8 Ways to Help the Poor and Forgotten
- Felicia Alvarez Crosswalk.com Contributing Writer
- 2014 3 Mar
As I set the little three-year-old boy down, he burst into tears and reached up, begging me to pick him up again. I had already held him for a good thirty minutes and my arms hurt, but his tears compelled me to scoop him back into my arms. The dear child clung to me tightly and his sobs melted away into a peaceful silence as his head rested on my shoulder. I was a complete stranger, but he was so desperate for love he didn’t want to let go of anyone willing to hold him.
My heart broke.
I wasn’t angry at the caretakers; they were doing the best they could. There were simply too many children. They had their hands full trying to keep the kids fed, safe, and lice-free—spending time with them one-on-one wasn’t an option. Honestly, I didn’t know how they ran an orphanage with such a shortage of staff.
But I was still upset. Not necessarily because these orphans were deprived of individual attention (which was sad) or because the children were poor.
I was angry because these children had been forgotten.
Here before my eyes were children living without love while Christians did very little about it.
Why don’t we do anything? Part of the reason is that we don’t realize what’s going on in other areas of the world. Part of it is that we’re so busy with our own lives that we forget about kids like these. But one of the biggest reasons we don’t get involved is that we want to protect ourselves. We don’t want to know too much because we’re afraid of becoming sad or depressed. We don’t want to care too much, because we’re scared of experiencing pain. The sad truth is, we’re more interested in preventing our own pain than in relieving theirs.
I know this because a part of me was scared as I held that little boy. I didn’t want the pain of leaving children I’d come to love at an institution. I wanted to adopt them and take them home, give them food, a big grass yard to play in, and a warm bed. I wanted to love on my terms—I wanted to love them forever—not on orphanage terms, which meant leaving them behind at the institution.
Caring can be tough.
C.S. Lewis so eloquently put it, “To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken.” Essentially, to love is to risk being hurt.
In his book, Orphan Justice, Jason Carr shares “It’s inconvenient. It’s hard. It’s messy. It’s exhausting. I guarantee it. But all too often, selfishness keeps us from taking care of these children. Somewhere along the way, in our concern for an easy, happy, comfortable life, we may be missing the heart of the gospel—to seek and save the lost, to reach out to the forgotten and the oppressed, to love sacrificially, and to pour our lives out so that others can catch a glimpse of Jesus.”
If Jesus came to earth and all he was concerned about was himself and what was best for his emotions and physical health, do you think he would have died on the cross?
But he DID put himself through difficulty and die on the cross for our sake. It was hard. It was painful. But he did it for US. And what does Christ call us to do? He says we are to love our neighbor—orphans, foster children, trafficked children, HIV children—as ourselves and that we are to pick up our cross and follow him. And there’s no disclaimer…it doesn’t say “Follow Christ on your terms or as long as it’s comfortable.”
The Next Step: Moving Past Good Intentions
We all think following Christ and loving our neighbor as ourselves is great. We think volunteering is great. We think sacrifice is great. We think such-and-such an organization is great. But that’s all we do: think and talk. Essentially we’re saying it’s great for other people to do. We are so busy applauding the works of others that we never get our own hands dirty—figuratively speaking. We assume most people are doing something, but “most people” are just like us: doing nothing but talking. Intentions are only good if they lead to action.
If more Christians followed through on their intentions—if more Christians put themselves aside and risked loving just one child—the world orphan crisis might disappear. One missionary shared this:
“There are 143 million orphans
+11 million who starve to death/die of preventable diseases
+8.5 million who work as child slaves/prostitutes
+2.3 million who have HIV
= 164.8 million needy children
And though at first glance that looks like a big number, 2.1 billion people on this earth proclaim to be Christians. The truth is that if only 8 percent of the Christians would care for one more child, there would not be any statistics left.”
This is incredible!
So Do Something!
Sponsor a child (or two or three) through Compassion, World Vision, or another reputable Christian organization. Many orphans are not true orphans, but abandoned children. Their parents cannot afford to feed them, so they leave them at an institution. Child sponsorship provides assistance to families and reduces the amount of orphans. You can help keep a family together by sponsoring one of their children with a small monthly contribution.
Foster a child. There are over 500,000 foster children in America. Children typically enter foster care because they have experienced abuse and/or neglect and need to be removed from their homes for their own protection. These children are in need of foster families who can care for them temporarily.
Open Your Home to a Family in Crisis. “Through Safe Families for Children (SFFC) a parent can arrange for their children to stay with an approved volunteer family while they address the overwhelming family issue facing them…The average length of a child’s stay is about six weeks; but it can range anywhere from two days to a year.” For example, a single mom could need assistance with her children if she is in an accident and requires surgery. Or temporarily homeless parents may need a safe place for their kids while they figure out their housing situation. There are many different situations and opportunities to assist these kids. Visit safe-families.org for more information.
Adopt a child internationally or here in the states. In the United States alone, there are over 100,000 children in the foster care system waiting to be adopted. If you are interested in learning more about adoption, Bethany Christian Services is a good place to start.
Help fund an adoption. Adoptions can be pricey and there are families who would love to adopt but cannot afford all the costs. Lifesong for Orphans provides matching grants to families who desire to adopt. You can donate to their matching grant fund—every bit helps!
Volunteer with foster kids. You may not be able to take them home, but you could be a mentor to children. A good place to start your search for local foster organizations is VolunteerMatch.
Spread the word. Share about the orphan crisis with friends by word of mouth and through social media.
- Pray for orphans. You can sign up for Lifesong for Orphan’s Prayer Team and receive email updates with prayer requests and praise reports.
Don’t just have good intentions; take steps to act on them today. And, with the Lord’s guidance and strength, those 164.8 million needy children can be cared for by the church. It starts with each person doing their part and not assuming that “everyone else” will pick up the pieces. We are the body of Christ, let’s move together!
Felicia Alvarez lives in Southern California and loves avocados, sunshine, and serving her Savior. Currently, she teaches dance to over one hundred students and is working on her second book. Connect with Felicia on her blog or Facebook—she would love to hear from you.
Publication date: March 18, 2014