This now global movement came from very humble beginnings. While attending a church service in Zambia, an American visitor was struck by the pastor’s passionate call to care for orphans in the local community which had been ravaged by AIDS and poverty. Members of the church faced deep need themselves, but as the service ended, one after another stepped forward with money, food and other goods-some even taking off their own shoes and placing them in the offering for orphans. The visitor, Gary Schneider, was so impacted that he began to help Zambian leaders coordinate Orphan Sunday efforts across Zambia. These efforts spread to the U.S.A. in 2003 with help from Every Orphan’s Hope and other organizations. The Christian Alliance for Orphans seeks to add a unified voice and coordinated effort to the movement through the development of resources and international website www.cafo.org/orphansunday/ Hear Gary Schneider tell his story here.
Churches around the globe are now committing the second Sunday of November each year to focus on our call to address the needs of the child who is without the care and protection of a loving family. But Orphan Sunday is more than just a call to a special Sunday once a year, it is a call to challenge the culture of our churches, communities and families all year round to rise to our biblical mandate to care for the fatherless. Each nation and congregation does this in their own unique way; it is so much more than a name and a date. Some families feel God's call to open their homes to foster or adopt, some commit to child sponsorship, some support and encourage adoptive and foster families in their communities or congregations, some support established organizations already caring for vulnerable children and others focus on family strengthening and keeping families together. The needs of children may look different in each country or community, and our responses may look and sound different depending on where we come from, but our call is the same - to be the hands and feet of Christ in these little lives.
"We can't all do everything, but we can each do something"
The global date doesn't always work well for the Canadian calendar, so choose a day that works for your group.
After all, it's not about the date!
This year's global date is
November 12, 2023
We lay aside denominational differences and a focus on lesser matters to be united (in our individual expressions) in our call as Christ's followers to care for the fatherless.
We are of a single mind.
We are intentional.
We remember that we are to be about our Father's business.
We understand that we are fighting a spiritual battle for "the least of these."
Who is the orphan?
Therefore, in a broader sense, an orphan is a child who has lost one or both parents or has been abandoned by or separated from them.
The World Without Orphans global movement has provided a great summary on identify just who is the orphan:
"There is no easy answer to the seemingly simple question of "Who is an orphan?" However, the way we define these children has very important implications for our capacity to help them.
Historically, orphans were children who had lost both of their parents, usually through death. UNICEF has expanded this definition to include children who have lost one of their parents. The Bible seems to use the words "orphan" and "fatherless" interchangeably, which supports a broader definition. Consider also James 1:27 that ties together caring for orphans and widows, who could very likely be single mothers. Contemporary child welfare practice focuses also on children who have lost their families through abandonment, even though one or both of their parents may still be alive.
Some children, born with disabilities, become orphans because their families and communities lack the skills and resources to meet their special developmental needs. Still other children may be removed from their families to ensure their safety, protecting them from child abuse, neglect, and other forms of child endangerment. Many orphans grow to adulthood without permanent family connections, and they often "graduate" to the streets, homeless and jobless, being drawn into lives of crime to support themselves. The most vulnerable may be trafficked into various forms of indentured servitude in other nations. Orphan children may be considered "at-risk" in the most fundamental sense.
Without the nurturance, support and consistency of a permanent, loving family in a stable, supportive community, orphaned children are faced with seemingly insurmountable challenges."
What if the word orphan doesn't fit into my church's context?
Even though it is a Biblical term, we need to be careful in how we use the word orphan. Knowing your audience, along with the historical, cultural and social contexts is important in choosing the correct terminology. In the vast majority of cases, describing Canadian children awaiting adoption as orphans would be inappropriate. As would be speaking to government officials and social workers about the Canadian orphan crisis. For these reasons, a sister branch of Orphan Sunday has been developed which is called Stand Sunday and is geared towards a focus on domestic foster care in Canada.