This is a guest post from Matt Mig, our Pastor of Local Outreach.
This weekend we celebrate Orphan Sunday, one day each year that many churches designate to acknowledge our biblical call to care for the orphan—and the work yet to be done to obey that call. (We’ll actually be celebrating both Orphan Sunday and Orphan Saturday, since we hold worship services both days!) This weekend isn’t the only time we talk about caring for orphans; in fact, this time of year isn’t even our biggest emphasis on orphan care. But we still recognize the value in joining those around the country in reflecting on our call.
Caring for orphans is not a command only for those who will adopt or a calling for a select number of churches. God actually lists “caring for orphans” among the attributes he uses to describe himself. He calls himself a “father to the fatherless” who “sets the lonely in families” (Psalm 68:5-6). If we want to be people who reflect God’s character – if we want to look and act like Him – those attributes must be true of us. In other words, we can’t fully demonstrate God’s character unless we are a people who care for the fatherless.
UNICEF classifies 153 million children around the world as orphans, including 17.8 million who are “double orphans,” meaning they’ve lost both parents. And those are conservative estimates. There are likely millions more children on the streets of developing countries who can’t be accurately counted. Even using the smallest estimates available, the number of children that can be described as “fatherless” is staggering.
This isn’t just an international issue, either. Approximately 400,000 kids in the United States live without permanent families, many of whom are eligible for adoption. A significant portion of those children will wait years before being adopted. And some “age out” of the foster care system without ever being adopted.
What should the church’s response to this be? We need to prepare ourselves to care for the children who are waiting. That may not be the cuddly baby we’ve dreamed of raising. Too often they are the children who’ve been abused, who are HIV positive, who are older and have medical or behavioral conditions created by years of neglect. These are the fatherless that Scripture commands us to care for! Not every family has the capacity to take in a child with a painful history, but the church must raise up families who can.
We’ve also got to work hard to take the burden of waiting off of children. At the Summit, we see this especially in the need for temporary care through the foster system. Our office often receives calls looking for licensed homes that can take in a child for an emergency placement. When that happens, only those families who are already certified can step in to help. Becoming an adoptive or a foster parent takes time, so we must take initiative on behalf of the orphan by responding before their moment of need. We should bear the burden of waiting so a child doesn’t have to.
This paints a picture of God’s posture toward us. He doesn’t begin seeking us only after we make the first move and sit through a probation period. He waits eagerly for that moment when we are in need, and immediately comes to us when we cry out to him.
Finally, we should pray. We’ll be doing a lot of that this weekend. Pray for the more than 30 families at our church, families who are currently in the adoption process and experiencing the burden of waiting. Pray that struggling parents would be strengthened to care for their children. Pray that the millions of orphans would know the Father who cares for them.
And pray that our eyes would be opened to see orphans as God sees them. God will care for the orphan and the fatherless. Will we grasp the opportunity and privilege of joining him? As Tony Merida reminds us, “We must focus on the power of God, as he is our challenge giver. He, not the sad state of human failing, has given us this challenge, and he will supply our needs.“