The World Without Orphans Global Forum in Chiang Mai, Thailand this past week was nothing short of marvelous. It stands as yet another poignant emblem of the global re-awakening of the Church into the role that Christians at their best have always played on behalf of orphans.
The 450+ attendees represented nearly all of the countries that celebrated Orphan Sunday last year – more than 65 in total. The immense variety in cultures and dialects and skin tone was matched also by diversity of vocations: some were leaders of multi-national organizations, others small local churches. But all shared a deep love for Jesus Christ and desire for his people to increasingly reflect God’s love for children in wise and tangible ways.
Brazilians Rodrigo and Sara share amazing things that happened through Orphan Sunday last year
It’s remarkable how these commitments unite people across all that typically divide the human race. Certainly, the halls of the UN are equally diverse, as people come from around the globe come to press the interests of their own nation or people group. But here, the delegates came not to press their own interests, but those of children among the least likely to have a voice in world affairs, or even their own village. What a strange and beautiful thing!
The event was tremendously well-run amidst the myriad details of a multi-national conference. Even better, its contents were immensely rich – both intellectually stimulating and spiritually nourishing.
While many of the speakers and attendees have spoken at Summit in recent years, this gathering helped to expand significantly the circle of people with enthusiasm for the adoption and orphan care movement. It drew in and baptized into this vision many leaders from parallel but previously disconnected missions, from traditional children’s ministry to literacy programs.
Best of all for me was simply the privilege of learning with and from passionate people from all over the globe. In the space of 15 minutes, I prayed for a Pakistani pastor and was prayed for by an Australian businessman and a former orphan from India. I had breakfast with a provincial Ukrainian pastor who’d bicycled thousands of miles across Ukraine and Russia to call attention to orphans. I heard from a Brazilian couple how they’d taken a vision for Orphan Sunday home after Summit last year – and saw it celebrated in more than 100 Brazilian churches in November. I received sage wisdom from a 60-something Czech, a 30-something Ethiopian, and a 20-something America who was adopted from Ukraine as a teen. My heart still overflows with it all.
In the end, an image came to mind that often has crossed my thoughts at Summit: the story of Sampson catching hundreds of foxes, tying torches to their tails, and turning them loose through grain fields to set the hillsides ablaze. That is what is happening even as I write — hundreds of people set alight and carrying that fire around the globe. I’d invite you to join me in praying that the fires spark not only for a moment, but burn in such a way as to give warmth and light for decades.
Thanks be to God for the new fires He started and the old flames He fanned in Chiang Mai!