Prayer For Ministries That Support Orphans

Community-Based Orphan Care: Africa Models a New Approach to its Orphan Crisis

Prayer For Ministries That Support Orphans

November 01, 2011 by Steve Roa

How do you take care of 15 million orphans and children at risk? This is Africa’s challenge, and it’s not just a problem for governments, NGOs and Oprah Winfrey. Most of Africa’s orphans are from Christian communities, confronting the global Church with one of the greatest humanitarian crises it has ever faced.

The traditional approach to this situation is to build tens of thousands of orphanages. Some are certainly trying to do this, among them many notable Hollywood celebrities.

But the enormity of the challenge has forced others to rethink the traditional approach.

The result may be something which is far superior to the institutional model, and which may actually help bring about change around the world in orphan ministry.

Seeking Cultural Appropriateness

In most African societies, institutional arrangements are the exception rather than the norm. Institutional care is a Western invention which we have created to replace traditional family care. This has resulted in a clash of values and understanding between good-willed Westerners and those we are seeking to assist in the developing world

One of the ironies of much of the world’s orphanages is that most of the children in them are not orphans. For example, recently a missionary came to visit us at the U.S.

Center for World Mission and he was telling our staff of his new orphanage which was now caring for fifty children. We asked how many of these children were really orphans—children without parents. A little embarrassed, he replied, “Well, none.

” So why call it an orphanage we asked? His reply was as pragmatic as it was revealing, “Because if I don’t, no one will give!”

What typically takes place in institutional models of orphan-care is that the quality of life is far superior to anything on the outside. When that happens, parents are sometimes tempted to give their children up to the orphanage so they may have a better economic chance in life.

(Americans will not soon forget the missionaries who were arrested for trying to take “orphans” Haiti following the earthquake of 2010.

Turns out the orphans had parents, and the missionaries were violating the law!) The problem with the institutional approach is that it gradually begins to isolate young people from their communities, creating a sub-culture with an inevitable identity crisis.

Ironically, Americans have done away with orphanages in their own country because of the many problems they create. Yet we unquestionably continue to use this problematic model around the world!

Why might that be? One reason is because we intrinsically think our way of life is best and in order to export it we have to create institutions to do it. In this sense, orphanages are just as much cultural institutions as they are structural. For example, last year a group of Christians came on a short term mission trip to Northern Uganda and visited an orphan community.

They were shocked that the only bathroom available to the orphans was a hole in the ground. So they promptly went to work to raise money for toilets. However, they were even more shocked to learn that the orphans wouldn’t sit on the toilet seats after they were installed. Instead, they stood on them.

The orphans explained that squatting is much more sanitary than sitting on a seat where everyone else has sat!

Now while this may seem a small and comical incident, you have to multiply this by a thousand when you import a cultural institution an orphanage to Africa.

Fortunately, the magnitude of the AIDS orphan crisis has outpaced the ability of Westerners to build such institutions, and as a result a healthy partnership is emerging between orphan ministries and affected communities.

The traditional way that Africans have cared for orphans is through the extended family network.

So why not work with communities and empower them to take care of their own orphans? Such an approach has come to be known as “community-based care,” and this model has successfully cared for many more orphans than the institutional model will ever be able to touch. Even so, a great deal more money continues to be sunk into the institutional approach, which requires land, buildings and full time staff.

Another model which is gaining prominence in Africa is the “child head of household.” In this model an older sibling, usually a teenager, takes care of his or her brothers and sisters, and keeps the family unit intact. Many NGOs are coming alongside this model and adding mentoring and support to bolster it.

Why would orphan ministries want to work with this? Studies have shown that keeping siblings together dramatically reduces emotional distress, as opposed to dividing up the children among relatives or institutionalizing them.

Such a model can also serve to carry on the family name, as well as maintain family rights and land inheritance.

Africa vs. America

Last year I visited a self-organized association of widows in Uganda, which included around 450 members. At this particular gathering there were around 50 in attendance.

During our Q&A time together I asked them the following question, “If you could have one wish come true, what would it be?” The first widow to respond said she wished for a house (a traditional African thatched roof and circular mud hut). Upon further inquiry I learned that no men were left in her family who possessed the capability to build her one.

She said her greatest desire was to provide proper shelter for her orphaned grandchildren. Now this got me curious. What was she doing caring for orphans when she herself qualified for convalescent care had she been in America? She explained that because of HIV/AIDS and the war, many widows have been left as the last remaining family member to care for the orphans.

My curiosity peaked and I asked the group how many of them were caring for orphans. Most raised their hands. Then it dawned on me—by providing shelter security for the widow—you also shelter the orphan.

Another widow raised her hand so she could be recognized to share her one wish. She wished for vocational training assistance and/or micro-enterprise assistance in order to generate additional income.

Imagine that! Here I was in the presence of these dear saints—the poorest of the poor in this community—and the primary thing on their minds was not a free hand-out, but rather a hand up.

Their desire for vocational training was for the purpose of sending their orphan children to school, and for creating a self-sustaining family unit.

In this same community was the news that a very famous American evangelist was soon to erect an orphanage nearby. I visited the proposed site. It was huge, and knowing what I know about similar types of projects, this one was going to be lavish, sparing no expense. It would have all the amenities and comforts of a Western vacation resort, but exclusively for children.

And this is the dilemma. What will this widow grandmother do—struggle to keep what remains of her family intact or release her grandchildren to an institution? Most ly, she will end up doing the latter, along with the others in the community.

Unfortunately, at that moment, her grandchildren will be truly orphaned in every sense of the word—from their family, culture and community.

Some Friendly Advice

As more and more churches and individuals begin to get directly involved in orphan-care around the world, it will become increasingly important to learn from those who have gone before us. Seek out good counsel and do your homework. Don’t be tempted by fame or adulation for saving the poor or the world—that is deception.

Be willing to put your pride aside and consider the time-tested, proven methods of others. If you don’t know where to begin, two ministries with a proven track-record are World Vision and the Firelight Foundation.

No one organization has been caring for children at risk longer, or has invested more resources in Africa towards this cause, than World Vision. Additionally, no one organization is better recognized for their support of entrepreneurial community-based organizations (CBO) than Firelight Foundation.

Of course, there are many other good organizations, but this is a good place to start. Initiate the conversation, read their material, consider partnering with them—and build on what you learn. f

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10 things that will kill your orphan care ministry: Part 4

Prayer For Ministries That Support Orphans

This is last part of a series (read parts 1, 2, and 3) born several years of consulting with and observing many churches across America develop orphan care ministries.

Over time, I have noticed some common mistakes that cause these ministries to struggle and even fail. I want to share those observations with you in an effort to help and to stir a discussion about the good things being done to minister well in orphan care.

8. Lack of pastoral support

One sure thing that will kill your church’s orphan care ministry is a lack of pastoral support.

I have repeatedly heard this as a chief frustration of orphan ministry leaders who are struggling to keep going or by those struggling to begin a ministry in their church.

Many times, it’s not that pastors outright oppose it as much they marginalize it by their lack of enthusiasm or weak support. The question is why?

I have found three reasons that many pastors fail to give their enthusiastic support for orphan ministry:

One sure thing that will kill your church’s orphan care ministry is a lack of pastoral support.

  • They think it will take away from the “more important” ministries of the church. Examples of these ministries include evangelism and discipleship. Recent research from the Barna Research Group indicates that just the opposite is true, at least for young adult Christians, when it comes to evangelism. They found that engaging in justice ministry tends to increase evangelism in born-again young adults.
  • They don’t understand the gospel significance of caring for orphans. Too often, pastors see orphan care as a little something extra.They fail to see orphan care and other mercy ministries as natural good work that should flow a person who has been changed by the gospel (Matt. 25:31-46).
  • They fear distraction from the church’s mission and dwindling of critical resources. Just the opposite is often the case, especially among younger Christians. Younger believers see giving and connection to mission differently than previous generations. They are less ly to give blindly to general church funds and pooled mission funds. They want to be part of the mission. They give to and work toward what they have a connection with. Orphans are people that the church can reach with purpose. It can give younger believers a way to be involved in the church’s mission financially and in presence. This involvement can translate to connection to the rest of the work of the church. The result is more connection and more passion for the gospel and the church’s work, not less.

I would caution you about two things at this point. Don’t expect your pastor to have the same passion for orphan ministry that you do. Secondly, don’t become a clanging symbol. You won’t nag your pastor into a greater vision for orphan care. Give him good facts and resources that will help inform about orphans, but most of all, pray for him. Trust God to give him a vision.

9. Poor connection to the church’s mission

For orphan ministry to be effective, it has to be connected to the overall mission and vision of the church. There are two important reasons why:

  • The mission of the church isn’t alterable or debatable. Ultimately, the church’s mission is defined by Jesus, the head of the church. What we do in and through the church, we do under the rule and authority of Jesus because the church is his. The church’s mission is to make disciples, and orphan care is part of that mission. We can’t lose sight of either priority.
  • Each church is set into a specific context. The time and place of its existence is part of what God uses to shape its unique vision. No two local churches will work to accomplish the mission of the universal church the same way. That means that no two churches can accomplish orphan ministry the same way. Not being sensitive to the culture inside and outside your church and accounting for the uniqueness will kill your church’s orphan ministry.

10. Prayerlessness

One final thing that will kill your orphan ministry is prayerlessness. The world’s orphan crisis is epic. According to UNICEF’s estimates, there are approximately 153 million orphans around the globe, but the number really fails to represent the crisis accurately.

This number represents children who have lost one parent to death, but it does not account for the scores of children abandoned by living parents, those living on the streets, those enslaved and trafficked, and those in countries (particularly Islamic) who fail to report orphan statistics.

In truth, the UNICEF number is a statistic that is meant to underscore the vulnerability of children to the worldwide HIV/AIDS epidemic, not to account for what we would consider orphaned children.

God has given the responsibility of orphan care to his people in order to display his character and salvation to the nations, but we have to acknowledge that the task is beyond us. We need something more than the resources at our disposal to address the problem.

Unfortunately, many churches make the mistake of focusing too intently on the tangible over the intangible. Instead of taking sufficient time to pray, they are drawn into the easy trap of working hard at solving problems for orphans without seeking God’s power, direction, and provision.

We can’t afford not to take time to pray.

Being prayerless in orphan care is “taking a knife to a gunfight.” It is a powerless, losing proposition. It aims too low. We will find ourselves meeting mere temporal needs with no lasting significance and no gospel impact if we fail to pray for God’s direction and provision constantly.

Prioritizing prayer seems oxymoronic to many, but it makes perfect sense. In elevating prayer, we acknowledge our helplessness and utter dependence upon God. Prayer is something tangible. It is communion with the Most High God. It is the most important work.

This Lifeline originally appeared here.

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Praying for the Destruction of Your Enemies

Prayer For Ministries That Support Orphans

Have you ever prayed for someone’s complete to ruin? That God would destroy them and wipe them off the face of the earth.

It doesn’t seem very Christian does it?

Nevertheless these kinds of prayers are recorded in the Bible and especially in the Book of Psalms.

Prayers that call for the death and destruction of others are called imprecatory prayers. You may not have given much thought to this kind of prayer before, and I hope that you never need to.

Before the war started in Ukraine I also had not thought very much about the place of imprecatory prayers in my own life and in my theology. War, however, has a way of shaping your thinking and calling into question certain ideas.

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War or not, if you read your Bible seriously you can’t ignore the passionate plea for the violent destruction of enemies. Check out a few of them for yourself in the following Psalms: 5, 10, 17, 35, 58, 59, 69, 70, 79, 83, 109, 129, 137, 139, 140.

They Are Inspired

We can’t just write these Psalms our Bible, Jesus himself considered them inspired and he never apologized for them, corrected them, or indicated that they do not teach truth.

Jesus quoted from at least two imprecatory psalms; Psa 35 and 69 (Joh 2:17 and 15:25). The Apostle Paul and Peter also quoted from Psalm 69 (Acts 1:20 and Rom 11:9).

An Example

For a good example of what an imprecatory prayer looks let’s look at Psalm 69.

Psa 69:22-28(22) Let their own table before them become a snare; and when they are at peace, let it become a trap.(23) Let their eyes be darkened, so that they cannot see, and make their loins tremble continually.(24) Pour out your indignation upon them, and let your burning anger overtake them.

(25) May their camp be a desolation; let no one dwell in their tents.(26) For they persecute him whom you have struck down, and they recount the pain of those you have wounded.(27) Add to them punishment upon punishment; may they have no acquittal from you.

(28) Let them be blotted the book of the living; let them not be enrolled among the righteous.

There are many texts in the Bible that talk about God’s judgment but an imprecatory prayer does more than just talk about God’s judgment it calls for God to bring judgement on someone.

But Jesus Said Love Your Enemies

One of the biggest problems Christians have with imprecatory prayers is that Jesus’ words seem to contradict the idea of praying for the destruction of your enemy.

You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.

Mat 5:43-45

Some claim that imprecatory prayers represent David’s sinful desire for revenge and thus we should not copy him. Others claim that Jesus revoked this type of prayer when he told us to love our enemies in Matthew chapter 5.

I don’t believe that either of these solutions work well. Neither Jesus nor any of the other New Testament writers specifically correct the imprecatory prayers of the Old Testament.  In fact there are some New Testament texts that also seem to be imprecatory in nature.

For instance, in the book of Revelation, those martyred cry out to God and say,

“They cried out with a loud voice, “O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?”
(Rev 6:10)

Different Contexts

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It’s important to understand the difference in context between the imprecatory prayers of the Psalms and Jesus Sermon on the Mount. It’s clear from the context, Jesus is speaking about personal relationships what he asks us to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us or to go the extra mile.

Jesus is not talking about mass genocide or a full military invasion of another country, he is talking about personal offenses and that’s exactly why he uses the example of turning the other cheek (Mat 5:39) there’s nothing inherently dangerous about receiving a slap on the cheek but it is humiliating personally.

On the other hand if we look carefully at the imprecatory Psalms we find a much different situation. They were written by a king, the leader of a nation, a general of an army. Although, sometimes his prayers may look very personal, they are personal in the sense that he represents God’s people, thus an attack on him was an attack on God’s people.

The imprecatory prayers also focus their attention on how evil men have offended a holy God. Thus they call for judgment not simply because these men have killed the innocent but because they have offended the Holy. In this way the imprecatory prayers are also prophetic as they look forward to God’s just punishment on wicked men who will not repent of their evil deeds.

Where Does that Leave Us?

We know we are supposed to love our personal enemies and pray for them as Jesus commands us, but what if we find ourselves in a different context, one that looks more David’s context?

Can or can’t we pray David did against our enemies?

Here are some principles that I see in the imprecatory prayers that may help you decide if you should pray for the destruction of your enemies or not.

1. It should not be about personal revenge

In every instance of an imprecatory prayer in the Bible it’s clear that it’s not simply personal revenge and pride on the line. While the offence takes on a personal nature this is simply because the author is the representative of an entire nation.

You, LORD God of hosts, are God of Israel. Rouse yourself to punish all the nations; spare none of those who treacherously plot evil. Selah.
(Psa 59:5)

Imprecatory prayers are never against the neighbor down the street who doesn’t you and has called you a few bad names. Instead of personal revenge imprecatory prayers are about just retribution against an evil enemy who has come against another nation and against God.

2. It’s about stopping evil

A common theme you can see in the imprecatory prayers is that of stopping evil short so that it can not continue destroying the lives of the innocent.  These prayers are directed at evil men who have the power to take thousands or even millions of lives.

Here’s and example from Psalm 109

May the iniquity of his fathers be remembered before the LORD, and let not the sin of his mother be blotted out! Let them be before the LORD continually, that he may cut off the memory of them from the earth! For he did not remember to show kindness, but pursued the poor and needy and the brokenhearted, to put them to death.
(Psa 109:14-16)

Let’s face it, war is the handy-work of Satan and he enjoys the death and suffering that it brings. Unfortunately no one suffers more in war than the innocent. Often the quickest and most effective way to end the killing of innocents is by taking out the evil man/men who are in charge.

That’s what an imprecatory prayer is about!

3. It’s about honoring God

Above all the imprecatory prayers show a desire to see God honored and glorified.  God is called upon to bring justice against men who do not honor him or worship Him.  The psalmists call upon God to restore his fame, to defend his name,  their deepest desire is not for revenge but for God’s glory and honor.

Help us, O God of our salvation, for the glory of your name; deliver us, and atone for our sins, for your name’s sake!
(Psa 79:9)

Reminders for Us

I believe the imprecatory prayers were the right thing at that time in that situation for those who prayed them, thus they are righteous and inspired prayers.

On the other hand I cannot tell you whether or not you should ever pray an imprecatory prayer. My suspicion is that few of us will have the exact circumstances that David had when he prayed these prayers.

Nevertheless, imprecatory prayers serve to remind us of two things.

1. Sin is worse that we thought

First they remind us of the awfulness and terribleness of sin. The reminder us that sin always brings destruction and death, that sin always against God, and that it is often the innocent who suffer because of sin. They remind us that sin causes all of war.

We underestimate sin, we underestimate the consequences of evil, we underestimate its power to destroy, and we underestimate how much is offends our holy God!

2. We aren’t concerned enough about God’s honor

Second he reminds us of our responsibility to honor God in all circumstances.

In individualistic Western cultures is easy to focus only on your personal responsibility to honor God, yet we all live in nations cities societies families who are also called to honor God.

Our desire to bring God glory should be set so deep within our hearts that when we see that someone not honoring God it bothers us!

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