FamilyLife Today® Podcast

Meeting the Needs of the Orphan

with Paul Pennington | November 19, 2008
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What is the Church going to do about the world’s 143 million orphans? Today’s broadcast features speaker Kay Warren as she discusses her passionate pleas for action on the issue of the suffering orphans, her call to Christians for justice, and her biblical model of how compassionate activism works, straight from the Shepherd.

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  • About the Host

  • About the Guest

  • What is the Church going to do about the world’s 143 million orphans? Today’s broadcast features speaker Kay Warren as she discusses her passionate pleas for action on the issue of the suffering orphans, her call to Christians for justice, and her biblical model of how compassionate activism works, straight from the Shepherd.

  • Dave and Ann Wilson

    Dave and Ann Wilson are hosts of FamilyLife Today®, FamilyLife’s nationally-syndicated radio program. Dave and Ann have been married for more than 38 years and have spent the last 33 teaching and mentoring couples and parents across the country. They have been featured speakers at FamilyLife’s Weekend to Remember® marriage getaway since 1993 and have also hosted their own marriage conferences across the country. Cofounders of Kensington Church—a national, multicampus church that hosts more than 14,000 visitors every weekend—the Wilsons are the creative force behind DVD teaching series Rock Your Marriage and The Survival Guide To Parenting, as well as authors of the recently released book Vertical Marriage (Zondervan, 2019). Dave is a graduate of the International School of Theology, where he received a Master of Divinity degree. A Ball State University Hall of Fame quarterback, Dave served the Detroit Lions as chaplain for 33 years. Ann attended the University of Kentucky. She has been active alongside Dave in ministry as a speaker, writer, small-group leader, and mentor to countless wives of professional athletes. The Wilsons live in the Detroit area. They have three grown sons, CJ, Austin, and Cody, three daughters-in-law, and a growing number of grandchildren.

What is the Church going to do about the world’s 143 million orphans?

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Meeting the Needs of the Orphan

With Paul Pennington
November 19, 2008
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Bob: More than five years ago, Kay Warren says she became aware of a crisis that changed her world; changed her perspective on life.

Kay: I'm not very much fun at dinner parties anymore.  Can you believe it?  I don't want to talk about trivialities.  I'm so bored with what's happening on "American Idol" and "Dancing With the Stars" and "Next Model," and I'm bored with politics, and I'm bored with all of that.  I'm bored with it.  It's so meaningless.  I want to talk about what is the church going to do about 143 million orphans?  I mean, seriously, what is the church going to do?

[musical transition]

Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Wednesday, November 19th.  Our host is the president of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine.  Today Kay Warren will ask the question what can the church do, what must the church do, and we need to be thinking, "What can I do?"  Stay tuned.

And welcome to FamilyLife Today, thanks for joining us on the Wednesday edition.  You know, I hope our listeners are getting the message this week not just from us but there are a lot of folks talking about the plight of the orphan and the need for churches and individuals to pitch in and do something about it.

Dennis: You know, about three or four years ago, a number of ministries all gathered together and said, "Let's form a partnership as followers of Christ to turn up the volume on behalf of those who have no voice."  And we decided to give some broadcast time on behalf of orphans, and call the Christian community to action.  Focus on the Family is doing it, other ministries – Steven Curtis Chapman and Shaohannah's Hope, Across the Nation, Crown Ministries is doing broadcasting.  And so we're committed to providing a voice to those who have none.

Today we're going to feature a message by Kay Warren, who is wife of Rick Warren out at Saddleback.  Kay spoke at the Cry of the Orphan Summit down in Ft. Lauderdale and, Bob, you know I went down there, and Barbara and I participated in this summit along with about 650 other people.  And one of the people we heard speak during that week was Kay Warren, and in her message she basically challenges the church to get practical and to step up and get involved in this. 

And it's why we wrote a book called "Launching an Orphan Ministry in Your Church," that's why we want to equip laymen to do this, just want to be up front with you, as a listener.  We think God is tapping a number of you on the shoulder and saying, "Hey, it's time.  You can do this."

This little book will equip you to go to your pastor and begin to explore how you can establish what I believe is a movement of God's Spirit across the nation.  And Kay Warren certainly practically illustrates this in her message.

Bob: Yes, she's a big part of this movement and, interestingly enough, this was something that was not on her radar screen until recently and then, all of a sudden, she found herself asking a question, and it's the question where she starts the message that she gave at the Orphan Care Summit that we helped to sponsor through our Hope for Orphans initiative and where you spoke as well.  Here is Kay Warren.

Kay:  [from audiotape.]  What is the church going to do about 143 million orphans?  It wasn't a question that I asked very often until about six years ago.  And one day I picked up a magazine article, sitting in my living room, comfortable, cushy, good life, good plans.  I picked up a magazine that had an article about AIDS in Africa – didn't care a thing about AIDS in Africa, didn't care a thing about AIDS anywhere, anyplace, anytime, didn't matter.

And when I read this article, and I saw that at that time they were saying 40 million people around the world were infested with HIV, and the pictures that were with this article were like those on the screen, even worse – graphic – dying people, dying men and women, dying children, too weak to brush the flies away from their faces, and the pictures were so horrific I couldn't look at them.  And so I tried to cover my face with my hands to block out the scenes.

But there was a box in the middle of that article, and it said, "12 million children orphaned in Africa due to AIDS."  Instead of covering my eyes, this time I threw the magazine down.  I threw it down in horror, because as I sat in my comfortable living room, a full refrigerator, closet stuffed full of clothes, a climate-controlled car, I realized I didn't know the name of a single orphan.  I didn't know the name of a single person who was HIV-positive, and I was horrified, and I said, "God, what's wrong with me?"  Not what's wrong with the world, but what's wrong with me that I can live in this world and be blind and ignorant and apathetic?

I'm not asking what the government said the world will do, I'm not asking with the philanthropists of the world will do, I'm not asking what the business community of our world will do, I am asking what will the church do about orphans?

It's going to require people who are willing to deny themselves, who are willing to take up the cross, and who are willing to follow Him.  I would say it's people who are willing to be surrendered, dangerously surrendered – people who will become seriously disturbed, and people who will become gloriously ruined.

The first visit that I made to Africa I met a woman named Jawanna [sp].  When I met her, she was dying, homeless, living under a tree.  She had been kicked out of two villages, burned out of the second one, her home.  And so she and her husband were living under a tree, and she was about a week away from death, just a bag of bones, skeletal, and she tried to crawl out to greet me on her elbows and her knees, and she couldn't.  And so her aunt picked her up and set her down in front of me.

And I sat there looking at this dying, homeless woman and thought again, "What has my faith prepared me for?  Not this.  I know how to talk to women about where to find the best price of chicken this week.  I know how to talk to gals about how to lose that last 10 pounds that they can't lose.  I know how to talk to families about their marriages and their children but, God, I don't know what to say to homeless, dying people under trees."

I was speechless.  All I could do was stare and gulp and feel sick to my stomach, and the woman who was with me who had been many times showed me how to lean down, how to get down next to this woman on the ground, how to throw my arms around her, how to hold her close, how to reassure her that while this life had obviously been very hard, there was hope.  There was hope, there was a life beyond this life, that God loved her, He had not forgotten her, that she mattered to Him.

On my next trip, this time I was with orphans, and it was with a mom who said, "You know what?  I'm HIV-positive, and my husband was unfaithful to me, and he is HIV-positive, and his mistress is HIV-positive, and they have an HIV-positive baby, and my husband wants to bring her into our home and live with us.  So when I met this woman, here she is in a house now – this other woman was dying under a tree.  This woman, at least, has a tiny little hovel, but her husband, her unfaithful husband who has brought HIV to their home and to her wants to live in that home with her, with the mistress, with their baby, and now she is dying – this woman that I'm talking to.  And I said to her, again, because my faith doesn't know what to do with this, and I said, "I'm going back to my country.  What do I tell people how to pray for you?"

I figured she'd say, "Pray that I have medicine, pray that somebody will come along and kick my rat of a husband out."  She said, "Pray for my children.  What is going to happen to my children when I die?"  And she became the first of so many mothers that I have heard around the world – mothers say the same thing, whether it's in Malawi or Mozambique or Canada or the United States or England or South Africa or Brazil or Haiti – mothers ask the same question – who will take care of my children?  Will they die?

Does the church have an answer?  Does your church have an answer to that question?  And I went from Flora's house to what they call in the world of NGOs, a child-headed household.  It just means orphan kids living together.  And I met John, who was 15, taking care of his 11-year-old brother and his 3-year-old little sister in a little mud hut, and they had – it was in a very rural area, and they hadn't seen very many white people, and with my fair skin and light hair, I looked dead.  And so they very soberly and somberly took me into their little tiny mud hut and showed me the few blankets and a dented cooking pot, and that's it.  That's what they owned in this world.

And as I talked to them, and the little 3-year-old sister finally would let me hold her, and as I sat on the porch of their little mud hut, I wanted to just lie down on the ground and scream and sob and wail on their behalf.  I held in the emotion until I left, and so I sat on that porch holding the 3-year-old little girl, and in my spirit crying out to God saying, "God, where is the mommy and the daddy?  Where is the daddy who will swing her in the air, who will play with her, who will chase her through the yard, who will stand next to her proudly on the day that she is married?  God, where is the mommy who, when she wakes up in the night will come cuddle her, will sing her a lullabye, will hold her and reassure her that the monsters won't get her?  Where is the mommy who will teach her how to be a young woman, who will teach her how to prepare for marriage?  Who will teach her how to be a mom?  God, where are they?  These brothers will do the best they can, but they cannot do what a mom and a dad can do.  God, what is your answer?"

What is it that disturbs you?  Jesus said if you are really my disciple, you'll be willing to take up the cross.  And when you do all of that, you'll be ruined – gloriously ruined.  And life won't seem the same, and normal life just won't satisfy quite as much as it used to.

See, I believe the pursuit of the American Dream in and of itself, the pursuit of health and wealth and happiness will ruin you.  But so will the Halloween Jesus to the end.  And so if you're going to be ruined, why not be ruined for something of eternal value?  Why not be ruined for the Kingdom of God? 

See, Jesus preaches an upside down Gospel.  In Luke 14:12-14, he says when you put on a dinner, don't invite your friends, relatives, and rich neighbors, for they will repay you by inviting you back.  Instead, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind.  Then at the resurrection of the godly, God will reward you for inviting those who could not repay you.

When I was in Russia last year, I met an orphan girl named Eira [sp].  Eira was 15 when I met her.  Eira was one, tough girl.  She had been raised in an orphanage from birth, abandoned baby, and was told every day of her life that she didn't matter, and that nobody cared whether she lived or died.  Can you imagine being told that every day of your life?  You don't matter.  There is nobody on the face of the earth who cares whether you live or die.  What does that do to a child?  Well, it turned Eira into a very tough girl early on.  She fought with everybody, she was violent.  She fought the guys, she fought the girls, it didn't matter.  She was a prostitute, she was a drug addict, she was a street kid by the time she was 15.

And yet when I met Eira, she was in a home of an incredible young Christian couple, and I said to Eira, "How did you find Jesus?  Tell me your story."  She said, "When I was on the street, Peter and Mascha [sp] would come to us on the street, and to all of us who were hanging out, and they would tell us that Jesus loved us, and we were, like, 'Yeah, yeah, yeah, sure, right, whatever.'"  She said, "But then they began to invite us to their home, and they would invite us into their home every day, and Mascha would fix spaghetti over and over and over for us, and we got to hang out in their living room, and we talked, and it was safe, and it was warm, and they told us that they loved us, and they told us that God loved us."

She said, "I began to believe that if Peter and Mascha could love me that maybe Jesus could love me, too."  How did Eira know that God had not forgotten her?  How did Eira know that truly she did matter and that somebody really did care whether she lived or died.  It was because Peter and Mascha put a seat at their table for her, just as Jesus said – could Eira repay Peter and Mascha for all the spaghetti dinners they fixed?  Absolutely not.  Could she ever repay them?  No.  Did that stop Peter and Mascha from making a seat at their table for Eira and all the other street kids in that area?  No.

If you ever need to know why you are here, as the wife of the man who wrote "The Purpose-Driven Life," you'd think I'd always know my purpose, but I just have to tell you, sometimes I don't.  And on those days when I'm not really sure, I go back to Colossians, Colossians 1:15.  It says that Jesus was the visible image of the invisible God.  God kept telling us what He was like.  All through the Old Testament, He said, "I care about the children."  And we could say, "Sure you do, sure you do," but then Jesus was here, and then Jesus said, "If you so much as harm one of these little ones, just tie a millstone around your neck and be thrown into the sea if you dare hurt one of these little ones."  And if He's holding a child, and He's speaking with that strong voice, all those around Him, suddenly, you go, "Aha!  He means it.  He means it.  This is what it means for God to care."

When God said, "I care about the poor, when I care about those who are marginalized, those who are on the edges," and then Jesus was with a woman caught in adultery and instead of saying, "Yes, let me be the first one to pick up the stone and whack her with it," he said, instead, "Woman, your sins are forgiven.  Go and sin no more."  And we begin to go, "Oh, God has mercy, God is merciful, God really is just, He cares, He has forgiveness."  Jesus made the invisible God visible to us.  Now, that is our task every day, that is your job today.  When you leave here, is to make the invisible God visible. 

How would Flora ever know that there would be people that would care about her children unless there was somebody there saying, "Flora, I care, and I'm going to make sure that your children have a place to go when you die."  How would John know that God had not forgotten him and his brother and his sister in their grief, in their aloneness, unless there is a church member, somebody who comes in and says, "You're a part of us now.  You're not alone.  You're not on your own, you're a part of us."

How would that little boy have – how will he ever know that God has not abandoned him unless there is somebody who comes in, who scoops him up out of that crib and says, "You're mine, you're going to live in my home, and I will work with you as your body is broken, but your mine."  How did Eira come to know that she mattered, that God was aware of her pain and her suffering?  Somebody made Him known to her.  Somebody made God visible.

This is what the church must do.  I don't feel a particular responsibility for what the government does or what philanthropy does or what private sector does or even NGO does.  What I care about is what will the church – what will your congregation do?  What will you do?  What will we do to make Him visible?  How will they know?  How will they know unless surrendered, disturbed and gloriously ruined disciples of Jesus Christ say, "I care, I will make Him visible, I will make Him known."

[musical transition]

Bob: Well, I hope we have a whole lot of surrendered, disturbed, and gloriously ruined listeners today, don't you?

Dennis: I do, and, Bob, I'm about to give the shortest conclusion I've ever given in over 16 years of broadcasting.  I want you to do what God has called you to do, and if He is calling you to start an orphan care ministry in your church, do it.

Bob: Yes, and we'd love to help.  In fact, we have resources that we've designed to do just that.  There is a book that we've created called "Launching an Orphan Ministry in Your Church."  It comes with a DVD where you and Barbara talk about how and why churches can get involved in orphan care ministry.  That's available from us here at FamilyLife.  There is a brochure we've put together – "Ten Ways Every Christian Can Care for the Orphan and Waiting Child."  Those are available from us here at FamilyLife as well.

We now have a new Homebuilders study for couples who are thinking about adoption or couples who just want to better understand the needs and what's involved in an adoption process.  That's available from us.  And now we've created a complete one-day seminar for churches on adoption.  It's a seven-session seminar that's available on four DVDs that you can use in your church or in your community to help people who have thought about adopting, think through and better understand all of the issues and know how to go from where they are today to where God wants them to be wherever that is, whether it's adoption or caring for orphans in some other way – foster care.

All of the information about these resources is available on our website,, and if you go to our home page, on the right side of the screen, you'll see a button that says "Today's Broadcast."  Click where it says "Learn More," and that will take you to the area of the site where there is information about these resources.  There is also information about the partnership we're involved in with other ministries to help encourage orphan care around the world.  There is a link to a website that talks about what the partner ministries are doing.

Again, all of this is on our website,  All you have to do is click on the right side of the screen where it says "Today's Broadcast," and that will take you through to the area of the site where you can get more information.  Or call 1-800-FLTODAY, 1-800-358-6329.  Someone on our team can make arrangements to have the resources you are looking for sent out to you.

Let me just say a word here, too – a word of thanks to those of you who help support the ministry of FamilyLife Today and make broadcasts like this possible; make our efforts to try to equip churches to have a ministry for orphans.  You make all of that possible when you help support the ministry of FamilyLife Today, and we appreciate your financial support.

In fact, this week, if you are able to help with a donation of any amount for the ministry of FamilyLife Today, we'd love to send you a thank you gift.  It's Barbara Rainey's brand-new book about Christmas.  It's called "When Christmas Came," and it includes Barbara's meditations and thoughts on John 3:16 and the gift that God gave to the world at Christmastime – His only begotten Son.  It's a beautiful book, and it's our thank you gift to you when you help support the ministry of FamilyLife Today this week with a donation of any amount.  You can make your donation online at or call 1-800-FLTODAY and make a donation over the phone.

If you are donating online, you need to type the word "Christmas" into the keycode box on the donation form so that we can send Barbara's book to you.  If you make your donation over the phone just mention you'd like Barbara's new Christmas book.  Again, it's called "When Christmas Came," and it's available exclusively from us here at FamilyLife.  It's not in stores; it's only available through the ministry.  So get in touch with us if you're interested in getting a copy and thank you for your financial support of FamilyLife Today.  We appreciate you.

Well, tomorrow we are going to hear from a pastor of one of the largest churches in Florida, a church that is having a profound impact on the foster care system in their community.  We'll hear Bob Coy tell that story tomorrow, and I hope you can be with us for that.

I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team.  On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine.  We'll see you back tomorrow for another edition of FamilyLife Today.

FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas – help for today; hope for tomorrow.  


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