Gary Schneider, founder of Every Orphan’s Hope, used the term at IdeaCamp: Orphan Care in talking about programs to care for kids with HIV/AIDS in Africa. Though I understand the term – it means the child has no mother or father – it lands hard on my heart. I fight back tears.
There are so many labels in this whole “orphan care” space.
With every label, there’s a statistic.
More than 165 million orphans in the world, over 18.5 million double orphans in the world, 500,000 adoptable orphans in the United States, less than 1% of all orphans adopted. 38,000 orphans age out every day, 20% will commit suicide in the first year.
In Lomonosov, Russia, there is a beautifully ornate three-story home sitting on a wooded acreage. I remember walking down an icy road to visit the children from the ages of birth to three who lived there. I fell in love with my first orphan there – a sweet bundle of blondness named Ulla who looked a bit like my dad and a whole lot like love. While I played with her, my husband held a little baby boy in an area of the home designated for infants with HIV/AIDS. Lomonosov was the only orphanage in the region that would take in those infants to care for them. Some of the children at Lomonosov would be adopted, but the overwhelming majority would remain there until they “aged up” into a larger facility in a different city with more orphans who would live together until they “aged out.”
I returned to Russia, and asked about the babies living at Lomonosov. “Lomonosov doesn’t exist anymore,” a sweet friend who works in-country shared. “The government appraisal of the house and land was high, so the orphans were sent to other orphanages and hospitals in the country.” To the government, the building was far more valuable than the contents inside. The orphans living there were simply numbers – something easily divided, subtracted, added. 1 million orphans in Russia. Only 20% eligible for adoption. 90% will never leave the orphanage. Only 1% will have a viable life 5 years after aging out.
The labels and statistics are meant to stir charity in the hearts of all of us. Even I use words like “discarded” and “rejected” in describing the people who are the focus of my personal passion. But labels and stats tell an incomplete story. Because there is something deeper, something more profound in each child labeled “orphan.”
Each orphan, no matter their location or their circumstances, is known by God. Each child is made in His image and His likeness, made for His glory. Each child is fearfully and wonderfully made. He calls them beloved. He calls them blessed. He calls them family. He knows every hair on their head.
And He knows them by name. Each one. Without exception.
None are accidents. None are misfits. None are statistics. They are His.
And because they are His, they are mine. And they are yours.
Every number is a child that God loves and we are called to love. ~Jason Kovacs, ABBA Fund