The Vision 2020 goal of finding a family for every child in Orange County and equipping the church to support them may sound lofty. To some it may sound impossible. Yet, we know we serve a God who cares deeply for vulnerable children and specializes in turning impossible dreams into reality. In fact, this movement to care for the vulnerable children of Orange County was born out of yet another miraculous church-based movement – one that began six years ago when the Rwandan government decided to empty all the orphanages in the country by placing the children into families.
Early on, the idea was met by some with resistance and skepticism. Rwanda at that time had more than 3,000 children living in over 35 orphanages – where would there ever be enough families and resources for these children in a country where the average income is around $4 per day?
One orphanage owner said closing the orphanage was impossible. He argued some children were “unadoptable,” and he pointed to three children from his orphanage as examples: Laurence, a 17-year-old girl living with HIV; Joel, a 10-year-old living with HIV; and Jean Pierre, a 4-year-old with cerebral palsy. No family, he said, would be willing to take in these sick or handicapped children, and therefore they would always need to be in the orphanage.
The local church knew, however, that God cared about each child, that He saw them and had a plan for their lives. They knew that God designed the local church as the hope of the world. Volunteers began raising up and training adoptive families with the support of the Saddleback Orphan Care Initiative.
Joel, the 10-year-old living with HIV, was quickly adopted into a family from a local church who loves him and provides him with the care he needs. Laurence, who herself had no hope of ever leaving the orphanage, was adopted by Kabibi, a healthy woman living with HIV in Kigali (we shared their story here).
For a time it seemed that Jean Pierre would be one of the last children in the orphanage, as his cerebral palsy made his care more challenging. However, as the last few children left in the orphanage went home to family, the miraculous happened: Darlene, a woman who had helped to care for Jean Pierre at the orphanage, had grown to love him as a son. She couldn’t see him left alone and abandoned once again as the orphanage closed, and she decided to adopt him herself.
Darlene wasn’t sure she had the resources to care for him on her own, so she reached out to the local church who, through the Orphan Care Initiative, got them connected to a special needs school that will provide specialized care for Jean Pierre and training for Darlene. Darlene is so passionate about providing Jean Pierre the best care possible she is relocating in order to be closer to the school. Jean Pierre, once an “unadoptable” in the orphanage, is now a much-loved son.
Jean Pierre’s former orphanage is now completely closed. Every one of the over 100 children who were living there is now in a family of his or her own. In fact, in the entire nation, less than 200 children are still on their way to finding a family and the majority of orphanages have closed or transitioned to community centers. The miracle that has happened in Rwanda is just one testament to what God can do when His Church ignores the voice of those who say, “It can’t be done.” We believe we are seeing him move again in unprecedented ways in Orange County.