Doing for the Few What We Wish We Could Do for the Many
There are 153 million orphans worldwide.
Only about 370,000 - less than a quarter of 1% - are in Guatemala.
As far as we know, only a very small percentage of even that are in Huehuetenango.
And, as I write this, one is sitting in front of me, quietly scratching a staff member’s dog under her chin as a team of adults one room over decides what can be done with him.
He is 1 of 153 million. If he were standing in some vast plain along with all of the others who have had this same label, “orphan,” applied to them, I could likely search for weeks and never find him.
And yet here we are. Our psychologist, our social worker, and our executive director have blocked off their morning now to figure out what’s best for him and how to make that happen. Our secretary has left to buy him a juice box, a pack of cookies, and some entertaining bit of a newspaper with some pictures. He’s far too old for the toys sitting around the office - a doll, some blocks, and a puzzle.
And what difference does it make?
Even if we were to think of some miraculous solution - even if we had an emergency foster home ready and waiting - even if we could line up appointments with quality doctors and maybe a dentist (which he looks like he could use) - even if we could ensure that he would have 3 nutritious meals a day, always - even if we could guarantee that he would have a wonderful life, starting in this very moment, what difference does it make?
He is 1 of 153 million. We could make everything right for him, and still have 152,999,999 left to help. We wouldn’t even be making a dent in the mass of darkness and heartbreak often referred to as the Global Orphan Crisis.
But we do it anyway. Why?
We do it because we are called to serve the orphan - not solve the global orphan crisis.
We do it because he is one of 153 million, but that simply means he is the first of 153 million. And tomorrow we will serve the second, and next year the seventieth, and at some point the hundredth.
We do it because by serving him, we are also serving all of his children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren that will be affected by any generational cycles that we don’t help him break.
We do it because once, we were the one of 108 billion humans to have ever lived, and God saw us, and he chose to save us. We do it because God leaves the 99 to find the one, every single time.
We do it because we are called to love.
It can sound daunting to be commanded to love all 7.6 billion people on planet earth, or to serve all 153 million orphans, or even to find families for the 60-or-so kids in Huehue that we know need them - but we do for the few what we wish we could do for the many.
If we waited to serve orphans until we felt we could serve them all at once, we would be waiting forever. We would never respond to the Lord’s call. No orphans would ever end up in the families they belong in. The world would be overflowing with even more orphans, because no one would be working to break the cycles that create them.
But instead, we work as the Church.
We, individually, do for the few or the one what we can. We do what we wish we could do for all of them.
And while our team hovers over a dimple-faced preteen boy, a mom in Tennessee paints a bedroom wall and waits for government approval for her adopted sons. And as she waits, a foster dad in Georgia buys ice cream for a pigtailed little girl. And as he does, a social worker in California holds the hand of a detoxing single mother. As she does, a church member leaves a hot meal on a foster family’s front porch. A man teaches his mentee to tie a necktie before his first interview. A house parent tucks in a dozen squirmy little boys. A teacher packs an extra lunch for the student whose parents are going through a divorce. A politician stays ten minutes past the end of the day to read over a proposed law that would help keep sibling groups together in the system. A pastor reminds his congregation of their duty to the least of these.
Hugs are given, scraped knees are bandaged, hands are held, tears are wiped, laws are passed, bottles are prepared, lullabies are sung, foreheads are kissed.
And before we know it, we are doing for the many what we thought we were only doing for the few.
Our individual earthly bodies cannot serve every orphan. Our global body of Christ can.
If we are doing for the few what we wish we could do for the many and encouraging others to do the same, then the many CAN be served.
If we are neglecting our duty, shying away from the Lord’s call, denying our responsibility, or ignoring the brokenness of the world, than the many suffer.
It takes all of us. All Christians, all part of the unified body of Christ, all working to follow the Lord’s commands.
“Defend the fatherless.”
“Look after the orphan and the widow.”
“Uphold the cause of the poor and the oppressed.”
And little by little, we see heaven on earth.