Say Mama, a reflection on the orphan crisis

I woke up early this morning, which is typical. I’m a morning person through and through. My best hours are 5-7am accompanied by strong coffee that I constantly forget and reheat. After years of small kids I know no other way to drink coffee. I took out the dog and puttered in the kitchen and then I read, checked email and scrolled facebook for a minute or two, something that is part of work for me and always in my morning routine: a quick scroll, answering messages and posting on the One Orphan page. A sweet little video popped up and I watched for a moment. A darling, blonde toddler was watching the Good Dinosaur and crying a bit over the dinosaur’s accident. He had fallen and was separated. With tears in her eyes she called out to the screen, get up! She said this a few times and then changed her tone, he needs his mama, say mama, she said, say mama she called to the screen.

For a moment I envisioned a world in which all children knew that they could say mama and receive aid. But that’s not our reality. Instead we live in a sin-ravaged world that leaves millions of children without the safety net of family and thousands more within families that cannot care for them properly due to a plethora of situations.

This week, and weeks before, I sent teams to stand in as surrogates. To hold and feed and support for just a minute. They are trained, they know how to enter carefully and minimize their presence… to enter as a supporting role to the overworked and overwhelmed in-coutry staff. To purchase supplies locally, to hire out work locally and to not impress our American ways on another culture.  They know all the things.

That’s the hard part. We know now. We’ve known for a long time. Orphan care got really big in Christian circles in the past several years. But it was also highly criticized. There were even published comments by public officials stating that they would rather see children die in their birth country than be adopted.

I think the criticism was good in many ways. It helped us all examine our motives, our language and our practices. But it also slowed us down. Adoption is on the decline, the foster care needs are soaring and international orphanages are full and struggling.

There are so many children who do not know how to say mama. It’s not in their vocabulary. But friends, it was designed to be part of their vocabulary! I am mother to a child who did not know families existed until we showed up at a dim Chinese government office to take her home at the end of her 5th year. We had to teach her to say mama. And now, in her 10th year, I often find myself rolling my eyes because she knows how to do it a bit too well! It wasn’t easy. But they are all worth it.

It might not look like adoption or foster care for every child. The needs are complex and so are the children. But I’m worried that a little criticism has taken the wind out of our sails. That perhaps we arrived and found a mess we couldn’t fix and retreated rather than just sitting in the mess with them.

I don’t think we get to do that friends. And we don’t have to know all the answers. There are children who don’t know how to call for their mama and the amount is staggering, let’s keep going… adopting, supporting those who adopt, expanding our families when they feel big enough, caring for a child for two weeks through Safe Families or Jonah’s Journey, taking foster care classes, mentoring an at-risk teenager, serving in orphanages overseas, raising money for big needs. Let’s do it all with BIG love in Jesus name. Because when saying mama isn’t an option saying Jesus is even more powerful.

 

About the author

Erica

Erica is an advocate for simplicity, family time, making a cozy home and loving others well. She is the community coordinator for One Orphan, the orphan care ministry of America World Adoption Association. Erica and Calvin have four young children; Elliott, Charlotte, Lola and Liam. They currently reside in Nashville, TN.

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