FamilyLife Today®

Practical Care for the Orphan

with Rick Warren | November 16, 2007
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On today's broadcast, pastor Rick Warren, author of the best seller, The Purpose Driven Life, explains how he and his wife, Kaye, were called to speak up for orphans in Africa.

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  • On today's broadcast, pastor Rick Warren, author of the best seller, The Purpose Driven Life, explains how he and his wife, Kaye, were called to speak up for orphans in Africa.

Rick Warren explains how he and his wife, Kaye, were called to speak up for orphans in Africa.

Practical Care for the Orphan

With Rick Warren
November 16, 2007
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Rick: You know, if I had wanted to, I could have gone and bought an entire island and retired on it with the money from "Purpose-Driven Life" and had people serve me drinks with little umbrellas every day.


 But that is not the purpose of life.  And I began to search through Scripture, and I said, "God, what do you want me to do with this influence?"  And God gave me Psalm 72 – that's Solomon's prayer for more influence, and when you read it, it sounds like one of the most egotistical prayers you could ever imagine.  He says, "God, I want you to make me famous so that the king may support the widow and orphan; care for those who are helpless; defend the defenseless."  The purpose of influence is to speak up for those who have no influence.

Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Friday, November 16th.  Our host is the president of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine.  You have more influence than you realize.  The question is what are you doing with your influence to help defend the defenseless?  Stay tuned.

 And welcome to FamilyLife Today, thanks for joining us on the Friday edition.  This week we have been focusing on the needs of orphans all around the world and how we can respond to those needs through adoption or through helping to provide for their needs, helping out with orphanages, all kinds of things that we can be doing to help care for the orphan and the waiting child in our world.

 We are teamed up with our friends at Focus on the Family, they've been talking about the same subject this week; the folks at Crown Financial Ministries have also been drawing people's attention to this.  Steven Curtis Chapman and Shaohannah's Hope, they make this a major theme for their ministry throughout the year.  But our goal this week is to try to raise people's awareness about the need and about how you can respond to the need.

 One of the things we've been listening to this week is a message from Pastor Rick Warren.  He's the pastor at Saddleback Church in Southern California, and anytime you hear Rick Warren speaking on a subject, he speaks with a lot of passion.

Dennis: Right.

Bob: But, for some reason, when you listen to this message it just feels like there's a little extra passion in his voice.

Dennis: He turns it up a notch, and there's a reason why.  He is calling the Christian community to step out in faith and join him and tens of thousands of others in addressing the needs of the helpless.  And, Bob, I'm going to do something I don't do very often here on FamilyLife Today.  I'm going to share with our listeners what I want them to do here at the front end before they hear Rick speak.  And then I'm going to tell you again at the other end of the message what I want you to do.

 But here is what I want you to do.  I want you to begin to pray right now about what your response is going to be to this message on the orphan, and I'd like to ask you to pray, "Should my spouse and I or, as a single person, should I step into a vacuum in our church and lead and orphan care, foster care, adoption initiative in our church?"  And just gather some people around because I'm going to tell you something, they're already there.  They're just waiting for somebody to lead.

 And you may not know how to do it, and you know what?  We have a book that we're going to make available that's all about how you and others can launch an orphan ministry in and through your church and you know what?  It's going to be one of the most delightful things – I can promise you, this is going to be one of the most lifegiving things you, your spouse, your family, and your friends have ever done.

Bob: All right, let's give Dr. Warren a little time here to talk about the plight of the orphan.

Dennis: Let's give him the soapbox.

Bob: Here is part 2 of Rick Warren's message on this subject.

Rick: [from audiotape.]  I grew up in a pastor's home.  I'm several generations back, my great-grandfather was a pastor; came to Christ under Charles Spurgeon; was sent to the United States as a circuit-riding preacher, and I have years of commentaries.  I went to two seminaries and have a couple of degrees and a doctorate, and somehow I missed 2,000 verses on the poor.  I just didn't see it.  And that includes the orphan.

 You see, the problem with us today in the church is everybody knows John 3:16, and nobody knows 1 John 3:16.  1 John 3:16 is as important as John 3:16.  Look up here on the board, and let's read it aloud together.  "We know what real love is because Christ gave up His life for us, and so we also ought to give up our lives for our Christian brothers and sisters."

 That's the one we don't talk about.  Did you know that you are called to give up your life for your Christian brothers and sisters?  Who would you be willing to die for?

 The next verse after that says this – verse 17 – "If anyone has enough money to live well and sees a brother or sister in need," which would include orphans, "and refuses to help, how can God's love be in that person?"  The answer is, "It's not."  In fact, I love the message paraphrase of this verse – If you see some brother or sister in need, and you have the means to do something about it but you turn a cold shoulder, and you do nothing, what happens to God's love?  It disappears, and you made it disappear.  You made it disappear.

 Why must we care about orphans?  Why is this a historic summit?  Because God's Word commands we care about orphans and, number two, Christ's love compels that we love orphans; number three, because human need demands it.  Human need demands that we care.

 Now, I've already talked to you about the fact that there may be 160 million orphans in the world, and there are 115,000 children in America awaiting adoption.  This is a plague even in our own country.  Did you know that about 75 percent of African-American children today grow up without the presence of the father in their life – 75 percent? 

 Did you know that 50 percent of Hispanic children who grow up today grow up without the presence of their father in their life?  Did you know that 25 percent of Anglo-American children grow up without the presence of the father in their lives?  And we wonder why our culture is in trouble.

 The Bible says in Psalm 68, verse 6, "God sets the lonely in families."  You see, God's ideal is not an orphanage.  Orphanages are used by God in great ways, but they are the last resort.  God says we set the children, the lonely, in families, and so the Bible tells us this in 1 John 3:18 – "Let us stop just saying we love people.  Let us really love them and show it by our actions."  Be doers of the Word.  Okay, how do you do that? 

 Write these down – five ways you can show love to orphans.  Number one, give them a family, because that's their greatest need.  At Saddleback Church we have placed hundreds in families.  We're doing this in Rwanda, yesterday, or this last week, I was in the Bronx where a woman there, an African-American woman had four children of her own, and she had taken in six more off the street.  I said, "Who is helping you?"  She said "Nobody."  The church ought to be helping her.  The church ought to be supporting that woman so those kids are not in orphanages.  We've got to figure this out – so give them a family.

 Number two, how do you show real love for orphans?  Treat them with dignity.  They are no less a person than you are.

 Number three, offer them opportunity.  And I don't have time to go into this, but most of the world could help themselves out of poverty if they were just given the opportunity.  Let me say this as clearly as I can say it – the world does not need a handout, they need a hand up.  In fact, throwing money at things is actually counter-productive if you don't do it in the right way.  Subsidizing things actually creates dependence.  Listen, if you could solve poverty by throwing money at it, we wouldn't have any poverty in America, because we've spent trillions of dollars on programs to end poverty.  It's not about money, it's about relationships and it's about opportunity, and so you want to assist the poor, you won't want to underwrite them.

 Number four, you want to defend them from inequity, defend them from inequity.  The Bible tells us to protect the orphans and the widows and the immigrants from injustice. 

 Number five, you want to share with generosity.  I remember a lady came to me one time, and she was telling me about how the – she saw a homeless person at a bus stop, and she picked that person up, and got him to a motel for the night, and got him paid for a meal and found out they needed to go back to the South and didn't have a ticket, so she got him a ticket and bought him a ticket on the bus to go back home, and she came to me, and she said, "I think the church ought to do something about these people."  I said, "I think the church did."

 You are the church.  You are the church.  So the following week I got up, and I said to my entire church, "I release all of you to feed the hungry and clothe the needy, and you don't even have to tell me about it.  Just do it, okay, just do it.  Never let anybody call the church for a donation, be the church, be the church.  So we must care because the need is so great.

 Number four, we have to care about orphans because God has a purpose for every life.  The Bible says in Psalm 139, "You made all the delicate inner parts of my body, and you knit me together in my mother's womb.  Thank you, thank you for making me so wonderfully complex.  Your workmanship is marvelous and how well I know it.  You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion, as I was woven together in the dark of the womb, and you saw me before I was born, and every day of my life was recorded in your book, every moment was laid out before a single day had passed.  That's what I call a "purpose-driven life."

 And unborn baby is still a baby, and what that verse tells me is this – God has never made anybody He didn't love, but also God has never made any person without a purpose.  You are not an accident.  You were made by God, and you were made for God, and God made you to love you.  There are accidental parents, but there are no accidental children.

 There are illegitimate parents, but there are no illegitimate children.  Your parents may not have planned you, but God did.  And God wanted you alive, and why did you have the parents that you had – every orphan asks that question.  Why didn't I have parents that either lived or kept me in the home?  Why did I have the parents that I had?  Because God knew that they had just the right DNA to create you.  And God was more interested in creating you than He was in their parenting skills.

 They may not have planned you, but God had a plan, and there is no accidental child, and we must love them.  Every child is custom made by God.  You know, when I was coming in from the airport, I just turned on my laptop, and I typed in, "famous orphans" into Google.  History is full of famous orphans, orphans who changed the world.  Moses was an orphan.  Think about it.  Esther was an orphan, she was raised by her cousin, Mordecai, but she was for such a time as this.  God knew her parents had just the right DNA to create her.

 And if we hadn't had orphans in the world, we wouldn't have the leadership of Alexander Hamilton or Eleanor Roosevelt.  We wouldn't have the poetry of Edgar Allen Poe.  If we hadn't had orphans, we wouldn't have the legacy of Babe Ruth, the movies of Ingrid Bergman or Dean Cain or Ted Danson.  If we hadn't had orphans, we wouldn't have the humor of Carol Burnett or the genius of George Washington Carver or Jean Jacques Rousseau.  You could have never seen the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy because J.R.R. Tolkien was an orphan. 

 You would have never had the books of Tolstoi or Michener or the music of Bach or Ella Fitzerald or John Lennon or Faith Hill – orphans.  And I couldn't eat the hamburgers of Wendy founder, Dave Thomas.

 Now, there's one more reason, and this is the one I want to focus on as we close.  We have to care because only the church is large enough to handle the problem.  You see, the church has advantages that government and no one else will ever have.  We have the most people, we have the biggest distribution, we have the most army of workers, we have the moral authority to do it, we have the moral responsibility to do it, we have the power and promises of God, we have the inevitability of history.

 So don't ever apologize for saying that the church is the hope of the world – it is.  Years ago, Fulton Sheen, the famous Catholic bishop, went to an African country, and he was there to visit a leprosy colony.  And he walked in, and as he walked over to talk to one man who was sitting on the ground in the dust with nothing but a loincloth on, and this man was covered alive with not just leprosy but a number of other skin diseases that were actually open and pus-y and oozing. 

 Fulton Sheen leaned over to talk to this man, and as he leaned over to talk to this man, the cross he was wearing, the chain broke, and it fell into an open sore on that man's thigh.  Fulton Sheen said, "When I saw that," he said, "I was at first revulsed.  I was repelled by it.  I thought, uhh, you know, it was so grotesque to me."  Then he said, "All of a sudden I was filled with compassion for that man," and he said, "I reached into the sore, and I took up the cross."

 When I heard that phrase, "I reached into the sore, and I took up the cross," I thought that is the finest definition of Christian living I've ever heard.  Because the whole business of living for Christ after you've put your trust in Him is to go out into the sores of life where people are hurting and bleeding and depressed and suicidal and dying and take up the cross.  And if we're not doing that, I doubt our Christianity.  It's just lip service.

 Do not deceive yourselves.  Be doers of the Word and not hearers only.  Pure religion, undefiled and faultless before God, personal purity, practical charity, it's both.  You can't do one without the other.  Jesus cares about the body and the soul.  Love demands that we move beyond our comfort zone.  Love demands that during this summit on orphans we learn as much as we can, dozens of ways, to care for the sick, assist the poor, defend the defenseless, speak up for the oppressed, educate the uneducated, bring spiritual emptiness to a close and bring spiritual fullness in Jesus Christ, end corruption and trafficking of children.

 It's time for the church to stop debating the Bible and start doing it.  It's time for the church to stop criticizing each other and start cooperating and collaborating.  It's time for the church to be known for love not for legalism.  It's time for the church to be known for what it's for, not just what it's against.  It's time for the church to be the church.  You can make a difference.

Bob: Well, again, we've been listening to part 2 of a message from Dr. Rick Warren about our responsibility, and it really is our responsibility to manifest the heart of God on planet earth, and, Dennis, as you said, some are called to do that in one way, some are called to do it in another way, but all of us are called to ask the question, "How can I do that, Lord?"

Dennis: Right, and we're offering people a very practical way they can make a difference, a tangible difference in orphans' lives both here in America and around the world, and the way to do that, as Rick was talking about, is to start an orphan care, foster care, adoption ministry in your local church.  It's very simple.  A lay-led, lay-staffed, lay-funded initiative that steps out and says, "You know what?  I'm willing to step out in faith and say, 'Lord God, You care for the orphan.  I don't know all of what we're going to do here.  I don't know how you will supply, but I refuse to live my Christian life in a pew and not exercise faith.' 

 This is a great opportunity to exercise faith and find out, will God meet you as you step out?  You know what?  I think He will.  I don't know how He'll meet you, but I know He'll supply people, money, opportunities, and a way for you to make a difference in individual lives.

Bob: It could be that the orphan care ministry in your church is about helping people adopt children, it could be that it's about helping with an orphanage in a foreign country, it could be that it's about raising funds or helping with the foster care system in your state.  There are all kinds of ways that churches can be involved, right?

Dennis: They can, and about three years ago, Bob, we set a goal of 1,000 churches beginning an orphan ministry locally, and we're approaching 400 of those churches that have now done that.  We need 600 churches to step forward in the next couple of years, and, frankly, help us achieve a very modest goal of 1,000.  But in the process help you achieve real Christianity, because that's where it's going to be found as you step out and exhibit the heart of God for these who have no families. 

 You're going to experience God in some fresh ways you've never seen before, and I'd say you know what?  Call us and get this book that explains how to launch and orphan ministry in your church and then say, you know what?  I want to be one of the 1,000.  I want to be one of the churches that steps into the vacuum and provides leadership.

Bob: The book is actually in a kit that we put together designed to equip our listeners with a variety of ways that they can respond to the needs of orphans and, in fact, you talk about speaking on behalf of the orphan, you and Barbara had a chance to do that not too long ago, and the DVD of your message is in the kit, and it's there so that our listeners can watch it and listen to it but also so they can pass it along to others or show it to others in their church as a way to help rally folks around caring for the needs of the orphans.

 There is also a resource called "Ten Ways Every Christian can Care for the Orphan and the Waiting Child," that spells out things you can do individually, things you can do with other people, just a variety of ways that any of us can respond to the needs of orphans.

 And then there is a book called "Welcome Home – Eight Steps to Adoption," and this lays out for those families who do want to consider the possibility of adoption the different things they need to think through, pray through, as they make that decision and the steps you need to follow to go from having a desire to bringing home a child and making that child a part of your home, a part of your family. 

 We're making this kit available to as many of our listeners who contact us this week and request it.  All we're asking is that you make a donation of any amount for the ministry of FamilyLife Today to help us cover the costs of this ministry and getting this material out to you.

 If you go to our website at, in the center of the home page, you see a red button that says "Go," and if you click that "Go" button, it will take you to an area of the site where there is more information about how you can have this kit sent to you, and as you click and then fill out the donation form, you'll see a keycode box on the donation form.  You just type the word "orphan" in that box, and we'll know to send a copy of this kit out to you.

 Or call us at 1-800-FLTODAY, that's 1-800-358-6329, ask for the Hope for Orphans kit and, again, if you can help with a donation of any amount, we would appreciate that, and we're hoping that when all of you get a copy of this kit, it will give you the tools you need so you can take the next step, whatever that is for you.  And if all of us would do that, then we can begin reaching out and caring for the needs of orphans and, in doing so, showing the love and the compassion of Christ.

 So, again, our toll-free number is 1-800-FLTODAY.  You can also find us online at

 Well, I hope you have a great weekend.  I hope you and your family are able to worship together this weekend, and I hope you can be back with us on Monday.  Dr. Crawford Loritts is going to be our guest.  We're going to talk about how we can go through life with the right perspective; not a temporal perspective but an eternal perspective.  We'll talk about that beginning on Monday, 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 next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.

 FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas, a ministry of Campus Crusade for Christ. 


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Episodes in this Series

Adoption And Orphans Day 1
A Biblical Mandate
with Rick Warren November 15, 2007
Rick Warren tells why the Body of Christ should be concerned about the plight of the orphan.
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