Back in 1994, the unthinkable happened.  Rwanda lost 1 million people in 100 days.

As I listened this week to a representative from the Rwandan government recount the atrocities committed in their country, I could not help but lose a little hope.  It seems that so many work to do so much good and then evil rears its ugly head again and makes us feel like we are progressing backwards.  Or, in this case, losing a generation.  There were 500,000 orphans in Rwanda back in the mid 90’s.

But, something happened.

As I sat there in my seat in Southern California at the Christian Alliance for Orphans, I could not believe what I was hearing.  Again, the unthinkable was happening.

The Rwandan representative began to tell us about what has been happening since those tragic days almost 20 years ago.

From 1994-’96, there were 104 orphanages.  Today, there are 34 orphanages.  Why is that important?  It is important because they have closed 70 orphanages as of 2012.  They closed them because they are putting these orphans in families.

There were 500,000 orphans in Rwanda back in the mid 90’s.  Are you ready for this?  There are 3,151 orphans left in the country.  That’s unthinkable.

What is happening there?

Well, for one, in many ways the plight of the Rwandan children is the one thing that was agreed upon by the Rwandan government and they made it their top priority.  Also, Saddleback Church is heavily involved through their PEACE plan in Rwanda. They are equipping churches and the people of Rwanda to care for their own children through the local church.  As a result, families in the church are stepping up to care for these children in their own communities.

In the past, the Western church has developed a culture of PRAY, PAY, & STAY AWAY.  It is evident that this approach is not working.

What IS working is how many churches in the West are helping without hurting.  They are not doing the things that the locals are capable of doing.  They are working in ways that are more long term and sustainable.  They are emphasizing CHURCH and FAMILY as the answer to the orphan crisis.  And, it’s working.

If we are going to see orphanages emptied and families filled up, we must work with the local indigenous churches.  We must serve and not bully.  We must trust.  We must use our skills to equip our fellow human beings, not because we are “the rich” and they are “the poor”, but rather we are compelled because of our love….just like Jesus. 

Elizabeth Styffe from Saddleback Church says it like this, “Sustainability requires local relationships that are using local resources”, and “the local church is God’s answer to local problems”.  I agree.

Let’s make orphanages transitional and move toward equipping the family of God to adopt because every child deserves a family.

Finally, the representative also mentioned that Rwanda is striving to become the 1st nation with NO orphanages.  That’s unthinkable.  That’s hope.  And, I believe it’s going to happen.  We can all learn from what is going on there.  Out of this great tragedy has risen such a beautiful example of God’s great plan, the Church, to care for the fatherless.  God’s plan A. 

There is great reason to have hope today.  There are 2.4 billion Christian believers in our world.  There are 168 million orphans.  Let’s not just work on the orphan crisis.  Let’s end it.

Every effort matters,

Steve Gillis
Founder/ Exec. Director
Patch Our Planet

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