Virtual Orphans

Saturday, September 29, 2012 @ 05:09 PM

Until recently, I thought of orphans as children whose parents were dead. Our work in urban Houston has changed that perspective. We encounter virtual orphans who live with their families, and are cared for, at least to some extent, by adult family members. Here are three examples taken from our work at Hope House.

A few months ago Hope House put on a neighborhood festival. Driving around the area I spotted three small children, ages six and under, holding some puppies. The puppies looked to be malnourished and likely in need of medical attention. Jumping out of our van, I approached the kids saying, “I’m Pastor Dave. We are having a festival with hot dogs and games and snow cones at Hope House. Can I speak to your mother and ask her if you can come?” The oldest looking child, a boy, looked at me and asked to use my phone. I handed him my cell phone, and he called his mother to ask if they could go. Looking up, he handed the phone back to me. I introduced myself to the mother and asked if she and the children could come. “I can’t come, but you can take them if you want to,” she replied. The mother had never met me, yet she gave me permission to take her three young children with me and trusted me to bring them back. Where was she when her son called her? I have no idea. I would like to think that she was at work. The family moved a month or so later, and I never got the chance to meet Mom.

“J” is an 11-yr old boy who is part of our church. J has earned a bicycle from Hope House by doing community service. We have taken him out on field trips. He sometimes comes over to Hope House on Saturday mornings, hoping to find some companionship. I asked him one morning where Mom was. “I don’t know,” he replied. His eyes told me much more. He did not want to continue that discussion, so I changed the subject. There are four children that I know of in this family. Two boys, ages 9 and 11, and a sister (twin to the 9 year-old) are involved in our youth events. An older brother, whom I have yet to meet, recently confiscated his little sister’s bicycle and pawned it. As far as I know, he got away with his act. Mom raises them with the assistance of Grandmother. J recently got a good progress report and brought it to Hope House to show us. He beamed with pride when we praised him for his good grades. I doubt very much that Mom shows much interest in his schoolwork.

On Sunday afternoons we pick up kids for church. In the beginning of this ministry we allowed children under 5 to come. We soon realized that we don’t have the space or volunteers to accommodate these smaller children, many of whom still wear diapers. The team decided to no longer pick up the smaller children. Unfortunately, some mothers will not allow their grade school children (12 and under) to come to church unless they take the little ones with them. One of our bus team members, who was raised in the neighborhood, put it plainly. “Mom is punishing you for not taking the toddlers,” he said. “She would rather have the older ones take care of the kids than to let them go have fun with their peers while she has to deal with the little ones.”

I try not to judge these moms. When they were 10 or 12, they were probably the caregivers for their little brothers and sisters. They don’t know any better. Neither do they have the tools to break the cycle of poverty and dysfunction. The fact remains, however, that these children are virtual orphans, living with parents who are not equipped to provide caregiving. The cycle will continue. We could point fingers at the absent fathers, the mothers who got pregnant and dropped out of school, or the educational system, or the “war on drugs.”  The Risen Savior, who conquered death and the grave, points His finger at the church. Two thousand years ago He told us that all authority belongs to Him and that we (His church) are to impact His world, empowered by His authority.

He gave us the power and the responsibility. No more excuses. Politicians come and go. Economies ebb and flow. Jesus gave us the power and responsibility to take these virtual orphans and make them followers of Jesus Christ. His Kingdom Power does not ebb and flow, nor have his marching orders changed. I call upon the Church of Houston, especially the suburban Church, to answer His call. No more excuses. Let’s get to work.

4 Responses to “Virtual Orphans”

  1. Ginger R. says:

    Dave, thank the Lord that you are there for these children.

  2. Espresso says:

    Growing up poor in America is tough. Expectations from others is even thoeugr! My family was very poor, we lived in a house that was once a chicken coop on a farm. My grandparents purchased a new Suburban for my parents because my brother’s wheel chair would not fit in a regular car (he had CP.) This was back in the days when no one owned an SUV.I found out later how much grief my parents received for driving this brand new car and living in a ramshackle house. No one new the circumstances behind the purchase. Some poor people use their money to buy what they can afford & try to get the biggest bang for their buck. It’s much cheaper to purchase a new TV, xBox, etc, then it is to afford the mortgage on an average home in a nice community or take a nice vacation, sign your kids up for sports & other treats, etc. I remember when my parents traded in our goats for a nice sized used TV (we didn’t own a tv for most of my childhood.) It was one of the only middle class comforts’ we had. We would get sox and underwear for christmas and had a Ben Franklin stove in the kitchen to heat the house.I also remember my mother taking in people from our church and friends who were even poorer than we were. It used to drive me crazy as a kid, but now I see that no matter how poor your are, there are many who are even worse off and could use a helping hand.I feel very blessed to have escaped poverty and am able to afford to adopt. I see now that being poor in America is a combination of bad choices, lack of education, missed opportunities and events out of your control (sickness, losing your job, accidents, etc.) Many once middle class families are living below the poverty line due to divorce or a death in the family. 3 br houses & large Tv’s may be reminants of a former life.Thanks always for the interesting posts! Lynn

  3. Amy Farque says:

    Thank you for the work you do!!! kidzRAP is glad to help in a small way touch these kids’ lives!

  4. Aaron says:

    Very much appreciate your article and what you are doing! Kidz rap will be there again soon!

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