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Pure and undefiled religion before god and the father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble...
The chapel was vacant and dark. Hudson, my four-year-old son, ran happily around the big empty room as a small group of our friends and co-workers explored the facility. Our ministry had recently taken possession of a former Bible college campus, and everyone was gearing up for the launch of our new discipleship training center, touring the various buildings on the campus and discussing various equipment that would be needed for the launch.
Hudson—who was not at all interested in hearing about lighting, seating, and microphones—busied himself playing on the stairs leading up to the platform. One of our friends asked him, “Hudson, are you going to preach us a sermon?” Hudson paused and considered her words, then slowly nodded his head, a serious expression on his face. The adults quickly sat down in front of the stage while Hudson paced back and forth for a few minutes—just like he’d seen his daddy do—preparing a message in his mind. Finally, he declared that he was ready to preach his sermon. With a sober expression on his face, he took his place at the center of the stage, gazed out at his audience of five, and delivered his message. It was just one sentence:
“Did you know that God wants us to care for orphans?”
And with that, he walked off the stage, leaving his small congregation deeply moved, convicted, and a little teary-eyed. Leave it to a four-year-old to bring profound simplicity to truths that adults often over-complicate!
Caring for orphans was a burden that had been on Hudson’s heart for much of his young life. When he was two, we’d brought his little sister home from Korea (and for the longest time, he believed that babies came from airports!). When he was three, a family friend had visited Haiti on a short-term outreach and had brought home photos of orphans. Hudson was taken aback by the images of the forlorn and sickly kids. He asked, “Who dose kids? Why dey sad?”
I explained that they were orphans—kids who didn’t have a mommy or daddy to take care of them. Hudson was stunned. It had never occurred to him that somewhere in the world there were children without parents to take care of them. When I told him that there were lots and lots of orphans, he was even more perplexed and disturbed.
Hudson proposed that we go to Haiti and bring home twenty orphans to live with us. I smiled at his childish enthusiasm. “But where would they all sleep?” I asked him. Hudson didn’t have a ready reply, but a few days later, he came bounding down the stairs and told Eric and me that he needed to show us something. He led us by the hand to the upper level of our house and showed us the “orphan beds” that he’d made all around our house. Each orphan bed consisted of a blanket, a pillow, and one of his favorite stuffed animals. There were two orphan beds in Mommy and Daddy’s room, one or two in the hallway, a couple in Harper’s room, and about five in Hudson’s bedroom (he’d taken the greatest burden of caring for these orphans upon himself).
“See?” he exclaimed. “We do have room!”
Eric and I were speechless. If only it were that simple, I remember thinking to myself.
But in reality, it is that simple.
With the number of orphaned and vulnerable children in the world ranging somewhere between 143 million and 165 million, it can be easy for us as adults to feel paralyzed by the issue. Often, we don’t have the first clue how to put a dent in such overwhelming need.
But when children hear about this crisis, they quickly grasp the solution: share what you have with those in need. Open your home, your heart, and your life to them. Love them sacrificially. Even if you have to sacrifice your comfort to do so, and even if it means sharing your favorite stuffed animals with them.
A few years after the “orphan bed” experience, Hudson attended a concert by the His Little Feet International Children’s Choir at our church, where he heard about child sponsorship for the first time. He was thrilled to learn that there was a way to change a child’s life and “adopt” them through sponsorship—financial support, letters, encouragement, and prayer—even if that child couldn’t come to live in our home. That night, he visited the Compassion® International sponsorship table and his eye immediately fell on the packet of a little boy from Haiti, just about his age. “This boy looks sad,” Hudson told me. “I think we need to sponsor him.” From that night, that little boy in Haiti became a special part of our family.
THAT LITTLE BOY IN HAITI BECAME
A SPECIAL PART OF OUR FAMILY
In one of the first letters that Hudson wrote to his sponsored child, he told him, “I’ll be praying for you.” As a result, Hudson has been praying for this child every day since he was seven years old (he’s now eleven). Hudson has loved sending letters, birthday gifts, and ongoing support to this child by using a portion of allowance toward the sponsorship. It’s been a simple yet beautiful way to invest in the life of a child in need, and it has profoundly changed Hudson’s life.
As a mother, I’m always looking for practical ways to help my children learn to turn outward and love others sacrificially, the way that Christ loves us. In our self-focused, fast-paced culture, this is not easy to do. In fact, when we read the description of Sodom’s sin in Ezekiel 16:49, it’s startling to realize how easily we as American Christians can fall into the same trap:
“…this was the iniquity of your sister Sodom: She and her daughter had pride, fullness of food, and abundance of idleness; neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy.”
Early in our marriage, Eric and I realized that, in our American culture, we cannot wait for needy people to show up on our doorstep begging for food and clothing. Rather, we must proactively seek them out—just as Christ came to “seek and save the lost.” And we can’t just give when it is convenient or easy. Rather, we are called to pour out our lives for those in need, just as Christ did for us.
But the challenge remains—how can we make these truths practical for our children in every day life?
Child sponsorship has been one of the tools that has helped us do this. Sponsoring a little boy in Haiti has helped our children look beyond themselves and practically touch a life that they would never have been able to serve otherwise. It has helped remind them that God doesn’t just see the statistics—He sees each individual child in need, knows their story in detail, and can count the number of hairs on their head.
At our recent Set Apart Conference, child sponsorship touched our family in yet another way. We were privileged to have a woman named Olive speak on behalf of Compassion® International. Olive grew up in Northern Uganda. Her story is absolutely amazing. As a young child, she lived in constant fear of being kidnapped by rebel soldiers, and often hid in the woods alone at night to avoid being captured. At times, she found herself caught in a war zone, running for her life through a spray of bullets. She battled daily hunger and poverty. But she was introduced to God at an early age, and even in the darkest times, she believed that He had a plan for her life. In the midst of her desperate situation, Olive was registered into the Compassion® child sponsorship program and an Australian couple chose to sponsor her. It radically changed her life. Because of their sacrificial love, she was able to receive an education, proper food and medical care, and the opportunity to succeed—eventually coming to America and earning a Master’s degree. She now advocates for vulnerable children around the world.
“My life began to change when my sponsors picked up that packet,” she told us. “It wasn’t just a packet they picked. They picked me. And they transformed me.”
Hudson listened to Olive’s testimony, and his heart was once again burdened that God wants us to “care for orphans.” He promptly went to the Compassion® sponsorship table and found the packets of two brothers from Thailand, feeling strongly that God was hallmarking them for our family.
“Can we sponsor two more?” he asked me enthusiastically as we drove home for a dinner break. Before I had a chance to answer, he informed me, “I’ve got it all figured out. If all of the Ludy kids do four extra household jobs each week and earn some bonus money, we can cover the cost of at least one of these sponsorships!”
As soon as we got home, Hudson called a meeting in the living room with his siblings. He presented the packets to them, and told them he felt we should all work together to help sponsor the two boys. Some of his brothers and sisters were excited; others were uncertain. But as Hudson continued to share his passion for helping children in need, the enthusiasm spread around our home—including to Eric and me!
Rees Howells, an evangelist in the early 1900s, once described a life-changing moment when he was walking through his village and praying for a sibling group of children who had recently lost their parents. God, be a Father to the fatherless, he prayed, quoting from Psalm 68. Immediately, he felt God’s Spirit speak to his heart. “I am a Father to the fatherless through my Body. You are My hands and feet. If I am to be their Father, I must be one through you.”
When Christ was here on this earth, what did His hands do? What did His feet do? He did not serve His own agenda. His entire life was one of giving, loving, and serving. He ministered to the poor, rescued the outcast, gave hope to the hopeless, and delivered those who were in bondage. As His Body, He asks us to do the same—to become a practical extension of His heroic, sacrificial, unconditional love.
Whether you are a mother seeking to raise outward-focused children, or simply a woman with a passion to touch a life in need, I urge you to consider child sponsorship as a practical way to become Christ’s “hands and feet” to someone in need. (Or if you already sponsor a child, prayerfully consider taking on another!) In a nutshell, here are some ways that sponsoring children through Compassion® has personally changed our family:
Around the time when Hudson was four years old, Eric learned about a little four-year-old boy in Liberia who had no one to care for him. He had been abandoned on the streets to fend for himself. He was hungry, alone, and scared, without anyone to advocate on his behalf. Eric was deeply disturbed to hear about the horrible circumstances that this boy—and countless others like him-—faced everyday. That night, he was awakened out of a troubled sleep. He felt that God was reminding him about that four year old boy in Liberia and challenged him with a heart-piercing question, “What if that was Hudson?” Stunned, Eric pondered what he as a father would do if he knew that his child was alone and helpless on the other side of the world. His answer was clear. “If that was Hudson, I would do whatever it took to get help to him. I would give everything I had to rescue my little boy—no matter what the cost.” After a moment, Eric felt God speak a reply to his heart. “Eric, that little boy in Liberia is My Hudson.”
It was a profound and life-changing moment, and it has forever altered the way we view children in need. God sees each and every child in crisis, and loves them even more than we love our own children. He asks us to love them as He does.
GOD SEES EACH AND EVERY CHILD IN CRISIS
Sponsoring children has helped us see the preciousness of each child in need, rather than merely focusing on the numbers, statistics, and facts about child poverty. It has helped us gain the heart of God toward the individual children all around the world who are crying out for help and hope. It has helped our children realize that there are boys and girls their own age who have a very different life than they do. Instead of just teaching our kids the rather vague principle of “helping kids in need,” it allows them the opportunity to help a specific child that God has placed in their lives, and to see that child as God sees them.
Eric and I are huge proponents for praying bold, specific prayers. It’s easy to pray as a family for God to help “all the orphans and needy children in the world,” but that doesn’t give us a specific burden to wrestle in prayer for and watch God answer. Sponsoring is a great way to gain a more specific prayer focus as a family. We learn about the needs of the children we are sponsoring, and as a family we bring those needs before God. Our children are able to watch how God answers prayer in specific ways in specific people's lives, and it builds their faith. Hudson has been praying for his sponsored child in Haiti for over four years, that he would do well in school and grow in Christ. Through this boy’s letters and pictures, Hudson can see God answering his prayers in specific ways. “He doesn’t look so sad anymore,” Hudson told me when he saw a more recent picture of the boy.
Of course, sponsoring is not the only way that we pray for specific people and needs—but for our children, it has become one of the most clear and effective. In fact, when one of our children is struggling with fearful thoughts or other distractions, we will often encourage them to pray for our sponsored child at that moment. This helps take their eyes off themselves and their own struggles, and gives them a mighty weapon against the enemy’s attack on their mind!
Children often believe that they are too young to make a significant impact for God’s Kingdom. Unfortunately, parents and adults often make the same assumption—waiting until they are “old enough” before they provide their kids with opportunities to serve those in need. But we have found that even very young children are eager and ready to make a difference in someone’s life—just as we saw with Hudson creating the “orphan beds” when he was only four years old. They just need to be given the opportunity. As our children do “bonus jobs” around the house to earn money to put toward our sponsorships, they learn that they can make a significant, measurable difference in the life of a child, for the glory of God. They catch a glimpse of the beauty of sacrificial love. And it gives them a vision for doing even more as they grow older. Many of our children already have the desire to become missionaries when they grow up. (Seven-year-old Kip is planning to build an "underground church" in North Korea, by digging a secret tunnel beneath the ground that Christians can meet in!) Sponsoring has played an important role in our children catching a vision for the poured-out life that God has called us to as Christians.
EVEN VERY YOUNG CHILDREN ARE EAGER AND
READY TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE IN SOMEONE'S LIFE
+ + +
Whether through sponsorship, adoption, advocacy, missionary work, or countless other ways, God has called each of us to get out of our comfort zone and learn to love others as He loved us—sacrificially. He has commissioned each of us with the task of creating our own “orphan beds”: making room in our lives to serve and give. We are called to do more than pray for the needy and toss our spare change into the offering basket. He has given us the amazing privilege of becoming His hands and feet to a lost and dying world.
There are cries resounding all over the earth today; cries of children who desperately need the practical love and help of the Body of Christ. May we not drown out their cries with our busyness, our devices, and our excuses.
May we offer Him our very best, by giving them our very best—because He is worthy.
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