Today is a day that believers across the globe unite, with one voice, as one body with many different parts, and stand to say that they see. They see the need, and they will help meet it. They hear, they hear the silence of those who cannot speak for themselves, and they will come to their defense. Today, is Orphan Sunday. Though the official movement began in 2009, it began long ago, long before 2009, long before any of us.
“Do not mistreat or oppress the foreigner, for you were foreigners in Egypt. Do not take advantage of the widow or the fatherless. If you do and they cry out to me, I will certainly hear their cry.” Exodus 22: 21-23
“Cursed is anyone who withholds justice from the foreigner, the fatherless, or the widow. Then all the people shall say, Amen!” Deut. 27:19
“A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling.” Psalm 68:5
“Defend the weak and the fatherless; uphold the cause of the poor and the oppressed.” Psalm 82:3
“Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the widow’s cause.” Is. 1:17
“And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need.” Acts 2: 44-45
This is not some new, millennial christian church movement. This is the heart of God, what he has woven into existence since the beginning. Since He established His people, defending and caring for the sojourner, the widow, and the fatherless, seeking justice for them, making them a part of their community, culture, and families, it has always been commanded. Somewhere along the way, the church lost sight of this. And not just doing this, but doing it right.
As I studied in college to get my degree in social work, it pained me every single time, when looking at the history of where things went wrong in child welfare, the church was either not there at all, or there making things worse. I have many friends who are not believers, who read this blog. They know where I stand when it comes to Jesus, but I’m also not going to stand here and say that the church has done things right.
Sometimes, this beautiful day is stained for me. Because as much as I love to see this, as much as I love some of the stories of families being moved to action, men and women doing beautiful things and serving their communities around them, I also tend to see a lot of talk on this day and not a whole lot of action past it. I see a lot of people be moved by big statistics, stop at tables and attend meetings, but then that’s it. Life goes on, and these big, beautiful voices in small bodies, who are the very image of Christ and have been given a purpose here on this earth, get lost once again. I hear lots of “one days.”
One day I’ll….
Adopt when I’m married.
Adopt after we’re done having biological children.
Adopt if we can’t have biological children.
Adopt once we get out of debt.
Adopt once we buy a house.
Adopt when the time is right.
Volunteer, when I’m not so busy.
But, what about now? You want to adopt “one day”, and that’s great. If you’re married, I bet you also said at some point in your single life you wanted to get married “one day.” Did you do anything to prepare for that? Did you listen to sermons on marriage? Did you read books? Did you learn to serve in different ways in your singleness? Did you attend other friends’ weddings? Did you pray for your future spouse? Did you pray for your friends as they entered into marriage? Did you provide a safe haven and listening ear when things got real and hard in their marriage? Did you have others speaking into your relationships as you were dating?
The likelihood is yes, of course you did! You didn’t miss a wedding because you didn’t have a date or weren’t married yet. You didn’t listen or speak truth when things weren’t going well because you weren’t in that season yourself. You didn’t wait to serve as if you couldn’t serve because you didn’t have a spouse. No! You learned. You waited, but you learned in the wait. Sometimes that wait was excruciatingly hard, but worth it. You figured out how to best use your gifts in the season that you were in.
Friends, married or single, young or old, you do not have to wait for “one day.” You do not have to be in the perfect place in life or in this make-believe, perfect season because there is no such thing. Scripture does not command that, it commands you to act.
I don’t know what your church is doing today for Orphan Sunday or if they are even participating in it. What I want to urge you to do is this: Please do not just listen to stories or stop by a table or attend a meeting. Those are great first steps, but that’s just it. They are first steps. I implore you, keep taking more. God has given you specific gifts. He has called you for a specific purpose. It may not be opening up your home or family to adoption one day, but if you are believer, you are commanded to act. He’s already given you what you need to serve, you simply have to find where that fits in best.
I’m going to give you some practical ways to serve, but first and foremost before you do any of that, stop and take a look at your season, and ask yourself, what can I do? Change your mindset. Too often we focus on what we can’t do, so we simply do nothing at all. So, wherever you are in your life right now, what can you do? How much time can you give? How much could you commit to? Could you give financially, and if so, how much? What are your gifts? Do you have a business that could help? There is no such thing as too little. This does not have to be a weekly thing, and it should not be used as something to simply “check off” a list. Everyone will be better off if you know what you are able to do, even if you are passionate, you don’t have to do it all.
Here are some practical next steps you can take to figure out what that is.
- Find out if your church has a foster care and adoption ministry. If they don’t, you might want to ask why not? If they do, find out who the leader is, and contact them. Once you contact them and get an answer, meet with them and see where you can get plugged in. Think about the gifts that you have, and see how they could be used to serve these families. Side note: be patient. This is not a typical ministry where you tangibly serve every single week. Many times, needs arise and you just need to be available to meet them.
- Find local agencies, non-profits, and ministries. CASA, Advocacy Centers, CPS itself, all have different opportunities to serve. Maybe you have a passion for a particular country and culture, consider sponsoring a child through Compassion International, and build a relationship with them. Maybe you’re just great with kids and would love to babysit children while their parents are in support groups or counseling. Many non-profits who work with survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault have a need for this.
- Become a certified babysitter or respite care provider. This is something your whole family can get involved in. Maybe you can’t foster or adopt right now, but those families who can, they can’t just let the neighbor down the street watch the children in their care. They are limited when it comes to childcare. Consider getting background checked and CPR/First Aid certified, or go to training to do respite care for foster families for up to 72 hours. If you already know a family, ask if they need this and go through their agency. If you don’t, then find a local agency or contact CPS itself-there are always trainings for this.
- Give financially-gift cards, meals, clothes your kids have outgrown, support a family doing an adoption fundraiser. Adoption can be expensive, and I cannot tell you how much it meant to us when people gave to our adoption fund. We literally would not have been able to bring our son home without it. If you hear of a family, even if you don’t know them, consider giving.
- If you know of a family in need, consider helping them or doing a fundraiser for them. This was one of my favorite things during our adoption fundraiser is people using their gifts. We had talented friends with small businesses donating a percentage of their profits for a time to give back to us, donate items for a raffle, I’ve seen photographers and videographers give back in amazing ways to foster kids who never get professional photos or foster families who don’t know how long those kids will be with them get family photo sessions for free. I’m not kidding when I say, look at the gifts that you have. How can you currently use them, because the possibilities to serve in this way are creatively endless.
My hope is that Orphan Sunday was just the first step of many. I hope that at this time each year, you’re a little bit farther along than you were the year before.