Alright, friends. Strap on your steel-toed boots because this post is going to step on some toes.
Like, really. You better prepare yourself. No one is safe.
Shane and I hear, on a semi-regular basis, about how wonderful and amazing we are to be giving Ruth a home. To have gone through the “rigorous” adoption process and offered a forever family to a child with little hope (I emphasize rigorous here because our adoption process was nothing compared to Ruth’s experience: being abandoned at two years old and losing all the family she’s ever known. Let’s not elevate our effort over her suffering). And while we know these comments are meant well, it has always seemed odd- like a compliment about how well we breath out of our nose or about how nice the weather is today. We are given praise and credit for doing something so sacrificial for a little person. But in reality, we are all called, as Christians, to do something sacrificial for those who are seen as the lowest and most hopeless in society. God wants it to be the norm. He wants it to be like breathing out of our nose or like recognizing that the sun is out again.
Do I need to mention James 1:27? “Religion that God, our Father, accepts as true and faultless is this: caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you.”
What about Psalm 68:5 “A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling.” or Pslam 82:3 “Defend the weak and the fatherless, uphold the cause of the poor and the oppressed.”
It’s indisputable that God is calling for his children to be the hands and feet of Christ to those who are helpless in society. That means orphans, foster children, the homeless veteran holding a sign on the way to your workplace almost every day. There are so many who are in need of Christ’s love to be poured out from his bride. So- how are you saying yes to God’s call to care for these? Or, are you saying yes?
I’m going to throw some statistics out here. Because, you know, numbers are #LYFE. Just kidding. I’m not that nerdy. But numbers represent people and it’s so important to take these matters personally. Why? Because God does- and that’s as personal as something can get. So here are some figures to read and let sink in:
There are over 1000 children in the Oklahoma foster care system whose goal is adoption. And over 65,000 across the nation. And those are just children who are available for adoption. There are nearly 40-50% MORE who are just having to be placed in the system for a period of time!
There are more than 150 million orphans world wide.
There are more than 500,000 people documented as homeless in the U.S.A.
These numbers are pretty staggering, aren’t they? I mean, there are more children available for adoption within my country than the population of my town. And don’t get me started on the orphan epidemic: there are more children without families than the whole country of Russia. And when I started writing this, I was going to use the top 10 most populated U.S. cities but that didn’t even amount to HALF of the orphan epidemic. So, try to comprehend the magnitude of that.
But you know what? We need a few more numbers. Let’s start the toe-stepping, shall we?
Of those orphans around the world, over 14 million age out. Meaning, they are not adopted and reach legal adult status and are forced out into the world on their own. A percentage of these children, in some countries as high as 50%, commit suicide. Approximately 60% of females who age out are trafficked or become prostitutes. And approximately 70% of males end up in prison in 3 years or less, are forced to join gangs, rebel or terrorist groups or live lives characterized by criminal activity. Most of these children become homeless and most of those children die very young as a result of a hard lifestyle. Over half of homeless people have contemplated suicide, and are 10 times more likely to follow through. Don’t believe what you’re reading? Check out www.unicef.org, www.hopefororphansoftheworld.org, www.sos-usa.org or www.nhchc.org for more information.
And here’s the statistics we belong to:
According to Pew Research in 2016, there were around 173 million Christians living in the U.S.A.. One hundred and seventy three MILLION.
In Oklahoma, there were an estimated 19 million Christians belonging to the Southern Baptist Convention. That’s just one denomination within the Christian religion.
You don’t have to be adept at math to find the relationship between these numbers. There are more Christians in the United States alone than there are orphans in the world. There are more Christians belonging to one single denomination of the Christian religion in the state of Oklahoma than there are children available for foster or adoption. If everyone who claims to be a Christian would donate to a soup kitchen or homeless shelter, there would be no homeless issue, it would seem.
So why do we have a problem? Why do we have the epidemic of children without families all over the world? Why are there homeless people dying on the streets of our own cities?
Are your toes hurting yet?
Listen: I know not everyone is called to adopt. I’m not so niave in my thinking that I feel every family should be able to give children a loving and caring home that teaches them about Jesus. Some of those Christians in the statistics are over the age of 50. Some of those Christians are terminally ill. Some of those Christians are caring for family or friends full time. Some of those Christians are students, maybe not even adults. I get it- the numbers are “inflated” as far as problem solving goes. But that doesn’t take away from the fact that many of God’s children are giving him a “no” answer when God has commanded we say “yes.”
I won’t go into the growing issue of “Moses-itis” among the church: giving God the “but I can’t” excuses, like Moses did when God called him to lead his people out of Egypt. I really, really want to, but I won’t. Let’s focus on the fact that God wants our yes more than our excuses. God wants our obedience more than our comfort. God wants us to care about all of his creation the way he does- and that means we, as children of the Almighty Father, has absolutely no choice but to say yes to God’s command to care and provide for the lowly.
Those “yeses” in action may appear very different in the lives of his children. Some obey by adopting a child, or children. Some obey by offering safe, loving homes while children wait for their parent(s) to be well enough to be their parent(s) again. Some bless families who have opened their lives, hearts and homes financially. Some manage housing options for low income or homeless people. Some keep “care kits” in their cars for the souls begging by the traffic light in the city. Our yeses can, and do, look different. That’s how the body works, remember? We can’t all be eyes or feet or lungs: the body needs all kinds of different parts to function as intended.
So, you. Yes, you with the toes that I have more than likely pummeled a little bit in this short blog post: have you said yes? If you have, have you done it? What does it look like? And if you have said no- God wants you to change your answer. Remember, he’s the God of second and third and fourth and so on chances. He’s famous for this unbelievable thing called grace, and he’s waiting for you to ask him to help you be all he wants you to be for his kingdom. You can change your answer. So, if you say yes, what does your yes look like? What has God gifted you with that you can turn right around and gift to someone else? Wealth? If you know someone struggling, whether it be with affording an adoption or affording the electric bill, how can you be a clay pot for God’s kingdom? Maybe you have a heart for children. Maybe you are awesome at coupon-ing and can stockpile basic necessities and supplies like nobody’s business: God has a place for you. He wants your yes.
Please, Christian reading this blog, ask God to give you the strength and faith to live a life of yes to God’s call to care for those who can’t care for themselves. There are no regrets when it comes to being his salt and light on this earth. I can promise you that living in a state of yes to God’s will for our lives is infinitely better than all the reasons we say no.
So, what is your yes?
By the way, children and the homeless are obviously not an exhaustive list of those who need our love: find those with needs in your community.