Adoption, fostering and hosting can be hard. It isn’t a hero story. It isn’t even a rescue story. It is a story of redemption. It is a story filled with hardship but tinged with hope. It’s one, I believe, we should be more apt to share with our church family. Pastor, you may very well be the bridge that God uses to connect a child to a family. We asked three pastors to share their thoughts about serving orphans through hosting. Each speaks to what a difference being able to “see” orphan care in action made and how hosting a child put a face to the statistics.
Seth Powell, Pleasant Ridge Baptist Church (Hueytown, Alabama)
As a minister, sometimes it can feel a bit like I’m in a fishbowl with all eyes on me. Paul told the Corinthians, “Imitate me, as I imitate Christ.” I firmly believe Paul was challenging the Corinthians to be worthy of imitation. A question all leaders in the Church should ask themselves is, “if my church decided to imitate me, would they look like Jesus and demonstrate obedience to his word?”
There is one social ministry that is constantly at the forefront of God’s instruction to his people throughout the Bible and that is to care for the least of society. One of my favorite passages in the Old Testament is from Isaiah 1:17, “Learn to do good; seek justice; correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless (orphan), plead the widow’s cause.” In the New Testament I’m particularly drawn to James 1:27. “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” You should probably know that in the original language, there is no “and” after the word affliction. Some scholars have even suggested, and I am inclined to agree, that the idea of James 1:27 is to communicate that we keep ourselves unstained from the world BY our service to the least. When we make others a priority, rather than ourselves, we give our best observable testimony to the world around us.
The plight of the orphan is a topic very near to my heart. We are an adoptive family. We have three adopted children, have fostered six, and are in process to adopt a boy that we hosted as part of an orphan-hosting program. When we came across Project 143, we were so impressed with their mission and their heart for the orphan. We decided to host, almost at the last possible moment and raced to get all of our information in within the deadline. We prepared, readied our home, and readied our kids. He arrived, a bit shy at first, but soon opened up within the first week. Those 24 days were enough to make us fall in love with this little boy and God put it on our hearts to pursue adoption once again.
When you hear that there are around 150 million orphans in the world, you can get lost in the numbers. Our church knows our story as an adoptive family but being able to see orphan care in action was such an amazing blessing for our congregation. Seeing this boy put an actual face to the statistics. Seeing his face, smile and even tears opened the eyes of many. Not only did it prompt them to give consideration to their role in the orphan crisis, but also brought a tangible understanding of our adoption into God’s family through Jesus.
Douglas Ohime, Retired Pastor
Not one church I served in 45 plus years had a ministry for orphans. I had to ask myself why and that’s the hard part. But here’s what I know now: If your church gets involved in orphan hosting it will never be the same. In 2017, we hosted our first orphaned child from Latvia. We initially hosted not out of conviction, but out of necessity. Our daughter was volunteering for Project 143 and couldn’t find a backup family for a child who needed one. When we said yes to our daughter, we had no idea how our lives would forever change. To date, we have hosted five orphaned children from Latvia and Ukraine. I see the reminders of each child around my home every day and it’s a prompt me to pray for the orphans around the world and the organizations that support them. If you aren’t sure where to begin, invite someone into your church to share about the mission field of orphaned children.
(For the Ohime's hosting story, please read this blog by Douglas's wife, Carol: Using My Empty Nest for Orphans)
Rev. Fr. John Charest, Saints Peter and Paul Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Carnegie, Pennsylvania)
We're called, by our Lord, to be, servant leaders. As we follow the example of His washing the feet of His disciples, and recall His charge, "that which you do to these the least of My brethren, you do unto Me," we must always ask ourselves, “How are we living out this message?” A great way to live out this message is to open our homes, our family and our best practices to someone without those blessings. When we take on the challenge and struggle of hosting from another country, about whose language and culture we may know little or nothing, we're living the word for our flock. We can preach the same message every day to our people, but until we show them, through our example, of how to live it, we are like the Pharisees who only understand the letter of the law and not the spirit of it.
Thank you to the Powell, Ohime, and Charest families for sharing your stories and insight into orphan care and ministry!