What constitutes an orphan or vulnerable child? Most of us are aware that there is a worldwide crisis regarding the number of orphans in the world. UNICEF and global partners define an orphan as a child under 18 years of age who has lost one or both parents to any cause of death. By this definition, there were nearly 140 million orphans globally in 2015.
Vulnerable children are defined as those whose health or development is likely to be significantly impaired, or further impaired, without provision from social services. Vulnerable children may be in the care of a public authority or are provided with accommodation by a public authority in order to secure their well-being.
But this is a problem for other places, right? There is no way we have a problem here in the United States! Caring for orphans and vulnerable children is a “third world issue," isn’t it? Sadly, no. In reality, there are nearly 400,000 children in the foster care system in our country, including 21,000 in our state. Even closer to home, the Department of Child Safety (DCS) office for our local region services more than 500 children.
This Sunday at KSBC, we will recognize Orphan Sunday (or Stand Sunday, as some call it) to join with the church across the globe in standing in defense of the fatherless. Working together, the church can solve this problem in a far better way than any other organization can even imagine. For example, according to the Christian Alliance for Orphans, there are nearly 4,500 children in our state awaiting adoption—and there are over 6,600 churches. Simple math indicates that the church can make a significant impact.
Caring for the orphan and vulnerable is a job God has given to us as Christians. Even if the government and other non-profits were doing a perfect job of caring for orphans, it would not remove the church’s mandate to care as well. Caring for the orphan and vulnerable is a way that we imitate God and keep something close to our hearts that is definitely close to His. For example:
- Psalm 10 speaks of God as "the helper of the fatherless" (v. 14) who hears "the desires of the afflicted and will strengthen their heart" (v. 17) by doing "justice to the fatherless and the oppressed" (v. 18).
- In a similar way, Psalm 68:5-6 states, “Father of the fatherless and protector of widows is God in his holy habitation. God settles the solitary in a home.”
- Throughout the book of Deuteronomy, as God is giving various laws and procedures for worshiping Him well, he continually makes provision for the fatherless, the sojourner, and the widow. According to Deuteronomy 10:17-18, “For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God, who is not partial and takes no bribe. He executes justice for the fatherless and widow, and loves the sojourner, giving him food and clothing.” The importance of caring for the vulnerable is particularly highlighted for those "within your towns." (See Deut 14:29 and 16:14 for two examples.)
The call to care for the fatherless is not limited to certain believers or those who are specially chosen. It is a call for all believers. There is something that everyone can do. For example, the youngest members of our church family recently helped to raise money for vulnerable families in our community. Some of the oldest members of our church family pray regularly for and have become adoptive grandparents to foster children they know. In between, many among our church family have fostered, adopted, or provided respite care. Others have helped to meet specific needs of a meal, box of diapers, baby supplies, clothing, or a round of groceries.
At 6:30 pm on Thursday, November 14, Kossuth is hosting an Orphan and Vulnerable Children Awareness night. If you are looking for a way to step in and begin caring for the vulnerable, this is a great opportunity to find your fit. Following the worship gathering this Sunday, members of our Engage ministry team will be handing out prayer sheets for those who would like to make vulnerable children and their families a part of their regular prayer time. The call to act is from God. Please consider what you might do.