Rick Morton has recently authored his second book about orphans: KnowOrphans. His first book, Orphanology, was coauthored with his good friend Tony Merida. The plight of orphans in the world today is getting some much deserved attention because of leaders like Rick. You can find out more about Rick’s life, ministry, and family at his website RickMortonOnline.com. With the release of this new book, I asked him to answer a few questions about why he wrote another book and what he hopes will come of our involvement in orphan care.
Philip: There has been quite a resurgence of attention among evangelicals regarding adoption and orphan care with a number of books published on the subject recently. Why write another?
Rick: As the Christian orphan care and adoption movement has grown, I think we are entering a period that could be described as its adolescence. There are some obvious growing pains that have surfaced as we have worked through issues like the theology of adoption and even the ethics of adoption. Moreover, I think we are coming to grips with the reality that to truly be responsive to the call of James 1:27, we have to take responsibility for the millions of orphans and vulnerable children that are beyond the reach of transnational adoption. In KnowOrphans, I take a look at these issues and how Christians can find practical ways to respond to make a Kingdom difference in the world.
How has your personal story shaped this book?
Since the writing of Orphanology, God has taken me on quite a journey of experience that has continued to refine my filter and, to some degree, change my perspective about adoption and orphan care. I believe that Christian families are the best environment to provide love and care for orphans and vulnerable children. I believe that transnational adoption will always be part of the equation in solving the world’s orphan and vulnerable child crisis, but it will always be a small part of what is a huge crisis. The greater focus of our work as a church needs to be upon indigenous orphan care among national churches. I also think the greater story of the revival of concern for orphans we are experiencing is more than a social movement. It is God’s way of involving many, many believers in carrying the gospel to the ends of the earth.
Let’s go a little deeper with that. Can you expound on the idea of indigenous orphan care and how the American church can be involved?
Sure. At the core, I think we have a theological reason for supporting national churches doing this work. God directed Israel to care for orphans and other vulnerable people as a testimony to His character and to give a taste of the gospel to the nations. While other nations around them were victimizing the vulnerable, Israel was to be caring for the vulnerable. Why? Israel was to be foreshadowing what Jesus was going to come to do to conquer sin and death for His own glory. When we support national churches to care for orphans, we support a similar thing. People around the world expect “wealthy” Americans and Europeans to come and adopt. They do not expect people from among them to adopt and foster orphans and vulnerable children. Quite honestly, they don’t have a category for that type of behavior in many cases. When these families step out and care for the vulnerable out of genuine and selfless love, they open a door to tell the gospel to their community because of the way they have first shown it. They are a living object lesson of the gospel in their communities.
Let me be clear, though. Showing the gospel is never a good enough reason to adopt. We adopt because we love children. But in adoption, we have a story that inevitably points to the gospel. We can’t tell the story of how God built our family without having an open door to being able to talk about our adoption in Christ. It’s an amazing blessing.
Now, back to the question. We can support these national believers in a myriad of ways. Several African nations are beginning efforts to create legal structures that will allow adoption and in-home foster care across bloodlines (heretofore unheard of in their culture). We know how to administrate these programs and can help them with resources. Their families will face the same challenges as they adopt and foster children from hard places, and we can share resources that we possess to address medical and emotional needs. Finally, we can share economic resources to make this care possible. Consider that the average adoption from Ukraine from where my children come costs over $20,000 yet a Ukrainian family can adopt at an average cost of less than $500! It is well within our means as one of the richest nation on earth. The question is whether we will use our resources to support this movement or not.
Ok, suppose American Christians are willing to support this work. Is there a willingness to care for these children by indigenous churches?
Yes. God is up to something worldwide not just here in America. Pockets of awakening of concern for orphans and other vulnerable people are breaking out all across the globe. The Christian Alliance for Orphans in cooperation with the World Without Orphans Movement are helping to organize national orphan care movements among churches in places like Nepal, India, Uganda, Kenya, Ukraine, Russia, Indonesia, Guatemala, and dozens more. For example, I will be attending a summit in South Africa this summer that involves representatives from 26 countries in Africa who are all praying and working toward seeing the church in their nations mobilized to care for orphans in families. God is at work. We just need to lift our eyes and look for places to join Him.
As we close out this interview, what final word do you have for Christians about caring for orphans globally?
As the old football coach said, “Don’t just stand there. Hit somebody!” We can’t afford to sit idly by and watch this crisis from afar. I think the enormity of the challenge often leads many to paralysis. The tens of millions of orphans and vulnerable children across the globe cannot afford our inaction. They are hurting and dying right now, and Jesus has given His Church responsibility for them. The biblical mandate to care for orphans is not optional or only for a select few in the Kingdom. It is a universal call. There is something that everyone can do, and that is the core message of KnowOrphans. I hope you will find this book helpful in gathering ideas and inspiration about how you and your church can care for orphans among the nations in Jesus name for His glory.