I didn't prepare a typical Orphan Sunday speech, pleading others to adopt. I'll leave that up to the Holy Spirit. I focused more on facts about orphans, the causes of the orphan crisis and other ways to tackle the crisis.
Why don't I just let you read it?
When we began our adoption journey over a year ago, we saw adoption as a beautiful way to build a family. We saw adoption as providing a home for an orphan. We saw adoption as a way to reflect the love of God.
But we were naive.
While adoption encompasses all of those good things, there is also the ugly side to adoption that we did not realize existed.
Adoption starts with loss. Some children sit by and watch as their parents die of HIV. Others witness their parents killed in war. Sadly, many of them experience abandonment because their father left the family and their mother cannot afford to care for them. As part of our home study, we were required to read books in order to become educated on how these circumstances may affect our child.
We have also learned that adoption is not as easy as choosing a country and bringing home a healthy infant. Millions of older children are in need of homes. Millions of unhealthy children are also in need of homes. Each country has its own unique orphan crisis. As we researched adoption in various countries, we learned that children with severe special needs are literally wasting away in orphanages in Bulgaria, Russia, Ukraine and China. More often than not, these children do not get one on one time with an adult caretaker. Instead, they are simply left in their beds all day everyday with no stimulation, no affectionate touch, and no human eye contact. Some are even tied to their beds.
When Jonathan and I first KNEW we were called to adopt, we began looking into Eastern European countries. I had just read a book titled “Tortured for Christ,” written by Richard Wurmbrand, a Romanian Jewish convert who was arrested and beaten numerous times for proclaiming the Gospel and speaking out against Communism. My heart broke for what the people of those countries had endured.
During our research we found that there are over one million orphans in Russia, the majority of which are not truly orphans, but whose parents are unable or unwilling to care for them. We wrestled with the Lord, and ourselves for over a year… trying to make sense of spending $50K to adopt a child from Russia, the only country in Europe that was still on our adoption radar. We knew if our child was in Russia, God would provide the finances. Finally, we rested on the idea that God was using the enormous, outrageous Russian adoption fee as a road-block. He then led us to Ethiopia.
In Ethiopia there are approximately 4.6 million children missing one or both parents.
1 in 10 children die before their first birthday.
1 in 6 children die before age 5.
Our hearts now break for Ethiopia as well.
Jesus says in Matthew 25:35-40
“For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me. Then the righteous will answer him saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.”
I recently read a book by Katie Davis called, Kisses from Katie. Upon graduating high school, she traveled to Uganda for a 10 month commitment to teach kindergarten at an orphanage. As she walked her students home from school, she was shocked to see how many more children were wandering the streets, searching for food instead of learning how to read and write. She learned there were very few affordable public schools in Uganda, and none in the area where she was working.
Eventually God lead Katie to begin a child sponsorship program. She named it Amazima, which means “truth” in Lugandan. The ministry provides school tuition, school supplies, and meals for hundreds of children in her village…. similar to Compassion International.
One day, Katie made her way into a dangerous village where the people had been ostracized by other Ugandans and forced to live on government land. Unable to continue their farming lifestyle, the women turned to prostitution for income.
Eventually, Katie made friends with the Karamajong people and taught a group of women how to make paper-bead necklaces. Amazima pays the women a fair wage, then sells the necklaces in the States. A portion of the profits then go back into Amazima which, in turn, sponsors some of the Karamajong children.
Katie says she did not start out on a mission to live in Uganda indefinitely, to start a sponsorship program or to adopt 13 girls. She started by answering God’s call, one at a time. He opened her eyes to the problems around her, and she responded.
Each week, Katie drives the women of the bead group into the city where they deposit half of their earnings into savings accounts. The other half is enough to provide for their families. And more importantly, their families are staying together.
I share this story with you to show that adoption is not the direct solution to the orphan crisis. I love adoption. I suppose I will be an adoption advocate until the day I die. And if any of you feel called to adopt, Jonathan and I will be there to support you and will help you raise the funds, should you need it.
Today is Orphan Sunday. Yes, there are millions of children out there RIGHT NOW who need families. You may have actually heard that the number is 147 million. That count comes from UNICEF which defines an orphan as a child who has lost one or both parents. Not necessarily a child who is adoptable. However, that count does not include children who have been abandoned, such as the millions of girls abandoned in China, nor does it include children taken from unfit parents as is the story of many children in the U.S. foster care system. It also does not include the count from non-reporting countries such as those of the Middle East.
Whatever the count is, there are far too many. For those already in the count, adoption may be their only hope. Adoption is a beautiful picture of what God has done for us through His son. However, if we want a long term solution to the orphan crisis, we need more than adoption.
Amazima Ministires and Compassion International are just two organizations that focus on eradicating poverty, which in my opinion is the most senseless contributor to the orphan crisis. Our church is currently sponsoring 50 children through Compassion International and some families are sponsoring additional children. But we can still do more.
The word Christian comes from the Greek word christianos meaning, “follower of Christ.” Not just a friend of Christ, not an admirer of Christ, but follower of Christ. 70-80% of Americans claim to be Christians. What would the world look like if that many people who have been blessed by God with tremendous wealth and resources actually followed Christ instead of just reading about him?