“We are actually planning on a return visit to our orphanage at the same time that you will be in Ethiopia,” they wrote back to me.
I asked them if they were able to go, or better yet, send a Kenyan brother to go and visit Joel, to see if this was truly a legitimate need. In an exchange of correspondence with my Californian friends, who had already spent many years in Kenya, I learned that the type of letter that I had received from Joel in response to my blog site was not uncommon.
They told me that these letters were commonly sent to church websites, trying to elicit money from the churches, even though there is not actual orphanage. “Briefcase Orphanages,” they are called. The people may have certain papers and permits to show that they are operating an orphanage, but there is no building and there are no orphans. There is only a man with a briefcase receiving money from American churches.
I actually wrote these concerns in the blog I was posting at the time. The same blog that I knew that Pastor Joel would most likely also see. These blog post can be seen on this blog page in a series that I entitled, “To Ethiopia I Go.”
I learned from our friends that the type of letter that I received from this man in Kenya is not unique, and sometimes they setups for a scam. These scams are directed at pastors and churches by people who hope that someone will send them money, even though none of what they say about their orphanages is correct. Like a trout fisherman floating an artificial fly just above the eyes of a likely trout in a stream, they are hoping the pastor or the church will take a bite.
Pastors and churches in the United States and other wealthy countries are often easy targets, because if we are true to the teachings of Jesus, we try and do good for people in need. After all, the Apostle John puts forth the question that if someone possesses the world, yet closes his heart against someone in need, how can the love of God abide in that person?
But the love of Christ does not require us to be gullible, which is why Jesus also instructed his disciples to be “shrewd as serpents,” as well as “innocent as doves.”