Stone Soup

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There are thousands of them living in our children’s homes in 9 countries across the globe. And thousands more have already graduated and gone on to live their lives as young adults.

They were born into poverty. They were born into neglect and abuse. They were born into community and country cultures that were and are, quite often void of critical morals and values. Their odds of survival were 50/50 at best. Their odds of becoming successful adults were less than 50/50 by far. Their odds of becoming anything more than a self-serving criminal were almost non-existent. All of that according to statistics.

But the equations and statistics are evolving…

Whether we like it or not, the world has become a place in which our respective success or failure in life has been boiled down to be represented by equations and resulting statistics that seek to define the outcome of our lives before we are even born.

Those equations and resulting statistics use to say that if we are born into poverty and live in poverty, we were twice as likely to commit property crimes and violent crimes. As young adults, ages 16-24, if we lived in poverty, 1/3 of us would commit such crimes. In such poverty, our chances of living an average length of life was cut in half. Our chances of becoming successful was even less than that.

History has shown this to be true and the reasons are obvious. If a person is starving, their one and only goal is not to starve. If they are cold, they will do anything to find a warm place. If they are alone, they will seek companionship. These basic elements of survival are the one and only focus for those in abject poverty and they will do whatever is necessary to acquire those things without regard for law, morals or the rights of others. 

But new studies are showing something else as a modern component of the equation some are using to predict our odds of becoming anything more than a criminal.

They are referring to this new element as “inequality.”

When they looked at recent years and an apparent uptick in property and violent crimes, they realized that those participating in those crimes were not necessarily living in abject poverty, but had less than average. In other words, they weren’t starving. They had a place to live. They were being educated. But they didn’t have has much as their peers in terms of possession and perceived opportunity. 

Inequality. That’s what they are calling it.

The idea is that it’s not fair that one person has less than another. The person who has less feels slighted and less important. Because they have less, they feel like they are not as important or as worthy of honor as their peers who have more. They cannot foresee a future for themselves in which they could possibly be as successful as their peers.  Because of this, they become angry and strike out at those who have more, committing property crimes and crimes of violence against their peers.

But if the inequality factor in and of itself is the true source of the problem, then why is it that out of the thousands of orphan children we care for, not a single one of them has committed a single crime? Why have the lowest of the low dared to dream of becoming nurses and engineers? Doctors and lawyers? Bankers and business owners? Not just dared to dream, but are now realizing those dreams.

Certainly, they have less than most. Certainly, inequality exists in terms of physical possessions and volume of opportunity.

Perhaps it’s not how much they have had, but rather what they have had. What they were given and because of that, what they have done with it of their own accord.

Most of us remember the story of Stone Soup. 

There are various versions of it from various cultures, but the basic premise is the same. A traveler comes to a village with a big pot, fills it full of water and puts a stone in the bottom. When villagers come by, and ask what is in the pot, the traveler tells them it is stone soup and that it is actually quite delicious, but would be better if the village would be willing to add a little to it. Intrigued by the claims of the traveler, one by one the villagers add requested ingredients. First, it’s carrots, then some spice, then some potatoes. On it goes until the pot is filled to the brim with delicious soup. All starting from just a stone.

Then the entire village gets together and eats the soup, enjoying the fruits of their collective contributions and everybody has been blessed by what started as nothing.

The Stone Soup story is a very good analogy in regards to what has happened with Orphan’s Lifeline International over the last 19 years.

As the travelers, we came to you with an idea of how to help the orphans of our world, millions of whom suffer needlessly. The idea, like the stone, had no real value in and of itself; but we did our best to convince you to help us by adding just the right ingredients.

First, we asked you to just add enough to our “stone soup” to provide for their food, clothing, medical and shelter. Without these critical elements of survival, they would not survive, nor could they learn. You added those ingredients. Then we asked you to add enough to help them learn. If they couldn’t read, they couldn’t learn from God’s Word. You added those ingredients Then we asked you to help us give them God’s Word and you did.

Every ingredient has its importance and, in this soup, all of them are critical. But there is one ingredient that is truly what makes all of the others worth far more than they would be otherwise. God’s Word. 

If inequality exists as an element of the equation that predicts what we will do with our lives, then what truly creates an inequality in the lives of children around the world is whether they have God’s Word or not. Whether they are taught to be thankful for the blessings they receive each day. Whether they are taught to have the fruits of the spirits and that jealousy and envy are not among them. Whether they are taught that God is the source of all blessings and all that is good.

There has not been a single child, out of all of the thousands of orphans in our homes, that has turned to crime. Instead they have become young adults like Grace from Nantale Children’s home whose favorite scripture is Psalms 118:8 –“It is better to trust in God than to put confidence in man.” What a telling choice.

Grace, like every orphan child in every one of our homes, spends 2 hours every morning and 2 hours every evening in Bible study, prayer and worship. It is the foundation of every day of their young lives.

They know where their blessings come from. 

Just think, there are thousands of children around the world who are praying for YOU every morning when they wake. They pray for your well-being and that God will bless you. They know that it is His love that they see in your actions. That is what they know each and every day that they wake up in a warm bed. When they put on their clothes and meet to pray. When they eat good food before it’s time to go to school. When they are tucked in bed at night with a prayer. 

Some “inequality.”

It’s been years now since our “stone soup” was ready to eat, and thousands of orphan children, we the travelers, and you the villagers have all had our share of blessings from what started out as nothing. As the years have passed and we can all see the fruits of our labors in the lives of these young adults whose lives now reflect the love you shown them, one thing is certainly clear. 

Stone soup is delicious.