Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress. – James 1:27
If you’re looking for practical theology, you have no farther to look than the book of James. And according to James the call is simple: your faith must include the care of widows and orphans.
In agreement with this, many Christians have banded together in care for vulnerable children in particular. You can find most of these groups in the membership roster of the Christian Alliance of Orphans (CAFO)—the largest collective of Christian based ministries devoted to concerns such as orphan care internationally, adoption, foster care in the United States, child trafficking, and teen runaways.
As a collective body of disciples of Jesus, they’ve said with their actions that it’s our job as people of faith to love all children, no matter what circumstances they find themselves in. Invisible children will be invisible no more! And the church, these advocates say, must rise up and be more inclusive of this calling. To do this and build community among it’s members, every year, CAFO hosts an annual meeting of 3,000+ leaders called Summit.
In 2013 as part of our family’s work with Feed the Children, I attended this meeting in Nashville, TN and loved the energy and enthusiasm of those speaking and teaching. My curiosity peaked. Like a sponge, I gladly learned what I could about such important concepts as attachment parenting, restorative therapies and what adult adoptees really thought about their institutional experiences from childhood. It was great to apply what I learned to the kids we met during all our travels.
Though my husband’s job has changed now, I’ve realized over the last year that orphan care ministries is something I want to be a part of the rest of my life. What I saw and experienced during our three years of globe-trotting are children, I can’t un-see. Children in less than adequate homes. Children without access to education beyond primary school. Children who really worry late at night if they are loved. I want to be a protector of vulnerable kids like these. I want to continue to lend my voice and resources to help in any way I can (which is why I recently traveled back to East Africa). I want to help other church leaders feel empowered to do the same.
So, again I connected with CAFO at this year’s meeting May 5-6th in Orlando. It was great to be in a wonderful community of Christians thinking critically about what best practices in orphan/ foster care looks like. And again, I left the conference last week convicted by these stats—
Globally there are an estimated 150 million orphans
In the US over 400,000 children are in foster care with over 100,000 actively waiting for adoption
70% of children trafficked in the US are foster youth
This is what I know for sure: these are facts few in the church ever talk about. It’s the kind of work we often leave for “someone else.” But, I am confident that God’s heart is always on side of the most vulnerable– children without protectors. The question is: what are we going to do about it?
Want a simple way to think about beginning this conversation in your church?
Each year CAFO invites churches to participate in an Orphan Sunday emphasis. It’s an important day in congregations to raise awareness about children in the foster care system in your own town. It’s a great way to include those whose own stories or stories of their family have been touched by adoption. And it’s also a great day to talk about God’s desire for all of us to be adopted more fully into the kingdom of God.
Consider hosting Orphan Sunday on November 13, 2016. I’ll even come guest preach for you that day (I haven’t been asked yet). It’s as simple as inviting a special speaker. Talking about the foster care system and it’s needs in your community. Or, creating a call to action. The call of orphan ministry is one we can’t ignore.