bad thing. Sometimes we miss opportunities to help by spending too much time thinking things through. At the same time I understand the concern and caution exercised in this situation.

Haiti has long been a hub for sex trafficking or trafficking of children for domestic slavery. Even before the January 12 earthquake, it is estimated that thousands of children are taken from the slums and streets of the Haitian capital every year. But the quake has made the situation even worse. Now there are thousands of new orphans and thousands more children separated from their families.

It is an unspeakable tragedy that under any circumstances people would kidnap children and send them into domestic or sex slavery. But given the enormity of this natural disaster it is even more unbelievable.

The efforts of the folks from Idaho accent the dilemma in which all caring people find themselves. The outpouring of concern and the tremendous cash contributions are expressions of compassion. People want to help. Multitudes of people are standing ready and eager to go to Haiti to offer assistance as soon as the opportunity opens.

No doubt there are many children and others in Haiti needing help. But this is a time when good judgment needs to be exercised. You can learn how you can help the people of Haiti at www.ngumc.org. But the principle of doing the right thing the right way is true in all our efforts to serve and give. The end result should be to help others and to glorify God.

Jamie Jenkins

[Taken with permission from "Monday Morning in North Georgia," the enewsletter for the North Georgia Conference of the United Methodist Church.]