Orphan. An interesting word. The word alone seems to bring discomfort. This word conjures up images in our minds of children in far-off lands, alone in the world, hungry, lonely, scared, abused, neglected. Those images are accurate. We see these images and our hearts for compassion are once again stirred, and we are moved to ask the Lord what He wants us to do.
American orphans are also all around us. There are children here who represent the fatherless, the lonely and scared, abused and neglected. These children may not be as noticeable to us. Just the other day, a friend honestly shared some of her thoughts on adoption and meeting the needs of the fatherless around us. She admitted that when people speak of the need or that there is an orphan crisis, she thinks “Really? Where? I don’t see orphans. Maybe I see spiritual orphans. But true orphans, in need? I don’t see them.” I love her honesty, and I think that she speaks for many people. When we are not familiar with the needs and the sheer numbers of children in foster care or who are awaiting adoption, we can go on with life as is, missing the need. When we are not keenly aware of these needs, we assume all is well because someone else is taking care of the need.
Another friend and I were recently discussing the orphan ministry that she started at her church. She was asked by a leader to call it something that did not include the word orphan. The leader was uncomfortable with the word. She explained herself and the word was kept in their ministry title. Again, we look to replace this word with more comfortable words, such as adoption and foster care. These are all important words, some are just more palatable than others. And some words do not seem to carry the desperation of the need in the same way the word orphan does.
Let’s summarize some of the definitions of the word orphan, I have found that it can literally describe a child who has lost their parents through death or abandonment. Orphan may also describe a young animal that has been deserted or one who has lost its mother. Another definition describes one who is without protection or sponsorship. In scripture, we are reminded repeatedly to seek justice for the poor, the needy and the fatherless. And Jesus describes people in need in many different ways such as “the least of these.” I am sure orphan’s are also included in this group. Those in need. When we minister to them, we minister to Jesus.
Recently, at Summit VIII, the conference put on by Christian Alliance for Orphans, some statistics quoted left me thinking long and hard about the involvement of believers in the orphan crisis. I have been thinking of how effective we are as believers through prayer, ministry, finances, and especially as the body of Christ. We have the opportunity as Christians, to change the face of the next generation by being available to meet the needs of those in the American foster care system, and those who are available for adoption. Statistically, the need is great. The numbers indicate there are approximately 163 million orphans worldwide. And approximately 400,000 foster children in the American foster care system, including those needing to be adopted. There are over 400,000 churches in America. What?!? If one child was cared for by each church in America, we could wipe out the current need for foster care? That is a doable number! 400,000 suddenly does not seem so intimidating. I recognize more children will come to need care, and hopefully more people within the church will rise to the occasion – financially, physically, emotionally, spiritually.
I believe there are many great, Christian families in our communities who are available to donate, or open their home to help these children. I believe there are families who are spiritually and emotionally ready to open up their hearts and their homes. I believe there are many people ready to give financially and donate their resources to pave the way for some of these great families to come forward. I believe that God is more than able to use each one of us in creative and unique ways to meet the needs of children.
Let’s keep praying and seeking God together!
**this blog was written for HOPE INC, Inc. and posted at their website, http://www.hopeinchawaii.org