Who Is An Orphan?

I have the privilege of serving CPR-3 as the Executive Director. I cannot think of a better place to be than a country like Haiti. I think Haiti is a place that touches the heart of Jesus. Haiti is the poorest country in the world. Its needs both physical and spiritual are immense. Children are at risk.

CPR-3 (www.cpr-3.com) is committed to pointing people to Jesus and setting the Church up to win. Its mission is simple. We want to care for people physically and spiritually. We have chosen to channel that care through the young. We often refer to the young as the “now generation.”

When you work and serve the children in a ‘developing country’ like Haiti, there is often the question asked, “are you working with ‘orphans’?” There is much confusion to the term orphan.

The following is my best to help us understand the difficulty in trying to define the term orphan.
A common assumption is the belief that an orphan is a child in which both parents have died. Another assumption is that an orphan is a child who lives in an orphanage. Both of these definitions are accurate, but there is more. When we examine the world and discuss the needs related to orphans there are more important factors to include in the definition. CPR-3 recognizes the reality that the majority of the world’s orphans have families. Yes, they often have families!

The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language (4th cd.), defines “orphan” in the following ways:
• A child whose parents are dead.
• A child who has been deprived of parental care and has not been adopted . . .
• One that lacks support, supervision, or care.

I would propose that a more accurate definition of today’s orphan is a child who is deprived of parental care. When I speak of deprivation I am not talking about parents with an absence of love for their children, but rather because of disease, poverty or other circumstances the inability to provide and care for the well-being of their child. These children end up on the streets to fend for themselves or if they are fortunate enough to be taken in by an orphanage or community where they receive basic care and support. The local church should be at the forefront of this injustice.

An orphan is a child who, because of the death of parent(s), poverty, disease, or some other circumstance, is seeking to fend or care for himself whether through roaming and surviving on the streets or finding care and support through an orphanage or a local physical or spiritual community.

No matter what the definition – the need is real. Children’s lives are at stake. We must defend the rights of the ‘orphan.’

We should not view caring for orphans as simply a command from God that we must fulfill “or else.” There is tremendous blessing in practically serving and standing up for orphans. It is helpful to remember that all of us were once orphans, spiritually speaking, but we were adopted into God’s family through Jesus Christ. (Ephesians 1:3-7) Just as it was God’s pleasure to do this for each of us, it is our joy and privilege to partner with God in loving, serving, and protecting the orphans among us.

A Biblical Defense:
1. God calls Himself the Father of the fatherless. Psalm 68:5, “A father of the fatherless and a judge for the widows, is God in His holy habitation.”
2. God considers spiritual service the purest when His people are taking care of orphans. (and) A religion that does not care for orphans is no religion at all. James 1:27, “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress.” Psalm 82:3, “Give justice to the weak and the fatherless; maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute.”
3. God’s people are commanded to care for orphans. To see an orphan afflicted, and to turn a deaf ear, is sin, even rebellion. Exodus 22:22, “You shall not afflict any widow or orphan.” Isaiah 1:16,17, “Stop doing wrong, learn to do right; seek justice, reprove the ruthless, Defend the orphan, plead for the widow.” John 14:18, “You shall not mistreat any widow or fatherless child. If you do mistreat them, and they cry out to me, I will surely hear their cry, and my wrath will burn, and I will kill you with the sword, and your wives shall become widows and your children fatherless. “
4. We can be the hands and love of Christ Himself by providing practical care. Deuteronomy 10:18, “He executes justice for the orphan and the widow, and shows His love for the alien by giving him food and clothing.” Psalm 10:14, “But You, O God, do see trouble and grief; you consider it to take it in hand. The victim commits himself to You; You are the helper of the fatherless.” Matthew 18:5, “Whoever receives a child in My name, receives Me.”