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This article, written by Elizabeth Styffe, Global Director of the Orphan Care Initiative, originally appeared in Ministry Today Magazine.


God’s 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 be over.

 

Unfortunately, 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.

 

At Saddleback, 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 those questions.

 

God’s Solution

Orphans stop 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.

 

Family is 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 adoption).

 

Church and Family

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).

 

The Orphan 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.

 

This has 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 for families.

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.

 

Six Things 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 orphan.

Recognize your responsibility to find permanent families.

Prevent children from being orphaned.

Help orphans in ways that move them out of orphanhood.

Affirm loving, legal and lasting families by preservation, reunification, or adoption.

Never forget the local church is key.

 

Thinking Differently

The church’s 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.

(Article originally printed in Ministry Today Magazine)

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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.


For three years, John walked for miles to see Daniel. He visited as often as possible, always leaving brokenhearted. His son was being raised by strangers and used as free labor to plant and harvest pineapples. “Even though I’m a big man, I would cry and my son would cry when I left,” he recalls. Still, John thought it was best for Daniel to stay in a place that wouldn’t struggle to feed him and could give him a comfortable place to sleep and shoes for his little feet.

Deep in his heart, John knew that shoes were no replacement for the love of a family. Sleeping on a mattress was no substitution for the security of a loving embrace. The physical satisfaction of food couldn’t make up for the loss of a father’s affirmation. He desperately wanted to bring Daniel home, but didn’t know how he could raise him alone. “I can’t do this on my own,” he told his church congregation. “No you can’t,” his pastor replied, “but you can with the help of the church.”

John learned about parenting training and ongoing support that was available to him through Saddleback’s Orphan Care Initiative and the local Rwandan church. During a training class at the orphanage, John listened to the reasons why a child needs a family while he lovingly cradled Daniel and watched him fall asleep in his arms. At that moment, John knew he had everything it took to take care of Daniel, and he made the decision to take his son home. 

The orphanage director, hesitant to let his child labor go, suggested that John go home and prepare first. John replied, “Get what ready?” He knew there was no preparation required, and that an open heart for his child was the only thing that was truly necessary.

Today, one more child has a loving home because one more father opened his heart to receive an estranged child. Through Saddleback’s Orphan Care Initiative and the local Rwandan church, one more family has been reunited.

To learn how you can sponsor a family in Rwanda to take in a child from the orphanage, visit www.saddleback.com/sponsorship.
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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.

 

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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.

 

 

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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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Do you want to improve your emotional IQ in your family and workplace? Are you wasting time in needless conflict? Do you find yourself overacting to stress in your life at work and home? Do you feel like people are constantly pushing your buttons? 

If you are interested in increasing the quality of your relationships, we've created a unique FREE event just for you. Learn how to turn stress into opportunities for closeness, from authors Milan and Kay Yerkovich.

We all have relationship patterns and habits that interfere with closeness. Learn how to identify and change the most common stress responses that harm relationships.  Create better relationships with your kids, friends, coworkers and more.

This practical seminar of self discovery and development will be taught by relationship experts Milan and Kay Yerkovich who are one of the  hosts of the popular radio show “New Life Live,”  and authors of HOW WE LOVE.  Join us to learn the tools to change your relationships and your life.

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 join.

 

Reduce Stress to Build Better Relationships

Saturday, June 21

9am to noon

Saddleback Church

Refinery Auditorium, Lake Forest Campus

 

REGISTER HERE

 

We look forward to seeing you there!

Questions? Email us at orphans@saddleback.com or call 949-609-8555!

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!

CHIFF’s 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 (http://childreninfamiliesfirst.org/please-sign-chiff-petition-today/).

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.

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