I wrap her presents: water bottles, tub toys, stroller, small dresses that will still fit her teeny self even if we don’t travel to her until fall, God forbid.  My mama’s heart aches as I gather packages in her green diamond paper and sort into two piles: one to let her brothers and sisters open tomorrow morning and one to bring with us to China so we can have a better-late-than-never-Christmas with her.  And as I do so, I pray that right now as she sleeps 7,000 miles away she is gifted a supernatural sense that she is orphan no more.  That this is her last Christmas alone.  And ours too, because we feel so alone without her, we six.  She has already stretched us bigger so that there is this space that is her sized and it begs to be filled.  And she, we pray has a similar space, us sized, that is pressing on her and helping her know that she belongs to us.  And we are coming.
I hesitate to type this at the risk of scaring you off, but this orphan thing is big.  Our daughter, she is one of 153,000,000.  One hundred fifty three million.  All who will wake up tomorrow morning to a Christmas without family, without Jesus.  The numbers look like this: there are 2.1 billion Christians in the world divided by 153 million orphans equals 14 homes for every orphan.  All of which means this: if you are not following Christ, then caring for widows or orphans is a lovely, humanitarian thing for you to do, but you are under no obligation.  The same cannot be said for those of us who claim to be following Jesus.  Look around you, Brothers and Sisters.  If you don’t know a family who is adopting or fostering, then we are failing.  Because we all know 14 families who are trying to follow Jesus and if neither they nor we are stepping in then the Church is failing.  We are failing.  And 153,000,000 bears testimony to the fact.
It’s not enough to send supplies to an orphanage or sponsor a world vision child.  I’ve done both.  It’s a start, but it doesn’t change the numbers.  So the conviction is this: if there are 14 Christian homes for every world orphan, then it’s close enough that we have to roll up our sleeves and commit ourselves to changing the numbers one at a time.  To either adopting or fostering ourselves.  Or to funding adoptions for others (ours will cost nearly $50,000 by the time we are said and done) so that money is not standing between an orphan and a family.  Or to stepping in to someone’s journey and offering solace in the storm because, man, these are stormy seas.  To offering laundry help or a meal or  prayer support.  It’s a hard thing, this stepping in.  And it’s too easy to say you are waiting to see if God calls you.  Because you already have been.  Us too, and it took us far too long to obey; we are embarrassed by it.  “Religion that our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to care for widows and orphans in their time of need and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”
So, if you are visiting the elderly man who has lost his wife and making his day a little less lonely, then it is holy work you do.  If you are watching a friend’s children while they have their social work visits, then it is holy work you do.  If you are coming alongside a family who is working to bring an orphan home and offering prayer and financial support, then it is holy work you do.  If you are making sure that your widowed neighbor has her driveway shoveled and her mail gathered and someone to share Christmas with, then it is holy work you do.
Please, friends, know this: I say these things not from a place of self-righteousness or smug attitude, but from the perspective of one who has finally submitted and has been wrecked by her own orphan.  This process of expanding our family to make one less there and one more here, has wrecked us all and I know that she will, already has, bless us far more than we will her.  And next year as we sit, us seven, around the Christmas tree and watch our family celebrate, may it be so that we are still working on one less.  For a Sister or a Brother.  May this work of adoption not end when we step off the plane in Grand Rapids with our baby in arm.  Will you hold me accountable?  I want to relentlessly pursue this.  I am called to relentlessly pursue one less orphan.  One less.  May it be the last Christmas alone for many, many orphans.
And if you are a spiritual orphan, then please know that in the craziness of Father’s love, a baby came to be Brother and in doing so, invited you in.  Welcomes you with open arms to join the Family.  Came so that no person would be without the chance to hop up on Father’s front porch as he beckons you and join your Siblings inside.  It’s not all roses there, but there is no other family I’d rather be a part of.  Seriously.
This is me being real.  Praying that my daily call to USCIS yields the only thing I really want for Christmas: the news that we’ve been assigned a caseworker and will have our 797 approval soon.  Praying that this Christmas finds us all broken for widows and orphans and throwing caution to the wind in order to follow the wild, scary call of the Holy Spirit.  Happy Happy Christmas to you all dear friends.

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