By Tony Merida
Orphan care is for ordinary Christians, not varsity. The Bible makes this clear. But I’m afraid the need overwhelms many Christians before they begin to respond.
At the same time, lone Christians are incapable of living out all of God’s commands. Ministry is a team sport, a community effort. We work together as members of one body. As you pray about what God may be calling you personally to do for orphans, consider the ways your church may be able to accomplish much more together.
1. Give, serve, and partner upstream
One of the best ways churches can care for the orphan is to invest collective time and resources into impoverished countries and communities in order to prevent orphans.
Some children wind up in foster care, children’s homes, or orphanages because of poverty. We can’t prevent all children from becoming orphans, but we can help many through wise mercy ministry.
Organizations can raise money for emergencies much more easily than for development, but if we don’t change structures and create sustainability, then the problems may persist.
Churches can mobilize business leaders to create sustainable businesses in impoverished places and partner with ministries that accomplish this work. Check out HelpOneNow.org for more ideas along these lines.
2. Invest in orphanages
Orphans aren’t always available for adoption. So how can we care for kids who will grow up in an orphanage or children’s home?
Perhaps your church can select an orphanage or children’s home to support. Look to serve them by doing construction work, giving financial aid, and supporting the full-time workers. Think about how to make sure the children are being taught well and are learning the basic doctrines of the faith.
In supporting orphanages or children’s homes, you may also be able to develop ongoing relationships with the children. Let’s do what we can to ensure these kids are hearing the gospel, being loved, and receiving the best possible care.
3. Promote and support Local adoption and orphan care
While we should commend Americans for adopting a number of international children, we need to remember we aren’t the only answer to the orphan crisis. If we want to see orphanages emptied and children in families (where they belong), then we need to think of ways to educate and empower local leaders to create a culture of adoption and orphan care.
Some of those ways include trying to impact high schools and universities, training pastors and future pastors in seminaries, hosting conferences, writing books, and influencing business leaders and politicians.
In some countries, myths about orphans abound. Some believe orphans are cursed, and to bring an orphan into their home is welcoming a curse. So we must educate. Others don’t think they have sufficient accommodations to adopt. We can help provide financial aid.
One agency our church supports, Lifesong for Orphans, reported recently it has helped 140 Ukrainian children get adopted by loving, Christian Ukrainian families. This has effectively emptied an entire orphanage. And the cost for a Ukrainian family to adopt a child is $500, not $25,000 (about the cost of an American adopting a Ukrainian).
Perhaps you or your church might financially support such initiatives, after doing some careful homework.
4. Adopt and/or support adoption
Adoptions in the United States have decreased significantly in recent years. Will you encourage the people of your church to prayerfully consider adopting children, either domestically or internationally?
If the financial challenge is the major obstacle, then consider fostering to adopt. Just remember in adoption it’s important to select a good agency and ask questions.
If you’re not able to adopt children, then will you consider supporting others? You might give to various adoption-funding agencies, as our local church does, or you might consider blessing a couple in the adoption process. You may also consider supporting adoptive couples by helping them tutor their kids, or baby-sit to give the parents a date night.
5. Provide transitional assistance
Orphans and foster children who are not adopted often have nowhere to turn when they age out of care.
So how do we help? First, churches must strengthen their relationships with orphanages and children’s homes. If churches will invest in orphanages and get to know children, then they can make an impact on these children when they age out. We need to know the kids on a relational level and seek to support them.
Further, we must help our Christian businessmen and women get a vision for orphan care. If entrepreneurial leaders will submit to God’s Word and use their resources, then they can make a huge difference in the lives of children.
Perhaps you have business leaders in your church who might consider “adopting” an orphanage or children’s home to provide some immediate help. Then, as the relationship continues, they may begin exploring ways to help these particular kids in the future, as they age out of care.
We need to turn our high-capacity leaders loose on this problem of transitional assistance, introducing them to the right people, giving them biblical foundations, and covering them in prayer. We must help and encourage God’s people to steward their various gifts and skills for the good of those in need.
Be wise and speak up
When it comes to international orphan care especially, we must be wise. The orphan crisis is complex, and there isn’t just one thing we need to do. If we don’t act carefully, we may even end up perpetuating problems (like human trafficking).
If the Lord gives you any influence within your church and your community, use it to speak up for the voiceless. In the Old Testament orphans often had no voice, and God urged His people to treat them justly. The same responsibility falls on us today.
TONY MERIDA is pastor of Imago Dei Church in Raleigh, North Carolina, and author of Ordinary: How to Turn the World Upside Down, from which this article is adapted.
Image: The Weimer family from Nashville, Tennessee (from left): Izzy, Bethlehem, Micah, Brandon, Simona, Kirk (dad), Dominic, Heidi (mom), Joseph, Selam, Justice, and Bereket. Heidi and Kirk began the adoption process in 2007 while on a mission trip in Ethiopia. Several adoptions and years later, they now have 11 adopted and biological children.