I recently spoke at a church in Alaska where there are more than 700 children waiting to be adopted state-wide. Earlier this month thousands of churches recognized "Orphan Sunday" where they prayed for and called their people to respond to the crisis of the nearly 150 million orphans worldwide. In my state alone (Texas) there are currently around 31,000 children who have been removed from their homes by Child Protective Services for reasons such as neglect, abuse, drugs and the like. 

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THE BIG STATISTICS

The statistics are daunting: millions of children around the world - hundreds of thousands within the United States, dozens of thousands within your state and city, hundreds and thousands within your community alone - needing a caring family, a safe place to call home, parents to love them and someone to tell them they matter and that everything is going to be ok. This is the reality of the world in which we live, but with numbers like that it's hard to wrap our minds around what to do, where to go and how to even begin to be a solution to the problem

While fostering and adopting abused, neglected, marginalized and orphaned children is a big deal, we must learn to scale it down and make it "small", otherwise we might get lost in its massiveness. Here's what I mean:

SCALING THE VISION

Suppose I was trying to help you lose 15 pounds, and the first step was to steer you away from your favorite fast food restaurant, Chick-Fil-A (quite the hot-spot down here in the south!). As part of my scare tactic I inform you the #1 Combo Meal Deal you always order is a total of 1,070 calories (sandwich = 410; medium waffle fries = 400; medium Dr. Pepper = 260). Sounds like a lot of calories, right? Yes, but probably not enough to cause you to think twice about ordering that meal again. It tastes too good not to, so we simply discard the fact that it is incredibly unhealthy.

But what if I were to scale it down for you into different terms and tell you that 1,070 calories is equivalent to eating nearly 4 Snickers candy bars. Would you eat 4 candy bars for lunch? Probably not. Yet that's essentially what we do with the #1 Chick-Fil-A meal. A large number, like 1,070 calories, is intangible. We have no human experience tied to it, no frame of reference to measure its proportions by and nothing to compare it to. Since we can't see it, we discard it and choose taste over health. It's simply too big of a number. However, 4 Snickers bars is easy to see. It's more relatable to our human experience and much simpler to hold in our hands. It causes us to stop and think and ask ourselves the hard questions. It's much more difficult to discard its unhealthiness.

This is the art of scaling - contextualizing something of grand proportions into more tangible, relatable terms. It provides a smaller scale perspective by which someone is able to more readily see, understand and grasp the bigger picture.

STARTING WITH ONE

The orphan care statistics are tremendously large and often times overwhelming - and if we're honest, hard to grasp and therefore far too easy to dismiss. Perhaps that's why only 2% of the population has adopted. We must learn to scale it down into proportions people can understand and wrap their minds, their hearts and ultimately their hands around. The call to care for orphans doesn't mean you have to save them ALL; it does, however, mean you can change the life of at least ONE. Start with coming alongside one, loving one, caring for one and making sure that at least one knows they are valued and treasured and that everything is going to be ok. Start with one. Turn 700 into 1. Turn 150 million into 1. Turn 31,000 into 1. When you know the story of one, it becomes much more difficult to discard the truth of the whole.* 

Just today I heard of an 8-year old tied to a chair with duct tape and beaten with an electrical cord, a 13-year old left home alone for two weeks to fend for himself, a 9-year old left alone to care for siblings while mom was on the streets doing drugs and another 13-year old hit 130 times with a whip. I was reminded all over again that behind the numbers and the stats are real kids facing real issues in need of real help. You cannot hear stories like these and discard them so easily. They stay with you, even haunt you at times, and in the end must compel you to do something...for at least one. 

Do for one child what you wish you could do for all children. Love one child as if you were loving them all. If nothing else, whether it's through fostering, adopting, mentoring or simply advocating for kids who cannot advocate for themselves, we have the privilege and the responsibility of ensuring that at least one child lives with the comfort and security of knowing that in the end, everything is going to be okay. 

Perhaps the smaller we make orphan care, the bigger the impact we can actually have. 

*I use the number "one" as an illustration, not to dismiss the reality that many foster and/or adopt multiple children at a time. 

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