The Bible is a Christians guide for a life with God and many of us are reading this book regularly. In his letter, James writes, that we should be doers of the word, not just hearers, or readers (James 1.22-23). The word of the Lord needs to be applied. A few verses further, he says, that true religion is ‘to care for widows and orphans’. For James to be a doer of the word was to reach out to orphaned children and their mothers.
In biblical times, and still in many countries around the world today, a family who lost the father lost at the same time all legal protection and became defenceless. This might not be true today in our countries, yet single parents and their children are still often the most vulnerable of our societies. When we hear the word orphan, especially as Western Europeans, we don’t think about our own countries, but we might have mental images of big orphanages somewhere in Africa , when in fact there are orphans in every country. We only need to be able to see them.
At the height of the refugee crisis, many were aware of one kind of orphan to reach Europe – the unaccompanied minor Asylum seeker, some of 13 or 14 or even younger. But the biggest group of orphans in all our countries are so-called social orphans – children and teenagers unable to live with their own biological family because of violence, abuse, or because of mothers and fathers are unable to care for their children. The big majority of these children end up in orphanages or smaller children’s homes, but what all these children really need are stable families. Who is better placed to provide that than Christians, who themselves have experienced turning from being orphans to becoming sons and daughters of the heavenly Father through Jesus Christ (Rom. 8.15)?
James is clear – caring for orphans is not for specialists or for people working in an orphanage. It is for every Christian who is a doer, and not only a hearer, of the word. Psalms 68, 5-6 tells us, that God is the Father of the orphan and that He wants for them to live in a home, a family. In this sense, caring for orphans is a mandate for every Christian.
In 2010, a group of Christians in Ukraine came together to do something for the thousands of children living in orphanages. While praying they saw the truth of James 1.27 and Psalm 68, that caring for orphans in healthy families is a mandate given to all Christians. As they reached out to churches in the country, a movement soon began to grow, Ukraine Without Orphans. It is a movement that has spread to almost 40 countries as World Without Orphans (WWO).
How can we as leaders in churches across Europe release Christian families to help these vulnerable children, with every Christian playing a part? Not everyone has the capacity to become a foster carer or an adoptive family, but they can start with praying for one or more children, for a family who is fostering, they can support them financially or in kind, or they can simply be a listening ear..
Personally, many a fun afternoon and weekend has been spent with my sister’s foster children, over many years, making me a foster aunty and giving both parents and child a break. And there is so much more, that together we can achieve. If we all do our part, we can live out the mandate of caring for orphans together in our churches and as networks throughout our countries.
Starting in 2018, WWO’s European team has been inspiring and supporting Christians, churches and organisations to start ‘without orphans’ movement in their own countries, reaching vulnerable children where they are and helping them to become part of a new family – in East- and Western Europe.
How can your country’s Christians discover the privilege of joining a growing global movement to fulfil this Bible mandate? To discover more or join one of our upcoming events, do get in touch with us at [email protected]
By Barbara Ruegger, Trustee and Facilitation Team Member of World Without Orphans Europe