Three years ago, this little girl didn't have a home. She lived in an orphanage in Ethiopia. She didn't learn to crawl more than a couple paces because she rarely left her crib. She didn't have a mom or a dad; she didn't have anyone permanent to snuggle her close, to rock her as long as she needed it, to love her.
But now she does. Two years ago, David and Shelly Roberts travelled to Ethiopia, after much saving and sacrifice, and brought her home. Today, she could not be more loved. Just look at her momma's face. I get weepy thinking about it.
She's the youngest of five, with three older brothers and another adopted sister from Texas. She sparkles and she's beautiful, and her name is Maleah. This picture makes me think of the verse in Psalms, about how God sets the lonely in families. And how He tells us to care for and defend the orphans and the fatherless.
The statistics regarding orphaned children are staggering, and I confess I didn't know any of this until I came to know Dave and Shelly better. Right now, there are 140 million fatherless and orphaned children in the world. Every 18 seconds, a child becomes an orphan, without a father or mother. 1.5 million children are living in public care in Eastern and Central Europe alone. 500,000 social orphans are in the U.S. foster care system; 127,000 of them await adoption. Conflict, particularly in Africa, has orphaned or separated more than 1 million children from their families. Orphans are more vulnerable and at risk of becoming victims of violence, exploitation, trafficking and other abuses.
The numbers are overwhelming, and I admit I'm a person who gets overwhelmed easily. I tend to want to fix things, all of it, right now. It's easy to wonder, how could one person or one family really make a difference?
But one family made a difference for Maleah, because one family brought her home. She's happy and healthy and loved, and she's no longer one of 140 million. And David and Shelly would be the first to tell you their lives have been radically changed for the better, because they answered the call to adopt.
There are families, like the Roberts, all over the Midwest. I think of the Korean children I grew up with in school, and the Brent Mast family, who brought their little girl home from China a couple years back, and of my college friend, Amy, and her husband, Chris, awaiting their little boy from Korea very soon. And so many more. Statistics also show that one-third of Americans have considered adoption, but only 2% have actually done it. We have big hearts out here in rural America, but I wonder if we don't have room for more?
And Maleah and her momma and her sticky little M&M up there? There's a lot to be grateful for in that picture.
Thanks & Giving Day 14: Rest