The sound of a crying baby woke me. “Who could be visiting so early in the morning?” I stumbled out of bed and walked into the living room to find my parents, our night watchman and a newborn baby tightly wrapped up in a blanket. An empty box lay on the floor. A note was pinned to the blanket. It had a date with one sentence – “Please find a family for my daughter.” This is one of my earliest childhood memories.
In the 1950’s, my parents moved to Asia to build churches, but the plight of vulnerable children living on the streets changed their mission. They purchased additional acreage and built group homes all around our house. In my family, being a Christian meant doing the work of a social worker. After graduating from high school, I moved to the United States to attend college so I could become a social worker. Imagine how surprised I was to discover social workers criticizing Christians and Christians criticizing social workers. This led me to carefully consider the “goodness of fit” between social work and Christianity. Did I believe that Christianity and social work were compatible or would I choose another vocation? How would I integrate my Christian faith and my professional social work practice? Could I reframe my thinking so I would no longer perceive disagreements as oppressive? Could I see them as dialogues of ethical challenges necessary for provision of best practice?
This year I celebrated my 30th year in the field of social work. For me, Christianity and social work continue to be a good fit. By God’s grace and the wisdom of others, I am able to integrate my theology and my social work. Through the years, I have freely engaged in dialogue about controversial issues. Problematic disagreements still exist; however, friendships have grown through discourses. Most individuals have come to realize that my Christian beliefs enhance my social work practice. Yet, struggles continue because there are no simple answers to ethical problems. As for my daily practice, I strive to:
Elevate services to others above my self-interest as I remember Matthew 25:35-40 and Luke 10:33-37.
Challenge social injustice by striving to follow Micah 6:8.
See each person as one made in the image of God (Genesis 1:27) and remember how important people are to God (Matthew 10:31).
Love my neighbor and my enemies (Luke 10:27, 6:27).
Behave in a trustworthy manner and develop professional expertise because I belong to God (Ephesians 1:4).
May we continue to engage in dialogue with others. May we remember to be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to anger (James 1:19). May we ask for wisdom (James 1:5). May we rejoice as God works through NACSW.
For your interest, especially the discussion questions for each chapter, check out Christianity & Social Work Instructor’s resources .
Karin P. is the Director of Education and Post Adoption Services for Dillon International and has been a member of NACSW since 2000.