Saturday, June 28, 2014

Learning to Work With Orphans: Who Me?

Photo by Yolanda Shively
When it comes to orphans, I feel like I'm in a vast wasteland--cold and harsh with far too many nameless faceless children with far too many needs. It might be easier to turn my back on the problem, but I can't. These are the kids most at risk for being trafficked. And, someone needs to do something to keep that from happening. So, I'm trying to figure out what's my responsibility.

God's Word says it's up to His people and that includes me. There are no exclusions. Psalm 82:3 & 4 says to "Vindicate the weak and fatherless; Do justice to the afflicted and destitute. Rescue the weak and needy; Deliver them out of the hand of the wicked."

No one need deliverance from their plight more than orphans. Yet the "orphan challenge" is daunting.  Current estimates by UNICEF total 153 million children who have lost either one or both parents. According to information supplied by A World Without Orphans, these kids "live throughout the world--from war-torn Sudan to poverty stricken India, from transitioning Ukraine to affluent nations in Europe and North America. If we brought all these children together they would comprise the 7th largest nation in the world--a veritable 'Orphan Nation.'"

And, this year there's a new class of orphans in the tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of undocumented children flooding into the U.S. without their parents. These orphans join those already here in our already overburdened foster care system--approximately 1/2 million kids whose families for whatever reason can't care for them or don't want them. The problems may be related to poverty, drugs, gang affiliations, and sexual abuse. Whatever the case may be, these children have been rendered orphans despite having parents who are alive. And this exacts a heavy toll on their emotional, physical, and spiritual well-being. Understanding that raises far more questions than answers, especially for Christians. These issues are not nearly so much about government policies as they are about the best solutions for the well-being of these precious children.

Only a sovereign God knows those answers. That's why people in every sphere of society need to be personally transformed in such a way that they are being directed by the Spirit of the living God. Some children may need one thing; others another. Each answer may be as unique as the individual child.

To understand the issues takes increasing awareness. Knowledge is power, and the more people know, the better they can do their part to contribute to viable solutions. The book Orphanology: Awakening to Gospel-Centered Adoption and Orphan Care by Tony Merida and Rick Morton makes a strong biblical case for adoption. The authors base their admirable views on the principles that because God adopted us, those who can should adopt orphans. After reading about little 3-year-old Beniam living on the streets in Ethiopia and thinking about my empty bedrooms, I started considering what God might require of me. Seeing the statistic that 70 percent of unadopted girls [in the Ukraine] end up in prostitution and 80 percent of the boys end up in a life of crime disturbed me almost as much.

The authors, who have adopted 8 children between them, pose the question "why not adopt?" However, they don't really answer it so there's almost an implication that everyone should, and maybe so. At the same time, according to AARP  I'm a senior citizen. My life is already pretty full with work I believe God called me to do. I rather doubt He would have me set that aside to raise another family, especially considering my income. Though Merida and Morton provide some good ideas for how people like me can get involved with assisting others to adopt--a Facebook friend, who works with orphans in Uganda held up a red flag that also needs serious consideration.

Mark Riley is an alternative care consultant with the Ministry of Gender, Labor, and Social Development in Kampala. The first response on their website points to a solution for many of the kids in Uganda and perhaps many of the undocumented children coming into the U.S. as well: "Keep the family together." It seems one of the most challenging aspects of adoption is making sure orphans are not being unduly taken away from the family members and communities that want to be caring for them. In many cases using funds to supply resources to those families could make all the difference. In addition with so many international adoptions, there is an increasing risk of traffickers deceiving poor families while promising that their children will have the good life in America, then selling those children to unscrupulous adoption agencies for well-intentioned believers.

One option the authors of Orphanology proposed was for Christians to volunteer in orphanages and while at first glance this seems like a great idea, it, too, has potential for traffickers. Discerning good from evil isn't easy and that's why Transform World calls the body of Christ to work together on solutions. Holding unity in high regard, especially in the face of conflict and intense dedication, can spark the creativity and wisdom necessary to create best practices.

A World Without Orphans is working to facilitate this type of teamwork. By learning about the orphan challenge and working together to find solutions, the light of Christ's love will shine into the orphan wasteland bringing hope, laughter, the love of Jesus, and justice to the children and their families. Everyone can play a role in an orphan child's well-being by being better informed especially according to biblical values. More on some of these issues will be coming soon. Subscribers will receive new posts by email. And if you have some thoughts on this topic, we'd love to hear them.

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