At a time when families across the U.S. are decorating Christmas trees, baking holiday cookies and enjoying seasonal festivities, parents in some Third World countries are facing the heartbreaking decision to place their children in orphanages amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
“As COVID-19 spread throughout the world, already vulnerable families are finding themselves making a critical decision whether to stay together as a family or place their children in an orphanage with the hope that they will receive the food and medical care they need,” Bethany Christian Services Global Care expert Nakia Kyler told The Christian Post.
“It's never a family's desire to have to place their child in an orphanage. That's such a tough decision. Not only has quarantining been difficult for these families but the humanitarian situation in many countries, dire, even in normal times, has worsened in recent months.”
Seeking to be the “hands and feet” of Jesus Christ during a season celebrating His birth, Bethany Christian Services, which supports vulnerable children and families in the U.S. and around the world, has partnered with award-winning contemporary Christian band Sidewalk Prophets to put on a Virtual Christmas Tour to raise awareness and funds to help orphans.
Beginning Dec. 9, the “Great Big Family Christmas” livestream will be broadcast on eight different days and four different time zones this month.
Sidewalk Prophets frontman Dave Frey told CP that family — and the family of God in particular — is at the heart of everything they do. Partnering with Bethany, he said, was a “perfect fit” for the band.
“We want people to know they’re not alone even if they feel alone,” he said. “This year has shined on some tough places for a lot of people. It’s kept us inside, it’s kept us from community. Our heart as a band is to make people feel like they’re seen, because Christ sees ‘the least of these.’ He calls them to be His own.”
“Bethany has that same mentality and approach,” he continued. “No matter how overlooked people feel, God loves them with this reckless passion. We’re able to change the world through God’s gift of family. We have the ability to connect, to be seen, to be loved in a mighty way, and to do that for others. It was a win-win for us to come alongside somebody that shares such a cooperative, clear ministry goal.”
Though the cost of admission to watch the “Great Big Family Christmas” livestream is simply to “pay what you can,” with a free option also available, paid access includes an exclusive virtual Christmas devotional with the band.
According to Frey, viewers can expect “to laugh, shed a tear or two, giveaways, and a little bit of pageantry.”
“We want to make Christmas memories,” he said, adding that when the band released their acclaimed holiday LP, “Merry Christmas To You,” they wanted fans “to be able to decorate the Christmas tree to it, dance around the house, and deck the halls.”
“We’re excited to have the opportunity to play Christmas songs not just from this album but also our hit songs,” he said. “We’re going to have fun, make a joyful noise, and be as reverent as we can. When it’s all said and done, we hope people walk away saying, ‘I had such a good time and I'm so ready to celebrate the birth of Jesus and realize that I'm a part of something bigger.’”
A September analysis by UNICEF and Save the Children found that the number of children living in multidimensional poverty has soared to approximately 1.2 billion due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Meanwhile, a report by Human Rights Watch warned that as the global death toll from COVID-19 increases, an increasing number of children will be orphaned and vulnerable to exploitation and abuse, such as child labor and sexual exploitation.
For Frey, the birth of his son, William, in May, which was preceded by his wife’s miscarriage, has given him a deeper heart for families in need of hope and support.
“The miscarriage was very hard, and there’s still a piece of our heart there,” he told CP. “But had that not occurred, we wouldn't have William today. For us, it’s about counting our blessings. I look at my healthy, beautiful baby boy and realize there are families out there that just dream of this. They dream of sleepless nights, poopy diapers, the good, the bad, the ugly.”
“Being a parent is the deepest joy that God can give,” he added. “To see my son and to realize the gift that I have — especially during this year that a lot of people are clamoring for hope — I realize hope is sitting right in front of me. I want to give people the hope that I feel right now. We were adopted into the family of God through the blood of Jesus Christ. Now, we have the opportunity to let families raise a child and foster them and let them grow and feel love.”
Kyler urged Christians to pray for those working to strengthen families around the world and provide aid to those suffering amid the pandemic. She encouraged viewers to visit Bethany’s website to learn more about the “Great Big Family Christmas” or to donate to the organization.
“Our country directors are working day and night to create different opportunities and strategies to serve families,” she said. “With their donation, it would allow us to provide food, shelter and also medical care to families around the world.”
Through the event, Frey said he hopes attendees realize that “they’re part of a great big family of God," and that "even if we have never met our brothers and sisters, we have an opportunity at this concert to hang out together, even virtually.”
“We hope they’ll find a sense of community and belonging while celebrating Christmas and the birth of Jesus. We hope God will use it to really bring people together under the beauty of Jesus and just realize that we're in this together,” he said.
“I hope to help people have a good time, but then step away and realize they can make a difference in this world. We want to bring healing to a year that's been really tough for a lot of people.”
Tickets for the “Great Big Family Christmas” livestream show are on sale now. For tickets and more information, visit sidewalkprophets.com.
“Great Big Family Christmas” livestream show dates:
Dec. 9 — Eastern time zone, 7 p.m.
Dec. 10 — Central time zone, 7 p.m.
Dec. 11 — Mountain time zone, 7 p.m.
Dec. 12 — Pacific time zone, 7 p.m.
Dec. 16 — Pacific time zone, 7 p.m.
Dec. 17 — Central time zone, 7 p.m.
Dec. 18 — Mountain time zone, 7 p.m.
Dec. 19 — Eastern time zone, 7 p.m.