Thursday, November 1, 2012

What's in a name?

I recently had the opportunity to sit down for a somewhat formal interview with our church as part of preparations for Orphan Sunday (Nov 4, 2012).  I tend to talk about my kids, my family and adoption to just about every person I know...maybe even to the folks behind me in the check out line at Target.  Point is, I love talking about adoption and the impact it has had on me as a father, a husband and a follower of Christ.  But for the first time I was sitting in a sound proof room with what looked to be a pretty expensive microphone a few inches from my face, going on the record.  It was exciting.  It was emotional.

As the session began to wrap up I was asked a question I had been expecting:

"What exactly is the 'orphan crisis' that we hear you and others talk about?" 

Oh boy, I was so ready for this one.  Like a batter watching a fat pitch come right down the center of the plate, I could knock this one out of the park.  I had all the numbers to back me up.  150 million orphans.  500k foster kids waiting for adoption in the US.  Devastating statistics on crime, exploitation and human trafficking.  I knew they'd be blown away by the sheer numbers.

But when the words began to roll off my tongue, I barely mentioned the statistics.  Why pass up a chance to share just how HUGE of a problem this is?  Because I think that is the problem, it's so big that people feel helpless and lost.  What can one person possibly do? 

So instead of spouting off numbers, I told a story.  As I talked, the sound booth slowly transformed into an orphanage in Zhongshan City, China.  So vivid are the memories of my time in that orphanage that with little effort I can recall the looks, the smells, the feel of the place.  I remembered holding my newly adopted son and a Chinese care giver pointing to a crib and saying, "This is your son's bed."  There I stood clinging to Jude, orphan no more, in a hot and humid building in the middle of China.  Before me were rows of cribs, one after the other.  In one, a boy with his hands bound behind his back with strips of cloth, was wearing his mattress thin from his endless pacing.  Dozens of babies lying on their backs, motionless and staring blankly into a white ceiling.  A boy just a few cribs away from my son's previous resting spot, hitting his head against the block wall.  Oh how the Heavens rejoiced that Jude had a home.  He was no longer fatherless.  But when I stared across the room at these children I couldn't help but feel that God was asking me, "What about these?  What about my other sons and daughters?"  The burden for these children had never been more real that it was at that moment.  These aren't statistics after all.  They are His children.  They have names. 

One room of many.  600 children are 'assigned' to this orphanage. 98% have special needs.
The orphan crisis isn't about numbers. The crisis is about children.  It is about beautiful creations, designed by our Heavenly Father.  They have names.  They need moms.  They need dads.  They need Jesus.  As God’s people, as his church, we have to stop blindly singing worship songs about orphans from comfortable pews. We have to stop talking about these children and then quickly forget they exist. We have a responsibility to act. If we are serious about obeying the words of our Father, then we have to rush to the fatherless. If we don’t, who will?

So this Orphan Sunday let us not get bogged down in numbers.  Numbers don't tell the story.  Numbers can be cumbersome and overwhelming.  They can be cold and unemotional.  Instead, let us remember that each number has a name.  Maybe we can sponsor one.  Maybe we can visit one.  Maybe we can adopt one.  Maybe we can love one.

Maybe we can learn their names. 

My son, Judah.