She sits there nervously and she asks me the question she should never have had to ask. The one that reminds me of the grief she has encountered despite her ability to tell jokes and confide in me the fear she struggles with. I look at her mother’s photograph hanging on the wall by the door, this is not how it was supposed to be. Her words fall heavy in the peace filled room “what should I call you? My friend, my sister… a parent?” I look back at her and I find the words to answer her.
“What do you want to call me?”
A quick, shy smile. Her sweet, small voice quivered as she whispered “I thought maybe I would call you a parent?”
I smiled, told her that was totally fine with me, prayed for her and then we left.
But it was never totally fine with me.
Because that was never the way it was supposed to be. Her parents were supposed to be here with her and with her seven siblings, I was not supposed to be the one attending school recitals and picking up school reports or dropping off school supplies. It’s an honor, but it was never supposed to be my honor.
We celebrate the miracle of adoption, bring awareness for the orphan from afar, but this staring a new orphan in the eyes— there is no words for it. We slap a label of “orphan” on one hundred and forty-seven million children and I think sometimes we forget the heartache and the pain and the brokenness hidden in the one hundred and forty-seven million hearts.
The ministry of orphan care is humbling, confusing, heartbreaking.
They brought him to the home after his mother abandoned him, the brokenness was unlike anything I had witnessed in another child. I had just lost a friend, and I remember staring at this tiny three year old boy knowing his entire being was echoing the grief in my soul. I felt like he was a reflection of everything inside me and somehow, for the first time ever, I related to orphanhood in a way i never had. I felt like God had left me, abandoned me and I wondered how long until true joy would come again. I knew he wondered the same– how could his mother leave him, would she come back for him?
Oh, orphan sunday, how horrible sad it is that we have a special day for you. Because this orphan Sunday thing? One hundred and forty-seven million souls live every day.
When Jesus walked this earth I think He felt the weight of the darkness, the need of salvation and restoration was a burden He carried as He spoke with prostitutes and ate with thieves and healed the lame man and stared in the hope filled eyes of the woman who desperately touched His cloak. They needed a Father, we needed a way to boldly approach the throne without hindrance, without fear.
Jesus was the restoration, the offering that would beckon us into a relationship with a Father who’s love and mercy runs deep enough for us. This adoption draws us into a place where our brokenness can be laid down and our burdens lifted because brokenness cannot survive when redemption wins.
I witnessed the restoration of that three year old tiny heart, not fully completed, but mended enough for him to boldly throw his head back in laughter. The first day I caught him dancing I saw a sneak peek of the joy that was coming– he just had to keep pursuing it. The sadness that once fully held him hostage has lifted enough that there’s a mischievous twinkle in his eye. A friend who knew him in his saddest did not recognize him in his new found joy. Yes, his story is not over yet and there is still hope for him, but for today we love him and we keep longing for more healing for his soul.
Orphan care points me back to a Father who loves so deeply that He replaces the tears with joy and brokenness with a mended heart that is stronger than before. We are in need of a Father, a heart that pursues us at our worst and rejoices in us at our best. We need adoption that tells us “you are mine and nothing you can ever do, ever say, no where you can ever hide will change that. you are mine and I am forever yours”.
Church, it is our responsibility to care for orphans because the Father’s heart is for the orphan. Adoption and orphan care reflect the heart of a Father who knows the hurt and the brokenness we are walking through but meets us there. It reflects this great love that is overwhelming— we are wanted. We all yearn to belong and be loved. It is the church to rise for the orphan across the nations and be relentless in our love.
The love He extends to us is expected to run over and create this miracle of witnessing healing and loving orphans. Yes, we are commanded to do so, but His love, His adoption of us, our names in the Book of Life should compel us. And Church, we will never be the same again.
So, here’s to those fighting, loving and placing their hopes in restoration. And to the ones unsure of what orphan care looks like to them, do not let fear hinder you. Sponsor that child, foster those babies, adopt an older child, empower a family to prevent an orphan. There is no fear in love, and maybe you will have the holy honor of loving a child enough to heal parts of their broken hearts.
Orphan care for me looks like being a cheerleader for a fifteen year old girl and her brothers, offering them a place to stay in my guest house. It looks like a foster son who has taught me more about fearless love and fighting for hope than anyone else. It’s directing a home through hope of restoration– it’s tiny little souls who make that place a home with others who have walked through the similar darkness of abandonment and loss. They run to greet me and yell “welcome back mommy!” every time I walk through that gate, and there’s a twinkle in their eyes, a hope that’s rising out of darkness, a joy that they’ve battled for.
There’s an honor in just knowing these sweet souls and I am unworthy to witness the restoration that Christ is doing– yes, we are far from whole and far from Home, but there’s a way that joy triumphs, that it creeps it way into the hellish of situations and we cannot help but reach out and touch it. The darkness never wins, it never ever will. Restoration is His.