International (CAFO/MNN) — There are more orphans in the world today than at any other time in history. 153 million children, or roughly half the U.S. population, have lost one or both parents. These kids are the focus of Orphan Sunday coming up on November 3.
Orphan Outreach’s Tiffany Taylor says it’s a wake-up call for the Church.
“This is a huge problem, and God is really calling up Christians to care for these children,” she states.
In parts of sub-Saharan Africa, AIDS and conflict has wiped out almost an entire generation of adults, and governments are hard-pressed to meet the growing demands of displaced children in staggering proportions in their nations. In East Africa, two groups are tackling the crisis later this month with a conference promoting domestic adoption, the first of its kind.
It is estimated that in Africa, over 10% of the population are orphaned children.
“The statistics are just not good for children who grow up in orphanages,” says Taylor.
“Many of them, within the first three years of graduating from the orphanage, commit suicide; they certainly are prey for those in the mafia, in the sex trade. They just don’t have the living skills to cope and to live independently.”
Jodi Jackson Tucker serves as International Director of Orphan Sunday with the Christian Alliance for Orphans (CAFO), a coalition of 150 orphan-serving organizations.
“Children who lack parents are the number one target for human trafficking and every other exploitation and suffering,” explains Tucker. “But churches are stepping up for these kids in powerful ways across the globe. Orphan Sunday calls more Christians to action.”
Throughout history, Christians have placed special focus on the plight of orphans. That commitment is reawakening in a big way, from orphan care ministries to international and indigenous adoption. Tucker and her husband have adopted five children—one from the U.S. and four from Uganda.
Worldwide, it is estimated that millions of children have lost at least one parent. In the U.S., more than 100,000 children in the foster care system have been legally terminated from the hope of reunification with their biological parents, and are now waiting to be adopted.
Without the protection of caring families, children face huge risk of sex trafficking, famine, extreme poverty and other abuses.
One study in Eastern Europe found that children growing up in orphanages are ten times more likely to fall prey to sex trafficking than others. Even in the U.S., research suggests that 75 percent of children exploited sexually for commercial purposes previously spent time in foster care.
These children age out of the foster care system and have nowhere to go. Without a support network or family they become easy prey. Christians are being called to change this crisis and rescue the next generation.
This weekend, thousands of churches in over 50 nations will celebrate Orphan Sunday. Pray orphans around the world learn they are loved by the Lord. Pray more believers step forward to show that love in word and deed.
You might not have time to organize and event or prepare a sermon, but you can still make a difference.
“Many people like to take action by adoption, but that’s just a very small percentage of the children. I think last year maybe 10,000 children were adopted internationally (into the U.S.),” says Taylor.
“The real way people can make a change is by getting their church and their community and their friends to understand about the needs and partner with organizations that are making a difference for orphans every day.”
One way Orphan Outreach is making a difference this Orphan Sunday is through their “Undies for Orphans” campaign. They’re encouraging churches and believers worldwide to collect children’s underwear and send them to Orphan Outreach’s headquarters.
“You may think that’s kind of a silly thing,” Taylor notes. “But I have to tell you, it’s so desperately needed by orphans across the world and it’s something very easy and inexpensive to collect.”
The mission of Orphan Outreach is to glorify the Lord Jesus Christ by ministering to orphans around the world, by meeting their spiritual, physical, emotional and educational needs. Undies are an urgent need, and providing them opens a door to share the Gospel.
How can you take part in Orphan Sunday?
“We really encourage people to use this Sunday to raise awareness, but then to put that awareness into action, to do something to change the life of an orphan,” says Taylor.
The Orphan Sunday celebration began eleven years ago in Zambia, and has spread to churches globally that are seeking to respond to the orphan crisis. Every event is unique and locally organized, from concerts and student gatherings to sermons and sponsorship drives.
These celebrations highlight the needs of orphans and how ordinary people can make a difference in the life of one. Tucker has seen firsthand both the need and the compelling ways families and churches like hers are responding worldwide.
“The big statistics are overwhelming,” says Tucker. “It just takes one caring adult to transform the life of a child. One child at a time, we can change the course of history.”