Sunday, April 26, 2009

Well, our Governor backed himself into a corner last week by suggesting that Texas might just secede from the Union. The media ran with it, as did his opponents. Probably an over-reaction, since Texans have joked for years about our right to secede.

The joke is probably on us. Most of the rest of the country would be inclined to say “don’t let the door hit you on the way out”.

While there is an amusing side to this, generally speaking, secession is not a terribly productive approach to any problem. It’s tantamount to disengagement; it closes the door on communication.

At the institutional level, an example is “get the US out of the UN”. If the rest of the world won’t play by our rules, we’ll simply disengage. The half-serious Texas secession bantering is another example. As is the classic example of secession from about 150 years ago. That one didn’t work out too well, either.

I’m more interested in bringing it down to an individual level. Sometimes we secede from relationships; we disengage. In general, men are more guilty than women. We say “we’re going into our cave” and everyone chuckles. But it’s not that funny. It’s a conscious decision to secede, to disengage. I confess I’m a hypocrite – I like my cave. In fact, I’m in my cave right now writing this and watching basketball.

I would like to encourage all of us, especially the men, to not secede. Ultimately, we may find that as we secede from relationships, we’re really seceding from life.

Orphans - Nighttime

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

As each one of us drifts off to sleep at night, we are left alone with our thoughts. For me, most nights these are pleasant – fun events of the day, family activities, upcoming plans. Or I might be thinking this bed is too hard; this pillow is too flat; I’m cold; I’m thirsty.

As the darkness settles in each night on the millions of orphans around the world, I wonder what they think about. Of course, many of them are not even in orphanages; they’re street children. Their thoughts may run along the lines of: “I survived today; I hope I can survive tomorrow. I wonder where I’m going to sleep tomorrow night. I wonder if I’ll find anything to eat.”

Whether on the streets or in orphanages, their only thought may be how cold or sick they are. Have you ever gone camping and been cold and stayed awake all night wishing the morning would arrive ? I think of the Scripture: “weeping may endure for the night, but joy comes in the morning”. But for orphans, joy doesn’t come in the morning, because they’re still suffering – cold, hot, sick, hungry.

I bet as they drift off to sleep, sometimes their minds are filled with fear. The little ones fear what our little ones fear – spiders, snakes, wild animals – but the orphans’ fears are based on reality, not imagination. The younger kids may fear the older kids. The older kids probably don’t have fears or do they ? As they get close to aging out of the orphanages, they must fear the future. Their fear is life. How am I going to survive ?

In some cases, as these orphaned children close their eyes at night, their thoughts may roam to a deep sense of longing – longing to be cared for, longing to be held by someone. Longing to see the face of their mommy or daddy, even if they’ve been abandoned. Longing to see a sibling, if they can remember any. Longing to be part of a family – a permanent, secure, caring family. My guess is that many do not even think about this, because it is beyond what they can hope or dream.

At Gladney, in the foster care centers we operate and the orphanages we support, we do what we can to provide a safe, nurturing environment, to offer medical care and to give nourishing meals. We maintain a low child-to-caregiver ratio, so that kids can be held. We focus on programs for kids who are about to age out of orphanages, so they don’t have to dread the next stage of life.

We aim to replace fear with hope.

We aim to provide these children a future.

Jeremiah 29:11 resonates loudly: “ ‘For I know the plans that I have for you’, declares the Lord, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.’ ”

A Large, Unknown Country

Saturday, April 4, 2009

I want to tell you about a country. It’s the 8th largest country in the world, measured by population. But nobody knows it exists. How can this be ? Because it’s a diaspora – it’s spread all over the earth. Population – 143,000,000.

No slogan or constitution or history to unify them. No President. No flag. No anthem. The only unifying threads are poverty, hopelessness and despair. The world’s orphans are found in every country – some in orphanages; most on the streets. Almost all in the least developed countries of the world. THEY ARE MANY, BUT THEY HAVE NO VOICE.

Where do they get a voice ? From those who have true compassion and are in positions of influence – government leaders, as well as private citizens. Who is doing more to address the orphan crisis around the world ? Let’s not mince words. It’s certainly not the governments – either the US or foreign. All too often, they create barriers to solving the orphan crisis. Poor countries don’t have the resources; rich countries don’t care - it's not a high enough priority.

What about the UN ? It exists to give voice to the voiceless; hope to the most marginalized people in the world. Is there a group with less of a voice than destitute orphaned children ? The UN’s track record is mixed. Their various arms do address some of the problems, but they create hurdles as well.

This massive worldwide problem is not given nearly the attention it deserves, precisely because orphans do not have a voice. And it is a massive problem from so many perspectives. Unaddressed, it will mushroom into a much larger problem as orphans (street children and those in institutional care) become young adults and try to integrate into society. Sadly, most will fail.

What can be done to confront the global orphan crisis ? It takes compassion. It takes resources. It takes awareness. More than anything, it takes courageous, visionary leadership. There is a stirring in the hearts of people in this country and in other developed countries – a drumbeat, a growing concern for the plight of the orphan. People motivated by their faith and those motivated by a general sense of concern for their fellow man. People ready to be led in this cause.

Gladney will be a leader. We will lead both from faith and from a general concern. As for myself, I want my heart aligned with God’s heart. His heart is for the orphan. His concern for the fatherless echoes loudly throughout Scripture. It can't be ignored. We will lead and we will pray that world leaders choose to align their hearts with the heart of the One who created us all, who calls us to “choose life”, and who is as concerned with a despairing orphan in sub-Sahara Africa as with the government official dining on fine wine and caviar. In fact, I am fairly confident that God is more concerned for the orphan.

“When you did it to the least of these, you did it to Me.” (Matthew 25:40)

Maybe one day this Federal Orphan Republic will be a much smaller country.