What Does the Bible Say About Orphans

The Bible is full of references to orphans, the fatherless, and adoption. God’s heart and passion for them is clear. Here are just a few references:

God Adopts

For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, ‘Abba, Father!’ (Romans 8:15)

So that he might redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. (Galatians 4:5)

He predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ. (Eph 1:5)

God Commands
Do not deprive the alien or the fatherless of justice, or take the cloak of the widow as a pledge. (Deuteronomy 24:17)

Learn to do right! Seek justice, encourage the oppressed. Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow. (Isaiah 1:17)

God Promises He Knows Them
For you created my inmost being, you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made . . . When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. (Psalm 139:13-15)

He Sees Them
But you, O God, do see trouble and grief; you consider it to take it in hand. The victim commits himself to you: you are the helper of the fatherless. (Psalm 10:14)

The LORD watches over the alien and sustains the fatherless and the widow, but he frustrates the ways of the wicked. (Psalm 10:14)

He Has Compassion on Them
A father of the fatherless and a judge and protector of the widows is God in His holy habitation. God places the solitary in families and gives the desolate a home in which to dwell. Ps. 68:5-6a.

He Defends Them
Do justice to the fatherless and the oppressed, so that man who is of the earth may strike terror no more. (Psalm 10:18)

A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling. (Psalm 68:5)

He Will Come to Them
I will not leave you as orphans. I will come to you. (John 14:18)

[HT: Bethlehem Baptist Church]

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Orphan Statistics

These are the most recent and reliable statistics on the global orphan situation.

  • The most recent estimate is that there are approximately 145 million orphans in the world (UNICEF 2008). For this number, an orphan is defined as a child who has lost one or both parents.
  • More than 15 million children have lost one or both parents to AIDS, over 11.6 million of whom live in sub-Saharan Africa.
  • In 2007 67.5 million Children in South Asia and East Asia had lost one or both parents due to all causes.
  • Included in the 2008 estimate of 145 million orphans are more than 92 million that have a surviving mother—-with whom they most likely live.
  • Another 38 million have a surviving father.
  • The UNICEF orphan numbers DON’T include abandonment (millions of children) as well as sold and/or trafficked children.
  • The UNICEF orphan numbers DON’T include many non-reporting nations (namely, Middle Eastern Islamic nations) where shame and divorce abandonment are rampant. 200,000 + orphans in Iraq, for instance, are not part of the count.
  • We are looking at a number quite higher than 15 million “double orphans.” Best guess is somewhere around 40 or 50 million.
  • According to data released in 2003 as many as eight million boys and girls around the world live in institutional care. Some studies have found that violence in residential institutions is six times higher than violence in foster care, and that children in group care are almost four times more likely to experience sexual abuse than children in family based care.
  • As of 2002 in Europe and Central Asia, over one million children lived in residential institutions.
  • Worldwide an estimated 300 million children are subjected to violence, exploitation and abuse, including the worst forms of child labour in communities, schools and institutions, during armed conflict, and harmful practices such as female genital mutilation/cutting and child marriage.
  • In the US there are approximately 500,000 children in foster care (Based on data submitted by states as of January 16, 2008)
  • 130,000 of those children in foster care are waiting and available for adoption. Children waiting to be adopted include children with a goal of adoption and/or whose parental rights have been terminated. Children whose parental rights have been terminated, who are 16 years old and older, and who have a goal of emancipation are excluded from the “waiting” population. An individual child is included in the count for each year that he or she has these characteristics on the last day of the year.
  • Approximately 51,000 children are adopted from the foster system each year.
  • That leaves 79,000 children annually in the US needing an adoptive family.
  • Each year, an estimated 20,000 young people “age out” of the U.S. foster care system. Many are only 18 years old and still need support and services. Several foster care alumni studies show that without a lifelong connection to a caring adult, these older youth are often left vulnerable to a host of adverse situations:

Outcomes
Earned a high school diploma         54%
Obtained a Bachelor’s degree or higher     2%
Became a parent                 84%
Were unemployed                 51%
Had no health insurance             30%
Had been homeless                 25%
Were receiving public assistance         30%

Sources: http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/cb/stats_research/afcars/trends.htm, http://www.unaids.org/en/KnowledgeCentre/HIVData/GlobalReport/2008/2008_Global_report.asp, http://www.unicef.org/sowc09/docs/SOWC09-FullReport-EN.pdf, Young adults ages 18-24 years old 2.5 to 4 years after leaving foster care: Cook, R. (1992). Are we helping foster care youth prepare for the future? Children and Youth Services Review. 16(3/4), 213-229. Cook, R.; Fleishman, E., & Grimes, V. (1989). A National Evaluation of Title IV-E Foster Care Independent Living Programs for Youth (Phase 2 Final Report, Volume 1). Rockville: Westat, Inc., http://chrisitianallianceblog.org/?p=74, http://abandoned-orphaned.typepad.com/paulmyhill/2009/08/the-count.html

I list these statistics with a broken heart and realization that each number represents a real, living child who is in desperate need of care and a family. We can become easily overwhelmed with these statistics but I pray for my self and for the church that they would lead us to pray more specifically and passionately for them. I pray they will move us to act with greater urgency to see each one of these children cared for in the name of Christ.

“Learn to do good; seek justice, reprove the ruthless, defend the orphan, plead for the widow.” Isaiah 1:17

This Radical!

Screen shot 2009-10-14 at 10.08.07 PMMy wife and I have been listening to David Platt of The Church at Brook Hills recently. He’s currently preaching through James and through this series the church has committed to what they are calling “The Radical Experiment.” I can’t urge you enough to look at what they are doing. When I read this I think, “YES! This is how a church that is reading and preaching the book of James ought to respond!” I can’t wait to see the ripple effect of this on their church, other churches, their city, and the nations.

From their website:

As our faith family has been studying the book of James, we have been challenged by the Word in light of the needs around us in the world. When it comes to spiritual need, so many still have so little access to the Gospel, and when it comes to physical need, over 26,000 children die every day of starvation or preventable diseases. Meanwhile, God has entrusted the Gospel to us, in addition to giving us extraordinary physical resources compared to the rest of the world. In light of all that God has given us and in view of the needs around us, we are not going to be content to merely listen to the Word and deceive ourselves; we are going to do what it says.

We’ve decided that for one year we are going to look at every expenditure we have in light of dire, desperate need around the world (specifically children who are dying of starvation or preventable diseases). As a church, we are going to save and sacrifice in every possible place in order to free up as many resources as we can to give away. In addition, individuals and families within our faith family are going to begin doing the same thing, spending and sacrificing every possible dollar in order to give as much as possible to urgent spiritual and physical need around the world.

Our initial commitment of $525,000 to Compassion International involves sponsoring 21 Child Survival Programs across India.

In addition to caring for children on the other side of the world, we have also been challenged by James 1:27 to care for children and their families here in Birmingham. On Sunday, September 6, as we studied James 1:27, we began considering how we could work in partnership with the Department of Human Resources in our county (as well as other foster care and adoption agencies that work with DHR) to provide for all of the children in need of homes in our county. Two weeks later, on Sunday, September 20, hundreds of families signed up to begin the foundational steps in fostering and/or adopting children.

Read more on their website here.

Catalyst Adoption Video

I love that Catalyst is recognizing our call to care for orphans and widows (James 1:27). They are big and influential and my prayer is that many churches will be mobilized for the sake of the orphans here and around the world! The video below is from their new site they just launched 143million.org

Be sure to check it out!

The Church at Brook Hills • Radical Series

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The Church at Brook Hills • Media

I am hearing from more and more folks that this series by David Platt at Brookhills has really impacted them. It is powerful! The other month I posted one of the sermons from this series here. I encourage you to listen/watch that sermon and the rest as they address what the gospel says concerning the poor, oppressed, orphaned and widowed.