Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Orphan Care Project.

That's right! Get it here first. :-) I'm writing my giant orphan care project this week and thought I might post a few excerpts to get some feedback as I write. (This means that you need to leave comments quickly, as I should finish writing Thursday or Friday.)

If anything doesn't flow well, if you get bored and can't make it to the end, or if you catch any grammatical errors, please let me know! Also, although you'll see my footnoted citations (which did not copy and paste well, as you can see by their formatting inconsistency), you don't have access to my bibliography, so don't charge me with plagiarizing! Just ask me for the source. :-)

This section is the "Biblical Mandate" to care for orphans section. It's a little theology heavy, which I did not intend. Let me know (especially you, Bryan) if I'm making any theologically off the wall statements.

"I know there is a God, and that He hates injustice and slavery. I see the storm coming, and I know that His hand is in it. If He has a place and work for me – and I think He has – I believe I am ready. I am nothing, but truth is everything. I know I am right because I know that liberty is right, for Christ teaches it, and Christ is God."1

~ Abraham Lincoln

The Bible is full of reasons why we should care for the orphans in the world, and there are many verses that explicitly tell us to do so. Perhaps the most commonly quoted is James 1:27, which says, "Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world."2 Deuteronomy 10:18 says that God "defends the cause of the fatherless."3 Isaiah 1:17 tells us to do the same. "Learn to do right! Seek justice, encourage the oppressed. Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow."4 But even without these verses, what we know of Jesus and his character in Scripture tells us that he cares for the people on the outskirts of society, the weak, the downtrodden, the vulnerable. Even his choice of friends and followers reflected his heart for the marginalized. Upon his return,

"He's going to separate us into two groups – those who saw the hurting… and helped, and those who kept on walking. Interestingly, the people God says we are to help are those who can never repay us – orphans, the elderly, and widows. They're vulnerable. When you give someone something without any expectation of getting anything in return, Jesus said, this is what I see and feel. In other words, whatever we do for the least of these, we're doing for Him. It's not our job to figure out if the parents were good or bad for abandoning their child. It is our job to see the need and help."5

Also inherent in our need to care for the vulnerable is the dignity with which we were all created. Believing that every person is unique with God-given dignity is the first of seven statements developed by Fuller Theological Seminary, VIVA Network, World Vision, and other leaders in the field as part of a Biblical framework presented in the book Understanding God's Heart for Children. The framework.6 is an incredibly helpful tool in looking at our theological reasons for working with orphans and other vulnerable children. The discussion put forth by these ministry leaders is one that is necessary so that we can all work together toward the same end results and vastly increase the effectiveness of our efforts. Addressing the issue of this innate human dignity (innate not of our own worth but rather the worth of the One who created us), Alemu Beeftu said,

"Dignity is not about capability, giftedness, culture, social conditions, or economic status. It is God-given. Accepting human dignity is recognizing and honoring God the Creator and Redeemer, as well as Jesus Christ, who came as a child to save us. The incarnation of the Lord Jesus Christ is proof of human dignity. He was born as a child and grew up with uniqueness as an individual person to do the will of his Father. Affirming and celebrating the uniqueness of individuals is acknowledging God's purpose and destiny for them, determined by God, for the praise of his name."7

This intrinsic dignity comes from our divine Creator. He chose to make us in his image, giving us the privilege of seeing his reflection in the faces of the people around us. In his work with orphaned and abandoned street children, Dr. Chi Huang was once asked if he was there because he loved God. He responded, "Yes…That is the underlying reason for most of what I do in life. I'd rather be here than anywhere else in the world. Because I like to see children enjoy being children again. Because I see the face of God in every child."8 This theme was also a central one for Mother Teresa, who was known for seeing the "face of God in every suffering human being."9

Romans 8:20 says, "Against its will, everything on earth was subjected to God's curse."10 This includes families. These broken families become the orphans and widows, the vulnerable and abandoned. "Collectively, we face the challenges to parents and families: pain, suffering, broken relationships, civil conflict, chronic poverty, and disease, because all of God's creation has been impacted by Adam's sin."11

"…life in relationship with God was intended to be full of care and protection. The problem with this idyllic scenario is that our experience with children living in risky environments mocks the ideals of God's created order…. what do we offer children who suffer the cruelties of poverty, abandonment, and abuse?"12

When we find ourselves overwhelmed by the sorrow in this world, by the injustice in the lives of the innocent, by the horrors inflicted upon people made in the image of Christ himself, I think it is natural to ask the question, "Why?" Our sin has wreaked havoc on the world. But in the midst of the stench of iniquity, we must know two things. First, no matter how broken our hearts are at the state of the world, God's heart is infinitely more broken. And second, heaven holds the promise of restoration and healing. But even while we find hope in the promise of heaven, for the sake of "those suffering today, we cannot be 'blinded' by the light of heaven. Instead, we must be diligent in our work to cry out against injustice and seek as churches and individuals to rectify the injustices that others face."13

John 14:18 says, "No, I will not abandon you as orphans – I will come to you."14 He has given us the opportunity to be his hands and feet, reaching out to the ones he promised not to abandon. To love the ones God loves as he would love them is not an easy call. There will be both success and failure. But to deny our responsibility to them, to turn from what God has commanded, is a fate far worse than the most dismal failure made while trying.

"She savors the razor slash… until she finally feels something other than heartache and emptiness. I have failed. Failed tremendously. I could not draw the girl out of Mercedes; I could not make her feel loved. Perhaps the toughest maneuver of the streets is to accept love. Should I take up the responsibility of teasing out the youthfulness of broken children? If I don't, who will?"15

1Alexander, R.

2 The Holy Bible. New International Version.

3 The Holy Bible. New International Version.

4 The Holy Bible. New International Version.

5 Bentley, L. M., 137-138.

6 To read all seven statements with a few sentences of commentary, see Appendix B.

7 Douglas McConnell, 12.

8 Dr. Chi Huang, 225-226.

9 Crossette, B.

10 The Holy Bible. New Living Translation.

11Douglas McConnell, 67.

12 Douglas McConnell, 15.

13 Douglas McConnell, 150.

14 The Holy Bible. New Living Translation.

15 Dr. Chi Huang, 50-51.

Friday, June 6, 2008

In Memory of Maria.

By now, I'm sure that all of you have heard about the tragic death of Maria Sue Chapman, the youngest daughter of Christian music artist Steven Curtis Chapman. If you haven't, you can find the story here.

The site below has links to blogs about the beauty that can come from such tragic suffering, the story of Maria's short but full life, pictures from her memorial service, and more. For those of you who, like me, feel connected to this tragedy because of the light Steven Curtis Chapman has been in our own lives, this site has resources that not only help you articulate grief for our brothers and sisters, but recognize the power of God and the beauty there is in his ability to work all things together for good. Definitely take time to read some of Kerry Hasenbalg's blogs that speak into this grief from her own experience of losing a daughter. The tragedy of this world is unspeakable, but God be praised for his joy which sustains and his peace that surpasses our understanding.

Remembering Maria

"We can cry with hope. We can say goodbye with hope. For we know our goodbyes are not the end." ~ Steven Curtis Chapman, "With Hope"

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Charles Wesley Article.

Okay, I apologize for posting two blogs in two days after posting nothing for a month, but I just can't resist posting this article. It is such an incredibly stirring account! No commentary. Just read it for yourself and let me know what you think.

Charles Wesley's Radical, Fruitful Risk

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

When Invisible Children Sing.

"'I have been looking for you,' I tell him. 'You can't find me. I am invisible.'"
~ When Invisible Children Sing

People are not invisible. They simply are not. We can choose to believe that they are. We can ostracize them until they believe they are. That is the story reflected in the quote above.

A little boy has lived his whole life unseen by the people who are supposed to not only notice him, but love him, care for him, sing over him. He finally agrees to come to an orphanage where he can be educated and safe after living his whole life on the streets. Then he stabs another child and regresses back, shrinking into the familiarity of perceived invisibility. But God sees us all. We need not shrink from him. He sees us with our good and our bad intermixed. We are not good people. "No one is righteous, not even one." Romans 3:10. But when he sees us, full of fault, he sees the blanket of righteousness given in the sacrifice of his holy and pure son. He sees the love the he has lavished upon us so that we may be his children (1 John 3:1).

Maybe you feel invisible. Maybe you do not cherish the lives of those who do feel invisible. (I think we all fit both descriptions at various times in our lives.) But God's love shines through. Not only are you loved, but you are known and loved. He sees you. He loves you. You are not invisible. There is hope. There is unceasing potential in someone who knows he or she is truly, unabashedly loved and is freed to love others the same way that Christ loves us. God, may that be the aspiration and prayer of us all. Let us receive your love that we may give it.

"There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. We love because he first loved us." ~ 1 John 4:18-19