(Photo: Max McGhee)
Churches throughout the world will be celebrating Orphan Sunday this weekend, a campaign that originated in Zambia and honors children without parents, and adults that adopt or help orphans in many ways.
Church volunteers and ministries will be providing gifts to families with orphans, making resources available to those interested in adoption or helping, and delivering special Sunday sermons addressing the issue of orphans throughout the world. Organizers say events are planned in more than 45 states in the U.S.
“The day in itself is an honoring of what the Lord wants us to do. We are recognizing that we are talking a step of faith and listening to what God is truly calling people to do,” Vanessa Vasquez, national director of Orphan Sunday, told The Christian Post. “For some people that may be adopting, for other people that could be donating a monetary gift, it could be volunteering, or agreeing to be foster parents.”
“There’s all these other ways beyond Orphan Sunday that folks can choose to take a step personally to honor God in their intimate relationship with Him,” she said.
The concept for Orphan Sunday began as a gift from the Church in Africa, said organizers of the event. An American visitor to a church service in Zambia was struck by the pastor’s passionate call to care for orphans in the local community, which had been ravaged by AIDS and poverty.
Orphan Sunday officials said that members of the Zambian church faced deep needs themselves. However, as the service ended, congregation members stepped forward with money, food and other goods – “some even taking off their own shoes and placing them in the offering for orphans.”
Orphan Sunday has become a catalyst for what Christianity Today recently called the “burgeoning orphan care movement,” organizers stated. “According to ECFA’s most recent ‘State of Giving Report,’ three of the top four categories for increased giving over the past two years have been directly related to adoption and/or orphan care,” according to Orphan Sunday.
Adoption agencies, such as the one Vasquez works for in Southern California, are also participating in the day. Vasquez said Olive Crest Foster and Adoption Agency is partnering with more than 18 churches and businesses in an effort to celebrate and honor what God is doing in the lives of foster children.
"Orphan Sunday calls people to boldly turn their hearts to children who are often forgotten: America's foster children, who are dismissed as 'unadoptable' because they are over a desired age, or the 'unseen' orphans in third world countries. Orphan Sunday acknowledges the needs of these children, and launches a tangible hope that stretches far beyond the scope of our reach," Vasquez said.
Orange County, Calif., residents Max McGhee and his wife, Tristen, already with one son of their own, recently adopted a 4-year-old boy from a Rwandan orphanage. The couple has had their new son, Noel, for less than two weeks. They encountered many hurdles in their nearly two-year process, but say that they are blessed every day by seeing his happiness.
Now that the adoption is final, Tristen McGhee has been most impacted by “the joy I get from seeing the joy on my son’s face – the joy that he has from having a family,” she said.
“I understand more now how God delights in me as one of His kids,” she said. “When I’m happy and joyful I can see how that brings delight to God. It was kind of hard for me to understand before. It didn’t make much sense to me, but now I understand that a lot more.”
Her husband, who said that although this Sunday's event is important, noted that every day has been significant with Noel.
“When God adopted us into His family it was a joyful experience for Him to watch us grow up in His family. Now, watching Noel being adopted, seeing his joy over just the little things makes you appreciate life more,” McGhee said.
Jedd Medefind, president of the Christian Alliance for Orphans, recently stated, “For Christians, caring for orphans is not just a mandate. It also mirrors the love God first showed to us. Taking care of orphans has always been part of the Christian DNA, and we see that vividly lived out today as Christians embrace adoption, foster care and global orphan initiatives.”
There are roughly 420,000 children in the foster system in the United States today, with nearly 110,000 waiting to be adopted, according to Orphan Sunday. Globally, an estimated 18.3 million children have lost both parents, the group states. Organizers said the Orphan Sunday campaign seeks to make Christian families and churches the answer to these needs.
A “LIVE from Kansas City” webcast for an hour of guided prayer and worship on Sunday at 6 p.m. CT will be available at the Orphan Sunday website.