Family we never knew
"Let the little children come to me..." Matthew 19.14
Proof reading the church newsletter, I was shocked to read about the lives of three schoolchildren who are sponsored to attend Hope & Faith School in Lusaka. All are orphans, dependent on relatives who, themselves, have barely enough to live on, and vulnerable to the scourge of drugs and cheap alcohol. Covid 19 has been like the final straw, breaking the back of flawed and fragile domestic structures and driving many former bread-winners to despair. The tragic consequences are played out in the lives of their dependents.
For us, school was somewhere to escape from. For our sponsored children it is an oasis - of care, of hope and of basic necessities like food. So when school is out, or forced to close, or unaffordable, these children go without... care, hope and basic necessities like food. Why does it have to be this way? Is it indolence on the part of foster-carers, or government corruption, or unfair international trade rules? These are big questions which may never be resolved. In the meantime, young lives are being blighted. Their predicament cannot be set aside for another day.
So what to do? Our prayers will guide us because that is how God speaks and these are his children and he cares about them. He is also concerned that we should care about them, so he will act through us. Christians often boast about belonging to a global and eternal family. In that sense none of us in an orphan, childless or an only child. We have brothers and sisters on every continent. What does it mean to say that, unless we relate to our brothers and sisters in Christ in a similar way to that in which we behave towards our biological siblings? We cannot, of course, do that with everyone - only God can. But he brings us together in manageable ways, such as through partner churches and twinning arrangements.
Within these tangible networks, we can and must put our faith into practice and come good on our words. In our privileged society where material affluence has taken "the waiting out of wanting", many of us don't need more stuff. So when it comes to Christmas we can afford to put charitable gifts on our Christmas lists and we can source Christmas cards from a worthy cause. Some of us may even be able to afford to buy double at the supermarket and donate half to the food bank.
To help decide, ask God to introduce you to the fellow Christians he wishes you to consider your spiritual siblings and then consider them in the context of your biological family. We tend to treat each member of our biological families according to their needs, yet without neglecting anyone. What does that look like in the context of your spiritual family? As far as we know, Jesus never married, nor did he have children of his own. Yet he related to others as if they were family - and he met their needs and he accepted their love and care in return. Ask God to open the flood-gates; we have so much to give and receive...