photo by apdk’s photostream on flicker

The white-haired orphanage director stood before our group and began to tell us the story of one of the little girls in the orphanage.  He recalled how she was dropped off at the doorstep of the orphanage at a young age with a note saying something like, “please take care of my little girl”.  As the director continues, he tells us that this little girl would stare out of the broken orphanage window for weeks looking for a mother who would never return.

My gut sank.  My heart moved into my throat.

This experience generated equally as many questions as it did emotions. Are we doing enough?  Am I responsible for what I just heard?  Our team stopped by to visit this orphanage on our way to somewhere else (a tradition that needs to end in our churches).

But, the bigger reason for sharing this story with you is this:  I want to eliminate the orphanage director’s need to ever share a gut-wrenching story again.

Now, before you get mad at me, at least let me explain.

I have had the privilege to serve orphans in the United States, Costa Rica, Argentina and Ukraine.  In every instance, there is a director who has plenty of gut-wrenching stories to tell about the children in their care.  You know what?  I would tell them too.

Put yourself in their shoes for a moment.

You have a burden to care for children that no one else will care for.  So, that’s what you start doing.  You meet a few people along the way who help out a little financially, probably just keeping you barley operational.  The churches in your community really don’t have any long term plan to help you.  Come to think of it, you really don’t see them much anyway.  Depending on where you live, the government may provide a little assistance, but the need seems to always outweigh the assistance.  And, you struggle every single day.

Then, a church team from the U.S. comes through.  What would you do?  I bet you would tell them a story of your experience at the orphanage and the plight of the children. Real stories of rejection, abandonment, and hopelessness pull at our heart strings.

I would tell the stories too.

How do we eliminate those stories?

There is one answer:  Get the church involved now.

Let me explain:
1.  If churches in (you name the city) come alongside of an orphanage, problem solved.
2.  Churches provide encouragement, resources, hope, accountability, care….and the list goes on.
3.  If churches are involved with orphans in their community, directors would have NO NEED to tell those gut-wrenching stories to visitors in hopes that they may help financially in some way.  Instead, they will feel a stronger sense of hope and share the stories of positive life change.

Let’s do something practical.

Here are 3 things your church can do now:
1.  Give the orphanage director a break!  Cover for them for a day or two or three and send them somewhere to revive themselves for the long haul.
2.  Pull together other churches in the community and become the foundation for these orphan works by providing resources for them.
3.  Ask your church to pray about the option of adoption.  Every child deserves to grow up in a family, not an institution.

Obviously, there are many more creative options than this short list.
I am simply hoping to “kick-start” the process.

As my friend in Ukraine told me in January, “..for too long, the church has performed ‘parachute ministry’.”  We drop in, share the good news of Jesus, and then move on.  
Churches owe it to these courageous orphanage directors to provide a strong foundation of support and care until the need for institutionalized care is eliminated because of the church’s response to care for the orphan.
That day will come.  And, you are going to help!
How will you impact your community?
Steve Gillis
Founder | Executive Director