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Unadopted: Following God's heart for orphaned children

Orphans
A woman walks with orphans at the AGOHELD orphanage, hospital, training center and school, founded by Abebech Gobena, on March 19, 2013, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. |

Pastor Raphael Kujjubi left everything he and his family knew to plant King Jesus Church in the midst of the predominantly Muslim slum of Busega, Uganda. Busega lacked a church committed to proclaiming the Gospel who also was showing Gospel driven justice to the most vulnerable. Busega is known not only for poverty and immense Muslim influence, but has been home to an overabundance of children born blind and deaf and treated as unwanted by society.

As a pastor of a church committed to the life-changing power of the Gospel, Kujjubi believed things could be different for these children if they were treated as image bearers of our Creator as opposed to being locked in closets, treated as outcasts, or abandoned. King Jesus Church and Pastor Kujjubi offered these children and their families a gift they had never been offered: hope. In response, the Busega School for the Blind and Deaf began in 2011 and to date has served 31 children.

Unable to be communicated with by their families and their community, most of these children had come to believe they had no value or worth. However, through sign language training, basic schooling, and discipleship these young men and women learn the truth that they possess God-given potential, allowing them to know Jesus and to have hope and confidence that they can accomplish great things in the future.

Moreover, Busega has been transformed as the church shows dignity to a class of people who were formerly known as “fools.” The Gospel hope which has transformed these children is greatly influencing the community.

The plight of orphaned and vulnerable children is not confined to Busega or even to the continent of Africa. According to UNICEF, 140 million orphaned children live globally. To put that number in perspective, if a grain of rice represents one child, you would need over 6,000 pounds of rice to illustrate all the orphans in the world. Of these, less than one-half of 1% will be adopted. They are, in stark terms, unadoptable on this side of Heaven.

Dejected or determined?

(Un)adopted is Lifeline’s international orphan care ministry. At first glance, the term unadopted conveys sadness and hopelessness. Orphans exist because of brokenness — a system, a structure, a relationship, a family. Many of the children categorized by the world as unadoptable are deemed so due to governmental corruption, systemic poverty, parental addiction and decades of compounded sin within their family units.

Believing they have no other option, many parents in crisis place their children in institutions or orphanages hoping that their children can find food for their bellies and a safe place to sleep. Communities begin to normalize this behavior because they know of no other way to address the brokenness and poverty around them. Tragically, once these children are out of sight, they become all too easy to ignore and marginalized further. “We don’t have orphans” has become the all-too-common refrain in many parts of the world, including our own.

The truth is that orphaned and vulnerable children are hidden in plain sight. Those who have physical or mental impairments are labeled as handicapped and kept out of school. Orphaned children face civil war or disease. And the sad reality is that most are perceived as a financial burden to the community.

Beloved, we must strive to see orphaned and vulnerable children, not as the world sees them, but in the loving and adoring way that the author and sustainer of life sees them: image bearers with inestimable and incalculable value and worth.

When I reflect on the term “unadopted” through a biblical lens, I am drawn to see it differently. While many of the world’s orphans are “unadoptable” by a family here on Earth, they are all adoptable into the family of God through the work of Jesus.  It's pure joy to see children who have been deprived of a family being cared for by the Body of Christ.

Pastor Kujjubi and many others like him believe that adoption can take different forms in their communities — the unwanted are adopted into the community of God’s people; those deemed unnecessary are adopted into a future of possibilities and dreams; those who feel unlovable are adopted into God’s family. Through the local church, Lifeline helps these vulnerable children receive love and care, enroll in schools, learn life skills and hear and respond to the hope of the Gospel.

The other side of life

We can offer all these things to the world’s (un)adopted children. They are God’s children — and therefore, they are our God-given responsibility. As followers of Christ, we’ve been given a mandate: care for the least of these and cry out for the poor, the needy and the forgotten. The enormity of this 140-million-person epidemic can either overwhelm us toward apathy or it can compel us to God-driven activity.

Terms like unlovable and undesirable don’t exist in God’s vocabulary when it comes to His creation. At Lifeline, we are fighting to ensure that no vulnerable child, family, woman, orphan or any image bearers believes these lies to be true about themselves. Lifeline was created to support adoption work in 1981 in Birmingham, Alabama. Each year, additional countries have been added. Lifeline currently has international adoption efforts in 24 countries and has served more than 5,000 children through our orphan care efforts.

The task is enormous. But our organization is proof that when hearts like Pastor Kujjubi’s are moved by God to believe things can be different, hope is never lost. I invite you to join me in showing 140 million children that they are indeed lovable, necessary and desired by God. Let’s pray that these children will one day be adopted by God and join His eternal family.

Herbie Newell is the President of Lifeline Children’s Services, the largest Evangelical Christian adoption agency in the United States. The organization serves vulnerable children and families through private domestic and international adoption, family restoration, and pregnancy counseling. Herbie is also the author of Image Bearers: Shifting from Pro-Birth to Pro-Life.

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