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Do We See America’s Orphans
By Kinsey Thurlow on September 30th, 2011

I once met a little boy who impacted my heart so greatly that he altered both the way I prayed and the vision I held for ministry. This poor, three-foot tall, brown-eyed foster kid had not a single possession to his name, yet he gave me a tremendously rich gift. He caused me to see.

This little boy was not the first child I had met who had been placed in governmental care, but he was the one who shook me out of my sleep and opened my eyes to America’s fatherless. Actually, I have known through the years literally hundreds of children who are without homes or families. I spent four summers oversees working among orphans and living in their orphanages. Those four summers were paramount for me and set in my heart a burden for orphaned children I would carry throughout my life.

The faces of the orphans I had known overseas were indeed etched into my memory, but I believe the Lord wanted to expand my vision to see more. In years past, the image that most often came into my mind when I thought of or prayed for orphans was almost always that of children living in run-down, congested orphanage buildings. However, I confess I did not give nearly as much thought to the orphans in my own nation.

Although the plight of some overseas orphans is considerably similar to that of foster children in my own nation, for some reason I (and I think I am in good company) thought of American orphans as different from orphans in other nations. Perhaps it was because they just didn’t seem as poor, or desperate, or destitute; though I have now learned how untrue this perception is.

For many of us, if not most of us, when we think of orphans, we picture children living on the streets in third world nations or growing up in over-crowded orphanages. This is an accurate picture. However, it is not a complete picture. The reality is, you could take a relatively short drive right now, some of you could even walk, and come face to face with one of America’s orphans. In 2011, there were 115,00 orphaned children in our nation who were immediately available for adoption. These 115,000 are among nearly half a million foster children who have been removed from their homes due to their own families’ incapability of caring for them . These children live in our same neighborhoods and attend our schools. But do we see them?

I am not implying that we should not consider orphans in other nations, but in seeing these, we cannot overlook our own nation’s children. Certainly I still think of and pray for the orphans of I’ve seen in other countries. The names and faces of those orphans I met in Eastern Europe will remain in my memory and my prayers indefinitely. Even so, it is important that when we consider the fatherless, we include the faces of our nation’s destitute children. I lamentably confess that while I crossed an ocean four times to visit orphans, it was several years later before I ever visited a children’s home in my own nation. It was literally a five minute drive away. There is something wrong with this picture. I’ve since become a little more aware of the institutions and homes for children that have been established in my own city and nation. Through conversations I’ve had with others within the church, I’ve discovered that many do not realize that these homes even exist. But we need to know. And we need to see the children. In the nooks and crannies of your own city, these homes for the fatherless exist. I have discovered nearly fifteen in my own city that I once never even knew were there. And in addition to these children’s homes, a great number more are living in foster families. Truly the crisis of fatherlessness spans across America and stretches across the earth.

I believe there is a question coming from America’s orphans that is echoing throughout our nation… “Do you see us?” And this question beckons another… “Do you care?”

As believers in Jesus Christ, we are called to care for the orphan. If James 1:27 defines this as “pure and undefiled religion,” then none of us within the Church are exempt from this call. We will not all bring children into our home, but we are all called to do something.

Fatherlessness permeates the world. When the Church of each nation arises to look after her own orphans, this is beautification both of the nation and of the Church.

-Kinsey Thurlow

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