I might step on some toes in this post and for that, I apologize. Well, except I don’t really apologize. God not only stepped on my toes years ago when He opened my eyes to what’s happening to children around the world, He stomped on my feet. HARD. I need to do a little foot stomping – maybe your foot will be underneath. Sometimes that’s okay. I promise it’s out of love.
Want to know what I did today? I left Amani with a caregiver to go love on some orphans. We visited the same three orphanages we visited when I was here in July. I thought I’d be just fine. I knew intellectually that today would be hard but I had already forgotten just how hard it is. Then I nearly lost it before we even left the first orphanage. I am really not sure how I’m ever going to sleep tonight.
We spent time first at the boys’ orphanage. It is a place where I wouldn’t let my children play, much less live. And I spent most of my time talking with a 13 year old boy who has been at this particular orphanage for 4 years but was at a different one before that. He’s working hard at school and wants to be a doctor one day. Do you know what his chances of success are? Not so good. If he’s still in school by the time he turns 18, the Ethiopian government will give him $500 and send him on his way. No training on how to spend that $500, no guides to make sure he finds a place to live and a place to work. I know I’m not sending my kids out with $500 when they turn 18 and just expect them to know what to do. We were told most of them have spent the $500 within the first week. And then they’re just out of luck.
Know what else I realized? If Amani were not adopted, this would be where he’d grow up: in an orphanage in Ethiopia. Where boys sleep in bunk beds, row upon row, with thin blankets over them on cold nights, where they only recently all got pillows. Where ONE “mother” is there for hundreds of boys. No good night stories, no snuggles, no one to answer boys who call out in the night. No family.
We went to the baby orphanage next. I blogged about this back in July. It’s still heartbreaking. These babies get two diaper changes a day. TWO. Do you know how many diapers Amani went through during our first few days when he had diarrhea? Seven or eight at least. We walked around picking up babies who were crying. I picked up one and realized she had burns on her neck and shoulder. Burns.On a baby.Uncovered, untreated, just open to the air. And her cry was so weak. How long until infection sets in? How did she get burned? How does a baby dealing with burn pain get through the day when there is no one to pick her up when she cries? How long until she gives up?
From there we visited the girls’ orphanage. These girls are not unlike my youth girls at home. The walls of their bedrooms are covered in pages from magazines: pictures of Beyonce, Brittany Spears, and some Bollywood stars. They dream just like American girls do. Only these girls have no mom to giggle with; no one to talk to them about how boys should treat them. Many girls who grow up in orphanages end up in prostitution in Ethiopia. These beautiful girls I hugged today are likely to share the same fate. Do you know how sick that makes me?I have a daughter. The thought makes me want to throw up. Then scream. And throw things.
I started to title this post simply “WAKE UP” but I realized that the basis for everything I have to say is in the Bible. That doesn’t mean at all that people who aren’t Christians can’t help – they certainly can. But if you call yourself a follower of Jesus and you aren’t doing anything, you might want to have a little talk with your Creator about that. We, as the church, need to wake up.
I know I’ve said that before, but I am so mad today. I’m mad at our culture, I’m mad at our churches who focus on keeping Christians happy and comfortable in our fancy churches with flat-screen tvs. I’m mad at myself for buying into the idea that I need comfort and security when my comfort and security comes at such a cost. I have so much when these children have nothing. I am at fault here.
That doesn’t mean everyone needs to adopt. If God is calling you to adopt, I suggest you answer. But maybe He isn’t calling you to adopt. That’s great. Adoption isn’t going to solve all the problems. Maybe you’ve been reading my blog and you want to do something to help the orphan problem. Check out Lifesong for Orphans. Go to the Heart for Africa website. Read Orphanology. Caring for orphans is MUCH more than just adopting. Adoption is like triage – kids in the system now need to be adopted but we need to do more to make sure more kids don’t end up in the system in the future.
But here’s the deal. God wants you to do something. James 1:27 says “True religion is this: caring for the widow and the orphan in their time of need.” Caring FOR, not caring ABOUT. Anyone can read what I wrote about those orphanages and care. Do you know how few will actually do something? There are children going to bed tonight alone. To steal a quote from one of my favorite people:
“is that okay with you?” (Janine Maxwell from Heart for Africa – read her book!)
There was some kind of research study done a few years ago asking mainstream Americans what they thought of Christians (I can actually get you the info on this, just don’t have it in Ethiopia). Do you know what the main answers were? Christians are hypocritical and hate gay people. Hmmm… sounds like we’re doing a great PR job. Last time I checked neither of those things are in the Bible.
What if Christians were known for caring about orphans or fighting injustice because we love Jesus? What if we all did something? Domestic, international, whatever. What if every person who claims to love Jesus went into action? (By the way, action is more than just writing a check)
I can only speak for myself… like I said, I’m stepping on my own toes. I don’t know yet if this is our last adoption. I struggle with how in the world I could not adopt again. But adoption isn’t the answer to the problem. We will continue to work in Swaziland helping with the orphan problems there. I might have an Ethiopia project in the works as well – I’ll blog more about that after I’m home.
Take time today and be still. Ask God what He intends for you to do. I can guarantee His answer will never be “stay how you are and maybe buy a new jacket for yourself.” Are you a friend of mine and He’s been tapping on your heart about Swaziland? Do you only know me through this crazy blog and you’re thinking maybe adoption really could be for you? Did you find this blog randomly and now you’re thinking about picking up Orphanology or Is it Okay with You?
And if you aren’t a Christian, I pray you will somehow encounter this God I love. We do a terrible job representing him. I personally apologize for any behavior you’ve ever seen in a Christian that was selfish, hypocritical, or hateful. That’s the exact opposite of what Jesus is all about and I’m very sorry. Like I said in my post about God’s timing… He uses us to set things to rights. He uses me – broken, uncoordinated, selfish, hot mess that I am. What an honor to serve Him; and it motivates me to try harder, to do more to be like Him.
So tonight I go to bed just kinda mad. But there is hope sleeping just a few feet away from me. A child who up until a few weeks ago was an orphan.