“It takes a village to raise a child”. This African proverb means that an entire community of people must interact with children for them to experience and grow in a safe environment. My friends, Amanda and Nathan, took this to heart….then didn’t think it was enough.
Convicted by Their Faith in Jesus
My wife, Amanda, and I have been reading, learning, thinking, and praying about the great need that children have for a loving home, a stable environment, security, and support. Our hearts break when we see children enter into our “spheres of existence” who lack these things.
After getting to know a number of people, in very personal ways, who became foster parents, we found ourselves naturally reading about it. All of this noticing, learning, and reading led us directly to praying about it. Praying, “Lord, please raise up enough stable families for these children. Please call people who are willing and able to love those who need to be loved…”.
We started moving in directions that would lead us to a more direct influence on the lives of the children we know. Through our participation in youth sports leagues, Amanda’s job move to pediatrics, kids we know through the church, and mentoring at the high school, we noticed even more need. We had started to do something about it.
Yet in our reading, learning, thinking, and praying, we still felt this wasn’t enough. After doing everything we could think of to be involved and give back to the lives of the children who need it, we were finally convinced and convicted that we were called to do something more. We then arrived at the decision to become foster parents and are nearing the end of the process of certification now.
When I talk about active discipleship, I like to think I’m talking about something I’m endeavoring to live out. I’ll be honest, there are times I preach something and it is born more out of self-examination than experience. Yet this is a time when I see a clear parallel in my life, because my wife and I both view this calling to fostering as being connected to our journey as disciples of Jesus.
Following Jesus, to us, means caring for the most vulnerable, feeding others, providing clothing for those who cannot clothe themselves, and so on. Is there a more tangible sign that we believe these things to be true, than fostering children….the children who Jesus cares for a great deal?
Active discipleship, to me, means putting the beliefs and faith I have (about who Jesus is, who Jesus loves, and what the church should believe) into action in my life at home. I don’t always get it right (just the other day I apologized to someone for not being gracious), but sometimes I hope I do. And I believe this might be one of those times.
Fostering isn’t for everyone. Heck, after we care for a few children it might not even be for us. But we all have ways in which we can be more intentional about putting our faith into action, about living out our faith while “on mission” in the world. I encourage you to examine yourself and ask how you are living your life on mission or how you might start in some area.
What would it look like to put some component of what you’ve learned and believe about Jesus into action? You might be surprised where it leads you, and you might just change a little part of the world to look more like heaven.
Orphans – a Worldwide Crisis
This is one busy family making a difference in the lives of several vulnerable children. “It takes a village to raise a child”, so there is room for all of us to contribute and our village has become worldwide. The IHH Humanitarian and Social Research Center produced a lengthy report in June 2018 that is overwhelming in its scope and implication. Here are a few excerpts:
Wars, invasions, conflicts etc. are all crises which lead to an increase in the number of orphans. Currently, the crises prevailing in Eastern Turkistan, Syria, Nigeria, Iraq, Somali, Mali, Sudan, Palestine, Afghanistan, the Central African Republic, Arakan, and Pattani leads to ever increasing numbers of orphans in these areas. Natural disasters also leave behind many orphans. The tsunami that hit South Asia, the earthquakes in Haiti and Pakistan, and the drought in East Africa, have all left millions of children orphans.
Children account for one of every three asylum seekers in Europe. In 2016, more than 63,000 unaccompanied children reached Europe. Since the outbreak of the refugee crisis following the war in Syria, 480,000 children have crossed the border into Greece. 5,174 of these were not accompanied by any adults. During these exhausting journeys, the children are exposed to many problems such as violence and sexual abuse, whereas the greatest danger is that posed by human traffickers. According to studies, tens of thousands of the children, who had arrived in Europe after overcoming such major obstacles, were lost. 96,465 of all the children who filed asylum applications in European countries in 2015 are now unaccounted for.
Approximately 33% of the people in question in Germany, the country hit hardest by the flow of refugees towards Europe, are children. According to a report published in 2017, more than 350,000 children who applied for asylum in Germany are housed at unsafe locations while reviews are pending, and many may be exposed to physical, psychological and sexual violence during that uncertain period.
In the first half of 2016, approximately 26,000 children, who reached the border of the US, were found to be unaccompanied by any adults. In the US, approximately 3 million children strive to maintain a life without parents. Each year approximately 22,000 babies in the US are abandoned in hospitals, while 2,000 to 3,000 kids are left as orphans due one of the parents killing the other. 60% of these kids are assigned to foster families as a result of exposure to domestic violence and abuse, while a further 17% are assigned to foster parents due to the death, imprisonment, disability or illness of the parents. These studies reveal that the children living under such conditions have difficulties in adapting to the society, and often face violence, abuse, and ill treatment sometimes at the hands of foster families. As with the case of any orphan, these children also have difficulties in many areas of life, such as education.
Today, 153 million orphans are registered around the globe. Yet, estimates of the actual figure range above 400 million. This is because it is impossible to get an accurate count of the children who live on the streets or who have been kidnapped or conscripted.
The Magnitude of Child Abuse
A UN report published in 2014 on global child abuse states that one out of every 10 girls suffer sexual abuse. (See also Generations of Women Endure Abuse) The report is based on data from 190 countries, and notes that in 2012, 95,000 children and teenagers were murdered.
This is the leading reason of death of boys aged 10-19 in Latin American and Caribbean countries such as Brazil, Guatemala, Colombia, Panama, and Venezuela.
Reports produced by the UN again reveal that in 58 countries, 17% of children face severe physical punishments. Another noteworthy point raised in the report is the fact that three out of every 10 adults consider such punishment as a necessary element in raising a child.
The numbers are overwhelming and make us feel helpless to make any improvement. However, we are many and like the Butterfly Effect if we each make an effort to enhance the life of one child, it can result in a large difference overall.
The impact of child poverty, which is an alarming development for any country, unfortunately, is usually permanent. Consider the impact of many permanently damaged children, now adults, on our communities. Like Nathan and Amanda, we can all do something to help grow healthy people. If you are interested and unable to find a volunteer opportunity to make an impact in your community, please consider UNICEF.
1 John 3:18
Little children, let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action.
2 Esdras 2:20
“Guard the rights of the widow, secure justice for the ward, give to the needy, defend the orphan, clothe the naked,
“And if, as my representatives, you give even a cup of cold water to a little child, you will surely be rewarded.”
“Beware that you don’t look down upon a single one of these little children. For I tell you that in heaven their angels have constant access to my Father.
“Anyone who welcomes a little child like this in my name is welcoming me, and anyone who welcomes me is welcoming my Father who sent me!”