Okay so I mentioned that this blog was going to be eclectic right?! Good, because I meant it!
Today I want to talk about something that I believe is burning on the heart of God: the orphan crisis.
Have you ever felt like an orphan? I have, and for a long time I didn't even realize that that's what I was feeling. It can be hard to believe that someone who has incredible parents like I do could ever feel like an orphan. But I'm learning that there's a reason why I and so many others can feel like we don't belong. There is a violent war raging against us to convince us that we are orphans, because, in reality, family is the essence of the gospel. When Adam and Eve decided to do things their own way in the garden (Genesis 3), they lost life as God designed it: they lost perfect family. They entered into a cycle of trying to earn enough to be accepted. To this day, we all live as spiritual orphans until we begin to accept the free gift of Jesus. In John 14:18, Jesus said "I will not leave you as orphans." He died to bring us back into family and to prove His never-ending, unconditional love for us as our Father. The dream of His heart has always been for us to simply be His kids. But until we believe that we don't have to prove ourselves to our Father in order to belong, we will live as if we are still orphaned. And in case y'all don't already know, living as an orphan when you're created for family drains the life out of you.
I really believe that family is the reason we're alive, and that God is more passionate about us knowing true family than we can imagine. Family looks like peace, rest, and trust; it is being fully known and fully loved. But not only do many people live as orphans spiritually, many also live as orphans physically. These precious ones that don't live in families often have a much harder time believing that they could belong to God's family. If it can be hard to agree with the spirit of acceptance anyways, how much harder must it be for literal orphans! I believe that the orphan crisis is in many ways symbolic of the gospel, and that it is SO central to the heart of God. So I am going to talk a little bit about it and share some of the things I have learned!
First of all, did you know that there are 153 million orphans in the world? 153 million!
And in the United States, there are more than 400,000 children in the foster care system, 120,000 of whom are ready to be adopted.
It's easy to look at these statistics and get intimidated, thinking that there's nothing that could ever make a dent in the numbers. But I believe that the enemy has tried to make the church scared of the orphan crisis so that we end up paralyzed and doing nothing. Don't be deceived- there is so much hope! Jesus promised that He would not leave anyone an orphan spiritually, and as the body of Christ we have the opportunity to manifest the family of God on earth. If we spend our lives so that one person knows the love of a family, we have made earth look more like heaven; EVERY child is worth it all to God.
But the orphan crisis doesn't have to go on forever! This knocked my socks of you guys: if ONE family out of every THREE churches in the US adopted ONE child waiting to be adopted out of foster care, there would be no more foster children waiting for a family in the US! Yes, foster care is more complex than this statistic, but God has strategic solutions for every aspect of it. There is hope.
Like the foster care crisis, the global orphan crisis is in many ways not what it seems.
According to OCHA "An estimated 8 million children live in orphanages and other institutions worldwide, but 80 percent are not orphans." Yes, you read that right. 80 percent of children in orphanage are not orphans! This means that they have a living parent. Most children defined as orphans who do not live in orphanages also have a parent or another living family member. There are many reasons why a child might not live with their family member. But many times parents make the heart-breaking decision to take their children to orphanages when they can't provide for them any more. They think that the child will be better off in an orphanage than in an impoverished home. But children need family- something that orphanage-life normally can't provide. And of course there is adoption, which is beautiful and sometimes absolutely necessary. ADOPTION IS AWESOME. But sometimes people spend thousands of dollars to adopt a child who has already cost an orphanage thousands of dollars, when that child actually has a parent who wants them. It's time to start rethinking the orphan crisis! (Poverty Inc. is a captivating documentary that explores this and other surprising dynamics of poverty).
Some more resources:
One Million Home is an incredible ministry that has been shifting the dialogue around the orphan crisis. They turn orphanages into reunification centers where children and parents are encouraged to reunite when possible.
Orphan Myth also works to break misconceptions surrounding this topic!
I also want to mention the Braniff family here! CR and Angela Braniff have eight children, six of whom are adopted. Their story is absolutely mesmerizing to me. It has inspired me so much, and shown me that living a life outside of the world's box is beautiful and actually really possible. They threw away a white-picket fence life to follow the call of God, and their family is a stunning testimony of His beauty and abundance. Angela wrote a book called Love Without Borders and I give it a 100000 out of 10. Seriously can't recommend it enough. Check out her website!
This has been a long post, but here's my point: family IS the heart of God, and God is not okay with a single child not being in a loving family. God is so willing to give us his heart of adoptive love if we will ask Him for it. Adoptive love is messy, and this crisis is messy and multidimensional. But I really believe that the more our lives are "inconvenienced" by the radical, adoptive love of God, the more our hearts will come alive, the more our boxes will shatter, and the more we will live in union with the Father Himself.