Depending on the source, there are an estimated 153 million orphans around the world. And while 2020 isn't what any of us expected with COVID-19 disruption and devastation, these 153 million children have been impacted especially hard.
First, they have no family for which they can cling to amidst uncertainty. While many orphanages and children's homes try their best to care for the hundreds of children under their care, nothing can replace family. In addition, these children are often the first group to be forgotten during a massive economic downturn, global uncertainty, and looming disaster. The pull of human nature is to become self-preserving during calamities which means the greatest carnage is usually those who lack voice and visibility.
And the number of orphans worldwide continues to grow. Children of day laborers are particularly vulnerable. The pandemic has crippled nearly all of the economy upon which these families depend, thus taking away any hope of viability to care for their children. These and many other children who were already in danger of being abandoned or left homeless are much more likely to become displaced from their families.
Uncertainty is not only present for the poor and marginalized. Not surprising, Christian parents in the midst of international adoption journeys have been adversely impacted in their endeavors to give an orphan their greatest need–family. Coronavirus has complicated international adoption with 14-day travel quarantines being implemented in South America and Europe. As a result of the virus, travel has come to a standstill throughout Asia for prospective adoptive parents. Right now, many families have children who are waiting for them on the other side of an indefinite global pandemic making an already difficult situation exponentially difficult. This crisis will likely have a far-reaching impact upon the future of international adoption.
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In times of crisis, we tend to fall prey to paralysis in regards to starting anything new or making any drastic changes. It is likely that many families are pressing pause on adoption plans in hopes of more stability in the future; however, this is a flawed plan. Now is a perfect time to begin the adoption process, because each day we wait, means another day that children will live in peril. Vulnerable children are increasingly more vulnerable during COVID-19 and adoption is still the best answer for many of these children to find permanence. We must remember that our God is the Father to the fatherless, the protector of the orphan and the widow, and the adopter of our souls, and today's circumstances do not rest outside His sovereignty. No task that He calls us to is too large. We are those who have been rescued by the Lord in order to take His redemption and reconciliation to the world. The Lord will equip and resource those who He has called.
A global pandemic shouldn't slow down this response but should heighten it. Our great God is sovereign over pandemics, travel restrictions, economic slowdown, and quarantines. He will use all of these things for good in order to accomplish His purposes in helping the downtrodden when they are the most vulnerable. Zephaniah 3:19b, "I will save the lame and gather the outcast, and I will change their shame into praise and renown in all the earth."
At Lifeline Children's Services, we have the privilege of finding families for children from 16 nations around the world. While COVID-19 has brought very specific and serious challenges--especially as travel has been shutter---there has also been so much to celebrate. The process of international adoption, even in Asian countries where travel is halted for the remainder of 2020, has continued against what seems like insurmountable odds. We have seen families approved to adopt in a record amount of time! The process for approving families has been allowed to continue over digital methods, and governments around the world are still matching families with children who are waiting.
As Christians, we must not fall prey to paralysis. We cannot hit pause on caring for and protecting the orphan. Beloved, we have been called to manifest the Gospel to vulnerable children. Will we ignore James 1:27 or will we live out pure, faultless, and true religion? If you are called to international adoption, the need is great and the time is now.
Herbie Newell (MBA, Samford University) is the President and Executive Director of Lifeline Children's Services and its ministry arms including (un)adopted, Crossings, Families Count and Lifeline Village. Under Newell's leadership, Lifeline has significantly increased its international and statewide outreach, attained membership with the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability and achieved international accreditation under The Hague Treaty, begun an extensive foster care ministry, and started its (un)adopted strategic orphan care ministries in more than 10 countries. Herbie speaks nationally at conferences and events and regularly preaches throughout the world on gospel-driven justice. He and his wife, Ashley, live in Birmingham, Alabama, and are parents to a son, Caleb, and daughters Adelynn and Emily. His first book Image Bearers: Shifting from Pro-Birth to Pro-Life, released on January 21, 2020.
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