Charging Towards Orphan Sunday…and Reflecting Back to 2002

Guest Post from Orphan Sunday National Director, Roberta Fanelli-Davis

As we charge toward Orphan Sunday 2014, we reflect back on a watershed moment in 2002.  An American businessman, Gary Schneider, sat in a little church in Kalingalinga, Zambia.  Gary listened intently to a local pastor, whose heart had been stirred by the plight of the orphans in the local community.

On that day — which this pastor had given the name “Orphan Sunday” — he called his congregation to care for the orphans in their midst.  “No matter how little we have,” he reminded, “All of us have a gift to give.”

Church in Kalingalinga--Cropped
The Church in Kalingalinga, Zambia where Orphan Sunday first began.

The congregation, many living in poverty themselves, responded.  They gave generously amidst great needs of their own.  Some gave the food they had with them — all they had to eat for dinner that night.  Others removed their own shoes to be given to orphans.

As Gary meditated on what he saw, he marveled.   The Church in the West needs more of this kind of love and sacrifice, he thought.  He felt God telling him, “Imagine the glory to My name if my people would come together on One Day, with One Voice, for One Purpose?”

It was this quiet invitation that prompted Gary to carry the idea of Orphan Sunday from its birthplace in Africa to the U.S.

Over the last 12 years, God has moved across the nations with this simple idea.  He has used Orphan Sunday to open eyes and hearts to the needs of the orphan. He has raised up leaders from across the globe to engage their friends, families, churches and communities to respond to the command in scripture to “defend the cause of the fatherless” (Isaiah 1:17).

God is carrying the vision forward through the obedience of many faithful servants. In the U.S., there are 193 Orphan Sunday Coordinators covering all 50 states! Globally, 72 International Coordinators are working in more than 60 countries to grow a local vision for Orphan Sunday as well.  It is estimated that roughly ten thousand OS events are planned worldwide in 2014, with many still being planned and placed on the OS map!

By 2007, Gary was encouraged by the ways a vision for Orphan Sunday was growing in many Zambian churches.   But he’d seen only a little embrace of the idea in the U.S.  He thought maybe he had mistaken what God had placed on his heart five years earlier.  Asking God for direction, he sensed God telling him, “You’ve put your hand to the plow, don’t look back or judge this move of my Spirit for 20 years.  Then you can look back and judge whether I was in this.”

In was just two years later, in 2009, that Gary handed to the Christian Alliance for Orphans the baton that he’d received from the Church in Zambia.  From the hundreds of events that took place that year across the U.S., Orphan Sunday has grown dramatically each year since.

Schneider recently shared, “I’m humbled to say I don’t need to wait until 2022 to see if Orphan Sunday is from God!”

As we look ahead two weeks toward Orphan Sunday 2014 and SEE all that God is doing, we can be encouraged! God is moving Orphan Sunday forward for His glory and His purpose. We can join together and be thankful He has called all of us into His story.  And with two weeks left He can and will call many more to join Gary and hundreds of servants across the nations to rise up on One Day, with One Voice, and One Purpose….to defend the cause of the fatherless.