Being & Building Followers & Friends of Jesus
I've known Dr. Rick Morton as a fellow student (we did much of our Ph.D. studies together) and a fellow colleague from my seminary days. Later, I prayed as he and his wife Denise moved through the process of adopting a child from the Ukraine. Rick and Dr. Tony Merida have written a book that explores the theology of adoption and the Christian response to it. I've been thrilled to work on the study curriculum that NavPress will debut on April 4th that goes with their book, Orphanology. As a part of that, Rick agreed to an interview to introduce the book to our DiscipleshipNetwork members.
As you read this first part of the interview which deals with the social and global issues of adoption, please pray for those who will be reading the book and using the curriculum that God will use this work to help Christians and churches consider how they can respond to this tremendous need.
After you've read it, let me know what you think. How can the church make a difference in the lives of the orphans of the world?
What is the problem of orphans in the world? Approximately how many orphans are there around the globe; and if unadopted, how is their life experience, generally?
The statistics regarding the number of orphans in today’s world are staggering. UNICEF estimates that there are between 143 and 210 million orphans worldwide. Most likely, these estimates are low. UNICEF defines an orphan as a child who has lost one or both parents to the death but fails to account for “social orphans” who are abandoned as a result of causes like addiction, poverty, or neglect. The UNICEF figures also fail to account for nations who fail to report their orphan populations such as many Middle Eastern nations.
Only a small fraction of the world’s orphans actually live in orphanages (approximately 10 million). The rest live with extended family or many are relegated to life on the streets. In all, these children are a voiceless mass. They are defenseless, and in most societies, they are seen as no more than a social problem. Most of these children live life without hope of a future that ends well. They are vulnerable to those who would prey on them for profit or those who would try to hurt them or rid society of them as a nuisance. These are the children for whom Robert Raikes began the Sunday School almost two centuries ago. In the forgotten street children who were a social blight to most of the world, Raikes saw value because he recognized that they were created in the image of God and made to know the gospel.
What do many orphans experience going from an orphanage into the wider world. What does life look like for them after the orphanage?
In general, the institutional environment poorly serves children. Research has demonstrated that orphans who graduate from orphanages are more likely to become engaged in antisocial behavior in later life. They are more susceptible to suicide, drugs, and falling into a life of crime. Many of them are vulnerable to falling pray to human trafficking, particularly sex slavery. While the orphanage may meet the basic needs of a child’s life (food, clothing, and shelter), often the institution fails to nurture and prepare the child to be ready to live independently. In Orphanololgy, we deal with how the church can be involved in changing this trend. We highlight ministries that people and churches can engage that will make a real difference in the lives of institutionalized kids. Certainly, we believe that every child would best be served by having a family, but that is not always possible. In lieu of that, we must actively engage in ministries to orphanages and workers who care for children in orphanages.
What is the tie between orphans and child trafficking?
As I stated earlier, orphans are among the most marginalized and voiceless people on the planet. Often, when they run away, no one goes to find them. When they graduate from the orphanage and go missing, no one notices. They are easy prey for those who would traffic children. Some are abducted to serve as slaves in factories working long hours for little or no pay. Others are lured with the promise of modeling jobs or au pair positions in foreign positions only to discover that they are being taken to become sex slaves. Regardless, they have no one to call for help, so they are defenseless. Approximately 300,000 to 400,000 children are trafficked across international boarders each year, and a significant percentage of them are orphaned children. If the church is to live out James 1;27, we must become active in the war against human trafficking.