Throughout November, we have featured a series of guest bloggers on our "Every Child" blog in honor of National Adoption Month. Today, we are honored to share the following blog written by Kay Warren, cofounder of Saddleback Church (with husband Rick Warren) and best-selling author.
“Who will take care of my children?”
That question, posed to me ten years ago by a mother in Africa dying of AIDS, haunts me to this day. I had decided to travel to Africa after reading an article about the millions of children being orphaned as a result of AIDS.
I was devastated by the number of children left without a loving family to care for them and I will never forget that moment. It was as though God had just peeled away a mask that had been in front of my eyes. I just couldn’t comprehend that there were 12 million children orphaned on one continent because of one disease. What was even scarier was the realization that up to the point of my reading the article, the desperate situation in Africa hadn’t touched my life in the slightest.
The mother dying of AIDS told me that none of her neighbors would take care of them because of her illness. I was stunned; I had no answer for her. Ten years later I often wonder what happened to her three children. Did they end up in an orphanage? Did they wind up on the streets? Was there someone who had the love and compassion of Jesus Christ who was willing to take those three children in? Unfortunately, I don’t know and I probably never will.
Several weeks later, while still in Africa, I was taken to what is called a “child-headed household”—a home where children care for other children. In this instance, a 15-year-old boy was doing his best to care for his 11-year-old brother and 3-year-old sister because their parents had died of AIDS. To say that it was unfair that this young boy had to bear the burden of raising his two siblings is a gross understatement.
As I held the young girl, all I could think was: who is going to swing her up in the air, hug her, and walk her down the aisle someday when she gets married? Where is the mother who will soothe her in the middle of the night when she has a bad dream? Although this occurred many years ago, just thinking about it still makes me cry.
A lot has changed since that first trip to Africa, both personally, with regard to my commitment to being an advocate for orphans and people living with HIV, and in how the Christian community has come together in an effort to assist the world’s most vulnerable children. I am pleased that more and more local churches are taking responsibility to support families in crisis around the world. Through the voice and the platform that we (the Christian community) have, greater attention is being paid to these matters . . . and I am proud of that.
Still, we have a very long way to go before there are no more orphans, but that is our overarching objective—ridding the world of orphanages because there are no more orphans. Our goal is not to help children become better orphans, but rather to identify and recruit families with love in their hearts and room in their homes to welcome children into their lives. For that reason, I applaud the churches in Rwanda for coming out and stating that their goal is for the country’s orphanages to be empty in several years. They are the first, but hopefully not the last, to set such a high bar. Will it be easy to achieve this objective? Of course not, but the first step is setting an objective to shoot for.
To keep children out of orphanages, we must be prepared to provide support to families in crisis around the world so that children remain with their biological parents, whenever possible. This can be achieved by sponsoring families so that they can care for their children. Sponsorship programs such as Bethany Christian Services’ One Family and Saddleback Church’s efforts on World AIDS Day (December 1), enable families to receive critical assistance thanks to the generosity of informed believers who fully understand the way children develop—what children need developmentally and what they need biblically. As the number of informed believers increases, we will see a mindset change that moves away from institutional care and group homes (orphanages) to family preservation and adoption into permanent homes.
For more information on Saddleback Church and how you can join the ministry in supporting orphans in need, visit www.Saddleback.com.