I love it when I have the privilege to interview another company that is passionate about orphans, especially when it is a huge movement making a difference around the world. The Christian Alliance for Orphans is the company behind “Orphan Sunday!” Orphan Sunday is a DAY that allows all of us to come together and speak about the needs of children throughout the world…a special Sunday dedicated to trying to change their futures and letting their voice be heard. I love what CAFO is doing and how adoption builds a team…those advocating, those adopting, those giving, those caring & altogether these people change the world and a life. I love what Sandra said in this interview, “Not every family is called to adopt and not every orphan is adoptable, but we are all called to care for orphans.” This can mean going on an orphan missions trip through Bring Me Hope next summer, volunteering in local foster care group or using your talents to raise funds for a family adopting…the possibilities are endless! Reading this has me thinking of what my next role is in the world of orphans and I hope is also motivates you to think of ways you change a life as well!
The roots of Orphan Sunday and where it all began:
The seeds of Orphan Sunday come especially as a gift from the Church in Africa. While attending a church service in Zambia, an American visitor was struck by the pastor’s passionate call to care for orphans in the local community, which had been ravaged by AIDS and poverty. Members of the church faced deep need themselves. But as the service ended, one after another stepped forward with money, food and other goods-some even taking off their own shoes and placing them in the offering for orphans. The visitor, Gary Schneider, was so impacted that he began to help Zambian leaders coordinate Orphan Sunday efforts across Zambia. These efforts spread to the U.S. in 2003 with help from Every Orphan’s Hope and other organizations. (Orphan Sunday is licensed to the Christian Alliance for Orphans as a registered trademark of Every Orphan’s Hope). The Christian Alliance for Orphans (CAFO) honors the church in Zambia for the gift of Orphan Sunday. We pray the church all over the world may be as faithful as our Zambian brothers and sisters to reflect God’s heart for the orphan, both near and far. To view the history of Orphan Sunday, we invite you to watch “Zambia’s Gift to World”
What have you found is the best way to get people involved in orphan care?
Orphan Sunday, is a perfect time to stand for the orphan. Christians are a people called to defend the fatherless…to care for the child that has no family…to visit orphans in their distress. Each Orphan Sunday event is locally-led. Sermons and small groups, concerts and prayer gatherings, shared meals and youth activities—each rousing believers with God’s call to care for the orphan, and what we can do in response. From many sources, one voice. Each November, thousands of events will echo across America and around the globe, all sharing a single goal: that God’s great love for the orphan will echo in our lives as well. Orphan Sunday is your opportunity to rouse church, community and friends to God’s call to care for the orphan.
How can people who have no desire to adopt be involved in orphan care?
Not every family is called to adopt and not every orphan is adoptable, but we are all called to care for orphans. There are lots of ways folks can get involved from the littlest Sunday School kid to the most senior of senior citizens! Prayer, child sponsorship, food/clothing drives, short-term missions trips, volunteering at foster care group homes, doing adoption fundraisers, the opportunities are endless!
Do you see a need to invest in the lives of orphans after they “age-out” or once they turn 18?
There is absolutely a need to invest in the lives of orphans after they age-out. As older orphans and foster children age out of care the trends are heart breaking: homelessness, substance abuse, trafficking, crime and incarceration await many who lack adequate support networks. We believe that the Church is called to step into that gap, opening doors to promising futures for these children through holistic life transition programs including: Life Skills Training, Spiritual Care and Mentoring, Transitional Housing, Career development, and Lifelong Church and Community Support Networks. The Aging Out Initiative works to identify and share successful models from CAFO member organizations that show how the Church can help create healthy life transitions for those aging out of international orphan care and U.S. foster care. Go to christianalliancefororphans.org to learn more about our Aging Out Initiative.
What’s the greatest way to assist those who are adopting?
The Church can wrap around adopting families in many ways. Adoptive families need prayer and financial support during the adoption process. Churches can establish adoption funds to assist their families and even organize fundraisers. Supporting families when their child/children arrives home by bringing meals, diapers, clothing, etc. are all ways to bless an adoptive family. In churches where there are several foster and adoptive families the development of a support group can be an integral part of a church’s orphan ministry.
Give us a peek behind the curtain of the emotional journey that someone who is adopting goes through.
I can share from my personal experience as my husband and I have adopted 4 siblings from Ukraine. Any adoption – international or domestic – is a walk of faith with many ups and downs. It’s emotionally draining, physically exhausting, and long – and that’s before the child/children come home! After we completed a dossier aka “mountains of paperwork,” submitting it to the Ukrainian government, and getting approved to adopt in late 2005, Ukraine closed down their adoption program for 9 months to reorganize it. During that long wait, the documents in our dossier expired and we had to re-do the entire file. We finally traveled to Ukraine in late 2006. I was in-country for 6 weeks completing our adoption (my husband returned home to work and our biological children after 4 weeks). Traveling for an international adoption is different for each country. For Ukraine we only needed to make 1 trip and opted to remain there until we could leave with our kids. Being away from home so long was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, but as I look back on that part of the journey, I cherish those memories. Once the child/children are home – the adventure really begins. Every family is different, every child is different, and every adoption journey is unique to each family. There will be difficulties before, during and after the child comes home. It is an emotional journey for every member of the family, therefore it is crucial that families have good support systems and access to post-adoption resources.
Do you ever see adoption “burn-out”? People who have a desire, but aren’t familiar with the process and wind up getting discouraged to the point of quitting?
If so, how do you assist these people? Yes, I’ve seen adoption burn-out. The adoption journey can have many ups and downs and heartbreaking turns. If adoptive parents are not properly prepared and equally committed to the adoption things can unravel quickly. I’ve seen adoptive parents travel all the way to Ukraine and not be on the same page, nor were they adequately prepared by their agency. After 2 weeks in country and a difficult process they were not equipped for, the family returned home without a child and never attempted to adopt again. When a prospective adoptive family is committed to the adoption, well prepared, and trusting God for the outcome then burn-out doesn’t win. Recently I spoke with a pastor who shared that he and his wife finally brought home a new-born baby boy after 4 failed adoption attempts. First they were weeks away from traveling to Russia in late 2012 when Russia closed it’s adoption program closing the door to the little girl they’d hoped to bring home. The family then switched to domestic adoption where they came close to being picked by 2 different birth moms only to not get chosen. The 4th try brought them just hours away from a child. They had plane tickets in hand to fly to another state when their lawyer discovered the agency they were adopting through was not licensed to operate in their state of residence, closing the door to that child forever. I asked the pastor why, after so much heartbreak, would they continue to try to adopt. His answer, “There is a war for children and we need to fight.” This family knew God had called them to adopt, so they walked by faith and now hold their newborn son in their arms. Adoption, whether international or domestic is not for the faint of heart, but it is worth it! It’s crucial for families to partner with a reputable adoption or foster care agency as they navigate through a grueling process. For a list of agencies that meet our high standards of excellence visit our website at christianalliancefororphans.org
Thank you Sandra for allowing me to interview you! You are changing the world! If you haven’t done anything yet, you still have time to get together some materials and get your church involved in Orphan Sunday this weekend, November 2nd.
Sandra Flach is the Media Coordinator for Orphan Sunday. She is a Mom of 3 biological children and 5 adopted (1 domestic & 4 international) from up-state New York. She’s also the Executive Director of Justice for Orphans at justicefororphansny.org.
For the Kids,
Caitlyn B & the Bring Me Hope Team