Churches across the nation this Sunday will raise awareness of the world's 143 million orphans as part of a concerted effort to promote adoption among believers in the pews.
"Orphan Sunday is an opportunity for believers all across America to speak for those unspoken for; those the world has forgotten," says Vicki Mullins, director of Orphan Ministry for East-West Ministries International, in her endorsement of the annual event. "There are millions of orphans in the world. It is clear in Scripture that Jesus loved and cared for these children – how can we do any less?
Through a network of more than fifty state volunteer coordinators, the coalition behind the Orphan Sunday campaign has been helping churches, organizations and lay-leaders across the nation organize their own distinctive local events – ranging from sermons, Sunday School classes and prayer gatherings to concerts and service projects – to highlight the call to "defend the cause of the fatherless" and what ordinary Christians can do in response.
According to the campaign, there are more than 500,000 children in the U.S. foster system today, with nearly 130,000 waiting to be adopted. Globally, an estimated 15 million children have lost both parents.
Organizations currently part of the Orphan Sunday effort include Bethany Christian Services, Focus on the Family, Show Hope and Family Life. The organizations, as well as the campaign's supporters, are hoping that Orphan Sunday events will create a powerful ripple effect in the Church, sparking both awareness and action on behalf of orphans at home and abroad.
"God has called us to care for orphans," said Johnny Carr, national director of church partnerships for Bethany Christian Services, to Mission Network News. "And we know that one specific way we can care for orphans is through adoption."
On Orphan Sunday, churches that have been working with Bethany Christian Services, the nation's largest adoption agency, will hold informative meetings about adoption, including how someone interested might move forward in adopting a child.
Carr is reminding Christians that adoption is not only a biblical response to care for orphans, but it also is an opportunity to share the Gospel with children.
In Nashville, Grammy-winning Christian music artist Steven Curtis Chapman, a vocal advocate of adoption and the parent of three adopted children from China, will perform at a free concert in observation of Orphan Sunday.
For the event, organized by Cry of the Orphan, Chapman will team up with music artists Geoff Moore, the Children of the World Choir, as well as guest speakers Jim Daly of Focus on the Family, Dennis Rainey of FamilyLife, Jedd Medefind of Christian Alliance for Orphans and Dr. Sharon Ford of Colorado Division of Child Welfare Services.
The hope for the event, according to Scott Hasenbalg, executive director of Chapman's Show Hope ministry, "is to create a catalytic experience for people who are unaware of the orphan crisis and get them to realize they are part of God's plan for the orphan."
"For some, it will be adoption. For some, it will be a mission trip. For some, it will be just supporting those who are called to adopt," he said, according to FOTF's Citizenlink.com.
Presently, the website for Orphan Sunday, orphansunday.org, is highlighting the hundreds of local events scheduled nationwide and has been serving as a hub for the campaign, offering event ideas, downloadable materials and ways individuals can partner with orphan-serving ministries to hold local events.
The 2009 Cry of the Orphan Awareness Campaign marks the fourth annual unified campaign to heighten awareness of the plight of the millions of orphans around the world.
Before reaching the United States, the vision for Orphan Sunday was birthed in Africa, where there are more than 80 million orphans – 12 million of which lost their parents to AIDS, according to the United Nations. The U.N. Children's Fund predicts that by 2010, half of the orphans in Africa will be orphaned because of AIDS.
Aside from the United States, Orphan Sunday events have been planned for around the world. Such events include those in Guatemala, Uganda, and the Philippines.
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Christian Post reporter Joshua A. Goldberg contributed to this article.