ERLC leader urges care for orphans
WASHINGTON (BP) –- Russell D. Moore's visit to a hushed Russian orphanage more than 10 years ago opened his eyes to a new understanding of his spiritual adoption. The experience furthered his path to becoming a leading advocate for Christian involvement in orphan care.
The president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) recalls that day in a new video on the entity's website in preparation for Orphan Sunday, Nov. 3.
His wife Maria and he walked into the orphanage to meet two 1-year-old boys who would become their first of five sons, and it was the silence –- not the squalor or stench -– that struck him, Moore says. There were many children in the building, but there was no noise. Workers told them it was normal for the orphanage.
"Children cry for a reason," Moore says in the video. "They cry to alert a parent: 'I'm hungry. I'm cold. I'm scared. I'm alarmed.' But a child who doesn't receive a response ultimately stops crying.
"It was at that moment that I realized something of what the Bible means when the Bible says that we cry out, 'Abba, Father.' We groan in distress. We scream, the Scripture pictures it, to a Father who is able to deliver us. Every single one of us [was] spiritually orphaned, and every single one of us through the Gospel has found not only reconciliation and freedom from condemnation. We found a Father, and we found a home, a table filled with brothers and sisters."
This spiritual reality calls for practical action from those who have been adopted for eternity, he says.
"Since we've received that, we have a responsibility, the Scripture says, to love and to demonstrate that love for widows and orphans in their distress," Moore says.
Moore is a leading voice in the growing pro-adoption movement among evangelical Christians. His 2009 book -- Adopted for Life: The Priority of Adoption for Christian Families and Churches -- has played an important role in that cause. In his first year as the president, the ERLC is seeking to help Southern Baptists and other evangelicals understand and become involved with orphan care and adoption -– especially as Orphan Sunday nears.
He acknowledges not all are called to the same role in fulfilling the biblical call "to look after orphans and widows in their distress" (James. 1:27).
"Not everybody's called to adopt," Moore says in the video. "Not everybody's called to participate in foster care. Not everybody's called to lead a mission trip overseas. But all of us are called to care for orphans and widows in some way.
"So as we recognize Orphan Sunday, I would just call on you to pray and to ask the Father, 'How would you have me, how would you have our family care for orphans around the world, in my community, in my neighborhood who need to know the sort of love that I've received as a child of God through adoption in the gospel?"
Kelly Rosati, an advocate for orphan care, explains in an audio interview with Moore on the ERLC's website how Christians who don't adopt can aid those who do.
"One of the things that I like to talk about is the fact that if you can cook, pray, clean, drive, babysit or a whole host of other things, you can really have a significant impact in the life of a former orphan and his or her new adoptive family," says Rosati, Focus on the Family's vice president of community outreach.
She says "coming around the adoptive families in your congregation" is a simple thing nearly everyone can do.
The need is great, Moore says in a blog post on the ERLC's website, www.erlc.com.
"Right now, there is a crisis of fatherlessness all around the world," he says. "Chances are, in your community, the foster care system is bulging with children, moving from home to home to home, with no rootedness or permanence in sight."
In addition, he writes, "children are 'aging out' of orphanages around the world. Many of them will spiral downward into the hopelessness of drug addiction, prostitution or suicide. Children in the Third World are languishing in group homes, because both parents have died from disease or have been slaughtered in war. The curse is afoot, and it leaves orphans in its wake."
Christ's followers "should fill in the gap left by a contemporary Western consumer culture that extends even to the conception and adoption of children," Moore says.
Other newly posted or reposted resources on the ERLC website regarding orphan care and adoption are:
-- Video of a panel discussion at June's Southern Baptist Convention on neglected children, adoption and the inner city featuring Moore and others.
-- Comments from best-selling Christian author Tricia Goyer and her husband, John, about their decision to adopt.
-- A blog post by Erica Ho regarding the love of an adoptive mother for her children. Ho, who lives in Nashville with her husband, Calvin, is a missions specialist coordinating international orphan care, disaster relief and local ministry for at-risk children.
The sponsor of Orphan Sunday is the Christian Alliance for Orphans. Its website is http://orphansunday.org/.
Tom Strode is the Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress) and in your email (baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).