The Christian Alliance for Orphans is an organization that seeks to meet the physical and spiritual needs of orphans around the world and seeks to unite Christians in working to meet those needs. Orphan Sunday is a day set apart to keep the needs of orphans in front of God’s people. To remind us of the needs that are around us and put us into action to meet those needs.
“Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”
James gets right to the heart of what God wants us to do here in this life. I don’t have time to read the whole book of James this morning, but most of you are very familiar with the book. If you read the book of James, you’ll see that his writing is very simple and practical. He cuts past any religious pretending and mistaken notions about God. He tells us that faith without obedience is not a living faith at all. He tells us that our trials develop a stronger faith and stronger Christian character, which is something we should be thankful for. He tells us that every good and perfect gift is from God above. And he tells us what true religion is, to take care of orphans and widows. To take care of those that are most vulnerable in our world, the people that may not be able to care for themselves and that the world will not take care of.
Before I lose your attention, you might say that you don’t know of any orphans that you can take care of. I would ask you to think beyond just what you may think of as orphans. Think of anyone around you who is lonely or outcast. There might be someone that you work with or go to school with who eats lunch alone, or someone that people make fun of. There are people all around us who need encouragement and until we make an effort to do something, we may never know how much we can really help. And James doesn’t just talk about orphans here, he talks about widows. And in other places in the Bible, God talks about helping aliens. Not the green people from outer space, but foreigners and people who are strangers in your town. God is very clear about our call to care for and bear the burdens of those who are in need.
So, while I’m talking about orphans, know that there are plenty of applications around you of those that God calls you to care for…single parents, foster children, foreigners, poor and homeless people.
It’s interesting that God reminds the Israelites that they were once aliens in Egypt and that is a good reason to take care of aliens. All through the Bible, God talks about these three groups of people: orphans, widows and aliens as people who are very dear to Him and he tells us to love and care for them. There are specific laws in the Old Testament for farmers to leave some grain and other crops in their fields for the orphans, widows and aliens.
(Lev. 19:33; Deut. 14:28-29; Deut. 15:11; Deut. 24:19-22)
To act upon God’s call to care for orphans is not merely a matter of duty or reaction to need. It is first a response to the Gospel: the loving Father who sought us, adopted us, and invites us to live as His sons and daughters (1 Jn 4:19; Eph. 1:15; Gal. 4:6). God has adopted us into his family, so we were all at one time orphans, in a sense, but he hasn’t left us as orphans. So, just as God told the Israelites to love the aliens because they were once aliens, we are to love the orphans because we were once orphans. (There is a man in Ukraine that I met who grew up as an orphan. He thought that he would never want to help orphans, he thought he would want to get as far away from the orphanage as he could after he grew up. But he feels a very real need to minister to these children and he can relate better than most people to their situation. He and his wife let one of the boys from the orphanage stay with them on the weekends.)
This is such a wonderful passage about God’s concern for orphans and widows. He is a father to the fatherless. He provides for and takes care of the fatherless. He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow. In working with orphans in Ukraine, I’ve noticed that they often call me Papa and they will call their teachers and mentors Mama. They are longing to have someone to call their mother or father. God will always let them call Him Father, or Papa. He cares for the fatherless as His own. He sets the lonely in families. I can attest to the truth of this statement. There have been times when, as a single father, I have been very lonely, and God has given me a family here at this church. Many of you have cared for me and encouraged me in so many ways. And God is always asking the church to grow in this work of being a family for the lonely. This is a work that we can never stop doing.
If no one else notices what injustice may be going on around us, you can be sure that God has noticed it. Some times He may act directly to help the fatherless. But often, he is nudging us to be aware and act to help those who are in need. We need to pray for alertness to the needs of those around us, and keep our eyes open for when God shows us those needs.
John 12:24 – “Unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.” This passage is very convicting to me. I was reading recently a book in which the writer, Philip Yancey, encouraged the readers to look at things from the perspective of the seed-bearer, the kernel of wheat, or a piece of fruit. When we think of fruit, we think of it from our own perspective, how much we enjoy eating it. But from the fruit’s, or kernel of wheat’s perspective, its most important goal is to die so that it can reproduce and produce many seeds.
As parents, we will gladly spend ourselves in nurturing our children. You might say that we die to our carefree and less mature self so that our children will have everything they need. And this is what is necessary for the gospel to be reproduced in those around us. The call to bear one another’s burdens is not a call to only do what is convenient for us to do. The call to visit widows and orphans is not a call to only do what is convenient for us to do, it’s a call to die to ourselves and serve. When a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, then it will produce many more seeds. Christianity is inconvenient, just like being a parent is, it calls us to something greater than ourselves.
Isaiah 58:10 – when we spend ourselves for others (give of ourselves, pour ourselves out like a drink offering, die to ourselves) then our light will shine like the dawn. Then we will show God’s glory. I hope that we as God’s people are choosing to do the harder things to make a difference in other people’s lives, not just coming to church every week. And I know there are many of you who are spending yourselves for others, and it’s a beautiful thing to watch as lives are transformed as we serve God.
An orphan’s story
Putting a face to the children and touching them makes their stories more meaningful to me.
Kristina – her mother died the day we arrived at the orphanage
Lonya – his family abandoned him and the police took him to the orphanage
Lisa – her mother was murdered by her mother’s boyfriend
Olya – was beaten badly by her mother
Vita – his parents would send him to the store to buy vodka for them when he was 4 years old
Some appear to have happier endings:
Vanya – his family found him at the orphanage and he got to go back home to be with his family after ten years in the orphanage
Igor – was adopted this year
Watching the kids come out of the building after their naptime one day, I was thinking about each of the kids. Some of them, I knew their story. Others, I thought, I don’t know his story, but I’m sure it’s just as tragic as the other children…I was overwhelmed just looking at their faces…and at how many children there were in the orphanage.
How can God let this happen? And why doesn’t he do anything about it? Well, first of all, I don’t think that God ever intended for this to happen. Ukraine and all of the countries of the Soviet Union were ruled by atheism for over 70 years, and that mindset is still very prevalent in the country. When a nation doesn’t believe in God, the people are very prone to hopelessness and selfishness. Without God and belief in God, people no longer see the need to care for others or to care even for their own families. Fathers and mothers come to love their alcohol and drugs more than they love their children and that is how most of the children wind up in the orphanages.
And secondly, to the question of why doesn’t God do anything about it? I think he is. He is stirring up the hearts of Christian people who will act on behalf of orphans. The work seems overwhelming, but we are not called to do everything. Just try to be a blessing to those kids that we are able to be with.
Ephesians 2:8-10. First, I want to make sure you don’t think I’m saying that our caring for orphans will make us right before God, or justify us before God. It is God’s grace that saves us and makes us right before God. It is a gift that we could never earn. There is no room for boasting. And he goes on to say to say that we are God’s workmanship. God has prepared good works for us to do. A natural response of those who have received God’s grace is to share that grace with others.
I see the work in Ukraine not as a duty or responsibility, but as a response to the Gospel. It is a part of the work that God has created me for when he re-created me as a Christian.
Some Recent Developments at the Orphanage
No running water at the orphanage, in this picture you see the water truck that delivers water about once a week. The kids will fill up buckets and bottles and take it up to their rooms to use for drinking and washing and flushing. I feel stupid for never asking, but this summer Tony asked the orphanage director what they needed. Their answer, a pump so that they could have running water. The cost was only $400. Here is a picture of the pump being delivered to the orphanage director. When we are able to help the orphanage in ways like this, it builds trust so that they will allow us to continue sharing the gospel with their children. This one act of kindness towards this orphanage will be a lasting testimony of God’s love for all the children and staff who live/work in this orphanage!!
Another relationship that we’re working on developing is with the trade school in Gorlovka where most of the kids go after they graduate from the orphanage. Because one of the trade school directors is a friend of this orphanage’s director, we’ve been given opportunities to do work with the older kids at the trade school.
Dormitories – a real challenge for the kids that live there. Unsupervised, preyed on by drug dealers and pimps. A preacher who lives in Gorlovka told us if we knew what goes on there that we would cry.
Christian Safe Home…allow some of the kids to live in a Christian home while attending trade school and protect them from the unsafe dormitory environment. The dormitory director is in favor of this.
Tony asked, what do you need? Several trades, brick laying, carpentry, restaurant cooking. They asked for a large mixer for their cooking classes. Several hundred dollars. Tony was able to raise the money pretty quickly and here is a picture of Arthur delivering the mixer to the trade school. The Trade School had a big celebration when they received this… It was wonderful and this is doing a great deal in opening more doors. Here is Arthur presenting the mixing machine to the Assistant Director. They were up on a big stage and the Trade School Administration and several of our kids from the Snezhnoye orphanage who are now attending the Trade School were also present!!
–Chuck Huffine, 11-6-11