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building a community to reach a community

Orphanology: One Month Later

Orphan! What comes to mind when you hear that word? Is it a poor child in an institution holding out an empty bowl and asking for more? Is it a little girl with curly red hair named Annie, walking the narrow, dirty streets of New York City with her beloved puppy? Or a wide-eyed child with a distended tummy staring at you from your television screen and pulling at your heartstrings?

For a few weeks in February and March, a group of GFCers interested in the plight of today’s orphans met to explore Scripture, pray together and share what God is doing in our lives related to the kids. Some are currently fostering; some going through the process of adoption—either domestic or international; some just know God wants them to DO SOMETHING.

When I first went in, I almost felt like I didn’t belong. With my focus on support and not actually wanting to adopt, I did feel a little “on the outside looking in.” But as the discussions continued, it became clear that there is a job for every believer in showing the love of Christ to orphaned, abandoned, foster or adoptable children. God wants us all to be His hands of love reaching out to them. And it begins first with awareness, which is what I walked away with from this class.

Regardless of the image you have in your head of an “orphan,” in reality, today’s orphan is none of the above. The meaning of the word “orphan” has changed over time and can change from country to country. For example, in Central and South America, poverty-stricken parents sometimes surrender their children to state-run orphanages temporarily in hopes of a reunion when times and finances improve. In Eastern Europe the story is the same. All across Africa, there are “AIDS orphans” due to the huge numbers of adults stricken by that dreaded disease. In Asia, perhaps it is the child who is “less than perfect” or of the wrong gender found in under-funded and under-staffed orphanages.

Here in America, the orphan problem can be varied and not just a little bit complicated. In the United States, 400,540 children are living without permanent families in the foster care system, of which 115,000 are eligible for immediate adoption.

In Tennessee, the numbers are equally disturbing: 9,017 kids in foster care with 1,717 of those waiting for adoption into their forever homes.

What does God want us, His church, to do about this? In James 1:27 he plainly instructs us,
“This is pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and father, to visit orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself unstained by the world.”

Moreover, God Himself has set an example by adopting us as His children. Does that mean each and every Christian family must adopt an orphan or open their home to foster care? No, but as more and more Christians embrace the truth of this verse, it will happen. Churches across the country are beginning to embrace the doctrine of orphanology and children are being brought into loving, caring, Christian homes in record numbers. A revival is breaking out, rooted in helping the least and the lost around us!

But what about those who find themselves in a season of life that is just not conducive to adopting or fostering? There are many other ways to become involved in caring for the kids and the families ministering to them. One way is to W.R.A.P. our arms around these families and meet their needs. Consider this acronym:

W- Wrestle in Prayer; R- Respite Care; A-Acts of Service; P- Promises of God

Family Life Ministries suggests the following ways every Christian can care for the orphan and waiting child:

  1. Pray for them
  2. Speak up for them
  3. Provide for their needs
  4. Support those who support them
  5. Protect them from harm
  6. Visit them where they are
  7. Give sacrificially to them
  8. Encourage them to press on
  9. Adopt them into your family
  10. Mobilize your church for them

Which of these ways can God use you to make a difference in the life of a child or fostering/ adopting family? God is moving in our church body on this issue. Let Him use you as we “build a community to reach a community.”

Ellen Delatte

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