By Trisha Van Stensel • From our May/June 2012 newsletter
Elizabeth Styffe, the director of Saddleback’s HIV/AIDS Initiative, was in Malawi. Standing in a cold, dark, and damp hut that was no bigger than four feet be six feet, she looked down at the three youngsters who lived there. The children’s faces were expressionless, evidencing no emotion whatsoever. She asked her interpreter where their mother was. “They have no parents,” was the reply. “Who will put them to bed tonight? Who will feed them in the morning?” she asked. “No one.”
A girl who’d grown up in the U.S. foster system was nearing the end of high school. Less than half of foster youth graduate, but she’d overcome the odds and earned her diploma. As graduation approached, however, she expressed no desire to walk the stage. Encouraged, cajoled, and finally begged by her social worker, she refused again and again. Finally, she confessed, “I don’t want to go because I’ll be the only one up there with no one in the audience to clap for me.”
From the other side of the world to the other side of the tracks, the needs of the fatherless are vast. Latest estimates put the number of orphans globally at 163 million. All of these children have lost a mother or father; about 10 percent have lost both. In the United States, roughly 425,000 children live in the foster system at any given time, with about 115,000 currently waiting to be adopted. -Daniel J. Bennett, “A Passion for the Fatherless”
I write these stories not to give you a guilt trip, but to open your eyes to the cry of the orphan…to those who God has called us to defend (Psalm 82:3). Ever since our adoption of Sienna in April 2011, God has laid the idea of an orphan care ministry at RRC on my heart. Every child has a right to a family, and during the months of May and June, when we celebrate Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, what better time to begin this ministry?
Some of you have been called to adopt, whether through domestic, international, embryo, or foster care. Some have been called to support in other ways, whether it be financially, emotionally, or through prayer. But we have ALL been called to defend, love, and protect the orphan!
In the following months we will be working on building a section on the church website which will include information on adoption, foster care, and orphan care (the differences between domestic and international adoption, financing adoption, Orphan Sunday, etc). Along with that we would like to create a support group for those who either have adopted in the past, are in the process of adopting, or who may be just beginning to think about where God is leading them.
Remember the children from the first story? Imagine making a difference in the lives of just one of them. You can. You just have to say yes to God’s leading. I look forward to walking on this journey with many of you.
Please contact Trisha Van Stensel if you are interested in either joining the support group or joining our “Hearts for Orphans” team.