I dare to believe that the luckless will get lucky someday in You. You won’t let them down: orphans won’t be orphans forever. Psalm 10:14b (the Message)
Those of you who knew me before I began blogging over here at Blogging Barefoot might remember that about this time last year, I started advocating for a sweet little HIV+ orphan named Annabell. Oh my goodness, she had the chubbiest cheeks and sweetest little smile you could imagine.
I can’t believe a year has gone by.
Last summer Annabell disappeared – that is to say, the country she lives in determined her ineligible for international adoption. She was ‘too healthy’ to make the short list of physical ailments allowed by her country to be adopted by a foreigner. At least until she turned five, at which point she would be old enough to be considered undesirable for adoption within her country. The irony of that is the fact that because she’s HIV+, she’s already ‘undesirable’. The stigma associated with HIV in her country will most likely damn her to a life in an orphanage unless a foreign family chooses to adopt her. And since the older a child gets, the less likely they’ll be adopted, that’s an option her country all but took away from her last summer.
I was unprepared for how hard that would hit me. I cried a lot. Not just for her, but for the many (and we’re talking thousands – including her little brother, who I’ve never been able to find much information on) of kids like her. Unwanted children with special needs of every imaginable kind lost in the bureaucratic red tape of their countries, never to know the love and warmth and security of a family all their own.
There’s no adequate term for how simply wrong that is.
I’ve wondered for awhile what my role in helping these precious ones could be. After Annabell disappeared, it was hard to want to commit to helping any specific child at all…to get attached, only to have any real way of helping them be yanked from my grasp at any moment. It felt like setting myself up for failure; opening my heart to guaranteed heartbreak. If that sounds weak to you, it’s because it is. Believe me, I’m well aware that in comparison, any heartbreak I might feel in the process of helping these helpless ones is minuscule in comparison to the largely loveless life they lead. But I don’t think it’ll do anybody a lick of good if I try to lie and pretend that I’m some kind of strong warrior on behalf of the Orphan. Because I’m not. I’m weak, and I’m selfish. And let’s be honest – I’m a tiny little fish swimming in a ridiculously giant ocean. My voice, though louder than the voiceless, is still a soft, timid whisper in the noisy din of the world around me.
When I found out I was pregnant with Little Miss Took, I had all kinds of conflicting emotions. Overwhelming joy at the thought of another Shafer bundle arriving in less than a year…and overwhelming guilt at the thought of all the sweet lovies waiting in desperate situations for a home, when my own home was healthy and flourishing. It was a crisis of faith that I didn’t expect, and it took me a while to really claim the beliefs I’ve stated to myself and others time and time again:
Each child is created with intention and purpose – whether or not their parents planned their birth, and whether or not they’re born without what the world deems as ‘defects’.
Each child deserves the right to be born and thrive.
Each child ought to be welcomed home into the arms of a loving family – whether through genetics, or adoption, or whatever. Every child deserves a family that will love them and protect them.
There are no exceptions to this. Each and every child is precious, priceless.
And that includes my child, born into a loving home in a prosperous country.
So, I took several months off from advocating at all. I needed to let the truth of those statements sink in for me and my family. I needed to be okay with bringing another child into a world where there are still so many sitting, laying, waiting, without hope, in situations so devastatingly horrific most of us honestly can’t fathom. I know I sure can’t.
But now that Little Miss Took is nearly here, I’m feeling the pull again – to do something, no matter how small, to help be a voice for the voiceless. I’m not entirely sure how that’s going to look yet. Probably just a post here and there to start.
But for now, I’d like to direct you to a place called Reece’s Rainbow. They are a fantastic organization that has dedicated themselves to helping special-needs orphans find their families. Please, look through the waiting lists. The pictures aren’t always easy to see. For many of these kids – especially the older ones – time is running out. Once they age out of their country’s system, they become ineligible for adoption, domestic or foreign, and put into ‘institutions’ – the equivalent of mental asylums – where they’ll be confined the rest of their lives, never knowing the love of a mom or dad or siblings or grandparents or aunts or uncles. To say it’s a bleak reality would be putting it kindly…and it’s one that’s easier to ignore than to face.
I don’t really have a goal in mind with this post, other than to open a window to a world many of us simply don’t know exists. I heard someone once say (with their tongue firmly planted in their cheek) that poverty doesn’t exist if you don’t see it. All of us know that’s not true; but it’s easy for so many of us to live like it is because it’s not in our face, staring us down. The same is true for so many of us when it comes special needs orphans. It’s not something that’s often put in front of us for us to see…
…and so we live as if they don’t exist.
I hope you’ll take the time to stop by Reece’s Rainbow and let the precious faces you’ll see there open your minds and hearts a little.
Lots of love,