Since I met Jesus I’ve had the opportunity to work with orphans in several different contexts. Not the typical orphans that come to mind when I think of orphans. They weren’t in “orphanages”, they weren’t in Africa or some other impoverished third world country, they weren’t child slaves, soldiers or prostitutes but they were orphans nonetheless. I’ve been a youth worker in two separate group homes; one a crisis unit where children were taken out of homes for various reason: violence, neglect or other criminal behavior putting the teens at risk, the other, a long term care facility for teens with mental illness who had become wards of the state for various reasons. And now as a youth pastor, I have youth from all different kinds of families, some single parent, some with fathers who work away for months at a time. While these are all different than the typical idea of an orphan, they all experience the same lack of love, care and direction that parents are supposed to provide. Until joining this trip, I never really saw these young people I worked with as orphans but Jesus has opened my eyes to the reality that we’re all orphan’s to some extent until God reunites us with himself by what Jesus did; a hard thing I had to come to grips with in my own life.
I never met my biological father until I turned 19. I had a good man in my life who raised me, who I consider my dad, but there was always a disconnect between us. Somehow, although I knew he loved me as his own son to the best of his ability, we didn’t belong to one another. After meeting Jesus and experiencing what his unconditional love and adoption into his family was like, the relationship with my dad changed, I was able to see it with different lenses. I’ve been able to recognize some of his shortfalls in being dad are a result of his father and his lack of relationship with his heavenly father.
As I’ve thought about this Journey we’re about to go on together, I’ve had not only a great excitement to learn how we, as children of God, care for the most vulnerable in our society, but I’m most excited for how I’ll view those around me as both literal and spiritual orphans when I return. I’m certain that this trip will change my world view. How could it not? I’m sure it will impact the way I regard people in my own community. Then too, I’m excited as one of Christ ambassadors that I’ll get to speak up on behalf of those who are fatherless (or motherless or both) to the churched and un-churched
I, like so many in the church, have become numb to the plight of orphans around the world (and in our back yard). It seems that God is calling people, once again to take up the cause of the defenseless. I think the church has gone through “self-help” cycle for long enough, God is calling us to put down the “7 Steps to a Better Life” books (8, 9, or 10 steps depending on your brand of Christianity) and pick up our neighbors on the road to Jericho and take care of them. I hope this trip helps connect this idea, that is so true in my mind, to my heart so that when I talk about it; so it won’t just be empty idealism or guilt tripping people, but in genuine hope and love. The hamster wheel is getting old, time to get off the wheel, escape the cage and go do the things we’ve read about, taught about and theologized about for too long... so I'm going on a journey to Ethiopia.
(P.S. I stole this picture from google images. That is not actually me on a bookshelf hamster wheel.)