Reaching Out to the Orphan
About the Guest
The challenges of the orphan crisis are many and every Christian man needs to play a part in the solution. Join Rick Warren, Dennis Rainey, Jedd Medefind as they discuss the problem, and offer solutions.
Bob: So, the makeup of your family today is?
Russell: We have five boys, ages 10 and under.
Bob: How many biological? How many—
Russell: We adopted the first two. Then, the others came along the more typical way.
Bob: Yes. Jedd, how about you?
Jedd: Yes; I feel like, for a lot of folks, especially, if you grew up in the church, the idea is there. This goes for a lot of different issues—but that movement from the head to the heart—it often takes pain for that. I hear elements of that in both of these, and that was the case for me.
My wife and I had actually decided to adopt after two biological kids. Obviously, we were already, in a sense, headed in that direction—it’s a longer story. As we went through the adoption process, we were matched with a precious little girl from Ethiopia. She had been abandoned and brought in. She was about six months old—just shortly before we were going to travel, they called us and said: “Jedd, please go home from work. We need to tell your wife and you something together.”
I headed home, right in the middle of the day, and called the adoption agency back. They said: “Little Ionia died. We didn’t even have time to tell you she was sick, because it took her life so quickly. Her body was so frail.” That was—it was so remarkable just to realize how much you can grieve over a child you’ve never even met, face to face, yet. A lot like a miscarriage—just grieving over that precious little one you had not ever held.
I think that was one of those moments that took a lot of things from here [pointing to head] and moved it down to my heart.
Bob: Rick, the heart for the orphan—where did it come from?
Rick: Yes; I shared earlier in the session—those of you guys who were in that—about my crisis, ten years ago, where God kind of beat me up and said, “You are totally missing this issue.” God got my attention.
Now, Kay and I have not adopted; however, I’m in the lives of literally—maybe 50 kids in this church. I genuinely love children. I’m in their lives all the time—and a lot of the kids, whose dad is not in the picture, I’m there. When I’m not preaching, I walk the Sunday school classes. I want my kids in this church to know me. Papa Rick, or Pastor Rick—there’ll be 3,000 kids on this campus this weekend. I will hug maybe a fourth of them; okay? When I hug a kid, I go, “I wonder how long that hug has got to last that kid.”
Rick: I’ve thought about going into full-time Christian hugging. [Laughter] But the truth is—if I was not a senior pastor, I’d been a children’s pastor because I genuinely learn so much from kids—I love being around them. They are the single greatest thing to teach you humility and unselfishness. They keep you real.
Bob: Rick, I’ve got a hypothesis that I want to try out on you and see if you agree. It seems to me that, within the church, if somebody is going to have a heart for the orphan, it’s more likely to be a woman than a man. You think that’s right?
Rick: Only because we haven’t gotten the message to men. I think if men understood this simple fact: “Right, now, in America, 25 percent of all white kids grow up without the presence of the dad in their home—25 percent. Fifty percent of all Hispanic kids grow up in America without the presence of the dad in their home. Seventy-five percent of all African American kids grow up in America without the presence of the dad in the home.”
That is a disaster waiting to happen! Studies have shown that the number one predictor for whether a kid makes it in life is the presence of a caring adult in that child’s life. It doesn’t have to be a parent, but it has to be somebody who cares. I think we have to rally men—not just for adoption—but for every kind of thing to involve them in the lives of kids, who don’t have a male model in their lives.
Bob: Jedd, you and I were talking about this earlier. There is, in the heart of a woman, a nurturing instinct. Do you think God’s wired women to have a heart for this more than men?
Jedd: I think He’s wired women to have a special role in the life of children, and He’s wired men to have a special role in the lives of children. That’s going to be different—it’s complimentary—there are times when it overlaps. Men need to be nurturing, too, of course; but there’s something in us that yearns to protect, yearns to do strong things, yearns to do those things that often we don’t associate with caring for orphans / caring for children.
I think—when we can connect some of these biblical themes of—you know, it says in Isaiah, “Defend the cause of the fatherless...”—that feels manly, and it is. We can associate it—not only with things like bringing out a sword and fighting bad guys—but standing between a child and a dark future because every one of these kids, who’s growing up without a mom and a dad—even ones who, theoretically, have moms and dads in their homes, as you’re saying, Rick, but their dad is not engaged with their life—their future is statistically very dark.
It is a defensive, protective, strong act to stand in between that boy and that future / that girl and that future and say, “I will protect you from that.”
Dennis: This afternoon, I was interviewed on a radio show. In the green room, where I was interviewed, there was a Bible opened. It was opened to this passage—I kept looking at it and kept thinking about orphans and how this appeals to something within a man, who’s called to be a warrior on behalf of all people—but especially, the helpless.
Proverbs 3, verse 1, “My son, do not forget my teaching, but let your heart keep my commandments. For length of days and years of life and peace, they will add to you.”
Think of the boy and the girl who don’t have a daddy to teach and instruct around morality, around a relationship with God, around what danger is, and what it looks like for a young lady or for a young man. To me—I think I agree with you, Rick—I think one of the reasons why more men have not engaged in the plight of the orphans is we haven’t brought men near where the orphan is—sex slavery and trade—horrific things done to children who don’t have a daddy to protect them.
I think, when men see that, I think there is something within our chest that calls us, as men: “We must initiate. We must protect.”
I’ve heard the stories here from you. You guys are all here because there’s something within your chest that says, “This movement needs men”; and I commend you for that—really do.
Bob: Russell, a lot of guys—if they go out and play a game; and they’re not any good at it / they’re just not—they’ll find another game—
Bob: —because we like to play games we can win.
Bob: In this area of life, the issue is so big it seems unwinnable. The amount of effort it takes to win with one child is significant. I can see where a guy goes, “Given the odds, I’ll watch ESPN.”
Russell: Right; but that’s, of course—that’s part of everything in the Christian life. That’s what discipleship is like—that’s what doing spiritual warfare is like. When you look at the depth of how wrong the world has gone, in so many ways, there is a sense in which—if that’s all you see, then, there is a tendency to despair—
but if you have an understanding of the Holy Spirit and of the power of God that’s involved in that—that ought to give a sense of understanding the depth of the problem—but also, a sense of hope and of optimism that is present there.
I think that’s one of the reasons why a lot of men are distant from this issue is because we tend to—in our churches—often present this issue in terms of cute, little orphans. We’re trying to say: “Look at these cute, little orphans. They need a home. Welcome them into your home.” That’s true—that’s part of it—but what we see going on with the orphan crisis is not just a material problem.
This is a spiritual warfare issue where something has gone badly wrong in the universe—where you have some beings out there, who hate children; because children represent newness of life and represent a threat that was made to their power many, many years ago.
I think if men understand and see this—that what we’re really calling them to do is what God called Joseph of Nazareth to do when He says: “Take this woman in. Take this child in, as your son.” He names Jesus. He takes Jesus into Egypt—which doesn’t just mean moving the way we might move from Orange County to Minnesota for a while. This meant abandoning everything—your whole economic future—in order to care for this woman and this child. What Joseph is doing is demon-wrestling.
That’s what we’re calling men to do. When we’re taking in children and defending children, we are taking on principalities and powers that want to destroy the image of Christ and to say, “No, these children are worth it,”—
—when we take a Down syndrome child into our home—that the rest of the world says, “Why would you bother with this child, who’s not going to have a successful future?”
—when you take that child with AIDS into your arms and you’re not scared of her.
—when you’re ministering to those people—what you’re doing is not just something nurturing and loving—although that’s true—you’re also declaring war on everything that would say, “This isn’t worth it.”
Bob: Rick, if you were going to—let’s say it is Sunday morning at Saddleback—and you’re going to say, “This evening, we want to rally folks who really want to engage in this orphan issue,” —and you want men to be there. How would you—how would you plead the case in a way that would call out the men? —as opposed—because if you just said, “Hey, we’re going to do a thing on orphans—anybody who has an interest, come.”
Bob: I think you’d have 90 percent women and 10 percent guys. So, how would you call the men?
Rick: Right; right.It’s always the way you frame it—so, frame it as leadership training.
Rick: Frame it as mentoring. Frame it as leaving a legacy. Frame it as, “This may be the most significant thing you do with your life,” —because a life changed by / one life changed is going to far outlast your career. Sorry, but it’s going to outlast your career— because that human being is going to live on for eternity.
Russell: One of the things that has come up here several times, I think is one of the problems with the way that we try to call people to care for the orphans. We know that people are scared of the risks of being involved with orphans—so what we want to do is have testimonies that try to take that risk out or to minimize that risk: “It’s really a joyful experience.” It’s: “Look at these happy families,” and whatever. When, in reality, if we are calling men into this, we have to call them into the risk and say: “This is a cross-bearing—Look into the eyes of this risk and take this on in terms of a challenge that means that you’re pouring yourself out as Christ loved the church.”
We’re not saying you’re necessarily going to have a happy, sweet, sentimental ending to this. This may cost you your life, but it’s worth it. It’s worth it. I think men will respond to that.
Bob: Rick, at Saddleback, you’re calling your members to get involved in—in a variety of ways—kingdom agendas. The orphan is going to be a concern for a percentage.
Is it right that it ought to be for a percentage as opposed to for the whole? I mean, it seems overwhelming for all of us to get involved in every aspect of the peace plan; right?
Rick: Well, yes; there’s no doubt about it—God calls us to different causes. If we all like to do the same things, there’d be a lot that didn’t get done. So, no; you don’t make people feel bad because they say, “That’s not my particular calling.”
What we’re just saying with this conference is: “We need to call out more. There are a number of people there that simply haven’t been called out.” When they step out—now, as they said—I don’t believe everybody is called to adopt, but I do believe everybody’s called to have children in their lives. I say that without fear—
Rick: —because they keep you young; they keep you humble; they keep you unselfish; they have all kinds of things to teach you—they force you to get out of your hole. Nothing is more self-centered than a person who has no children in his life. I’m sorry—I may offend you, but it’s the truth. [Laughter]
There are other ways to build into the lives of children. If a guy comes and goes: “Look, I’m not in a place to adopt. I’m on the road 50 weeks a year,” or “I’m a single person, and I can’t be on the roll, ” and all—fine! You can get a Timothy.
Rick: Okay? By the way, I always like to give guys a little practical faith. Here’s something I’ve done with Timothys for 40 years: I call it SHARE—S-H-A-R-E. First, Study the Word together. H: Help him with a practical need. A: Assign him a project that you work on. R: Review your Bible verses. E: Encourage him with prayer—you pray with him and for him. It’s not rocket science.
Russell: I agree with Rick—God does not call everybody to adopt or to foster. God does call everybody, within the body of Christ, to James 1:27—care for the widows and the orphans in their distress—but that looks different in so many different ways.
You need to say, “How is God calling me?” and sometimes what that means is to step back and simply say, “God, I don’t know how You’re calling me to minister to the widow and to the orphan, but would You show me and would You give me a desire / would You give me a passion in the area?” That looks—that could be a thousand different things.
Bob: Dennis, if a guy is listening and he thinks: “You know, God’s put a burden for this on my wife’s heart but really hasn’t put a burden on my heart. It’s cool—she can do her thing—that’s fine. I’m going to be involved in something else.” Is that okay?
Dennis: Well, I don’t think that’s the first response. I think the first response is what you just said: “Pray and ask God: ‘What is my part? What do You want me to do?’” Here’s the deal, guys—you can grow old for something.
Dennis: You are not designed by God to rust out. You are designed to stretch out—to the finish line. I want to do that with my wife!
I think the offense—going on the offense—is healthy for a marriage. Back to your point of spiritual battle, I think there’s something really very mystical—but profoundly practical—about engaging in spiritual battle, as a couple, around a calling like this.
Bob: Again, we’ve been listening to Rick Warren, and Russell Moore, and Jedd Medefind, and Dennis Rainey, all talking about the needs of orphans and men getting engaged.
Dennis: Bob, in listening to this again, I’m sharpened afresh! [Laughter] I mean, I don’t know if it’s razor-edge, but this is the day folks—as a man, if you haven’t stepped up and engaged in the spiritual battle that’s coming at you and your family—your community—then you need to do it.
I’m going to tell you, Bob—it’s time for iron to sharpen iron at the grassroots level and to see a mobilization of an army that says: “We, as men, are not going to let evil overtake our homes, our communities, or our nation. We’re going to do something about it.”
Bob: And a couple of ways you can take action—one is to plan to be with us, in a couple of weeks, at the Christian Alliance for Orphans Summit that is coming up, here in a couple of weeks—it’s May 4th and 5th. It’s at Brentwood Baptist Church, just south of Nashville. You and I are going to be there—we’ve been there for a dozen years or more. This summit is where people gather to get better equipped and better ready to make an impact in your local church / in your community in the areas of adoption, orphan care, and foster care.
If you need information about the summit, go to our website, FamilyLifeToday.com, and the information is available there. There’s also information about Dr. Russell Moore’s book, Adopted for Life. That’s the second thing you can do—get a copy of Dr. Moore’s book. Again, the book is called Adopted for Life.
It’s available at FamilyLifeToday.com; or you can order by phone when you call 1-800-FL-TODAY. That’s 1-800-358-6329—1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.”
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With that, we’ve got to wrap things up for today. Hope you have a great weekend. I hope you and your family are able to worship together in your local church this weekend. And I hope you can join us back on Monday. We’re going to talk about what happens when we’re not content—what happens when we’re envious of other people. Kay Wills Wyma is going to talk about what she’s been doing with her kids to make sure that they don’t develop a root of envy or covetousness. I hope you can tune in for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We will see you back Monday for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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