More Christians Stepping Up to Orphan Care Challenge

There were no orphans in Eden and there will be none in the new heavens and new earth, said an evangelical theologian.

But right now, we live in an "in between" time and millions are without parents, said Dr. Albert Mohler, president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

With more than 140 million orphans around the world, Christians are being called to demonstrate the Gospel by caring for and adopting orphans.

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Mohler has joined well-known preacher John Piper and award-winning music artist Steven Curtis Chapman and his wife, Mary Beth, this week in Eden Prairie, Minn., to help draw attention to the orphan crisis.

Children are being orphaned by disaster and neglect and the January earthquake in Haiti was no exception.

"The orphan crisis is staggering," Jedd Medefind, president of Christian Alliance for Orphans, said Thursday at the sixth Christian Alliance for Orphans Summit. "So staggering, in fact, that if we were only motivated by need, we would not be able to sustain our engagement."

But Medefind has been witnessing more momentum in the Christian community toward orphan care. The CAO summits have also been seeing higher attendance in recent years.

"American Christians are rising to the needs of orphans both at home and abroad as never before," said Medefind. "What's thrilling is that even small ministries in local churches can make a major impact. There are millions of parentless children worldwide, but a single statistic matters more than any other: it only takes one caring adult to make a lasting difference in the life of an orphan."

Hundreds of people indicated at the conference that they were influenced by the Chapmans to adopt or consider adopting.

The Chapmans adopted three daughters from China and established Shaohannah's Hope in 2003 to help reduce the financial burden of adoption by giving away grants to participating Christian couples.

Their youngest adopted daughter, however, died in a tragic accident two years ago.

The renowned couple announced on Thursday that they have been given a piece of land in China and full freedom to build a special needs care center for orphans. Though the Chapmans originally planned to name the facility Shoahannah's Hope Healing Center – after their first adopted daughter – they decided to change the name to Maria's Big House, after their youngest daughter.

Just months before Maria died at the age of 5, she had asked her parents about God's house.

"Does God have a big house?" she asked Mary Beth. "Are there lots of rooms? Mom, how can I get to God's big house? I want to go there."

Maria died on May 21, 2008, after being accidentally struck by a car driven by her older brother.

The Chapmans, who have been open about their pain over the loss of their daughter, have remained strong in their faith and said Jesus has been with them every step of the way. Along with the facility in China, Mary Beth hopes to build a care center in Africa as well.

The speakers at the summit emphasized that caring for orphans is a biblical mandate.

"It's so clear in the Bible that all through it, orphans and widows ... have a very high place in God's agenda of mercy," said Piper.

Tying adoption to the Gospel, Piper stressed that every single Christian was orphaned and that God, at great cost to Himself, adopted millions of people into his family.

Expounding on that idea, Mohler said the existence of orphans serves as a reminder that things are not the way they are supposed to be.

Before the fall of mankind, orphans didn't exist. But on this side of the fall there are orphans in the millions, he noted.

"We live in an in between time, between the fall and the restoration of creation," he said. And in the final chapter, there will be the eternal community of the adopted.

"We are to see the glory of God in the adoption of a child. Ultimately, our desire is to see them to be children who have been adopted twice," he highlighted.

"The Great Commission is to go to all the nations and preach the Gospel so that the new earth will be filled with adopted children."

The Christian Alliance for Orphans Summit ends Friday.

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