As I write this, I’m staying in a complex that houses just over fifty children outside of large city in China. Unlike your typical Chinese orphanage with hundreds of children matched with a dozen or so poorly-trained staff, the home is broken into multiple three-bedroom apartments. Each apartment has a house mother, or house parents in one case, who have committed to raise the children in their care over the long haul. Most of the apartments are home for eight children, purposefully spread out in age so that older children can help with the youngsters under the same roof.
As you know, World Orphans works exclusively with indigenous churches to rescue and care for children, or to be the mechanism to prevent orphaning and abandonment in the first place. With few exceptions, only the officially-recognized and highly-monitored Three Self Church is permitted to exist in China. The Three Self Church is controlled by Chinese authorities to differing degrees, depending on the particular city and region and the provincial governor’s desire to forbid or overlook. Regardless, practically all Three Self churches have government agents in attendance to ensure that the message isn’t counter-revolutionary to the communist regime’s continued policies. As such, most of the Church (and Church growth) happens in the “underground church,” bodies of believers that secretly meet in each others’ homes and places of business.
It’s 4:00 am here and all is silent in the housing complex. The live-in house mothers, who now care for the children soundly sleeping in the comfortable apartments down the hall from me, were all recruited from the underground church. These individual churches take love offerings to help support the work and, depending on proximity, will assist with volunteer laborers. It’s not exactly the typical World Orphans model, but it’s as close as you can get in a country of religious persecution, control and intolerance.
I’m reminded of how the Church rises up in such instances. Here, many abandoned girls, along with boys whose families were ripped apart by trauma, such as the devastating earthquakes that occurred recently in the Szechuan province, have been provided loving homes – not a bleak institutional orphanage – because the Church rose up in obedience to care for the orphan.
I often hear many excuses from churches in the West as to why they’ve decided to overlook the 30+ Scriptures that call on them to be the “helper of the widow and orphan.”
“Well, you know, we’re in the midst of this new building program and we’re currently running over budget.”
“We love orphans, really. But we simply don’t have the people or resources to do anything about it right now.”
“Sorry, the Senior Pastor isn’t quite on board with this yet. Maybe we can talk again in a few months after things have settled down.”
“You see, we just started this new sermon series and it’s all about creating greater fellowship and being a seeker-friendly church. The timing isn’t quite right for us.”
“We give to the denomination. They handle that kind of stuff.”
Tell such things to the small bodies of believers here who, under the threat of imprisonment or bodily harm, meet secretly, have little, and give much….for the sake of the hurting; for the sake of the abandoned; for the sake of the next generation. They don’t care about new carpet colors or sound systems for the church. They aren’t concerned about the layout of this week’s bulletin or whether the sermon video is ready. And they certainly don’t worry about petty programs and politics.
They simply live out Jesus to the children that He called to “let come to me.”