USA (MNN) — The last UNICEF reports on orphans in 2008 indicate that there were then 145 million orphans (defined as children who have lost one or both parents) in the world. That's about seven million more people than live in the entire nation of Russia.
Most people would probably not be surprised by the suggestion that the world has an orphan problem. But with such a blaring, overwhelming issue, it can be hard to know how to best help. Hundreds of ministries exist to support orphans in various ways, but one ministry can only do so much.
The Christian Alliance for Orphans was created to gather multiple groups to work together toward the goal of reaching orphans with Christ's love. Over 100 ministries are now involved in the Alliance, including Bethany Christian Services, Orphan Outreach, Compassion International, and Buckner International.
Every year, Christian Alliance for Orphans hosts a Summit. This year will by Summit VII.
"Once a year we have the national Summit where Christians from churches and organizations and just individual families around the country gather in a central place to learn how to effectively care for the fatherless through adoption, foster care, and global orphan initiatives," explains president Jedd Medefind.
Those who attend the Summit come from all over. Some are looking for ways to get their churches involved in Orphan Care; some are looking for advice and support while raising adopted children; some are looking to adopt; and some simply have a heart for this broken demographic of children.
What's the end result for those in attendance? Medefind says, "For some, it will look like adoption. For many others, it will involve supporting adoptive families, mentoring a foster youth, or supporting work around the world where the local church and other U.S. organizations are partnering to care for orphans."
As people get involved with orphan care to any degree, they become living manifestations of God's heart for us all.
"It's not just another good cause; ultimately we are really showing the world God's heart. Not only does His heart pulse for the fatherless, but also He has taken that stance toward us: when we were destitute and alone, when we were orphans of sin, He drew us to Himself, He adopted us, He rescued us," reflects Medefind. "So when we do that same thing for orphans in this world, we are really making the Gospel story visible."
As if following the Lord's command to care for orphans and spread the Gospel were not enough reason to get involved, Medefind says he has frequently observed complete life changes in those who involved themselves in orphan care.
"When we open our hearts to kids that are growing up without families, when we live out the biblical call to care for the fatherless, we really encounter Christ in a very precious and special way–in a very personal way."
Summit VII will take place on May 12 and 13 in Louisville, Kentucky. Registration goes through Monday, so there is still time to sign up. If you have a heart for the fatherless of the world, consider joining in the more than 75 workshops, worship with Desperation Band and Sara Groves, words from speakers including Dennis Rainey and football pro-bowler Luther Ellis, and hundreds of similarly-minded believers next week. Find more information and to register, go to christianalliancefororphans.org.