Good morning. Today we are recognizing orphan Sunday.
Let me begin by pointing out that the children whose pictures you see projected here are real children with real names who need real families. Each of these children needs just one family to step forward to provide the love and comfort that we take for granted. If you need to know more about any of these children, please speak with xxxx or xxxx following the service, or simply contact the church and one of them will be happy to get in touch with you.
My name is J. and one reason that I’m here before you on this orphan Sunday is because my family looks a little different. We have many children, some of whom are adopted from Asia, and this makes us conspicuous. We joke that our family motto is “outside acceptable parameters.”
Occasionally, some people respond to our family by saying, “How do you do it?” or “Aren’t you wonderful!” or “I could never do that.” The comments are meant well, and we are grateful that we rarely hear the kinds of negative reactions that some adoptive families elsewhere frequently hear (especially adoptive families whose children’s color or physical or developmental special need makes others uncomfortable). But the implication is that we are essentially different from other people. We are a mystery: how and why would someone intentionally allow their family to get like that? Unconsciously, those who set us apart as some sort of aberration (a good aberration, of course, but aberrant, nonetheless)… unconsciously, perhaps they are excusing themselves from responsibility.
But we are not different. There is nothing special about us. We do not have access to special psychological, emotional, or financial resources that others don’t have. Honestly, we had no idea what we were getting into with adoption, and we still often feel as if we have no idea what we are doing.
We are, quite literally, incapable of being the kind of parents that our children need… at least, on our own we are incapable. Of course, the point here is that we are not on our own. We are forced to rely on God for even the smallest aspect of our parenting, and this is true of every other aspect of our lives, as well. This is what we have learned from adoption. If we can adopt, then anyone can adopt. We are not different.
I take that back. We are different. But the difference is a result of having surrendered to God’s call to adopt, not the reason for it. We have been made different by adoption. We have been irrevocably changed by our adoption experiences. I have discovered in new and deeper ways my own brokenness, sinfulness, and self-centeredness. I have also discovered, though, the depth of God’s love for me and his miraculous ability to provide for me in all circumstances.
We are all orphans, abandoned and without hope, until God adopts us into his family. And even then, what heartbreak we must cause our loving Father as we reject his plans for us, rebel against his rules, run from his presence, fight against him at every turn. Yet he does not let us go. His adoption of us is irrevocable and he will be our father and we will be his children, no matter what we do or how we lash out. His patience and correction will not fail.
There are more than 140 million orphans and significantly at-risk children in the world. (If the world’s orphans were gathered together in one territory, their population would make them the 10th largest nation in the world… larger than Mexico, but just smaller than Russia.) In the US, there are about 500,000 children in the nation’s foster care systems. More than 100,000 of these children are waiting to be adopted.
But these kinds of numbers are hard to grasp. Statistics can invoke immediate shock and concern, but they generate little lasting change. Instead, imagine one child, a child you know… perhaps one of your own children, or a niece or nephew… a grandchild… the child of a friend or neighbor. Now imagine that child abandoned and alone… imagine that child hungry… imagine that child trapped in a crib without any human affection… imagine that child unable to receive even the most basic of health care. What steps would you not take to rescue that child?
I’m tempted to say that none of this is meant to make you feel uncomfortable and that I know that not everyone is able to adopt a child. But… you know what? It is not for me to let you off that hook. In fact, allow me to pray that God may make you even more uncomfortable in days to come. Following Jesus is disturbing, and disturbance is a necessary precursor to growth.
Comfort and security are powerful idols in our slice of the western world. Our words say we trust God, but our actions suggest that we put greater trust in education, career development, financial security, retirement planning. Even when we understand that value and purpose are not to be found in affluence, success, and security, it is not easy to relinquish control and allow God to use us. However, if our lives are not knocked off-center by God’s call, then perhaps we have not been adequately disturbed.
Adoption is messy; it smashes the idol of the perfect family; it forces us to acknowledge that we are not in control. Children who come from hard places bring deep wounds. We are learning to let go of our ideas about what life should be, our ambitions and desires for the future, our claims to comfort and ease. In place of these things, God is giving us peace that transcends all external circumstances and purpose in his kingdom.
Please carefully read the handout you will receive as you leave worship today. It offers some ways that you can respond to God’s call to care for orphans. As today’s scripture readings from Isaiah and James remind us, there is never a Sunday or any other day when God’s heart does not break for the parentless. Nor is there a day when caring for the parentless is optional in God’s kingdom.
Good news! It seems as though Penny has a family who is working on adopting her. 2 down, 5 to go. At least with this group of 7. The very sad thing is that there are dozens and dozens more children warehoused solely because of their disabilities who live without hope in outrageous conditions.
But they are! They are created by God in His image and we are called to care for them. They are truly the least of these. I cannot let them go; I think about them in nearly every free moment that I have. I'm going to post one of their pictures here at the bottom of each of my posts each day. Would you join me in praying for each of these children? Pray that a family would come forward who is willing to adopt them. Love them. Pray that they will know they are not forgotten? There is still hope for these little ones as their files can be specially asked for, it just adds time to the process.
This is Chad. He is 9 years old and has always lived in an institution. An institution with severe neglect. No one has ever even asked to look at his file and now it looks as though they never will. Pray that God will not let this little one become invisible. Pray that his parents will find him and show him what it means to be loved.