Alison is wife to Karis Elder Matt Ballou and mother to Miranda. Matt and Alison are currently pursuing adoption of a little girl. You can read more about that journey on Alison's blog, not yet what we shall be. Alison recently taught at Women's Katalyst and this two-part series shares the heart of her studies.
Most of us have a general awareness that, when compared with the rest of the world, we in the United States live luxurious lifestyles. We know where our next meals are coming from and are confident that we will be able to meet the basic needs of our children. Millions around the world are not that fortunate, and our God does not desire that we remain cocooned in our comfort and ignore their needs.
Micah 6:8 says, “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”
Widows and orphans are often the hardest hit by poverty and suffering, and of them God says, “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world” (James 1:27).
Psalm 68:5 even describes God Himself as, “Father of the fatherless and protector of widows.”
If we want to call ourselves followers of God, we must seek to care for widows and orphans and get involved with vulnerable families to seek to prevent children from becoming orphans.
One way to do this would be to serve at a nursing home or assisted living facility – many are often looking for volunteers.
Within Columbia, two organizations that work to support young – often single – parents as they care for their children with limited resources are My Life Clinic and Lutheran Family and Children’s Services. Both offer opportunities for community members to get involved as mentors or volunteer in other capacities.
Another organization working to support families is Safe Families, which works around the country and which we are hoping to get established in Columbia. Many families lack a support system to step in and fill the gaps when crisis strikes, and children are then increasingly at risk for abuse or neglect and needing to enter the foster care system. Safe Families offers a solution outside of the foster care system in which children can temporarily be placed in a safe family environment while their parents maintain custody but are able to work through the issues they are experiencing.
There are also a number of organizations working around the world that are in need of support.
Project Hopeful’s Hope+ Sisterhood is one such program. Their website explains, “Social stigma, lack of resources, and failing health can lead to a sense of hopelessness for mothers who are HIV+ around the world. Without options HIV+ mothers are forced to consider the unthinkable when they can no longer care for their children as they desire to. If finding alternative caretakers becomes impossible mothers are forced to either turn their children over to the mean streets or relinquish them to an orphanage.” This organization seeks to keep HIV+ mothers healthy and help them develop skills so they can be financially self-sufficient and care for their children. They also seek to connect the women with “sisters” in the United States who can pray for and encourage them throughout their journeys.
Love Without Boundaries Foundation works within China to help provide food, health care, and love to orphaned and impoverished children. Of particular note is their Unity Fund. Parents in China cannot obtain medical care for their children unless they are able to pay the costs in advance, which is impossible for much of China’s population, forcing parents to consider the heart-wrenching alternative of leaving their children at an orphanage where they may be able to get medical attention. The Unity Fund sponsors medical care for children whose families would not otherwise be able to afford it, thereby allowing the families to stay together.
Many organizations (including World Vision and Compassion International) also offer opportunities to sponsor children around the world, helping to ensure they have access to clean water, healthy food, and a good education. In a world in which nearly a third of children in developing countries suffer the devastating effects of malnutrition, the importance of these programs in caring for vulnerable children and their families is obvious.
Every one of us at Karis is part of the 1% - perhaps not within the United States but within the world. Luke 12:48 tells us clearly that, “Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required.” Let us not pretend that does not apply to us.
How can you participate in God’s work of caring for widows and orphans and vulnerable families today? Please check out some of the resources listed above or do your own research and get involved somewhere.
If you would like more information about how to get involved with any of the organizations described in this article, please contact Alison Ballou. Please also check back for part two of this series, which will discuss how we can be involved in adoption as part of caring for orphans.