November is Adoption Awareness Month. Last week, our church participated in Orphan Sunday, which is a day designed to raise awareness in churches about the plight of orphans and the serious call Jesus makes in the Bible for caring for this innocent and vulnerable population. My husband and I were asked to speak about our adoption story and our personal views on caring for orphans. It caught me off guard at first, and I thought to myself, “I am all about helping orphans, but how does that relate to our adoption story?” Maybe I have had the definition wrong in my head of what an orphan is. So I looked it up. No, the dictionary clearly defines the word as “a child whose parents are dead.” Josh’s biological parents are very much alive, so I wrestled with this idea of my son being an orphan.
According to the Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System (AFCARS), there were almost 400,000 children in the foster care system in the United States in 2012. Many of these children have at least one living biological parent, so technically, they would not qualify as orphans either. So here’s the catch. We read over and over again in the Bible to take care of orphans, but the existing definition of the term orphan isn’t comprehensive enough anymore. Orphans are also referred to in the Bible as “fatherless”, which seems to get a little closer to our modern day foster care children.
As I dug in to this idea of “What is an orphan?”, I realized with much sadness that my son was an orphan. He was fatherless and motherless and in need of a home. That pretty much sums up the concept of orphan to me.
My son and I love to watch the movie Hook. I love any story that can capture the beauty and magic of childhood, but beyond that, there is also a powerful adoption theme. The whole reason why Peter goes to London, leading him to have to return to Neverland to save his children from Captain Hook, is to honor the Wendy character for her lifetime dedication to the plight of orphans. I felt a tremendous weight on my heart as I watched it this past week because, maybe for the first time, I realized how powerful and serious the call to care for orphans really is. It was Wendy’s life work and passion. And we have no evidence from the Peter Pan story that she was doing it to fulfill God’s call. She just knew it needed to be done.
I know that adoption is not for everyone, but what are some ways you can care for orphans? Have you been defining the word too restrictively also? Where are the needs in your own community? I don’t think it is a coincidence that Adoption Awareness Month is in November. This is a time for us to be thankful for all that we have. And in our thankfulness, it is also a time to challenge ourselves to give.
I would love to hear your stories about what the call to care for orphans means to you or some ways others can get involved (including me!).
If you are interested in learning more about adoption from a Christian viewpoint, I strongly recommend the following resources:
Adopted for Life by Russell Moore
The Spirit of Adoption: At Home in God’s Family by Jeanne Stevenson-Moessner