There are over 153 million orphans in the world. Over 100,000 of those are available for adoption.
There are over 397,122 kids in foster care. Over 100,000 of those are available for adoption.
Those are just statistics. Numbers. Numbers are abstract. We can easily distance ourselves from numbers. I could post charts and graphs that cover the statistics of these kids and what happens to them once they age out of the orphanage and foster care systems, but it would not have an impact beyond some thinking, "That's terrible," just as we do when we watch a tragic story on the news.
We can have Orphan Sunday and National Adoption Month and National Adoption Day and National Foster Care Month all to raise awareness, but if people don't act, it is pointless. Awareness does not change these children's lives, action does.
Holocaust survivor, author, and humanitarian, Elie Wiesel wrote, "The opposite of love is not hate, it's indifference."
Yet most of us have an indifference to the plight of the orphan.
But those numbers are not numbers, they are children. Orphan is not just a word, they are flesh and blood kids who long to be accepted. They are not problems to be solved, but children to be loved.
I do not celebrate National Adoption Month because it should not be celebrated. It is not a call to celebration, but a call to action. I do not celebrate because these orphans are real to me, I've met them, learned their names, and a little bit about their lives. I do not celebrate because there are orphans in the world. And I see so many in the church doing nothing.
Gandhi once said, "Be the change that you want to see in the world."
In the traditional Irish hymn, "Be Thou My Vision," the opening line is "Be thou my vision O Lord of my heart." What this is asking God to do is to allow us, as His people to see the world as He sees it, to see others as He sees them. While we sing this, do we mean it? Do we see orphans as God sees them? He calls Himself a "Father to the fatherless." By His very admission, orphans are a priority. Are they for us, as His followers?
"A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling. God sets the lonely in families . . ." Psalm 68:5-6
Do we have God's passion for the orphans? If we are to truly be like Christ, how can we not?
One person who took up this call was George Muller. (To read my previous blog about his remarkable life, go to http://snapshotsfromourjourney.blogspot.com/2012/06/brief-profile-of-george-muller.html). Every day he would walk the streets of London and, as he did, he began to notice the orphans who lived on them and were badly mistreated by society. As he began to pray, God opened his heart to open an orphanage where these children could be taken care of and raised in a knowledge of the love of Christ. What started in his own home where he and his wife took care of 30 girls grew into three orphanages that took care of 100,000 children. Muller was a man who saw the orphans, saw the need, prayed and acted according to what God laid on his heart. He did not just feel sorry for the orphans, or merely pray for the orphans, he acted because he understood that "faith without works is dead" (James 2:14-16).
There is Katie Davis. At 18, she went to Uganda for the first time on a mission's trip. God moved on her heart with a deep love for the people, especially the orphans. Like Muller, she saw large numbers of school-aged children playing along the road or working in the fields. When she discovered that Ugandan schools required the students to pay fees and that most of the impoverished people couldn't afford to send their kids, she started an Education Sponsorship Outreach matching orphaned and vulnerable children with sponsors who could provide for their education. Today they sponsor over 700 kids. It was her friendship with the Karimojong people of Masese, whose poverty was so great that they were losing their children who were dying of starvation. Once more, God used Katie to start Masese Feeding Outreach to provide over 1,000 meals Monday through Friday. She also initiated a self-sustaining vocational program to train and empower these women. As if that weren't enough, she has adopted thirteen daughters. "People tell me I am brave. People tell me I am strong. People tell me good job. Well here is the truth of it. I am really not that brave, I am not really that strong, and I am not doing anything spectacular. I am just doing what God called me to do as a follower of Him. Feed His sheep, do unto the least of His people."
Both George Muller and Katie Davis' actions stemmed from a realization that God has called his followers to take care of the poor, the widows, and the orphans. They don't view what they are doing as great acts but as acts of obedience. Too many of us shirk God's command to tend to the least of these, to take care of the widows and orphans. We allow others to do it and call it their mission, their purpose. But God does not let any of us off the hook that easily. James 1:27 tells us, "Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this:to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world." Are we, as believers truly practicing "pure and undefiled religion?"
So I don't celebrate National Adoption Month. When I think of the orphans I met in Ukraine, my heart breaks with sorrow and not a day has passed that I don't pray for them. I try, in my own small way, to promote their cause through this blog. I attempt to show others that adoption is not about being a hero, but about being obedient to God's call. While not everyone is called to adopt, they are called to take care of the orphan. And there are so many ways to do that, both locally and globally. Don't be indifferent. Indifference will not bring change, indifference will not help heal these hurt and lonely children.
I celebrated when we adopted our son. I celebrate when I see others adopting and taking these children out of orphanages and foster care and in to loving families. I celebrate their birthdays and their lives. And I will truly celebrate when there is no longer a need for National Adoption Month.
Here are some links to sources about how you can become involved in orphan care. Check them out, pray about how you can be involved, and act. There is a child in the world who desperately needs you to do so.