I just returned from almost 3 weeks in Africa, working with church and ministry leaders from 16 African nations at 3 events in Kenya, Uganda and South Africa (you can see video reports from each of these events in earlier blog posts). Of course, once an experience like this is over, we have the opportunity to reflect, and then share with others within the movement.
After pondering the trip for a few days, here are some key things that I learned in Africa:
1. The Holy Spirit is leading African Christians to care for orphans.
As we discuss “movements” in local and global contexts, we must always confirm that it is the Holy Spirit that is leading the way. We must never get in front of the Holy Spirit in this; rather we should follow Him as He blazes the path in the hearts of believers and local churches.
After meeting with over 650 pastors, ministry leaders and lay leaders, listening to their stories and passions, I can confidently report that God is truly leading the way in Africa. Culturally, taking children from deceased relatives into one’s family is commonplace, and the Lord is guiding Christians to expand this practice to include children from other families and regions. In this way, the African Christian church is poised to change the culture and provide families to children in need, no matter where they live or what surname they have.
2. To truly impact African orphans, African Christians must take the lead.
While traveling in Africa, you can witness hundreds of international agencies caring for humanitarian needs. From UN camps to Compassion International trucks, caring individuals and organizations abound to respond to critical crises throughout the continent.
But sustained solutions will require local Christians taking leadership roles, developing vision and plans, and then mobilizing churches throughout their nations to spread the message of God’s love for children and the church’s role in orphan care. What a blessing to witness hundreds of pastors and ministry leaders taking this responsibility and committing to mobilize the church in every region of their countries!
3. God has a plan for local African churches to rise on behalf of orphans in their midst.
While much attention is given to international adoption in discussions of the orphan crisis, the only solution that can scale to equal the need is for local African churches to care for African orphans within their own communities. Not only are these leaders rising to the challenge, but the Holy Spirit led them to developing vision and plans that were unique to each nation and culture present at the events over the last few weeks. I believe these plans were inspired by the Holy Spirit and written by the delegates from each nation.
The plans include action items such as:
a. Training pastors, church and parachurch leaders on the Biblical and theological basis of orphan care.
b. Producing materials for domestic adoption, foster care and other orphan care programs in local languages.
c. Increasing awareness of the local orphan crisis and investing in preventive social services.
d. Solidifying national orphan care movements and creating formal alliances.
e. Engaging government for supportive policies and legislation conducive to effective orphan care.
There are so many more, but this gives you an indicator of the solid plans that these leaders are taking back to their nations!
4. Africa has a home-grown solution to the orphan crisis.
Over and over again, we heard faith leaders crying to the Lord to call families to adoption, fostering and mentoring orphans. They lifted their prayer for all orphans and vulnerable children in their nations to find homes within indigenous families in their own country and culture.
5. I am not a good dancer.
This one really doesn’t fit within the other learning points, but I definitely proved my assumption that I am rhythmically challenged. A wonderful group of orphans that performed for the Uganda Leadership Forum (with fantastic rhythm and harmony) attempted to show me some of their dance moves. While they were not very successful (as you can see in this video), we had a great time and were deeply touched by their faith and their prayers.
May God truly bless the orphans of Africa, and may He continue to lead and guide the African church to rise on their behalf.