Catching God’s vision for orphan care

McLaurin Baptist Church in Grande Prairie, AB

By Randy Burtis

How did we, as a church, take on the mantle to care for the orphan? I wish I could say we started out with an intentional strategy, but the truth is we simply became aware of what God was already doing and tried to catch up!

I came to McLaurin Baptist Church in Grande Prairie, Alberta, in 2005 to be their pastor of family ministries. At that time my wife and I were already growing our family through adoption. Before long we realized others in the church were open to adoption and orphan care. One family had three adopted children. Another family was waiting to adopt domestically. After a year we had other families in various stages of adoption come to our church. Soon adult adoptees started to feel comfortable sharing their story with us, and the heart of God and the heart of His people on this matter started to come together.

At one point we realized that 20 per cent of our congregation have family who are in an adoption circle. We have children or adults who have been adopted domestically, and also from South Carolina, Ethiopia, China and Haiti. We also have folk who are working with the foster care program in our city. Around town we are called “the adoption church!” But I believe that, in any church, adoption just has to be celebrated and God will do some amazing things in and through the people involved.

As the church leadership, what we did right was to create an environment where people could pursue their passions. Many of our people with a heart for the orphan would get together in their homes and just share together.

It’s difficult to describe the amazing experience of participating in those conversations. It’s something beautiful, inspiring, stretching. It leaves you with a sense of anticipation, because you have encountered God in that moment.

We would gather with very little on the agenda, just this burning desire to do something. In our minds we saw faces of little ones with such great potential, but needing the means to thrive. Our hearts were moved to step out of our comfort zones, to be bold and ask others around us for ways to support this cause – these kids that God had planted in our hearts.

We suggested ideas, and God simply directed us to what we should attempt. The goal was always larger than us, which just confirmed that God was in it and that we would need to rely on Him. God always came through!

For some activities we partnered with people in other churches. For one big event we worked with a local high school leadership group that included both Christians and non-Christians. What a blessing it was to represent the heart of God to these youth as we worked hand in hand with them!

We wrote letters when the earthquake hit Haiti, calling our government to bring kids who were in the process of being adopted home to families in our community. We have rallied families to write to the Kenyan government, encouraging Kenya to allow Canadian families to adopt eligible children from their orphanages, and we’ve seen some progress there. When one of our youth came with a petition to support legislation that protects women from forced abortions, we heartily gave that a platform for our church to respond to.

Our church offers bursaries to help those who go on short-term missions, and we always give these folk opportunities to share before, during and after their trips. When we heard of the needs in an orphanage in Kenya, we organized a number of projects.

In one sewing weekend we created hundreds of cloth diapers and covers for babies. We collected warm clothes and school supplies. We approached local businesses to contribute items for silent auctions and door prizes, then held a fundraiser by putting on a family magic show with concession stands and a silent auction. A group of guys spent a night playing cards and raised money this way. This group also created a child sponsorship program to help improve the quality and quantity of food for the nearly 300 children at this orphanage. We were blessed to raise thousands of dollars in cash, as well as supplies, that our missions team took to the orphanage.

We have provided resources to our church family to help them understand foster care and the adoption process and how they can support families on that journey. We have started a yearly Orphan Sunday event, but we also promote awareness throughout the year through teaching, sermons, and presenting prayer and stewardship opportunities.

We are now looking at ways to provide support for families who have adopted, or are in this process. We are intentionally listening to God to discover what He has next for us in caring for the orphan.

Randy Burtis was pastor of family ministries at McLaurin Baptist Church in Grande Prairie, Alberta, at the time of publication.