During Church of the Resurrection’s Leadership Institute, those with an interest in missions to orphans were asked to a dinner.
Participants joined around tables that contained Bible verses about caring for widows and orphans, as well as questions about perceptions about orphanages.
It was one of the first gatherings called “Breaking Bread from House to House,” conversations about the role of churches in the United States in caring for global orphans.
“It’s a tricky topic for Christians,” said Dr. Laura Horvath, director of programs and global engagement for Helping Children Worldwide.
“For Christians, for years, the response to orphan care has been an orphanage,” she added. “Now we’ve discovered that there’s a better way.”
Roughly three-fourths of those in orphanages, according to videos shown during the event, have at least one living parent, or have relatives who could become responsible for the child.
Horvath said the practice for generations has been for churches to send funding to orphanages without seeing what happens to it.
“What we don’t want to happen is for people to feel like we’re judging what they’ve done,” she said. “What we really want them to come away with is the sense that, at the very base of all of it, is a desire to care well for children. This is just a way to start thinking about a different way to care for children.”
That different way is to shift thinking from orphanages to reintegration centers, where the new parents can receive job skills and receive microloans for small businesses as well as learn about money management and parenting.
About two years ago, Horvath said, a Barna Group study showed that $2.5 billion was given to orphanages by Christians in the United States.
“That’s a huge amount of money, and what we know is that it’s somewhere between five and eight times as expensive to care for a child in an orphanage than it is in the family,” she said. “If you look just at the money, if you looked at changing $2.5 billion from supporting a child in an orphanage to supporting a family at five less times the cost, you have a far greater impact on the children and the families have that attachment.”
Horvath said she was excited to join Floris United Methodist Church in Herndon, Virginia, as it was launching a child resource support center for orphanages.
“Missions like this, I think they excite congregations,” she said. “People want to belong to a church that’s focused on doing something good in the world, especially in the current environment.”
Helping Children Worldwide will host a webinar, “What’s Next: A Strong Family for Every Child” at 10 a.m. CT Wednesday, Oct. 12.
The group is working with several Christian orphan organizations in their effort, Horvath said.
Most of the orphanages where the concern is greatest are in Ukraine, Haiti and on the African continent, she said.
Rev. Barbara Miner, associate pastor and director of worship at Floris UMC, said the event was an eye-opener.
“I’ll be more involved. Honestly, it’s about upping the amount of time I spend in prayer in this,” she said. “It is helping people understand this is a global challenge, not just a challenge in Africa.”
Although currently a grassroots effort, Horvath said she is looking toward the General Board of Global Ministries and United Women in Faith as partners in spreading the word.
“As we move forward, we’ll be looking to see what pieces the UMC would want to and need to plug in,” she said.
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