The first time Mike Howerton thought about orphans was on a mission trip to Kenya in 1999.
He and his team were ministering to street children ranging in age from 2 to 13. Moved by what he saw, Mike asked a missionary, “What is the hope for these kids?” He was unprepared for the missionary’s answer–that because so many of the children were abusing substances to numb their pain, they often ended up wandering into the streets and getting hit by a vehicle.
A few days later, Mike was standing on a street corner when he heard the horrific screech of brakes and ran to find a street boy who had been struck by a bus. Mike sat with the child for 45 minutes before an ambulance arrived, but it was too late. For Mike, this was the moment God began to touch his heart about the plight of the orphan. He and his wife eventually adopted a little boy and have become active in orphan care ministry since that time.
Men, I understand that you’re hesitant. I was hesitant. But I want to encourage you–if you sense the Lord in this–you’ve got to go for it. You’ve got to jump in, however God is calling you. You’ve got to be faithful to what God is stirring.”
Four men—Phil Goad (orphan advocate and Lifesong board member), Mike Howerton (lead pastor at Overlake Christian Church), Tony Mitchell (adoptee and Life Strategist), and Dennis Rainey (Family Life)—sat down to have a “living room discussion” about what it looks like for men to stand humbly and bravely for orphans, foster youth, and other vulnerable children.
Here are 3 reasons that grew out of that discussion.
1. When men draw near to fatherless and vulnerable children, they exercise a unique and incredible impact.
Raising children–whether biological, foster, or adopted–is an eternal investment. Tony Mitchell said, “As men, we have more influence on the family than anybody can. We can have a significant impact on children. Most of us have been impacted by a man in our life–a coach, or a boss, for instance–and we know the impact a man can have.”
“Men have impact when they get involved. Period.”
2. When men get involved in orphan ministry, they obey the Biblical command to care for the fatherless.
Contrary to what some may think, orphan care involvement does not necessarily require adopting or fostering. Phil Goad explained, “Everybody can do something. I haven’t been called yet to adopt or to foster a child in our home, but I’ve learned that there’s something that everybody can do–that we men can do. Guys, we can use the lessons learned in life and business to make something happen. We have to do something to help with the vulnerable children in our backyard and around the world.”
“We don’t all have to start an orphan ministry, but we all have to care about the orphan.”
3. When men care for the vulnerable, they set a powerful example to their home and church of Christlike love.
God designed men and women to serve different functions. As such, according to Tony Mitchell, “We are primarily providers and not nurturers. Many times we are task-oriented, focused on the task of conquering the mountain of work–of our mission and our ministry–and sometimes that gets in the way of providing for our family. So we may not be as open to inviting someone else into our family.”
Phil Goad raises a powerful question, “Pastors, we encourage women not to abort, but what are we going to do for the children who are born as a result of that encouragement?”
As often happens when obeying God’s commands, caring for the orphan as God ordained can result in incredible blessing.
Tony Mitchell said, “When I look at a child–whether in America in a single-parent family or in Africa meeting with children who have lost parents to AIDS–I see a reflection of myself. My marriage is stronger because I refuse to ever let my children experience a fatherless environment. I am going to be a father where fathers are not.”
Dennis Rainey added, “When you go near the heart of the orphan, you go near them thinking you’re going to do something for them, and you find out that they do more for you … and kind of put you in your place.”
Men, leave a legacy of investing in a child. There are children that need you.
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