According to UNICEF, in 2007 Zimbabwe held the unwanted distinction of having the highest ratio of orphans in the world. Many factors contributed to this predicament, but the result was a bulging orphan population that claimed nearly a quarter of all Zimbabwean children. In addition to the growing orphan numbers, Zimbabwe is one of many countries in the world where international adoption is not practiced. Therefore, orphaned children are stuck in a cul-de-sac of limitations – they can either live on the street or in an orphanage.
Considering these problems, Pastor Kendall Coffman from America and Pastor Jabulani Mudenda from Zimbabwe discussed the question, “Is there a better solution?” This question led them to a strategy where pastors and churches work together in order to move children out of orphanages and into local Christian families. Thus, the strategy of Empty the Orphanage Ministry was born: to partner with pastors who work through their churches and for orphans by placing them into local families.
What does this partnership look like?
For the church in Zimbabwe, partnership involves Christians opening their homes to welcome in orphans. As Zimbabwean pastors challenge their congregations to embrace a more biblical model of orphan care, the popular ideology is shifting away from orphanages and towards family placement. However, in a country where unemployment can rise as high as 95% (CIA World Factbook, 2009 est.), many willing families lack the financial ability to bring in even one child.
For the church in America, partnership involves Christians enabling families in Zimbabwe to open their homes to orphans. As American pastors challenge their congregations to consider the tens of millions of orphans beyond her borders, the church begins looking for strategies to alleviate the global orphan crisis. One of the best ways to do this is through child/family sponsorship. So, when the American church shares of her financial resources with those in need, she encourages families who have opportunity to receive children.
To think of this partnership another way, the American church stands in a strategic position to furnish the supply lines of support while the Zimbabwean church engages in the front lines of orphan ministry. Working together in this way, churches can provide an exit ramp to the hopelessness of orphan life.
“The church can turn the world upside down…[but] the question for us as individual Christians and as Christ’s body is: Will we settle for a safe, comfortable religion or will we use these resources for the good of the world and the glory of Christ?”*
* Excerpt from Orphanology, Tony Merida & Rick Morton (p 79)