I didn’t want to stray from my original plan for today’s post to share from my resources but my heart is heavy. I’ve mostly stayed away from social media but I know there is chatter about racism and injustice… What has been on my heart over the past couple days is this: a mother lost her son. And all of us are mothers or fathers or sons or daughters. So let us not forget to pray for the woman who is grieving her son.
Equipping and encouraging the Church to care for the least of these is one of my favorite topics. Know why? Because caring for orphans is gospel work.
Caring for orphans is not the responsibility of the state or the government of another country: it’s the work of God’s people.
Before we dive in, let’s be clear on who we are talking about. According to UNICEF there are 163 million “orphans” worldwide. Most of us, when we think of the term “orphan”, think of children without parents.
UNICEF and other agencies “adopted the broader definition of orphan in the mid-1990s as the AIDS pandemic began leading to the death of millions of parents worldwide, leaving an ever increasing number of children growing up without one or more parents. So the terminology of a ‘single orphan’ – the loss of one parent – and a ‘double orphan’ – the loss of both parents – was born to convey this growing crisis.”
So the number of vulnerable children worldwide is estimated to be 163 million. Some of these children have two living parents but are highly vulnerable because the parents are not able to afford their care, abuse them, neglect them, are very ill…
Of those 163 million vulnerable children, only 18.5 million are “double orphans”. I say only because if we just looked at the 163, it would be our assumption that homes are needed for all of those children, but that is not the case.
Nearly 90% of those children have homes and living family members. Their entire family needs support. And love. And prayer.
This is not just a global problem. There are half a million orphans right here in our country. We don’t use the term “orphan” in the United States, but our society is not above this crisis.
The scriptural mandate is clear: Caring for orphans is the business of the Church.
Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this:
to visit orphans and widows in their affliction,
and to keep oneself unstained from the world.
– James 1:27
learn to do good;
bring justice to the fatherless,
plead the widow’s cause
– Isaiah 1:17
and will execute justice for the needy.
– Psalm 140:12
maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute.
Rescue the weak and the needy;
deliver them from the hand of the wicked.”
– Psalm 82:3-4
Here are three words to help you get started:
JUST DO IT.
I realize it’s not quite that simple but, in some ways, it is.
Here’s a bullet point list of steps you can take to start an orphan care ministry at your church:
Get permission. Depending on the size of you church this may or may not be an easy task. If you have a large church you can always start with your small group and work up from there.
Find like minded people. Connect with other singles/couples/families that have a heart for orphans and start small. The first “project” our orphan care ministry took part in was just a few families heading to Target to purchase items for kiddos in Sudan. Easy peasy.
Develop a mission statement based on scripture. Your mission statement is your road map. Why do you exist? What will you focus on? Here is ours:
“The Antioch orphan care ministry exists to educate, encourage, equip, and engage families and the church as we seek to live out James 1:27.”
Start an adoption fund and put it in the church budget. People will not know you are behind it until it’s in the budget.
Choose a local partner.* You can support this partner in many ways but being local, the number one way I would suggest is this: warm bodies. (with hearts for orphans of course) Most likely, your local partner will be fairly small and staffed almost entirely if not completely by volunteers. They need you to rally your troops and provide them with some relief.
Choose a global partner.* We desire to support our global partner through sponsorships, prayer and annual trips. You may have other ideas. The important thing is to make sure you are asking them what they need from you.
*A note about choosing your partners. Don’t overlook anti-abortion, human trafficking and organizations that support indigenous mothers/families. This work is essential in the fight against the orphan crisis.
Raise awareness and educate your church members. The absolute best way you can do this is for it to come from the pulpit. I know this can be extremely challenging in some churches. I am beyond blessed to not have that problem but here’s my advice: PRAY. Pray for the Holy Spirit to speak to your pastor. Pray for his heart to be broken as the Father’s is for the fatherless.
Host an Orphan Sunday event. This can be as small as an info table in the lobby and as big as an orphan sermon/concert/meal extravaganza.
Celebrate with couples that adopt. Throw them a shower, meet them at the airport, throw parties for their court dates.
Support foster/safe families within your church. Take them meals, be respite care providers, babysit so they can have a date night, etc.
In the words of Johnny Carr “Orphan care is far more than a humanitarian effort or an issue of social justice. This is war. When you care for orphaned and vulnerable children, when you work to reverse this vicious cycle that Satan has so masterfully orchestrated, you are fighting against the devil himself.” from his amazing book Orphan Justice.
Cover your ministry in prayer. No matter how big or small your orphan care ministry is, the place to start is on your knees.
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