"Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world." (James 1:27 NIV)
You see, there are 147 million orphans in the world. Through a series of events, my heart is with orphans in Eastern Europe. Especially the special- needs orphans. Through an organization called Reece's Rainbow, and some new friends I have met through that, I was made aware of the plight of orphans with special needs in Europe. At age four, a special needs orphan is sent to an adult mental institution. Much like what America used to do. But these little kids, at only four years old, are locked away from society. Some of these kids have only minor disabilities, that could easily be handled by a loving family: deafness, blindness, mild mental delays, limb differences. But this system does not differentiate between physical and mental delays. So the children are hidden from society. The conditions at some of these mental institutions are horrendous. BBC has done documentaries, going into mental institutions in Bulgaria and Ukraine. God has told me that this is what I am meant to do. To help save these children. "Adopting one child won't change the world, but for that child, the world will change."
There's a story that goes like this: that an old man was walking along the beach, when he came upon a young boy. He watched as the boy picked up a starfish and threw it back into the sea. The whole beach was covered in starfish. The man said to the boy, "There's way too many starfish here for you to make any difference." The boy smiled, bent down and picked up another starfish. He threw it back into the sea. He said to the old man, "Made a difference to that one." I am following God's command- "Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world (James 1:27 NIV)." It will take an army to change the world, and I plan on changing it, one orphan a time. I want people to know I am doing something. Well, not me. I want people to know that GOD is doing something THROUGH me. I don't want to be "just a normal teenager". I want to be someone that, after I'm gone, people will look back, and see how God used me, and how it did make a difference.
I know that 147 million can seem like an impossible number. So I started with one. The first orphan I ever "discovered" and prayed for was a little boy with a rare disease called Arnold- Chiari Syndrome, in Ukraine. His pseudonym (given by Reece's Rainbow in order to protect identities) was Sullivan. He was only four years old when I first "found" him in early 2010. I prayed for him, sold cookies at my church group with my best friend for him (Reece's Rainbow sets up individual grant funds, and any money donated to these is given to the family that adopts the child, to help with the expensive cost of international adoption, which is usually about $25,000), and started a blog. I prayed for a year that he would find his family. The day after his sixth birthday, the director of Reece's Rainbow told me that someone was interested and wanted to adopt him. June 7, 2011, he officially became Samuel Boroughs. I celebrated his homecoming. Throughout the next year and a half, I had some children that I "sponsored" (prayed for, shared on my blog, wrote about). Some of these were Dmitriy, Tyler, Alexis, Patti, and Carter. Many of them, I was their warrior only a short time before they found a family. All of those children are now home.
About August 2012, I started looking on Reece's Rainbow again, to see who God put on my heart for me to be really praying for. I ended up with five boys. Their names are Ulysses (age 3, blind), Theo(age 13, Cerebral Palsy), Brody (age 6, autism. His brother was recently listed with him, Auggie, age 7, cerebral palsy), Zack (age 12, Cerebral palsy) and Frank (age 12, mental delay). Almost as soon as I decided on these boys, Zack found his family. Then Reece's Rainbow began the signups for their annual Christmas Angel Tree project. Historically, this "event" had only included orphans 0-5 with Down Syndrome (Down Syndrome orphans is the organization's main focus). This year, they opened it up to include three children from each of the "other" categories (older kids, kids with other special needs). Each week, 11 children from each category were chosen, and "voted" to see which three would be on Angel Tree. Every week, I waited and hoped that one of "my" boys would make it into voting. The goal of the Angel Tree is to have each child on it have a "warrior" who commits to trying to raise a goal of $1,000 for their child's grant fund. Being on the tree gave a lot of publicity to children who were usually overlooked. But every week, "my" boys were still overlooked. They began with the youngest categories, then moved up. The last week of voting was "Other Angel Boys ages 10+". These were boys that were ten years old or older, with disabilities other than HIV+ (another category on Reece's Rainbow) or Down Syndrome. None of "my" other boys had made it onto voting. But Frank was in this category, and he was one of the 11 children chosen to be voted for. I yelled and yelled for him, praying he could make it on. He did! As a result of my posting on the Reece's Rainbow FB group, asking people to please vote for Frank, I was contacted by a mom named Laura. She told me that she had met Frank, and was the one who had gotten him listed on Reece's Rainbow. She shared information about him, and because of what she said of him, I was starting to fall for this boy. God was putting it on my heart to do everything I could to find his family. She shared with me an organization that visited "Frank's" mental institution, and a video they had gotten of him (and some of the men at the institution, but mostly him) playing with some basketballs the organization had been able to provide. I made and sold duct tape wallets to try and make Frank's Angel Tree Goal of $1,000. I made $100. But through a lot of anonymous donations, he made it to his goal. He actually surpassed his goal, and was given a total of $1,117 during the Angel Tree. I'm still his "sponsor", and am still trying to raise money for his adoption grant. I am trying to raise awareness and help him find a family.
Although I never have met him, I feel like I know him. I know that he's 12 years old, and is curious, busy, fun happy and bright. He has a mental delay, but that doesn’t stop him from being friendly, engaging and kind. He’s also an orphan in Eastern Europe. This means he is in an institution. If he is not adopted by age 16, he will be thrown out on the street with nothing but the clothes on his back and his “disabled orphan” status. I know he’s little, about the size of a 7 year old. And he’s smart. He is in a group with teenage boys ages 16-24. He does puzzles and he attends school. He does his chores diligently. He is very kind to the younger children. Frank is friendly and engaging. He likes being with the boys, but is happy being alone too. He plays appropriately with toys and is “all boy”. I know he could very easily function in a family. Frank is curious, smart, fun and sweet. He likes to play in the dirt and jump on the trampoline. Frank is independent, a good eater, is happy and content. Frank is physically healthy. He walks, runs, feeds himself, speaks, does puzzles and interacts with others well. I know he runs around a lot, likes to play ball, and he interacts well with the caregivers and other boys. He's a sweet boy who seems rather unaffected by his surroundings. I also know he has no future where he's at, and without help, he's never getting out. Institutions are a one way ticket to nowhere. And this little boy deserves a future. This little boy will be a blessing to any family. I've seen what institutions do to kids. I've also seen what the love of a family does!
Through the organization at Frank's institution, I am able to send him small "care packages", so I send him little toys, hoping they will let him know that Jesus loves him, and that someone in America is thinking of him. Due to the institutional setting (and his mental delay), he only functions at about a 7 year old level (he is about the size of a seven year old too). Without a family, it's only going to get worse. He does nothing all day. Laura, who met him and spent several weeks at his institution (while adopting her son, Seth, who has cerebral palsy), says he spends his days just walking around. Tonight, he's going to bed on the cruddy mattress in the probably freezing building (he has snow right now) with 70 other boys and men who are all in his institution, and he has no way out unless we help him. With stimulation, I know he can function normally (or closer to his actual age, 12 1/2). So I am praying for his family to come find him, before it's too late. Once he turns sixteen, he is unavailable for adoption, and will be stuck in the institution the rest of his life. Doing nothing. Every day. All day. I know with God's help, I can make a difference to him. This is what I have been told to do. The least I can do is obey.
"For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ (Matthew 25:35, 36, 40 NIV)