We, the church, the body of Christ, are failing. Miserably.
Did you know that the Bible speaks specifically about orphans? It goes above and beyond general platitudes about taking care of the poor and loving your neighbor. The book of James says that God our Father views "pure and faultless religion" as taking care of orphans and widows. Deuteronomy says that God defends the fatherless. The same book also instructs the Israelites to make provisions for people in need; orphans (the fatherless) are called out by name. Instructions to care for orphans are also given in Exodus. Job refers to caring for orphans while he is telling God about how he has been a righteous man. Proverbs tells us not to take advantage of the fatherless. The Psalms mention God's provision and love for orphans in a song about God's perfect justice. The Psalms also tell us how God "sustains" the fatherless and hears their cries. Beyond that, we know that children are precious to God. Jesus spends time with kids and tells the disciples that their faith must be like that of children. The Psalms claim children as being a reward to His people.
Scripture calls us to do a lot of things. Some things are hard- like loving your enemies and casting your anxiety on God. You'd think we'd have an easier time with actual, tangible tasks, rather than concepts. Orphan care falls under that category, doesn't it? Helping the orphans, caring for the fatherless? Yet what are we doing to accomplish that? There are over 143 million orphans in the world (compared to an estimated 2 billion Christians.) How many are we welcoming into our homes? How many adoptive families are we supporting financially- these people who have stood up and said "I will help these children. I will welcome them into my family." They are taking on a really difficult, life-changing task. How many times do we see an adoption fundraiser and pass it by? How are we helping children in foster care? There are thousands of kids who don't even need the commitment of a permanent home (though there are also thousands that do.) I know adoption is a huge commitment. But what about foster care?
So you can't see yourself opening your home to a stranger like that. Ok. It's understandable. What about mentoring? Kids in the foster care system need mentors. They're used to living in group homes and other situations where they don't get that much personal, one on one attention. Could you be a mentor?
If you don't feel comfortable interacting with kids in person, what about supporting an orphanage financially? Collecting contributions. Buying diapers and formula and medicine for these places that go through it like crazy.
If we as Christians were living up to God's expectations of us, there wouldn't be any orphans in the world. We would be trying harder. We'd be opening our homes and hearts. Or even our wallets. We'd be trying harder to support those who are doing what we think is impossible for ourselves by adopting. We'd look for ways to help parents keep their children, to avoid creating more orphans in the first place. We'd be making an effort to help organizations that offer prenatal care to keep mom's healthy; organizations that encourage and help fathers to step up and take care of their children when mothers can't. We'd do everything we could to ensure that every child without a mom or a dad (or who can't stay with their parents) knew that they are loved and cared for, even if they can't live with us.
I read in the news recently that a young man in the foster care system recently made a presentation to a church in his community. He was begging for a parent. Didn't have to be a married couple. Didn't have to have the same skin color as him. He just wants a mom or a dad. Just wants a parent. Just wants a home. Fifteen years old and he is begging his community to take him in. He promised he'd be good. Promised he'd try hard in school. We live in the wealthiest nation on earth, with the most expendable income and the most resources and the biggest houses and the most room, and this boy, who had been available for adoption for quite some time, was begging.
Church, we have failed.
There are some communities that are doing better than others. A while back I read that a famous pastor/author really stepped up his efforts to get this message across to his congregation. Parenting classes offered by the state were held in his church. After a while, there were no kids left in the area who needed to be placed with families. It's doable. We can do this. If you think you can't adopt a child, first of all I would encourage you to at least pray about it. There are a lot of myths surrounding adoption and there are a lot of options out there. I am blessed to be surrounded by families who have grown through adoption. My mom is adopted. I have friends who have done private adoptions of infants whose biological parents were unable to raise them- they have been involved in their children's lives since before they were born, and have held them since day one. I have friends who have waited painfully long times to adopt from overseas. Friends who have brought home babies from Ethiopia and a 5 year old from Haiti. Friends who have gone into the adoption process willing to bring home a special needs child. Friends whose adopted children are perfectly sound and healthy in every way imaginable. Friends whose adopted children have had struggles after getting a clean bill of health and coming home. Friends who have adopted from the foster care system. Single parents. Families of five. Interracial adoptions. Adoptions where, as a complete fluke, the child ends up looking like a little carbon copy of her mom. I plan on being in that group of parents someday soon. But maybe that's not for you. Maybe you can't see yourself ever identifying with any of those people. Will you please look into other ways you can help orphans? Check out your local foster care system and see if there's a way you can volunteer your time or money. Christmas is an especially good time for that, as many of these kids have been able to make "wish lists" for angel tree type projects. Pray for the babies and children in photolistings on websites like Reece's Rainbow and Adoptuskids. Ask your church if there are any families they know of who are currently adopting- then find out how you can help.
And you can't read my blog for very long without learning that I am passionate about helping kids around the world. One of my favorite ways to do so is through child sponsorship. Did you know that you can specifically request or search for children who are orphans that are waiting for sponsors? Maybe you would like to help an individual child but aren't ready or able to do that in person. Sponsorship may be right for you. Below are some kids who are currently waiting for sponsors that have lost one or both parents. In some cases, one parent may have passed away while the other is unwilling or unable to care for them. They end up in orphanages, group homes, or living with relatives. Please, please pray for the fatherless in the world. Ask God how He wants you to be helping them. Not "if", "HOW." Because I promise that He wants you to. I read it in a book.
Mulugeta is 8 years old. He lives in Ethiopia with his grandmother.
Stella is 17 years old. She lives in Tanzania with her aunt.
Fiona is 17 years old. She lives in Uganda with her uncle.
Ishimwe is 17 years old. He lives in Rwanda with his brother.