The statistics are sobering:
- 143 million children across the globe are orphaned.
- Every 14 seconds an AIDS death causes another child to become an orphan.
- 800,000 children pass through the foster care system in America each year.
These numbers are courtesy of Voice of the Orphan, a joint ministry effort by FamilyLife, Focus on the Family and Shaohannah's Hope. I've been reading their materials with interest because I've had a long-standing interest in/burden for orphans.
I first wrote about Voice of the Orphan back in November. I'll repeat what I wrote then (hoping that quoting myself is not poor blog etiquette!):
Because it's so easy for compassion fatigue to set in, while you are on this site please take a minute to look at the "What You or Your Family Can Do" section. Listed there are numerous ways for single women to make a difference. Though we normally think of adoption as the only solution for an orphan, there are also opportunities to meet practical needs, to mentor, and to be an advocate for orphans in your own community--as well as guidelines for setting up an orphan ministry in your local church.
As the holidays approach, perhaps you can find out a way to minister to lonely orphans this Christmas. I am sure that if you ask God for inspiration and opportunities to provide care, He will guide you. (Though I'm not advocating you do this all by yourself--it's wise to get counsel from your pastor or elders before undertaking such a venture). I'm equally sure that if you are immersed in caring for someone else, it won't seem so lonely to be single this year. I've got a plan I'm trying to pull off, too. We'll see if God opens the doors. If so, I'll be sure to keep you posted!
By the grace of God, this plan did work! I was referred to an extremely helpful contact in my county's Child Welfare Services department, who was more than eager to assist me with the idea to bless foster children at Christmas. It turns out that her department checks on the most needy children in the system every year and tries to round up volunteers to buy presents for these children. This year, they had all the wish lists for the children ready in advance, but the volunteers weren't as plentiful. My call was timely. So when I presented this idea to one of my pastors, he was eager to support it and obtained the go-ahead from the church elders. All of this came together very quickly, and yesterday some friends and I administrated the sign-up table at church. As I expected, the members of Covenant Life Church responded with generosity. I was praying that all 92 children would be covered, and they were. The support was so immediate that my senior pastor, Josh Harris, and the pastor who was leading this effort, Mark Mitchell, had to move quickly to make sure they got on the list, too!
Now I am praying that the shopping and gift delivery also goes smoothly for each child. More importantly, I am praying that this is just one of many ministry efforts in the future for the benefit of parentless children.
I'm not writing this to commend myself. I want to encourage my American readers that there's still time to do something similar in your communities. I was told that my county's Child Welfare Services department is often scrambling at the last minute to get gifts to children placed in emergency foster care right before Christmas. I'm betting this is typical of many counties or municipalities. We who are single usually have a bit more time and flexibility right before Christmas to respond to last-minute needs like these. What a relief it would be for the social workers who are responsible for these foster children to know that there is a group in a local church standing by, ready to pitch in at the last moment for a child facing difficult times at Christmas!
If you want to do this, too, you'll need to find the community liaison for foster care in your area. As I understand it, each locality is structured a bit differently from the next, so the best way to get started would be to do a search for "foster care" and the name of your county/city and state. A few phone calls should get you connected to the proper person.
UPDATE: Read about how the Girl Talkers participated in this event--and how they used it as a teaching moment for their children. Great idea!