We all know they're out there, far across the oceans, or maybe even in our own backyards... Babies, toddlers, teenagers who for whatever reason are alone in this world. Orphans, with no one connected to them by blood, or law, they move through their lives at the mercy of those presently in charge of them. Next month, next year, or tomorrow, the crib they occupy could be given to another as they are moved to a different environment. Imagine a childhood made up of such instability, where nothing and no one belongs to you.
I could never find a comfortable place in my mind for these “waiting children” (as they are referred to by adoption agencies), and thus, I neglected to act on their behalf. I forgot about them in my daily life. After all, it was too depressing to contemplate hundreds of thousands of innocent, unwanted children.
Then one day, I stumbled onto a website that had pictures of children available for adoption. I saw a little girl with Down syndrome and pony tails. She was holding a doll. Her expression was hauntingly empty. She suddenly became so real to me that I hurt for her. I wanted her to have a family, but what could I really do about it?
The first thought is to adopt her and those like her (which we eventually did), but that's not feasible for everyone. And, while adoption is the obvious answer, it's not the only answer. If you cannot adopt, you can still love an orphan and make a difference in his or her life. Below are five ways you can get involved.
1. Seek them out. Do not allow yourself to forget the orphans. My guess is that very few people feel “called” to action the first few times they hear about or see orphans. Your role in orphan care will become clearer the more you expose yourself to their plight. Sign yourself up as a follower of an orphan care blog, such as the Reece’s Rainbow blog. Subscribe to a youtube channel (try Buckner Int.) dedicated to improving the lives of orphans worldwide. Pray diligently for orphans. Their needs are multiple... pray that families step up to adopt them, that their caretakers are kind and committed. Pray for their health, that their physical needs are met, that they are protected emotionally and psychologically. Pray that their governments keep foreign adoptions open. Pray for guidance concerning your role in the orphan crisis.
2. Virtually adopt a child. Visit sites that list “waiting children” and pick out a child as your own. Print off pictures of the child to frame for your desk and to stick up on your fridge. Tell everyone about your adopted child and how they can help bless him or her. Pray for this child daily. You may find that you are able to donate specifically to this child’s adoption grant fund, or even that you can send needed items to this child’s orphanage. Write about your child on your blog, Facebook, and Twitter... raise awareness of his or her existence and need for a family. I have noticed that almost every child that is advocated for in this manner has been committed to within months. (Visit Reece’s Rainbow, or Rainbowkids.com to find your child.)
3. Find a family that is adopting and adopt them. Adoption is an arduous and stressful process. Families who are in the throes of an adoption could use all kinds of support. You can leave encouraging comments on their adoption blog, blog about them on your own blog, help them raise funds, or offer to write or edit letters and documents needed for the adoption process. As you follow your adopted family’s journey, you will find many ways to connect with them and support their mission.
4. Support ministries that work to keep children with their families, educate cultures, and train care workers. Many children are separated from their parents due to natural disasters, disease, and poverty. Other children are left behind in maternity wards because they are born with “imperfections.” Parents of all of these children are surely heartbroken to let them go but they have been pressured by circumstance and cultural rejection. By going after the root causes of the orphan crisis we can keep many children from ever becoming one. You can get started by volunteering with an orphan ministry, going on a mission trip to an orphanage, or connecting with a special educator whose focus is in-country support.
5. Get your feet wet and host an orphan. The World Orphan Project website describes its hosting program as “ giving orphaned children from Ukraine the opportunity to spend time in America with caring families who open their hearts and homes to these deserving children.” The three week long programs happen twice a year, and you can still sign up for the Summer 2011 program!
The Idea Camp will gather on February 25-26 in NW Arkansas to focus on the issue of adoption and orphan care. Inspired by this event, we are sharing stories related to the high calling of orphan care. If you have a story of your own to share, post a link at our introduction to this series, Caring for the Little Ones.