Christy Britton is a wife and mother of four boys living with her family in Raleigh, NC. She is a justice seeker and orphan advocate at 127 Worldwide. The Brittons are currently pursuing an international adoption from Uganda.
The egocentric American worldview says,"Out of sight, out of mind." Anything that doesn’t directly affect me doesn’t exist. With this perspective, it’s possible to live our whole lives without ever being affected by the global orphan crisis, which affects over 150 million children. This described me until I went to Kenya and met my first orphan in 2015. I was wrecked—no longer content to be ignorant about orphans. My ignorance is not bliss to them. Actually knowing an orphan made the global orphan crisis personal to me. I wanted to help—I needed to help—but I thought I could only do so by adopting these orphans, which was only possible if I relocated my family to Kenya.
So, how was I to help them? Did I get a pass on helping them because I couldn’t adopt them? No. God commands us all to care for orphans (Isa 1:17).
Why We All Must Care for Orphans
In Christ, we’re all recipients of God’s heart for orphans as his adopted children (Eph 1:5). It’s our joy and our responsibility to share the grace we’ve been shown with the vulnerable, for the glory of God.
And as redeemed image bearers, we reflect our father’s heart to the world. His heart is for the orphan. Psalm 10:17-18 says, “O Lord, you hear the desire of the afflicted; you will strengthen their heart; you will incline your ear to do justice to the fatherless and the oppressed, so that man who is of the earth may strike terror no more.” God commands us all: “Give justice to the weak and the fatherless; maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute” (Ps 82:3).
How We All Can Care for Orphans
Generally, we view orphan care through the lens of biology; we think of adoption as only for those unable to have biological children. But instead, we ought to think of it in terms of theology.
John Piper says, “Adoption is a picture of the gospel.”
There are many ways to engage the global orphan crisis. While adoption is a strategic way to help orphans, it’s only a microscopic part of the solution. Christians who want to seek justice on behalf of orphans have many ways to help, if we’re willing.
Consider the following practical ways to help orphans:
+ Advocate for the vulnerable. Proverbs 31:8 says, “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves.” Christ is our advocate (1 Jn 2:1), and we imitate him when we use our voices for the voiceless. Educate yourself on the plight of orphans and start telling people how they can help. Leverage your sphere of influence for the vulnerable.
+ Support families involved in foster care and adoption. Churches can serve families when they welcome orphans into their homes by providing meals, childcare, help with chores, etc. Adoption is costly. Give sacrificially. My family is adopting from Uganda and we couldn’t afford it without help from our friends and family.
+ Befriend orphans as they “age out” of foster care or children’s homes. Welcome them into your homes as you can. Feed them. Help them find jobs. Take them shopping to buy a new outfit for an upcoming interview. When biological kids reach this same age, their parents help launch them into adulthood financially and relationally. Step in and do this for an orphan.
+ Support parachurch organizations that help orphans. Safe Families is a ministry that works with local churches to provide temporary care for vulnerable children locally. 127 Worldwide is a nonprofit that partners with local leaders around the world caring for orphans and vulnerable children. Find like-minded ministries and join them.
+ Visit orphans. James 1:27 says, “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” God visited us in our affliction through Jesus. He came to us. Let’s go to them. Jason Johnson says, “Orphan care demands we interject ourselves into broken stories just as Jesus interjected Himself into ours.” In his book, Radical, David Platt says, “We learned that orphans are easier to ignore before you know their names. They are easier to ignore before you see their faces. It is easier to pretend they’re not real before you hold them in your arms. But once you do, everything changes.”
+ Pray without ceasing. Petition our heavenly father on behalf of the orphan. Pray for them to know the father who never abandons them. Pray for their protection, their provision, and their caretakers.
+ Preserve families. The preservation of families leads to orphan prevention. Fight for marriages and families. They need healthy local churches in their area to teach and support them. Orphans need to see healthy families modeled for them. Many orphans live in areas where there are no healthy churches. Support church planting and pastor training around the world.
Do What You Can
The global orphan crisis is complicated and messy. It will require Christians engaging from a variety of angles. If adoption isn’t an option, find something that is. An inability to adopt doesn’t mean an inability to help at all.
John Wooden famously said, “Do not let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do.”
We must fight for justice, not run from this crisis of global proportions. The welfare of millions of vulnerable children is at stake. Our witness to the world is at stake.
We can help. We must help. Do justice. Do it in many different ways.