“Statistics can go over people’s heads,” my friend Laurel Greer says, and she’s right. There are nearly 150 million orphans in the world today; that’s half the population of the US. Try imagining one in every two Americans being an orphan and see how surreal it feels.
Let’s look instead at one kid: Myles, age 3. He has dark brown skin, laughing almond eyes, dimples, and a crooked grin that could easily grace a baby Gap ad. He’s Laurel’s and her husband Peter’s son, born and abandoned three years ago in Rwanda, adopted at approximately 7 months. Laurel likens the months of waiting for Myles to the expectancy of a biological pregnancy: “I couldn’t wait to meet this little boy; he was already a part of me. The connection and anticipation felt just like the experience of waiting for our first two children to be born.” And yet she describes the added fierceness of the longing to meet and unite with him, a “mother-bird type of fierceness. I so desperately wanted to get him out of the orphanage and in my family nest.”
Because of course, what orphans lack, by definition, is a home of their own and parents– specific humans whose role it is to care for, protect, and nurture these small souls. “Think about the way we mothers naturally dote on our little ones, celebrating little milestones like rolling over and cutting teeth,” Laurel says. “We know their sounds and learn to differentiate their cries. But no one was there filling that role for our Myles during his early months; no one was celebrating his milestones. Feeling this loss was a personal experience in digesting the world’s orphan crisis. It was an intense grief, at times almost too much to bear.”
And yet the months did end, and God’s grace was abundantly evident during that time, as in the adjustment months after Myles came home. Laurel testifies to seeing this not just in her family’s experience but over and over again during the adoptions she’s walked through with her friends. “Pain and grief are always a part of the adoption process, because adoption is broken – it’s a result of our fallen world,” Laurel says. And yet the joy is infinitely worth the struggle; we always find our lives – and true life – whenever we’re willing to lay down our own. God loves and abundantly blesses adoption, because he is the protector of the orphan and the father to the fatherless. He’s the one who sets the lonely in families – just like he did for Myles.
Question is: what are we doing to help God protect the orphan and parent the father (and mother)less? Because we Americans can be a self-absorbed bunch, and our culture’s tolerance motto of “live and let live” translates, in the face of the orphan crisis, into an indifference motto with tragic consequences. It often amounts to “live and let suffer” or even “live and let die.” Because hundreds of these orphans do in fact die every day – generally of things like preventable diseases or lack of clean water. Are we OK with this? Will we, like the majority of our American peers, carry on indifferently with carpools and Target runs and yardwork while these parentless children struggle and suffer and die?
Laurel and her husband Peter, who heads the microfinance organization HOPE Internaional (helping the poor “break free from physical and spiritual poverty”) are among those leading the charge to stand against the indifference and act on the orphan’s behalf. Laurel has, with three friends, launched an organization that provides clean water for Rwandan orphans called 4-more. One 4-more founder and Peter have co-written a children’s book about interracial adoption called Mommy’s Heart Went Pop, describing the metaphorical process of an adopted child growing in the heart of his adoptive mother. “When we adopted Myles, we found so few resources to help our family . We want to help families prepare for and celebrate the process of interracial adoption,” Laurel say; “we wanted to help equip people.” The books proceeds will help fill the coffers of a the newly created MylesRuby Fund, which provide grants to assist families in adopting orphans.
But let’s come basic to the basics. How can we, at entry-level, get involved in defending the cause of the fatherless? Ideas:
- Participate in Orphan Sunday, asking the Holy Spirit to speak to you about what role you might take on
- Prayerfully consider adopting, or financially contributing to another family’s adoption. Yes, it is logistically and financially challenging, but our God can do the impossible
- Invest in a reputable organization that effectively cares for the orphan, or combats poverty in such a way that the fewer children become orphans. [Some of our favorites are HOPE, IJM, Compassion, Hands & Feet, and 4-more]
“Statistics go over people’s head,” Laurel says, “so instead, contemplate the depth and despiar of a single orphan. Consider his needs. Follow his story. Take a step of faith and adopt. Or if you don’t (because not everyone is called to), then choose one or two organizations that care for orphans and really get behind them and make a difference.”