I will never forget the first cry of an “orphan” that I heard.
It was four years ago, just a month or two after my daughter was born, on a cool autumn night. The leaves had just changed colors and it was everything pumpkin from oatmeal to lattes to yummy pies. I was having major cabin fever after my recovery from birth, so my husband and I decided to go out to a movie for the first time in ages. My parents gladly agreed to watch the baby because she was such an easy and happy newborn. I was so happy to be out I even agreed to get popcorn and two different candies to make a good trail mix (my husband’s favorite), and this was our way of splurging.
It was nice.
We, however, only got into about an hour of the movie before I saw my phone lighting up in my bag on my lap. At first I ignored it, but it kept going off every minute or so, so I finally checked to see that it was my parents calling me. Quietly, I excused myself to answer the call, and as soon as I did, all I could hear was my daughter wailing in the background. I could hardly hear the words my mom was trying to say, but I gathered enough to know that we should go home immediately.
Driving home, I wondered what it could possibly be. This was very unlike my daughter who was usually always content. Once we parked in front of the house and got out of the car, I could hear her cries from outside the house, piercing through the still night. Then as soon as I opened the front door and rushed in, I saw my mother frantically trying to soothe the screaming baby in her arms. We were told she had been crying non-stop for hours since we left and nothing seemed to work. Yet just as my mother passed her to me, like a switch, my daughter calmed down and stopped crying immediately.
In awe, my mother looked up at me and said, “Oh my goodness… she just wanted her mommy…”
That’s when it hit me for the first time. Right there as I stood in the middle of my living room floor holding my sweaty baby close in my arms, this thought rang in my spirit: what about the orphans.
Orphans, I thought? I knew I had always had a “heart for orphans,” or so I thought, but it never really meant more than that I knew they were there, and I felt really badly for them whenever the topic came up.
But starting from this moment, something changed. Still holding my daughter, and with my family surrounding me, I looked up at everyone and whispered what I heard.
“What about the orphans?”
Quiet, blank stares.
So I said it again. “What happens to the orphans? What happens when they cry and they ‘just want their mommy.’ What happens to them… ”
My mind spun, and I could not sleep that night. All I could hear were cries–not my daughters–but cries of orphans that came from nowhere yet somewhere out there.
Lying there with my eyes opened and staring up at the ceiling, I helplessly listened and tears streamed down to drench my pillow. I wondered how many were out there and felt so overwhelmed by the magnitude of the need. This went on for months, and although sometimes I wondered if I was making this all up in my head, the cries always continued. Some nights, I would even break down and cry aloud myself as if all I could do was echo and call back to a world I knew that was full of these children crying to no avail.
That was four years ago, and so began our family’s journey into orphan care. Through a process, I knew God was calling us to respond and care for these orphans. No doubt there were many questions and concerns along the way, but it was no matter. The cries continued, and I knew I really had to do something this time.
But what I didn’t know was that the cry I heard that night four years ago was also more than just the cries of all the orphans out there. It was really just the cry of one.
It was one precious boy who was born around that time four years ago, in the same week as my daughter, but in a completely different home going through devastation and destruction. It was him who was crying out for help many of those nights that I heard and who was going to need a home four years later, just when things got really bad in his home and just when our home was finally ready, signed, and approved to host a child.
It was his cry I heard in my heart that autumn night, and he was our first placement who is now in our home today. God allowed me to hear his cries to awaken me that night to not only the orphan crisis as a whole, but to hear and respond to the cries of the one the Lord knew we specifically could and would help.
This one who was once out of sight and out of mind, is now family to us.
Now, that one has a name that rolls off my tongue just as smoothly as does the names of my other three children. This one enjoys fruits and vegetables so much that it is almost always the first thing eaten on his plate. This one sleeps so deeply through the night, I can hear his breathing from the door the moment he falls asleep, and you can be sure that the second the sun comes up, he will begin to rub his eyes before making his way down to my room with the rest of the kids.
This one is so real that I can’t believe he was once just a far off cry or possibly a figment of my imagination. Because now, I can’t imagine life without him.
This one, he needs a home right now, and there is no greater joy or privilege to have him in our home for however long he needs.
But he is just one.
There are more…many, many more.
And until their cries become real and loud to us, we will not be able to respond.
In honor of Orphan Awareness Month coming up in November, let us pray, let us listen, and let us be moved to action. I assure you, the cries are real, and the honor will be yours to care for one, if not more, of these children in one way or another.
Can you hear them?