Yesterday, our church recognized Orphan Sunday, a national day meant to raise awareness of the orphan crisis around the world.
We heard staggering statistics about this worldwide issue. Watch the video below to see and hear the numbers that we encountered yesterday.
These are staggering numbers, but each set of numbers represents actual children who are so much more than numbers could ever say. They each have a different face, a different story, and a different future. Overwhelmingly, though, their futures seem very similar and appear dim. If we believe the statistics, over half of the children in these numbers have very bleak futures that include homelessness, suicide, prostitution, and crime.
That does not have to be the case! Their futures could be filled with hope and promise. I could make a difference for one. My friend could make a difference for another one. And on and on…until all of their futures are changed! If all of us who live lives of privilege would reach out one hand to one child, imagine what we could do! What would happen if we reached with both hands? We look at those what are reaching and think that they are remarkable. They are…because they are doing what I am not. They have answered a call that is not just for them; it is a call that each of us has. When we ignore the call, when we do nothing, and when we turn a blind eye, we allow the “orphan problem” to continue.
In Minnesota, Hennepin County has a great dissonance. It is a county with a high need for foster homes. It is also a county with some of the wealthiest people in the state. While small families live in large houses which sport dens, offices, and guest rooms, children wait for foster families at St Joseph’s Home for Children. We sleep comfortably in our three bedroom rambler where each of our two children have their own room. The children at St Joe’s weep in their bunk beds in dorm style rooms. Our children get a hug goodnight and prayers or a song to help them fall asleep. The children at St Joe’s learn self-soothing mechanisms to counteract the cold, harsh reality of their situation. We sleep well – content in our ignorance. They go to sleep hoping that tomorrow they will have a family. And this is in not some far away country – this is right here only a few miles from where I live!
November is National Adoption Month, but it is also a good time to think about orphan issues in general. Adoption is the finalizing of a forever family, but that is not the only way that we each can help orphans. Children need temporary shelter from storming families as well. Foster care, the care of children right here in our own city or county, is a great need. This requires an ability to see oneself as part of the solution rather than the solution itself as one may find adoption seems. Sometimes parents need time to learn skills that they never learned because their own families were stormy. While they learn these skills and work a case plan, their children need a safe and loving place to grow. This is a great ministry!
I get overwhelmed when I think about all of this. I am sad that I do not know how to do more. I am sad that I do not do more. I get caught up in my own selfish hopes and dreams. However, I know that doing what I could do to be a part of the solution would not require that much. If today is not the day that my home is open to those who have none, then I need to find ways to assist those who do. If I do not have what it takes to provide temporary shelter, then I need to find ways to support the ministry of those who do. I do not mean that I should write more checks! I mean that I need to take a meal, to listen as they share their frustrations with the system, and to just be ready to do anything they need.
Rather than being overwhelmed, however, I need to remember those that have reached out to orphans and be encouraged. They are my friends. They are my family. They are ordinary people doing an extraordinary job of living out the call to care for orphans. And they are making a difference. One child. One family. The problem is big…but the solution is as small as one person. And another…and another…and another….and another…