The Bible tells us to care for the orphans and that task grows tougher each year. Right now, there are an estimated 140 million orphans worldwide.
How can we stem this tide? A group of Christian organizations and churches are working together to find the answer.
Images of children singing and dancing with joyful hearts are not usually associated with orphans.
But that is just one focus of the Christian Alliance for Orphans, a group working to heighten awareness and motivate Christians to care for orphans.
More than 600 church and ministry leaders met recently in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida for an adoption summit to spread the word to the world.
Che Walters is the president of Caring World.
"Originally I'm an immigrant from Camaroon, Africa," he said. "I've seen the big need for the world to join together to help the orphan kids and I think part of my mission is to join this global fight."
800,000 Children in U.S. Foster Care
Bethann Richard came all the way from Joshua, Texas to attend the summit.
"When you've had an opportunity to watch a child get water to drink from the same pond that animals are drinking from and standing in it changes you. You realize there's a world out there that needs your help," she told CBN News. "It's important for me to be here to learn how to help those kids."
Disaster, disease and neglect have put more than 143 million children in a desperate situation. The Burma cyclone and the China earthquake have left thousands of children orphaned in just a matter of days. According to recent statistics, every fourteen seconds -- an AIDS-related death takes a parent away from their children. Some 800,000 children pass through America's foster care system each year.
Maridel Sandberg is the co-founder of the Christian Alliance for Orphans. She believes the Church is the answer to that problem.
"We're just encouraging the whole body, everybody," she told CBN News. "Not everybody can adopt. Not everybody can go to China. But you can be here as a resource. You can care for a foster child. You can provide resources," Sandberg explained. "You can provide respite for a foster family, who just needs a break from their kids. It's what God is doing and we get to benefit, because we get to be along to watch him work right there."
Kay Warren, author and wife of renowned pastor Rick Warren, issued a stirring challenge for the Church to do more about caring for orphans.
"Six years ago, I became a serious and permanently-disturbed woman," she said. "This is what it will take for orphans for the Church to respond. The Church must become -- not this -- 'God, yes, I surrender,' but so disturbed that we are compelled," Warren explained. "We must act. It no longer becomes optional. It no longer becomes something we do if we have time, if we can fit it into our schedules."
Celebrities are also joining the fight to save orphans. Eduardo Verastegui, one of the stars of the pro-family movie Bella, credits the film for changing his outlook on life.
"My goal and our goal should be to empty every single orphanage in the world," he said. "Children don't need to be there. They should have a family who loves them. If more people think about adoption, if more people know about what adoption really is, no children would be in orphanages. Instead of orphanages, we need to have the children placed in families that care for them and that's what I want to do," Verastegui continued.
Focus on the Family's John Fuller says a growing number of Christians share the same sentiments as Verastegui.
"I think what we're seeing here with 600 or more people is just the start of something and in five or 10 years it's going to be pretty uncommon to not adopt or not care for orphans," he said. "I think the norm will be for Christians to be engaged in more than just giving, but in going and in helping kids."
Jedd Medefind is Deputy Director of the White House Faith-Based Initiative. He sees more Christians getting involved in adoption.
"All over the country Christians in particular, are saying this is a central call of my faith and we're going to engage adoption issues abroad. But often what's exciting is as they're engaging need overseas, they're beginning to see the needs in their own community with foster care," Medefind explained. And so we're seeing on all those levels just a really sweeping engagement of the church in orphan needs."
CBN's Operation Blessing is behind a new initiative called Orphans Promise.
Natalia Khomyak is the spokesperson for Orphans Promise. "We're trying to be the hands and feet of the Lord to these children," she said. "We are trying to be the parents they do not have."
CBN partners Christian and Colleen Bunse are helping to spread the word about adoption and Orphans Promise.
"Right now, our heart and our vision is to incorporate churches," Mrs. Bunze said. "Mobilize churches sharing the same heart for orphans and coming alongside churches and helping them build an orphan ministry through Orphans Promise.
"Orphans Promise has a vision that is big and it is a vision that can help all these kids," Bunze told CBN News. "As we came to this orphans summit, we realized that there are other organizations that have the same vision -- how do we work together as a team to help all the 143 million orphans around the world?"
Like a growing number of Christian couples, Andrew and Alisia Buckner of South Florida have answered the call to adopt. The couple already have four children from previous marriages when their church inspired them to adopt four more.
"The need is such that if there are a hundred kids out there for adoption, the number of infant white babies is really small," Buckner said. "So if you're waiting for that you're going to miss out on this great opportunity."
And when asked if adoption was something they prayed about, Mrs. Buckner had this response. "It was absolutely something we prayed over, because left up to us we would have talked ourselves out of it. We would have been too scared. Then there's alway the questions of are we going to have enough money and what it this going to do to the children living at home?"
People attending this summit and events like it are becoming more equipped and better prepared to care for orphans not only in America, but around the world. As the church becomes more involved, the hope is there will be more doers of God's word and not just hearers. After all, Jesus said, "Whatever you do for the least of these, you do unto me."
*Original posting May 30, 2008.