Orphan Care: A Gospel Mandate
Emily Griffin, Lifeline Children's Services
Lifeline Children's Services is a trusted adoption resource and partner with Clement Arts in the work of orphan care. Our friend, Emily, shares what orphan care is and what it means for followers of Jesus.
What Is Orphan Care?
If someone would have asked me to define “orphan care” several years ago, I would have responded with one word. At that time in my life, it was easy to draw a straight line to the one thing that seemed like the obvious and only answer to the orphan care crisis: adoption. However, I’ve come to learn that there is so much more to orphan care than the one crucial piece of the puzzle found in adoption. For me, insight came by expanding my understanding of what it means to be an orphan.
We typically think of an orphan as a child who has lost both parents to death or some other form of permanent separation, and this isn’t wrong! However, this definition is incomplete. In a recent episode of the Defender Podcast, a resource developed by Lifeline Children’s Services, Jedd Medefind, President of Christian Alliance for Orphans (CAFO), shared a definition of the word “orphan” that goes beyond what you might find in a dictionary:
“[Orphan] is a term that is really significant in Scripture… It’s clearly God’s people [who] are called to be a people who pay special attention and special care for children that meet this definition. And I think ultimately what we would say is it really is any child that is living without the protection and nurture that children are meant to live with, that God intended the family to provide. So, if a child is outside of that for any reason -- it may be the death of parents, it may be abuse, neglect, or other situations -- if a child is outside of that and doesn’t have that protection and care and nurture, then God calls His people to step into those kids lives in a special way.”
"Orphan Care involves not only adoption, but caring for children at every stage of vulnerability."
God's Heart for the Orphan
In view of this expanded, Biblical definition of an orphan as a child who is alone, vulnerable, or in need of protection, the call to care for the orphan can be seen in an entirely different light. As we begin to consider the deeper meaning of this familiar term, two things become clear.
First, we see that orphan care involves not only adoption, but caring for children at every stage of vulnerability:
- children who have no one to care for them
- children who are at risk of losing their family/caregivers due to abuse, neglect, lack of resources, aging out of an institution, etc.
- children who may be temporarily separated from their families for numerous reasons
Second, we see that the call to care for the orphan is a mandate to every believer, not something that is limited to people or families who are able to adopt. Nowhere in Scripture do we see God specify the call to care for the fatherless and vulnerable to a select group of His followers. This call to orphan care applies to all those who have been adopted into the family of God by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone!
"The call to care for the orphan is a mandate to every believer, not something that is limited to people or families who are able to adopt."
What Does Orphan Care Mean for Me?
So we each must ask ourselves: “What does this understanding of orphan care mean for me?”
Are you able to foster or adopt? Are you able to provide respite care to a foster family, or interim care to a newborn baby who is waiting to be placed in their forever family? Can your small group provide meals for a family who has recently returned from travelling internationally to adopt their son or daughter?
Can you devote 1-2 weeks to an international trip, partnering to share the love of Christ with orphans in a different cultural context? Can you help a parent who is working to earn reunification with their children create a resume so they can apply for a job? Do you have time, finances, gifts, or talents that you can contribute to children in care, a family who is fundraising for their adoption, or a gospel-centered orphan care ministry?
This is orphan care, the mandate and privilege of every follower of Christ.
Emily Griffin is a Pregnancy Counselor/Caseworker for Lifeline Children’s Services in Columbus, Georgia. Having the chance to walk with people throughout their adoption journey is one of her biggest joys!
Lifeline Children’s Services is a gospel-centered orphan care ministry. It is Lifeline’s mission to equip the Body of Christ to manifest the gospel to vulnerable children, a mission Lifeline seeks to accomplish through international and domestic adoption programs, family restoration programs, counseling and education, and global orphan care initiatives. For more information, visit lifelinechild.org or reach out to Lifeline by telephone at 205.967.0811.