"Once upon a time there was a wise man
who used to go to the ocean
to do his writing.
He had a habit of walking
on the beach
before he began his work.
One day he was walking along
As he looked down the beach,
he saw a human
figure moving like a dancer.
He smiled to himself to think
of someone who would
dance to the day.
So he began to walk faster
to catch up.
As he got closer, he saw
that it was a young man
and the young man wasn't dancing,
but instead he was reaching
down to the shore,
picking up something
and very gently throwing it
into the ocean.
As he got closer he called out,
"Good morning! What are you doing?"
The young man paused,
looked up and replied,
"Throwing starfish in the ocean."
"I guess I should have asked,
why are you throwing starfish in the ocean?"
"The sun is up and the tide is going out.
And if I don't throw them in they'll die."
"But, young man, don't you realize that
there are miles and miles of beach
and starfish all along it.
You can't possibly make a difference!"
The young man listened politely.
Then bent down, picked up another starfish
and threw it into the sea,
past the breaking waves and said-
"It made a difference for that one."
The need to care for orphans and widows in this world can feel so overwhelming. I was reminded of this when I was looking at the Heart Gallery Alabama web site today which has photos and videos of adoptable children posted. When there are an estimated 160,000,000 orphans in the world, not to mention widows raising their children alone, families in need across the world and across our streets, children who need foster homes in our city, how do we decide where we fit in? How do we know we made the right choice or ended up with the right child? How do we keep from feeling that by saying "yes" to one aspect of ministry, we are saying "no" to millions of other children?
Only one word will calm the soul troubled by these questions--God. God is sovereign over the grand plan as well as the minutia of our lives. God knows us and gifts us each especially for the tasks he has chosen for us. God knows and chooses each "starfish" that gets rescued. God knew our names and the names of our children before the world began.
Orphan advocation is not about a "good/better/best" mentality within the church. It's not better to adopt than do mission work. It's not better to adopt than focus on the homeless. It's not better to adopt than to have your own biological children. It's not better to adopt children in Montgomery than Ethiopia. It's not better to adopt a white child over a black child. It's not better to adopt a mentally handicapped child over a healthy one. It's easy for us who truly desire to serve God with reckless abandon and hold nothing back to feel guilty if we don't adopt the adsolutely most impoverished unwanted child on the planet. We want so badly to replicate our own adoption into God's family. And, absolutely we should see ourselves as the most spiritually impoverished and unwanted orphans around. That's a great place to start, by the way. I would suggest that if you have not already done so, that you would pray for God to free you from any preconceived notion that you are "too good" to care for any and all categories of people in need. You must be willing to serve him in whatever he sends your way and in parenting any children he sends your way. However, you must trust that God has a specific plan and design for your family. The beauty in this is that every family is going to be unique. So the best way to view this is for the church to develop an "all of the above" mentality. We should (as a church) be caring for orphans from everywhere, AND doing foster care, AND reaching out to the homeless, AND doing mission work at home and abroad, AND preaching and teaching God's Word, AND edifying the saints. However, one person cannot be everywhere at once and has limited resources. That's why were are many members in one body...the church. Each member is gifted to do certain ministries. So what does God have for your family? We feel stronly that He has led us to put a strong emphasis on orphan care. However, He does not intend for my family to adopt 160,000,000 children. So...how do we decide where we fit? The same way we should be making other decisions.
5. Allow your love and appreciation for your Savior to motivate you--not guilt.
It really doesn't have to be all that complicated, although our emotions will do that part for us. If we read the Word of God then we know what His will is. Once we know that, we should be called to act on it at some level. In the case of orphan and widow ministry, it may be one or a combination of these things
- Adoption-domestic or foreign
- Foster Care
- Financial contribution
- Sponsoring a child who is not adoptable
- Volunteering your skills as a painter, tutor, construction worker, babysitter, house cleaner, cook, seamstress, etc. for a local ministry or adoptive family
- Volunteer at a local ministry or soup kitchen
Is this inconvenient sometimes? Absolutely. Does it require time, energy, sacrifice? Yes. However, I am convinced that He does not call us to be His children in order that we may shield our lives from a display of His glory no matter how inconvenient it may be. He does not save us to make us lazy. He saves us to empower us to obedience. 2 John 1:16 says "And this is love, that we walk according to his commandments"
Matthew 20:28 also says that he who wants to be great must be the slave of all "even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
It's so nice to just sit around and be served, isn't it? Restaurants do it, TVs do it, fast food windows do it. All kinds of things around us are screaming to us that life is all about us and how much we can enjoy it before we die. While I certainly love and enjoy this life, I realize that I only get to serve Christ in this capacity once. I want to look back on my life and be able to say that I made a difference. Not that I was famous for it or that I was recognized at all for it, but that I furthered His kingdom through obedience. I want to make a difference to some starfish out there. I want to further the Gospel and I want to pattern my love for my family after the same selfless servant love that Christ has shown me.
Who's with me?