I love the way our Christian brothers and sisters in Zambia are stepping up to the challenge of orphan care. Zambia, like so many African nations, struggles with a serious orphan problem—1.4 million orphans (670,000 orphaned due to HIV/AIDS). In a nation where approximately 68 percent of the population live below the poverty level, families are barely able to care for their own children, let alone consider adopting or providing foster care to an orphan. But thanks to a recent church-based event in Zambia’s capitol, Lusaka, Christian families are doing just that.
It all started a few years ago when the organization I lead, Bethany Christian Services, partnered with the Christian Alliance for Children in Zambia (CACZ) to help prevent the spread of HIV. Our “Milk and Medicine” project provided the necessary medicine to keep moms healthy as well as milk for their babies so they wouldn’t pass the virus on to their children through breastfeeding. This small step has improved the health of moms and thus prevented their babies from becoming orphans.
Earlier this year CACZ asked if we would work with them and local churches to implement a “foster-to-adopt” program as we have done in other African nations. In addition to the reluctance of families in Africa to adopt due to the financial strain, the concept of adoption is foreign to them. However, we have found that by working with churches we are able to show them how all of us benefit from being adopted into God’s family. Once they see the connection between their faith and adoption, they eagerly embrace the idea of opening their homes to orphans.
In April Sara Ruiter, Bethany Global Services’ International Services Manager, and Tendai Masiriri, Director of Global Services, of Bethany traveled to Lusaka to participate in a conference attended by 225 people from 51 area churches. According to Sara, the response of these dear Christian people who have so little far exceeded her expectations.
“After two days of training and challenging them to care for the orphans and vulnerable children in their communities, 68 people responded by saying they wanted to provide a home for a child in need,” Sara reported. “That’s a 30 percent response rate, which is significantly higher than the response we usually get. Additionally, another 80 percent said they would like to receive more training to learn how they can care for orphans.”
Tendai, who issues the challenge to care for orphans with fervor and passion like that of a coach’s halftime speech, believes that in Zambia, “the fields of orphan care are ripe for the harvest.” In addition to the response from families, 76 percent of the pastors who attended committed to starting a ministry within their churches to provide support to foster or adoptive families.
One of the best parts about my job is watching the church live out a faith that “God our Father accepts as pure and faultless.” (James 1:27, NIV) It’s happening in Zambia. How about where you live?
Bill Blacquiere is president and CEO of Bethany Christian Services, a leading global family
preservation and child welfare agency.
2. Development Indicators Unit, Statistics Division, United Nations. “Population below national poverty line, total, percentage”