A few months ago, Melissa and I were watching a documentary on Netflix called “Stuck.” The documentary was all about the various journeys of international adoption that people go through. It followed the lives of adoptive parents and the fight that they have to put up to bring their children home. It was heart rending. As you see these children living in orphanages in Europe, Asia and Africa, you start to realize just how devastating such an upbringing is. At one point in the movie, they rolled footage from a Romanian orphanage of a person pushing a two level medical tray with about 15 babies literally piled on it. After the movie, Melissa remarked “that could be Shepherd.”
That is Shepherd.
One of the biggest issues when trying to get a grasp on the global orphan crisis is that kids that are living in orphanages or on the streets don’t have names, just blank faces. That isn’t how God sees them, but it certainly is how people tend to see them. If we want to see how God sees, we must place our own children in that situation. That’s my baby piled on a tray, that’s my daughter being violated every night by a caretaker, that’s my son sniffing chemicals everyday on the streets.
Unfortunately, the majority of Christian communities have done a disservice to these children by only going up to their ankles in the ocean of these children’s needs. Long-term residential orphanages, a revolving door of missionaries and staff and short term mission band-aids have all failed to address the children’s biggest needs. These children need godly parents that are going to get their skin in the game, that are going to lay down their lives for them, that are going to live out the gospel.
My son, Moses, grew up for the first eight years of his life in an orphanage. It’s a well-known children’s home in the area with a decent following in the states. It is certainly a good orphanage relative to what orphanages typically are. I worked at the children’s home for two years and still visit the precious children there from time to time. The orphanage is run by some of the best people I know. But it’s still an orphanage—and that’s where my son has spent most of his life.
Full disclosure here as a father, something a tad uncomfortable from when we announced the adoption was the amount of good-intentioned people, most of whom I don’t know personally, that said they “know” my son. They have pictures of him, they’re locals that volunteered a time here and there, or people that have a memory of playing with him on their short term trip or something to that effect. Now, I understand that at the time such things seemed innocuous, even seemed sweet. But consider that all along, he was waiting to be adopted, waiting for someone to go to bat for him. All along, he was destined to be our son. To those visiting he was just a cute orphan, among many others, acting silly so as to get the attention that he desperately needed. Yet, he was and is and always will be my child. Now consider the other kids that are still there.
Perhaps, if we knew the fight that parents have to go through to adopt children in need, we’d tread more reverently when meeting their children and then truly seek to help these children receive their most important need. No more passing out candy, no more pictures, just supporting families.
At one point, Moses developed a very strong bond with someone that used to work at the orphanage. As time went on, this individual was led elsewhere, just as I was and many others that have worked at the orphanage. When they left, Moses was crushed. It wasn’t their fault at all, they poured into him and showed him love that he desperately needed. But he was, nonetheless, crushed. To me, this only highlights the fact that the system we’ve set up is broken and falls tragically short of meeting the child’s full needs. Unfortunately for Moses, these modes of care, while completely done with the best intentions, fell short of meeting his deepest needs. He, like millions and millions of other orphans, continued a broken life experience. I, for one, am not satisfied with that brokenness.
What’s my point in all this?
The needs of an orphan are larger than the infrastructure that we (the church) have created for them. >tweet this<
The fact that we’ve even created an infrastructure only underscores the issue. At the risk of sounding harsh, I say this. An orphan doesn’t need your institutional long-term orphanage, your short term missions trip, your ‘Like’ on Facebook or any of the other trivial things that we offer as support.
An orphan needs you.
When Jesus ministered to people, He only gave them one thing: Himself. There’s our model, friends. The way an orphan experiences full restoration in Christ is if we give ourselves to them and in so doing, they become someone’s child. Anything else falls short.
Take this post and do something with it. Adopt. Foster. Support a family in your church that is adopting or fostering. Support financially, babysit their kids for free, ask them how you can be a positive influence in their children’s lives and the life of their family.
Disclaimer: This may come across as too strong, but that is intentional because the church needs a strong wake-up call. In talking about orphanages, specifically the one which I used to work at, I want to be clear. Orphanages have a role in orphan care. An orphanage should be a short term solution for a child in an urgent situation. An orphanage’s goal should not be residency, but rather to place the child in a loving family as soon as possible. We must find places where we evolve the current orphan care landscape into God’s heart for the orphan, which is that each child would have a mom and a dad. Not all orphans will be adopted tomorrow and many, sadly, will never be adopted, but we’ve got to start somewhere.