Here are three words that I have been thinking about when it comes to the church and the global orphan crisis.
There are over 145 million orphans in the world today. That is 145 million children in dire need of care and family. 145 million opportunities to care for, provide for, shelter, feed, clothe, and adopt Jesus Himself according to Matthew 25 which says that what we do for the “least of these we do to Jesus.” In our own country there over 500,000 children in foster care. That is 500,000 opportunities for the church to provide Jesus with a family temporarily. Of those half a million, 129,000 are available for adoption. They are orphans living in our neighborhoods, in our cities. That is 129,000 opportunities to adopt Jesus – who may happens to be a 13 year old that has been bounced between 11 different foster homes in the last 10 years.
Not only do we have unprecedented opportunity to minister to Jesus in the orphans of the world but we have opportunity to make much of Jesus and bring glory to God through our love for them. Jesus said, “Let your light shine before men so that they will see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matt 5:16). Our care for orphans is part of the churches mission in this broken world as we put the gospel on display.
Everything changes when you are responsible for something. I think a large reason the church does not do more in the area of orphan care, adoption, and foster care is that we don’t believe we have a responsibility for these children. For some, the perceived distance between them and the orphan is a release from bearing responsibility. For others, it is simply not being aware or not taking the time to think about the orphan. We will never make significant impact if we don’t feel responsible to make a difference. It is natural for us to take care of our “own” children. In their case, there is no question about who is responsible. But, who is responsible for those children who have no parents to call them their “own.” Biblically, it is the church. God makes that clear in the scriptures (see Ex 22:22, Deut 24:17, Ps 10:18, Ps 82:3, Isa 1:17, James 1:27 for just a few). No other institution, organization, club, group, clique on earth has been given this responsibility. We bear it as God’s children and we must act on it. Not only that but the good news is that we don’t have to act on it alone and in our own power – the Gospel gives us power and strength that will sustain us in our efforts to care for others.
I introduced this post by calling what is happening in the world today a global “crisis.” Other words that I could have used are emergency or travesty. With any emergency there is naturally urgency to do something. We all experience this personally when our child breaks their arm, or worse, stops breathing. It is unquestionably an emergency to which we respond with the utmost urgency to do whatever it takes to help. Now imagine if you and your spouse passed away leaving your children orphaned. Imagine there were no other family members to take care of them or they were too poor to take care of them. What would you call that situation? Imagine if your neighbors and community just left your children to fend for themselves and your 7 year old was now responsible to raise your 5, 3, and 1 year old on their own. What would you call that situation? Imagine that they were put in different foster homes and imagine that they moved from those homes every 2-3 years. What would you call that situation?
Now add into that situation extreme poverty, AIDS, malaria, famine as is the reality for a majority of the orphans in the world today. What do we call this? How should we respond? Francis Chan challenged me on this very thing in a sermon not long ago when he said that we live as though if it doesn’t affect me personally it is not an “emergency.” Consider this –
Over 25,000 children die every day around the world. 1 child dies every 3.5 seconds.
The silent killers are poverty, hunger, easily preventable diseases and illnesses, and other related causes. This is an emergency of mass proportions. Yet, despite the scale of what is happening this rarely enters our conversations, small group discussions, and sermons.
Who will bear responsibility for the children of our cities and the nations? Let it be the church! Who will run with urgency and compassion to meet the needs of the orphans of our world who are in crisis? Let it be the church! Let it be the church gripped by the gospel, working together in community, on mission with Christ to bring His kingdom to earth, for the glory of God and the joy of orphans.