Two Books On Best-Practice Orphan Care that Every Christian Should Read

They say you should write about what you’re passionate about. But honestly, this is a subject that I am so passionate about and gets me so worked up, that I just can’t write about it. At least not right now.

It is the subject of orphan care. God’s heart for the fatherless and vulnerable children all around the world.

It is such an important conversation to have, but such a tricky subject. Frankly, I don’t believe I can do this topic any justice. I’m too inexperienced and it’s too deep, too multifaceted, too complicated, and too close to home.

For another thing, when I do try and get it all out on paper, so to speak, the words come barreling out like a truth freight train, flattening every thing in their path. I mean well, but I just can’t seem to write what I want to say about this in a completely gracious manner.

I believe that someday God will give me the right words to really go at this topic with grace and truth, but for today, I am going to refer you to two books that have already done this so exceptionally well that it really isn’t necessary for me to put in my tiny little two cents at all.

If I could only recommend two books for every single person to read this year, (besides the Bible of course, c’mon guys) it would be these.

They are In Pursuit Of Orphan Excellence by Philip Darke and Keith McFarland, and Orphan Justice: How to Care for Orphans Beyond Adopting by Johnny Carr.

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Now, before I go on, do I agree with everything in these books? No, and you might not either. Will everything in them be applicable to you? Maybe, but probably not.

 But they are still very much worth reading, and you will not regret it.

The authors are considered leading experts in today’s current field of orphan ministry, and I believe they present the information in a very balanced and gracious manner without skimping on the truth.

If you have any interest in helping the fatherless whatsoever, please read these books.

If this subject holds absolutely no interest to you whatsoever, please read these books.

If you or your church supports missionaries who work with orphaned and vulnerable children, please read these books.

If you are planning a short-term missions trip that includes time spent with orphans or vulnerable children in any capacity, please read these books.

If you are a missionary, whether that be church-planting or otherwise, please read these books.

If you are passionate about helping orphans, please read these books.

If you think that obeying the Great Commission has nothing whatsoever to do with orphan care, please read these books.

Please read these books, and read them with an open heart. Ask the Lord what he would have you to glean from them and be open to the idea that maybe, possibly, there is a tiny chance that sometimes, even our purest and most loving intentions are misdirected or can be improved upon.

At the very least, even if you agree with nothing in these books, you will have been given a lot to think about on a subject that too many of us simply prefer to live in willful ignorance of.

I would encourage you to start with In Pursuit first. Of the two books mentioned, this one is the most gracious, while Orphan Justice is a bit more hard-hitting. I am also a bit undecided on whether or not Orphan Justice is advocating for social Justice. I am not a social justice advocate, and that is my only hesitancy with recommmending this book.  Both books are balanced and honest while advocating for best-practice orphan care in every scenario—whether that be in families, orphan care communities, or, as a last resort, in institutional orphanages.

I will close with a few portions that I highlighted in my reading of each book.

PLEASE NOTE: The term “orphanage” in this post is referring to institutional care in which children are cared for by limited staff with limited care, in barracks-type settings. It is not referring to family-model “Children’s Homes”,  or similar settings in which children are cared for in loving and nurturing environments.

As a final disclaimer, don’t be thrown off by the title of Orphan Justice. I was hesitant to read this book because we are not social gospel missionaries. I don’t think this book is presenting a social gospel so much as it is simply a book about God’s heart for justice for the fatherless.)

Excerpts from Orphan Justice

To our God, taking care of orphans isn’t just a “great idea.” It’s critical. Why? Because every man, woman, boy, and girl—including orphaned and vulnerable children—has been created in God’s image and is precious to Him.”

“Man made orphanages for children, but God made the family for children…He never intended for the growth, nurturing, and development of childhood to happen in an institution.”

“Adoption is not for everyone, but caring for orphans is for everyone.”

“As an interest in orphan care and adoption ministry begins to sweep through the American church culture, we can’t just treat it like a one-week summer VBS.”

“…when we ignore abuse, violence, and evil, we grieve God’s heart.”

“You may have financially supported an orphanage somewhere in the world or even helped build one. Perhaps you have fond memories of holding an orphan at one of those orphanages. But as we investigate what orphans need, I want to challenge you to be willing to consider the idea that while you might have good feelings associated with orphanages, living in an orphanage might not be the best option for children. After all, if we don’t allow orphanages to exist in the United States, why are we content to build and sustain them in other countries? The goal of orphan care is caring for orphans, not the good feelings we get from our generosity…Orphan care is not about us; it’s about them.”

Excerpts from In Pursuit of Orphan Excellence

“…a major donor, let’s call her Martha, was gushing about how amazing the orphanage was and how great the “mothers” were caring for and raising the children. As she went on and on praising the institution, Santiago’s frustrations grew and grew because he knew that the orphanage’s level of care was lacking in so many different ways. So when Martha finished her praise and looked to Santiago for his thoughts on the orphanage, Santiago asked her this simple question: “I guess you wouldn’t mind if your own kids were growing up here, would you?” After recovering from the initial shock of the question, Martha composed herself and responded, “Well of course not . . . but my kids aren’t orphans.”

“…loving orphans can transform the Church. As we rise to meet the need of the orphan, God meets our profound need to escape flabby, self-centered Christianity and slowly see our character changed to reflect Jesus. The truth is, if you go into this work motivated solely by duty, guilt or even idealism, you’ll eventually run dry. The vastness of the problems will always outstrip your enthusiasm to solve them. We must be nourished by a profound sense of grace—God ’ s great love for us, as well as for each orphan—if we hope to continue to serve even when the need is so big and dark and tangled.”

“Orphan care will cost you time and money whether or not you ever care about or love, or even think about orphaned and vulnerable children. Either you will pay with your time and money in positive ways during the children ’ s early years to encourage them and develop them into societal leaders, or you will pay in other ways when they reach adulthood and cause problems in our society. I, for one, much prefer capturing the children in their early childhood, loving them well with excellent, comprehensive care, giving them identity and hope, and developing them into gospel-driven, societal leaders. Sure beats the near-certain alternate fate awaiting orphans, our communities, and our world in the absence of such care.

“…institutional orphanages often exacerbate the orphan crisis. Despite many well-intentioned providers, the prevailing paradigm (i.e., the harsh reality) in our world today views orphans and vulnerable children as second-rate humans who somehow don’t need and deserve the same level of love and care…Under this false premise, institutional orphanages often have unintentionally worsened the orphan crisis by failing to provide the children what they really need and thus causing the orphans themselves to create more orphans when they have children of their own.”

If you are interested in either of these books, you can find them on Amazon by clicking either of the links below:

(Obviously, as with any book, I do not necessarily endorse everything in the books I have shared, or anything else the authors may have written.)

To view my book list for this year click here!

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