12-year-old girl is on the run, anxious to escape from an aunt who has forced her into “entertaining” unscrupulous men. Jennifer* escapes the horror thanks to the thoughtfulness of Desmond Paul and his staff of volunteer helpers at his orphanage, MultiHelp Trust, in Harare, Zimbabwe.
Jennifer later marries and is found to be HIV-positive. Treatment and care by Paul and a host of good people are of no avail. She dies shortly after delivering a beautiful baby girl and a stillborn baby boy. Jennifer’s little girl is today a prayer warrior who prays with Paul for other children like her around the world.
Wilfred bikes on one leg; the other leg, from the hip down, has been amputated because of cancer. He spends long nights in tears, reminded of the day when his grandparents told a doctor it was better for him to die than to live with one leg. Now at Ian Castleman’s Deal Thy Bread Mission orphanage in Nakuru, Kenya, Wilfred is the minuteman of the campus. He is up and ready to preach a sermon in an instant.
One can only wonder where Wilfred would be had not someone taken him in and provided him with a home when no one else seemed interested.
Our Duty to the Disenfranchised
God gave explicit commands about our duties and responsibilities to the disenfranchised, including orphans: “Bring all the tithes of that year’s produce and store it in your towns, so that the Levites (who have no allotment or inheritance of their own) and the foreigners, the fatherless and the widows who live in your towns may come and eat and be satisfied” (Deut. 14:28, 29).
Happy Family: Melissa Harding, with Graciana, started Familia Feliz to serve the orphans she encountered in Bolivia.
Ellen White wrote: “When all is done that can be done in providing for orphans in our own homes, there will still be many needy ones in the world who should be cared for. . . . They are God’s property, for whom Christians are responsible” (Testimonies for the Church,
vol. 6, p. 286).
It is estimated that there are anywhere from 143 to 210 million orphans worldwide; that’s more than half the population of the United States. Approximately 14 million AIDS orphans live in Sub-Saharan Africa (a number higher than the total of children and youth under the age of 18 in Canada, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, and Ireland combined). Of those, studies show that as many as 60 percent of the girls become prostitutes and 70 percent of the boys become hardened criminals or terrorists.
They Call Her “Mommy”
Melissa “Missy” Harding visited Bolivia in her early 20s and was providentially led to start a home for children, now known as Familia Feliz. Harding is one of those largehearted people who are inspired with the enthusiasm of the cross of Calvary. Her life exemplifies the meaning of Ellen White’s words “men and women who are cultured and self-sacrificing, who work as Christ worked, for the cause of God and the cause of humanity” (Testimonies for the Church
, vol. 6,
Harding has adopted 10 children, and more than 75 children call her Mommy. “Seeing my first child grow up and now help me take care of orphans is one of the most rewarding experiences,” Harding says, referring to her first orphan, Daniela, who now takes care of six children in one Familia Feliz home, and serves as the school’s fourth-grade teacher.
True Revival Begins With Me
While growing up in Jordan, the sight of little shepherd boys and girls warmed my heart. The phrase “feed my lambs” always stirred me emotionally. I knew down deep in my soul that when Jesus said these words, He meant more than just feeding those cute little animals with white fleece and fat tails.
In church we were always taught that “feed my lambs” meant to go and feed people with spiritual food. Yet even as a child I knew there was something deeper in these divine words. Then a few years ago I read: “Think of the wants of the fatherless and motherless. Are not your hearts stirred as you witness their sufferings? . . . The Lord said to Peter: ‘Feed My lambs.’ This command is to us, and by opening our homes for the orphans we aid in its fulfillment. Let not Jesus be disappointed in you” (Testimonies for the Church,
vol. 6, p. 284).
Those words, from the chapter “The Care of Orphans,” changed my life. For I too was an orphan, taken in by Adventist missionaries who not only clothed, fed, and sheltered me, but also provided me with an Adventist education. Where would I be without them? I can only imagine.
I started Restore a Child to teach children to know Jesus. This is done by providing for their basic needs for food, clothing, shelter, medical care, and love. As children develop into youth, they are offered Bible studies to prepare them for baptism. This is evangelism at its best!
Jonathan Kuntaraf, director of Sabbath School and Personal Ministries at the General Conference, reports: “More than 200 youth have been baptized,170 in Indonesia alone, where Restore a Child helps support six orphanages, three of which were built by the North American Division’s Hope for Humanity initiative.”
The efforts of Seventh-day Adventist lay members such as Ian Castleman in Kenya and Paula Leen in Zimbabwe, who have given up their retirement and the comfort of their homelands to serve orphans, stand as monuments of human endeavor to the “least of these.”
From my 12 years of ministering to orphans through Restore a Child (known formerly as Reaching Hearts for Kids), I have glimpsed the true meaning of the gospel. These orphans are the “least of these” Jesus called us to care for. Their gratitude is visible in their shy smiles and soft hands grasping for affection. The music they sing praises our heavenly King. True revival includes meeting both physical and spiritual needs of “our neighbors.”
Learn more about Restore A Child
* Not her real name
Norma Nashed is founder and president of Restore a Child. This article was published November 24, 2011.