Thursday, June 7, 2012

When There is Silence in Orphan Ministry

"The first question that the priest...and the Levite asked was: 'If I stop to help this man, what will happen to me?'  But the Good Samaritan...reversed the question: 'If I do not stop to help this man, what will happen to him'?"  
---Martin Luther King, Jr.

I often keep my frustration to myself when it comes to orphan ministry.  Not wanting to offend, I choose to be quiet when I sometimes want to scream.

But, I will be bluntly honest here in this small blog post on one tiny blog in the sea of cyber space...

Sometimes it really gets to me.  Sometimes I go to bed at night, cover my head and cry for these orphans.  And I ask God, "WHERE ARE ALL THE FAMILIES WHO WILL RISE UP FOR THESE LITTLE ONES?!"  I wrestle with my inability to rally the troops.  Sometimes it truly baffles me how I can send out S.O.S. calls...for orphans who only have months until they are placed in a mental institution unless a family steps forward to adopt them...or for an orphan who is one of the last children awaiting a host family for the summer hosting program.  And the response is almost always the same: silence....sometimes a few muffled, "I'll pray about it," but mostly silence. 

A friend of mine experienced this recently when she posted on FaceBook several times about orphans who were in need of host families, and out of all her pleading, only a couple of people shared the info with their FaceBook friends.  A click of the mouse seemed too much to ask.  WHY is this?  Is it just a pain to do?  Or is it because we don't want to get involved, even at the smallest level (clicking the mouse)?  Or do we not want to bother or burden our friends?  Yet, if it was OUR child on the other side of the globe who was in desperate trouble, you'd better believe we'd be contacting every friend, family and stranger we could find and pleading desperately, "Help my child!"  But, because these children are not our own, we have a different level of concern.  We can refuse to help and not feel any tinge of guilt.  

I watched as the clock ticked down to the final minutes for families to sign up to host orphans, and there on the screen were several faces of children who were not yet chosen.  They will have to be told, "You weren't chosen by a family.  Maybe next time."  In the meantime, again the stab of rejection sears, as they spend their summer in desperation while potential host families spend their summer in comfort.

But the Good Samaritan...reversed the question: 'If I do not stop to help this man, what will happen to him'?"  

Do we stop long enough to care what will happen to these children who aren't chosen?

My 14-year-old daughter was getting into bed on the night of the host deadline.  There was an air of sadness in our home as we all silently dealt with the fact that several orphans had not been chosen...and now the deadline had come and gone...hope had snuffed out.  And my daughter broke down sobbing for these children.  No doubt, she was putting herself in their shoes, feeling their pain of rejection, of hopes plummeted.  Children can still feel with a tender heart that hasn't been hardened through the years with the adult answer of "well, that's just the way things are."  Children can still feel the reality of a hurting heart on the other side of the globe.  She clung to me and cried until she had no more tears.   When she settled down, and I was tucking her into bed, she said something that cut through all the politically correct reasoning of adults: "Mama, you know what I think?  I think every single one of those children had a host family.  But some just didn't obey."

I've thought on that for a long time, and I have to agree.

I have heard all the reasoning before: Not every family can adopt.  Not every family can host.  Not every child is supposed to be adopted.  All these statements  can be true to one extent or another.

But I fear that we use these as blanket excuses to make ourselves feel better about not getting involved.  We, in our culture, crave convenience, and entering into an orphan's life is anything but convenient.  We crave familiarity and comfort, and entering into an orphan's life will rip you out of your comfort zone with intensity.  We run from pain, and entering the life of a hurting child means entering their pain.  We crave simple...we'd rather write a check than roll up our sleeves.  

I'm not harping.  I'm not complaining.  I'm not guilt-tripping.  I'm simply struggling with the way the priest and Levite walked to the other side of the street to avoid the man who was obviously in need of help.  As Christians, we read about that.  We teach our children about that.  And we tend to say,"That priest and Levite were wrong.  The Good Samaritan was right.  We should be like the Good Samaritan."  And yet it fleshes out differently when it's an orphan (or widow or homeless or poor or oppressed) lying in the street (or on the computer screen) in front of us.  We care at some level...maybe even enough to say a quick prayer.  But the seat starts to get a bit uncomfortable.  We shift a bit and reach into our back pocket for excellent excuses: I cannot afford to host an orphan this summer...I have other plans...this may upset my own  happy home...I am not "called" to do this.  And we click the "X" in the corner of the page...we wipe it off the screen and out of our minds...we choose to walk to the other side of the street and not get involved.

I know because I've done it too.  Far too many times I haven't stopped for the one placed before my eyes.  

And, no, we cannot do it all.  Our family cannot care for all 147 million orphans.  But we can step forward for the one.

At the end of the day, when my frustration is high and hope is low, God my Father wraps me in His arms and reminds me that I do all I can and leave the rest to Him.  It is HIS work.

But it still grieves my heart that so many are missing out on the call He gave to us all.  So many are busy singing in the choir and going to youth pizza events (nothing wrong with those things), all the while ignoring what the God they worship has defined as "true religion."  While we are busy worshiping Him in a million ways that we like, we forget what HIS definition of real religion is: "Pure and undefiled religion before our God and Father is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself unstained by the world." (James 1:27) 

Based on that definition, are we truly worshiping Him?

The answer is what grieves me deeply.  Where are the ones who will stand up and obey?  Where are the ones who will refuse to walk to the other side of the street but will stop for the one who so desperately needs help?

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