Many people wonder where our children come from and often ask if they are all "true' orphans. They are not. In fact, we prefer to call ourselves a Children's Center rather than an Orphanage. But the name still conjurs up children with no parents at all.
The reality is, our center encompasses a wide range of children who would be in the Social Services system in the United States. But because countries like Mozambique rarely have a foster care system or a very developed adoption system, children most often end up in children's centers.
Our children come to live with us for a large variety of reasons.
*Full orphans with no known parents or family.
*One or both parents are known and "in the picture" but can't or won't provide for them.
*One or both parents are "in the picture" but the children have been removed from the home by the police or social welfare. This can be for as many reasons as you can imagine: sexual abuse, physical abuse, neglect, alcoholism, mental illness, prostitution, abandonment, etc.
One of the saddest scenarios of how our children arrive is when the mother meets a new man and he doesn't want another man's children. That can result in the children being kicked out of the house outright or in neglect or abuse until the children leave on their own or someone contacts the authorities and the children are removed. This is heartbreaking. Obviously, it is hard to imagine how a mother can allow this but often women feel like they have no choice and often have children with the new partner that they need to care for as well.
This scenario also sheds some light on why we have so many more boys than girls, about 3-1. The girls in Mozambican culture do all of the housework, the cooking, cleaning, carrying water, collecting wood, gardening, etc. So females are handy to have around. And, they are not as threatening to a man as another man's sons are. Also, boys are more likely to leave home to try and make it on their own at a younger age than girls are.
As I write these things, they seem so stark and harsh. And they are. But they are also complex and shaded and have a lot more elements to them than I could hope to communicate here, or even understand.
So if you are stirred as you read this, take it as motivation to pray with compassion that parents hearts would be returned to their children. The vast majority of Mozambicans love their children with the same love and commitment as you would find anywhere in the world. It's simply that the population that we interact with are broken and lost and their children pay the price, just as they do anywhere in the world.
By the way, we have a very aggressive Reintegration Program, actively trying to find family members who will take responsibility for their children. We strongly believe that the best place for these kids is with their families, in their communities and their own culture. Every year, many children are able to be reunited with their families and although it's hard to say goodbye, it's almost always with great joy and rejoicing that they leave!
I will always count my time in Mozambique as one of the greatest privileges of my life. The opportunity to obey God in trying to live out James 1:27 - "looking after orphans . . . in their distress" is such an amazing adventure that I wouldn't trade for anything.
As long as He calls me here, I will continue to trying to love and care for "the least of these" with my whole heart. Someone once prayed for me that God would use me to be a bridge between what these boys "should" have had (loving parents who provide for all of their needs) and the reality of what they have (abandoned, abused, rejected) and I love trying to live that prayer out.
The good news is that our Lord is the Father to the Fatherless and the Lord also promises He will set the lonely into families. What wonderful news! Please pray with me that this scripture will be fulfilled in our ministry!
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