Chinese Christians' Care for Orphans Brings Remarkable Changes
YUNNAN PROVINCE, China -- For 18 years, Robert Glover has had a dream: To see a million Chinese children moved from orphanages into local, loving families. That dream is becoming a reality in a corner of China's Yunnan province.
"It was just so remarkable what was going on in this village," Glover told CBN News.
It all started a few years back when families in Yang Jia village set out to change the lives of children in a nearby orphanage.
"I think the amazing thing is that they started to really go deep and study the Bible and they found this bit about widows and orphans and it really impacted them and that this is something the Church should be doing," Glover said.
And these weren't ordinary children.
"The children had a very tough life before they were found by the police and taken to the orphanage," Sun Yuan Jie, who works in the area, said.
These were children who were abandoned and left orphaned by their parents.
"Imagine being abandoned in the city at a very young age and not having anyone to fend for you, and we know where children have maternal deprivation they will develop some type of mental illness, physical illness and even die," Glover said.
The children lived in a Chinese government institution. They had the infrastructure and all the facilities, but "they were not getting any kind of family love or care," Jie said.
Right Thing to Do
Glover's team soon discovered something special about the village.
"The people here they give their hearts to the children, they love children and they support each other," Jie told CBN News.
He said that became evident when 70 families made the remarkable and inspiring decision to become foster parents to 170 children!
"All the children placed with this village are from the Kunming Orphanage and 99 percent of them have difficulties, physically and mentally," Jie said.
That didn't matter to the villagers. You see, the majority of Yang Jia is Christian, and the families knew that this was the right thing to do.
"It is incredible because I think most of us when we wake up in the morning, the first thing we think about is ourselves," Glover said. "These people, they get up and they think about these children and it's just absolutely phenomenal."
Their act of love had a profound impact, bringing the community together like never before.
"This is the dream that has come true for me -- to see not only the mothers and fathers, but the brothers and sisters, the uncles, the aunties and then the extended families, the whole community comes together," Glover said.
Glover believes what families in Yang Jia are doing should be the model for taking care of orphaned and vulnerable children.
"All those people working in institutions are suddenly going to think, 'Oh, I'm going to lose my job!' so there's going to be a little of a fight and a battle," he said. "The better way is to say let's work within the institution and re-train some of the staff to move with the children into the community as support workers."
Care for Children
Glover is the founder of Care for Children, a Christian organization that teaches government-run institutions how to move children from the orphanage into local families. He says he's simply practicing a biblical model.
"And we just come back simply to that point: God made the family for children!" he said.
So far, Care for Children has placed more than 300,000 Chinese children in families across the country.
"Governments have realized, the academics have realized, a lot of the Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) have realized. I think it's the Church that's behind. The Christian church needs to wake up," he said.
In 2003, the Chinese government invited Glover and his family to move to Beijing so they could introduce this family-based care throughout the country.
As a result, the government took a historic step in 2014 by changing legislation to state that "family placement is a positive alternative to institutional care."
Changing the Institution
"I shed a tear because it took 17 years for them to change that legislation," Glover said.
"It took lots of children's transformations to change that legislation and I think that's phenomenal because that's not about me, that's about a faithful God!" he exclaimed.
China says it has 576,000 orphans but outside groups put the number closer to a million. Glover says many of the families taking in orphans are Christians.
"The biggest Christian revival in world history is happening now in China! And so as that's happening while we are placing children in families, it's not surprising that the families that are coming forward are the Christians," he said.
A Life-Changing Experience
For the 70 foster families in Yang Jia village, the experience has been life changing.
"We really love them. We love them as if they were our own children and they love us like we're their parents," one foster mother said.
"Of course there are challenges, but we work through them," a foster father said. "The joys outweigh the challenges."
For the children, it has been equally transforming.
"I love my family," one little boy said.
"I love my mum and dad!" another one added.
Glover says the smiles here remind him of the dream God put in his heart to help transform the lives of a generation of children across China.
"What we are giving these children is an opportunity to have that identity and security and love and nurture in a family and a community," he explained.