This article, written by Elizabeth Styffe, Global Director of the Orphan Care Initiative, originally appeared in Ministry Today Magazine.
adoption plan provides the church with the perfect ministry model
At the heart
of orphan care at Saddleback Church is the desire to end the orphan crisis. We
believe every child deserves a loving, lasting, legal, lifelong family of their
own—and we believe this is doable. If every church empowered their members to
care for orphans in ways that helped and didn’t hurt, the orphan crisis could
though there are still more than 163 million orphans and vulnerable children in
the world today, little has been done yet to help orphans stop being
orphans. As a culture, we’ve spent years trying to put Band-Aids on the
orphanage institution. But children need more than food, shelter, clothing and
education. We don’t want children to just survive, but to thrive—and children
thrive in family.
we began asking ourselves, “How can we end the orphan crisis, and is there
something every church can do?” Here are what we believe are the answers to
being orphans when they become sons and daughters. At Saddleback, we’ve been
challenged to change everything about how we care for orphans and how we engage
members to care. We have two goals: (1) to end the orphan crisis; and (2) to
get every member on mission, caring for orphans locally and globally by helping
them find a family of their own.
God’s remedy for orphanhood. The church doing for orphans what God has done for
us is His solution. Because of this, we believe that if more Christians would
do physically for orphans what God has done spiritually for us, the orphan
crisis would be solved.
When we were
orphans, God adopted us. Scripture teaches that the reason God made the world
was so He could adopt (see Eph. 1:4-6). Our triune God, who needed nothing but
wanted a family of His own, allows us through the blood of His Son to share in
the rich communion as His sons and daughters (see Eph. 1). When God adopted us,
He made us part of His permanent family, so we would no longer be orphans. Even
though we were not His bloodline, He grafted us in through adoption, giving us
permanent security and a family, and meeting our need to belong. His adoption
of us is a legal process that cost Him everything. It gives us an inheritance
and the right to call Him Abba, or “Father” (see Gal. 4, Rom. 8). As a
result, at Saddleback we are in the work of reconciling people to God through
adoption (spiritual adoption), and helping children stay in their families, be
reunited with their families or find a new family through adoption (physical
There are 163
million children at risk in the world today but 2.4 billion people who claim
the name of Jesus. This means the solution for every child is a church where
all the members are caring about orphans. Churches can help orphans find a new
family through adoption. They can help them remain in their current family if
it is safe. Or they can help them reunite with their families if they are
separated (since most children in orphanages have families in the communities
but need the church to help the family become safe, healthy, and financially
and emotionally ready to care).
Care Initiative at Saddleback empowers ordinary believers to help orphans and
vulnerable children locally and globally, and it also focuses on helping
children find families. On the local level, this could mean doing several
things: volunteering to serve children recently removed from their home,
helping with sessions for people thinking about adoption, giving financially to
someone who is adopting, or caring for newly adopted children while their
families gain support. Even if you can’t adopt (and not everyone should), you
can help someone who is adopting.
changed what Saddleback does cross-culturally. We send teams to help churches
start orphan ministries that provide permanent, legal, lifelong families for
children. We don’t invest in group homes or orphanages or other often harmful substitutes
We help local
churches and governments find and equip families for adoption. The emphasis is
on solving the orphan crisis through adoption. We’re not talking about
Americans adopting (although the very small and declining number of adoptions
last year in the U.S. is evidence that more people should). Instead, this is
about helping churches all over the world legally adopt children, doing what’s
best for a child and ending the orphan crisis.
Every Church Can Do
So what can
you do to help eradicate such a global problem? Here are six things every
church (including yours!) can use to launch an orphan-care ministry:
Open your heart to God’s heart for the
Recognize your responsibility to find
Prevent children from being orphaned.
Help orphans in ways that move them out of
Affirm loving, legal and lasting families
by preservation, reunification, or adoption.
Never forget the local church is key.
approach to orphan care has changed dramatically from what it once was. Let’s
continue moving closer to God’s heart for adoption, as found in His Word. He’s given
us the perfect ministry model, so let’s embrace it. By working together, churches
can end the current worldwide orphan crisis.
printed in Ministry Today Magazine)
John was no stranger to the heartbreak of loss. The Rwandan genocide claimed the lives of his entire family, his first and second wives died, and he was left alone to care for his infant son, Daniel. Doing what he thought was best for his child, John gave Daniel to an orphanage.
10 year old Joshua’s little hands are rough and deeply scratched. These are not the typical marks of childhood play; Joshua’s scars are the result of hours spent everyday under the hot sun digging holes in the dry Rwandan soil at the orphanage where he grew up. His physical injuries only mirror in part the emotional damage he still carries with him.
A sprawling campus atop a mountainside covered in pineapples, his former orphanage looks for all appearances to be an idyllic place for an orphaned child to grow up. It prides itself on being a self-sustaining orphanage. By having the children farm pineapples on the hillside, the orphanage owners claim they are able to dry and export the extra fruit while the children learn the value of hard work.
The reality is that this orphanage has been the setting for an untold number of tragedies. Joshua recently left the orphanage, finally adopted into a home and a Rwandan family all his own. Yet every morning he still wakes up and asks his new mama and papa if it’s time to work in the field. For Joshua, unending labor is all he has ever known. When his new mother served him pineapple, he looked at her quizzically. “What is this?” he asked. His mother realized with horror that Joshua had never tasted pineapple – the fruit he had been forced to farm for the entirety of his childhood.
This month, that same orphanage on the hillside saw the sprouting of new, miraculous seeds of hope as twenty children walked off the grounds to join permanent families. After hearing about the vision of orphan care from the PEACE Plan, a group of local Seventh Day Adventist churches from the surrounding community decided that enough was enough. They spoke to their church members, asking them if God was calling them to adopt. Twenty families stepped up to answer the call and rescued a child from the isolation of the orphanage this month. Thanks to them, and the support of Orphan Sponsorship donors, twenty children are no longer nameless workers for the would-be labor camp. Twenty children get to feel the embrace of a mother for the first time. Twenty children have regained a childhood.
PRAY FOR ORPHANS
This month, join us in praying that the remaining children in the orphanage would know the love of a family through adoption. Pray that the local churches all across Rwanda would continue to lead the way in caring for orphans in an unprecedented way. Also, pray for the families that have made the decision to take a new child into their home – that God would bless the transition as they work to heal the past hurts of their new sons and daughters.
Click here to learn more about the Orphan Sponsorship program, or to become a Sponsor!
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It's not all that often that Saddleback Church
has the opportunity to host a free seminar that is for you and your friends,
but you're invited to this special occasion and are welcome to invite others to
Reduce Stress to Build Better Relationships
Auditorium, Lake Forest Campus
We look forward to seeing you there!
Questions? Email us at email@example.com or
Children In Families First (CHIFF), a bipartisan bill that would
prioritize family as a key element of U.S. foreign policy and help streamline
international adoptions, is hosting a Tweet-Up today – and your voice matters!
goal is to get the word out and influence members of Congress who will be
voting on the bill. Help raise awareness for this important bill that could help orphans around the world find family and change the face of international adoption in America by tweeting your support and sharing its
importance with your followers!
Please check out the CHIFF petition, sign it, and share to
your friends on social media
You can also learn more about the bill in this article about
CHIFF in the Christian Post: Sen. Mary Landrieu Asks Christians to #SupportCHIFF and Aid Orphans in Crisis (VIDEO INTERVIEW)
There is still a long battle ahead for this important piece
of legislation, but with your help we can help children get into families much
faster! Visit the CHIFF page at childreninfamiliesfirst.org to learn how you
can get involved. You can also follow CHIFF on Twitter and like their Facebook page to keep up with all the updates.