Orphan Initiative—The Call to True Religion
By Kelli Trujillo
November 17, 2011
Imagine a little girl.
Her mother has brought her to the market and asked her to “stay here and wait”—she’ll be right back. The woman then hurries away ... and the little girl never sees her again.
In this little girl’s impoverished family, where meager amounts of food don’t stretch very far, it’s somehow been decided her brothers are more valuable.
She has been cast aside. She is now an orphan.
This heart-wrenching situation is common among the orphans of India. There are 25 to 30 million orphaned children in the country—roughly equivalent to the population of Canada—and the overwhelming majority of them have virtually zero chance of being adopted.
True religion, James 1:27 says, is to care for orphans in their distress. This passage is clear: If we claim to follow Jesus, that little girl in the marketplace and the millions like her should matter to us. The J-127 Orphan Initiative, part of David C Cook Global Mission, is all about the call in James 1:27. J-127 believes this call isn’t just about orphans’ external needs for shelter or clothing or food, but it’s also a challenge to care about orphans’ distress—to minister to the damage done to their hearts by abandonment and trauma.
The Missing Piece
There are 18,000 Christian orphanages in India, and they seek to care for many of the country’s orphans, but they can only do so much. “We have 280 children in our home,” says Dr. Alexander Philip, director of an orphanage in Bihar, India. “The price of food and utilities is increasing by the day. We need to hire teachers who can provide for the spiritual needs of our children, but we cannot.” Orphanages have their hands full providing shelter, food and clothing ... yet the wounds of trauma and abandonment remain.
The J-127 Orphan Initiative is working to supply that missing piece: an ongoing small group ministry that provides orphans with mentoring, lay counseling and a spiritual refuge to begin healing.
Three times a week, Christian adults from local churches—often a husband and wife—come to the orphanage to lead children in games, discuss Scripture and help them form basic life skills like using money, practicing good hygiene, communication skills and protecting themselves from bullying. These “aunties and uncles” treat the children as friends rather than as students, establishing strong relationships that enable kids to talk through their pain. These lay counselors receive training, curriculum and compensation from David C Cook Global Mission to equip them for their long-term ministry among hurting kids.
“Every one of the kids in these orphanages is there because of horrific cycles in their family: prostitution, sex trafficking, bonded labor, overwhelming poverty, hopelessness and suicide,” says Eric Thurman, the president of David C Cook Global Mission. “But we believe Christ is our Redeemer. And part of what redemption means is consciously breaking those cycles of sin, of pain, of trauma.”
Through the J-127 program (dubbed “The Jesus Fun Club” by the kids) orphans are experiencing a deeper healing beyond food, clothing and shelter. They’re learning they are significant and valued.
And the little girl abandoned in the market? Decades ago she, too, lived in an orphanage. But today she is an “auntie.” She sings with orphans and reads to them; she asks questions and listens; she offers the beginnings of healing for their emotional and psychological wounds. And from her own experience of Christ’s redemption and healing in her painful life story, she brings to orphans the hope of Jesus.