idea camp: orphan care. thoughts on day one.

Its the end of day one at Idea Camp: Orphan Care, and honestly, my heart is overwhelmed. I'm overwhelmed by the vastness of the need and by the myriad of ways and ideas to combat that need. Its been a heavy, very full day, filled with a ton of really great information, and even more things that I'll need to wade through over the next several days and weeks. And maybe months.

But over all of that, today has held two common themes for me.

First, that there is not just one solution to this crisis. Caring for orphans is not just about adoption or foster care, though those things are part of it. Its not just about orphanages and homes for abandoned children, though we need to fund those and be wise about how they are set up and managed. Its about mentoring the fatherless and stopping human trafficking (both for sex and for illegal adoptions). Its about caring for pregnant mothers and providing education and medication for those who are HIV-positive. Its about giving women a way to earn money and feed their families so they don't need surrender them to an orphanage. There are as many ways to help as there are people, and just because you're not called to adopt or foster, doesn't mean there isn't work for you to do.

And second, this issue is so close to the heart of God. Because what we're talking about is not about a cause, we're talking about caring for the very least of these. And isn't this what we're commanded to do?

Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.

Then the righteous will answer Him, "Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You something to drink? And when did we see You a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You? When did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?" The King will answer and say to them, "Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me."

the call to orphan care.

I always wanted to adopt or foster kids, though I didn't have much experience in or knowledge of that world growing up. So I guess you could say that long ago, God gave me a heart for this, though I'm not sure I ever understood what that would mean.

I started volunteering as a CASA because I wasn't ready to adopt or foster kids, especially single, but I wanted a way to be involved in that space.

Then I went to Africa and spent some time at Hope House, a home for abandoned children there. Adoption is practically impossible in Gabon, even for Gabonese nationals (there's just too much red tape involved). This is probably a good thing, or I think I would have struggled mightily with a desire to take one or more of those kids home.

All of this to say that sometimes, God places a call on your heart, but the reality of following that call looks very different than you expect.

Over the next few weeks, I'll be participating in a couple of different things related to this call, and wanted to take a few moments to introduce them.

This weekend I'll be in northwest Arkansas for Idea Camp: Orphan Care. My hope is that I'll learn more about all the issues that surrounds of this concept of orphan care, and get a better glimpse of where, specifically, God wants me to be involved.

Then in March, I'll be in Lancaster, PA, meeting with several others who want to be a part of the story that God is writing at Hope House. There are some amazing things that God is doing there, not just with Hope House but with the national Gabonese church. I'll write more about it later, but here are a few links to check out for more information:
  • E4 Project - Tim Brokopp, one of our hosts while in Gabon, is the executive director of this organization. Their first project, PK27, is a campus that will eventually house not only a new facility for Hope House, but also serve as a base for all of the social outreach ministries of the local Gabonese church.
  • Movers & Shakers Community - This website was set up by several interns who were in Gabon shortly before Kelli and I traveled there.

on pursuing a cause.

I picked my college major because I took a programming class in high school and realized I could spend hours working on a project and not know how much time had passed. I figured that was a good sign of a career. That, and I was good at it.

I was content to have a job I liked and that I could do well, one that paid the bills but still left me plenty of time to spend time on the other things I cared about.

But at the same time, I wanted a passion, a cause, even if was outside of my career. I wanted something noble that I could pursue. And although I had an inkling years ago of what it would be, God didn't start revealing my next steps in that area until I stopped looking for a cause and started pursuing him.

The thing I'm realizing, the thing that I've always known to be true but lived as though it wasn't, is that God doesn't want my work, my effort.

He wants me.