Do you have a heart for vulnerable children in need? It can be overwhelming to know where to start or how to begin impacting this world with Christ’s love to those who need it most – children. In this episode, Leslie shares her own story of the powerful gift of child sponsorship and adoption and how those journeys have impacted her family. Gain practical next steps that you can begin implementing today and gain a focus for your prayer life so you know how to strategically combat the darkness that is engulfing children around the world today! for those traversing the single years of life. Whether you are single find yourself longing for marriage, or you are eager to invest your time and energy in a meaningful way during your single years – this episode is sure to turn your eyes upon Jesus and renew your passion for living each day with heavenly intentionality!
Leslie Ludy: Hey, everyone! It’s Leslie Ludy, host of the Set Apart Girl Podcast: Biblical Encouragement for Women of All Ages. Today I’m really excited to tackle a topic that’s continually on my heart – how can we as Christian women reach vulnerable children around the world?
I’ve been recently hearing a lot of disturbing statistics and facts about how the orphan crisis is only growing, international adoption is at an all-time low, and it’s caused me to freshly look at this issue. How can we really become Christ’s hands and feet to the countless children around the world who are in desperate need of advocates?
A Burden is Born
Leslie Ludy: This is something that God put on my heart many years ago. When my son Hudson was about three years old, he preached his very first sermon at our Ellerslie campus. This was a topic that was really on his heart. As God was awakening Eric and I to the cause of vulnerable children, Hudson was gaining a heart for orphans as well. We asked him to preach a sermon just for fun in this empty chapel, and he paced back and forth for a few minutes thinking about what his topic would be. Then he said, “Okay, I’m ready to preach my sermon.” He had a very sober expression on his face. He took his place at the center of the stage. He looked out at his audience of about five people, and he delivered his message. It was one sentence and he said, “Did you know that God wants us to care for orphans?” Then he walked off the stage, and he left everyone who was watching him deeply moved, convicted, and even a little teary-eyed.
Leave it to a three or four-year-old to bring this profound simplicity to an issue that adults often overcomplicate! Hudson’s been a catalyst in our home for many years for reaching vulnerable children. You might say that he does not allow Eric and I to pitch our tent or remain in our comfort zone in this area because it was just a little bit after his first sermon that he built orphan beds upstairs. He had seen some pictures of orphan children in Haiti. He had found out what orphans were – that they didn’t have parents to take care of them – and he wanted to do something about this. He proposed that we would adopt 20 kids from Haiti. I was trying to explain to this little child that it’s not very practical, and I couldn’t really explain why we couldn’t just go to Haiti and adopt 20 kids. But in the end I finally said, “I don’t think we have room.”
A few days later, he came and got Eric and I and said, “I want to show you something.” We came upstairs, and he had put orphan beds all over the upstairs – a blanket, a pillow, and one of his favorite stuffed animals. He had a couple in the hall, a couple in Harper’s room, one in the bathroom, a few in our bedroom, and about five or six in his own room – so he took the brunt of this burden on himself. His point was we do have room; we can make room. Again, Eric and I were so convicted to not pitch our tent, to not stay in our comfort zone, but to constantly say, “Lord, how do You want to work through us to be Your hands and feet to the children of the world.”
Later in his life, Hudson attended a His Little Feet International Children’s Choir concert, which is a wonderful ministry that we’ve partnered with. He heard about child sponsorship for the first time at this event. He was so excited to learn that there was a way to change a child’s life and actually “adopt” them through sponsorship because not every child can leave their country and some of them still have families but they need additional support. He was really excited to learn about this. He could give them financial support, letters, encouragement, and prayer. And even if that child isn’t going to be adopted in the traditional sense, we can still adopt them spiritually through sponsorship.
He visited the table, and immediately his eye fell on the packet of a little boy from Haiti who was about his age, and he said, “This boy looks sad. I think we need to sponsor him.” From that night that little boy in Haiti became a very special part of our family, someone that we often pray for. In one of the first letters that Hudson wrote to this sponsored child he told him, “I’ll be praying for you.” Because of that Hudson has now been praying for this child every day since he was seven years old and he’s now 13. He’s sent letters, birthday gifts, ongoing support, and used a portion of his allowance towards the sponsorship. It’s been a simple and beautiful way to invest into the life of a child in need, and it’s really changed Hudson’s life and our lives as a family.
Purposing to Seek Out the Needy
Leslie Ludy: As a mom, I’m always looking for practical ways to help my children learn how to turn outward and love others sacrificially the way that Christ loves us. But in our self-focused, fast-paced culture, this is really not easy to do no matter what season of life we’re in. 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. It says, “This was the iniquity of your sister Sodom: She and her daughter had pride, fullness of food, and an abundance of idleness; neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy.” Wow! That describes American Christianity quite well, and it’s very convicting.
Early in our marriage, Eric and I realized that in our American culture, we can’t just wait for needy people to show up on our doorstep and start begging for food and clothing. We have to proactively seek them out just as Christ came to seek and save the lost. We can’t just give when it’s convenient or easy, we are called to sacrificially love those in need just as Christ did for us.
Child sponsorship is one of the ways that God has challenged us to do this. We’ve also been challenged to adopt children and to really look for other ways that we can support vulnerable children around the world through various ministry ventures. We’ve gone and visited orphanages and done a lot of different things.
I think the key for us has been constantly keeping it at the forefront of our mind and not letting it fall to the back burner because when we get so busy and so consumed with our own affairs, it’s easy to forget how many countless children around the world are crying out for advocates. It’s key to remember that God doesn’t see the statistics, He sees each individual child in need. He knows their story in detail, and He can count the number of hairs on their head. That was something that we had to learn even during our first adoption.
The Principle of Starting With One
Leslie Ludy: We had been told that there were between 43-63 million orphans or vulnerable children in the world, and that number was so staggering that we couldn’t really wrap our minds around how we could make a difference. But then God showed us one little girl in Korea without any fingers who needed a home, and we knew that He was saying, “Start with one.” Sponsorship has been similar. He’s always put one child in front of us to say, “Start here.” And He gives us a heart for that one child.
At our Set Apart Conference a couple of years ago, we were privileged to have a speaker from Northern Uganda who was a former Compassion child. Her story was truly amazing! She was constantly in these incredible situations of poverty, running for her life, and being threatened on every side, and yet, God’s hand upon her was so strong even from a young age. She said, “My life began to change when my sponsor’s began to pick up that packet. It wasn’t just a packet they picked. They picked me.”
Hudson was listening to her testimony, and his heart was once again burdened that God wants us to care for orphans. He promptly went to the sponsorship table and found packets of two brothers from Thailand and came to me saying, “I feel that God wants us to adopt these two through sponsorship.” He went back home and gathered all the other kids together and talked to them about how they could all earn bonus money to help sponsor two more children.
Reaching Out as an Extension of the Body of Christ
Leslie Ludy: It has been so powerful to constantly be reminded about what the Body of Christ is meant to do. I remember reading about Rees Howells who was an evangelist from the early 1900s when he 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 didn’t 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.
So whether you’re a mother seeking to raise outward-focused children, or simply a woman of any age with a passion to touch a life in need, I would encourage you to say, “Lord, how do You desire to work through these hands, these feet, and this life to reach people in need, specifically vulnerable children?”
Sponsorship is a wonderful way to become Christ’s hands and feet to someone in need or adoption or visiting orphans – there are so many ways – even getting involved in foster care. It’s incredible to realize that there is a true orphan crisis even in this country, but it’s called the foster care system so we don’t often look at it the same way, and yet a huge percentage of inmates in US prisons came out of the foster care system. This is clearly an area that needs Christians to step in and start being the hands and feet of Christ.
Praying to Target Specific Needs Around the World
Leslie Ludy: Eric and I love praying bold, specific prayers. It’s easy for us to pray as a family for God to help all the orphans and needy children in the world, but that doesn’t really give us a specific burden to wrestle in prayer for and watch God answer. But when you choose to sponsor, when you choose to adopt, when you choose to do foster care, when you choose to stand for a specific group of children in a specific orphan home in a specific country, it gives you a better focus of how to pray for children in need because God shows you the individual lives that you can pray for. Our children have been able to watch God answer prayer in specific ways in specific people’s lives and it builds their faith.
Hudson’s been praying for his sponsored child in Haiti for quite a few years that he would do well in school and grow in Christ. Through this boy’s letters and pictures, Hudson can see God answering those prayers in very specific ways. He told me recently, “This little boy doesn’t look so sad anymore!” That was really a blessing! Again, sponsoring a child is only one way that you can reach vulnerable children, but it’s a great practical way to start.
Whether through sponsorship, adoption, advocacy, missionary work, foster care, or in countless other ways, I challenge you to pray about getting out of your comfort zone and learning to love others as Christ has loved you – sacrificially. Remember that He has commissioned us with the task of creating our own orphan beds, making room in our lives to serve and to give to those in need. We are called to do more than pray for the needy and maybe toss some spare change into an offering basket once in a while. He’s given us the privilege of being His hands and feet to a lost and dying world.
Leslie Ludy: There are cries all over the earth today; cries of children who desperately need the practical love and help of the Body of Christ, and I pray that we will not drown out their cries with our own busyness, devices, and excuses. May we offer Him our very best by giving Him our very best because He is worthy!
I hope this episode has challenged and encouraged you. We will be having another Compassion speaker this year at our upcoming Set Apart Conference, May 25-26th in Colorado or you can stream the conference anywhere via simulcast. You can stream the conference up to three months after the event. This year we’re going to have a young woman from Kenya who is also a former sponsored child and hear how God used the Church – the Body of Christ – to transform her life. I hope you’ll consider joining us for this conference which is all about living an outward-focused life and building a Christ-centered daily existence. Go to SetApartGirl.com to learn more. I pray that you have a blessed and Christ-centered week!