Focus on the Family

Focus on the Family Broadcast

Orphan Care: Accepting the Call

Orphan Care: Accepting the Call

Author and speaker Kay Warren describes how she became an orphan care advocate and gives an impassioned plea for the church to become more involved in ministering to helpless children around the globe.

Original Air Date: November 16, 2009


John: On today’s “Focus on the Family,” you’ll hear about the plight of the orphan from the perspective of the child and also from the perspective of the parent who had to leave that child behind.


Kay: Mothers say the same thing, whether it’s in Malawi or Mozambique or Canada or the United States of England or South Africa or Brazil or Haiti, mothers ask the same question, “Who will take care of my children if I die?”

End of Excerpt

John: I can’t imagine having to wrestle with that question, but sometimes you could be the answer to that mother’s heart cry and we’ll explore that with Focus president Jim Daly on today’s “Focus on the Family.” I’m John Fuller.

Jim: John, that’s a unique perspective right there and we’ll hear more today from Kay Warren, who has been working tirelessly for years now to bring awareness to the needs of orphans, particularly those that have been affected by the global HIV/AIDS crisis. She’s the cofounder, with her husband, Rick, of Saddleback Church in Southern California. They have three children, one who is now with the Lord and five grandchildren.

Uh … her mother’s heart really comes through in what you’ll hear today, which outlines how Kay first caught the vision for orphan care.

John: Yeah, this message was presented at a Christian Alliance for Orphans Summit in Fort Lauderdale, Florida in 2008. Right at the beginning, Kay mentions there are 143 million orphans around the world, which was accurate back then. The figure is actually now about 150 million. And as we begin, let me say that Kay–you hear it in that clip–has deep heartfelt emotion in her voice and that’s in response to a slide show about orphaned children.


Kay: Good morning. It’s hard to speak. (Pause) What is the church gonna do about 143 million orphans? I mean, seriously, what is the church gonna do?

It wasn’t a question that I asked very often until about six years ago. And one day, I picked up a magazine article sittin’ 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, any time, didn’t matter. Heart very hard, cold, judgmental, apathetic, misinformed, a lot of things.

But that one day I picked up this article and it’s as though I saw it for the first time. And when I read this article and I saw that at the time, they were sayin’ 40 million people around the world were infected with HIV. And the pictures that were with this article were 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, “Twelve 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, closets stuffed full of clothes, climate-controlled car (Sniffling), grocery store aisles brimming with more food than I could eat in a year, I realized I didn’t know the name of a single orphan.

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? (Sniffling) And I began to try to think, “Okay, God, if I’m really Your disciple, I claim to be Your disciple; I claim to be a follower of Yours, Jesus Christ and if I am, how could I not know this? And how could I not be touched by this? How could I not know even one?”

And in that process, I went back to a very familiar passage of Scripture. You probably have it memorized, Mark 8:34. Jesus was talking to the crowd, so He calls the crowd and His disciples over to Him and He says to them, “If anyone would come after Me, let him deny himself; take up his cross and follow Me.” And I began to think, what does that mean to me in the 21st century? God, how do I live that out? Help me to understand this.

And for the last six years, I’ve come to believe that what it means to be a disciple is something very different than what I understood it to mean. I would say it’s people who are willing to be surrendered, dangerously surrendered, people who will become seriously disturbed. This is the process God has had me on.

The first visit that I made to Africa I met a woman named Giuanna [sp?]. She was actually the first person I ever met that was HIV positive. I thought I had to go to Africa to find somebody who was HIV positive; I was so ignorant. 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 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?!

Where are You, God? Does faith matter in a situation like this? God, how do I access You? How does this woman access You? God, what does the Good News mean when you’re dying under a tree? And you’ve been burned out of two villages, God, what does the Gospel mean?

Because it was my first visit, I was speechless. All I could do is 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.

And I took from that the approach that I have as I go around the world with the hope, hug, weep, reassure of the hope of heaven. But 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.”

And now she’s, dying, this woman that I’m talking to. And I said to her, “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 give me money.”

But her response to me when I said, “Tell me how I can tell the women in my church to pray for you,” she said, “Pray for my children. What is going to happen to my children when I die? Because nobody is going to want to take care of them. They know I’m dying of AIDS and nobody is gonna want my children.”

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 when I 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.” If that’s not the most clinical title I don’t know what is. It just means orphans kids livin’ 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, not much bigger than this. And 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 (Laughter).

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.

And 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’s the mommy and the daddy? Where’s the daddy who will swing her in the air, who will pray 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 lullaby, 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?

And as I’ve learned through the years, as it has all become very personal, very real—real names, real faces, real stories, real people—that these that I meet are only a microcosm. That story of Flora and her husband, bringing AIDS into their home and her having to cry out, “What will happen to my children when I die,” she represents millions and millions of mothers, who go to sleep at night, asking, “Who will care for my children?”

And John and his brother and little Nincindy, they represent millions and millions and millions and millions and millions and millions and millions of children on their own.

And I have to say, “God, what is it in us that is so broken, that we will not move out en masse? What is our answer as the church? Somewhere there is within us a lack of surrender. We are so consumed by our own lives, by our own busyness, by our own schedule, by our own agenda, by our own problems, to think of denying ourselves as Jesus said, “If you’re gonna be My follower,” to think of denying ourselves to the point that we would say, “God, I choose Your way, not mine. I choose Your kingdom over my kingdom,” is not a common response in my life. It’s not a common response in my church and I have a really strong feeling that it’s probably not a very common response in your church or in … even in your life. Where are we willing to surrender, so that John is not by himself, So that Flora’s children are not turned on to the street, are not left as orphans?

What is it that disturbs you? Jesus said, “If you’re really My disciple, you’ll be willing to take up the cross.” A cross in those days meant, you took it up because you were going to die. They got it. They understand that to really be a disciple of Christ meant in some way, you were gonna pay a price, that could be the actual giving of your life.

Jesus left heaven because He was disturbed. He saw the fact that there was no hope for us and He left the comfort of heaven and He came to be with us and to suffer with us and to carry our pain for us. And He says, “If you’re gonna be Mine, you will do exactly the same thing. You will become so disturbed. I am a seriously and permanently disturbed woman.

Program Note:

John: You’re listening to Kay Warren on today’s “Focus on the Family.” And in a few minutes, you’ll hear how this heart for the orphan has changed her dramatically in so many ways. Get a CD of this program with additional content when you call 800-A-FAMILY; 800-232-6459. Or get the instant download at . Let’s return now to Kay Warren on today’s “Focus on the Family.”

End of Program Note

Kay Warren: S ix years ago, I became a seriously, permanently disturbed woman. This is what it will take for orphans, for the church to respond. The church must become not just surrendered with this, “God, yes, whatever,” but so disturbed that we are compelled. We must act. It no longer becomes optional. It no longer becomes something that we do if we have time, if we can fit into our schedule, if we can rearrange things. No, if you are going to be His, you will be willing to pay whatever price it costs. You will die if that’s what He asks.

What is it that seriously disturbs you? Some of you are here because you are already involved in orphan care and looking for ways. Many of you have adopted or do foster care. Some of you may be here, sort of on the fringes; you’re here because you’re sort of interested. And for those who are coming here just because you’re sort of interested, I’m telling you that to be a disciple, to be a follower of Jesus Christ, you must become disturbed, seriously disturbed, to the point that you will say, “God, whatever. I’m Yours.”

I was in Ukraine last year and in an orphanage in Russia last year. And here in this orphanage in Saint Petersburg, there were children who were born to HIV-positive mothers. And it was decided that if you were born to an HIV-positive mother, even though there are tests that can determine if you are HIV positive very early now … the child, they still kept them separated. And there was a little 4-year-old boy, who was very severely disabled. And he was positive and nobody holds him. (Choking with emotion)

And I so desperately wanted to hold him. And so, I picked him up out of his crib (Choking with emotion), but he wouldn’t let me hold him, because he’s not used to it. And so, he was so uncomfortable in my lap and his body was spastic anyway. And he moved and he turned and he began to cry and he was so uncomfortable being held. So, I put him back in his crib and just leaned over it for a long time, holding his hand. And then he was fine. (Emotion)

I’m not the same person I was six years ago. I have a whole different set of values; a whole different set of things matter to me. I’m not very much fun at dinner parties any more. (Laughter) Can you believe it? (Laughter) ‘Cause what I want to talk about, I don’t want to talk about trivialities. I’m so bored with small talk. I’m so bored with what’s happening on “American Idol” and “Dancing with the Stars” and “Next Model” and (Applause) I’m bored with all of that. I’m bored with it. It’s so meaningless!

What I want to talk about is death and dying (Chuckling) and HIV and orphans and clean water and the sick and the homeless. I want to talk about the least and the last and the lost. I want to talk about what is the church gonna do about all those things?

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 ya, sometimes I don’t. (Laughter) 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 tellin’ 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 in the sea if you dare hurt one of these little ones. And as He’s holding a child and He’s speaking with that strong voice to all those around, suddenly you go, “Ah-ha; He means it.” (Laughing) 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, have 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 gonna 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 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 … how would he ever know (Emotion) that God has not abandoned him, unless there is somebody who comes in, who scoops him up. How will they know, unless surrendered, disturbed disciples of Jesus Christ say, “I care. I will make Him visible. I will make Him known.” May I pray for us?

Father, in many ways, this is the choir. These are folks, many of whom are already very, very surrendered and disturbed. But God, may we take that message and make sure it’s a part of every day? That we would call Your church to respond as only followers of Christ can do?

God, may we truly create seats at our table. Would You show us how to make You visible in this world that does not understand You? We have done such a poor job of communicating who You are and what You care about. Help us, God by the lives that we live, by the surrendered, disturbed lives that we live. May we make You clear, not just to a watching world, but to the millions and millions and millions and millions and millions of children who need a home, who need that radical hospitality of a home and a place and a family. In Jesus’ name I pray, amen.

Audience: (Applause)


John: With that call to us, the church, we come to the end of a presentation, a very moving presentation from Kay Warren on “Focus on the Family.”

Jim: John, Kay’s message is so heartfelt and you can fell it right through the microphones. I so appreciate the fact that she allowed the Lord to open her eyes to a problem, the problem being the orphans of the world and that she jumped into it with both feet. She didn’t hesitate. She saw the need and said, yes.

And we are here to be the hands and feet of Christ to a hurting world and Kay is an excellent example of that passion and really, one of the reasons we wanted to air her comments today. It does remind me of a movie we have coming up here in the Spring of 2014. We’re aiming for March and it’s called Drop Box. It’s about a pastor in Seoul, South Korea, who set up literally a drop box to rescue babies who were abandoned. And it is a powerful story and I’m looking forward to you seeing that in March.

John: Yeah, TheDrop Box is a warm bin that is at his church, at Pastor Lee’s church. It’s set up so that mothers, mostly those who have disabled babies and don’t want to or can’t care for them, to safely give them up to someone who will care for them, to do so without being seen. And Pastor Lee found himself taking in baby after baby. He now has an orphanage.

Jim: Ah, it’s such an example of being the hands and feet of Jesus. It illustrates the sanctity of all human life and that’s one reason why “Focus on the Family” is helping to partner and promote The Drop Box movie, so that we can get this message out to the world. And you’ll be hearing more about it in the coming months.

Focus on the Family is also making, I think, big strides in this area through Wait No More. Just in the U.S., we have 100,000 children waiting for families. That’s a big number. But you know what? It’s down from a few years ago, from about 127,000. We’ve been able, through the effort of pastors and Focus on the Family and State Departments of Family Services, to work together, we’ve been able to recruit about 3,000 families to initiate the process of adoption and foster care. I am really proud of that, because I think this is right where the Lord wants His church to be, with broken and hurting people.

We’d love to have you partner with us in this effort. A gift of $100 can help find a loving family for a child in foster care. And if you can make that a monthly donation, you’ll be helping 12 children a year. I hope that puts a smile on your face. I know it does for Jean and for me. When you become a monthly donor, a Friend of the Family as we call you, we want to say thank you by offering you some gifts that will help your family. And we’ll do that about every three months, just to remind you of our appreciation for you. We treasure your partnership, as we do all we can to help orphans in North America find their forever family.

John: Oh, it really is a win-win-formula when you get involved and it just takes a quick phone call to 1-800-232-6459; 800, the letter A and the word FAMILY. You can also drop a check in the mail to Focus on the Family, 8605 Explorer Drive, Colorado Springs, Colorado 80920. Or donate at where you’ll find additional information about local Wait No More events, that movie The Drop Box and books by today’s speaker, Kay Warren.

Our program was provided by Focus on the Family and on behalf of Jim Daly and the entire team, thanks for listening in. I’m John Fuller, inviting you back next time,. You’ll learn how to get your children unplugged from their gadgets and tuned into your family as we share trusted advice and encouragement to help you and your family thrive.

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