Come with me to Lusaka, Zambia.
Within this city of over a million people is a tiny compound called Kalingalinga. Here, the roads are dusty as the sun beats an eternal inferno on the heads of diligent street vendors selling vegetables to make ends meet. Children laugh and swat away the everlasting mosquitoes as they maneuver a tire around the deep puddles from last night’s rain–a game forged in their bright imaginations.
In a tiny, nondescript church in this Zambian settlement, God used a man named Pastor Chondwe to change the world–or at least my world.
Let me explain.
Though his own church family was poverty-stricken, Pastor Chondwe felt strongly that God had gifted them to serve orphans and widows in some way. Because of this, he felt compelled to set aside a day during the year to examine what it means to love the vulnerable.
He decided to call the day Orphan Sunday.
On the first Orphan Sunday–in 2002–Pastor Chondwe lined up the widows and orphans in his own congregation and asked the church family to do something for them. The first person to stand and move toward the group was an old woman with a single head of cabbage in her hands. Inspired by this humble generosity, a line of people quickly formed behind her–some rushing home and bringing back their afternoon meal, others taking off their shoes–to give to the most vulnerable in their midst.
The start of something big
Without one dollar spent on advertising, word spread throughout Zambia of Pastor Chondwe’s Orphan Sunday, and soon, churches all over the country began participating.
But God had bigger plans still …
I had no clue it would go across the globe.
This is the doing of God.
In God’s kind providence, He allowed an American named Gary Schneider to be in attendance at Pastor Chondwe’s first Orphan Sunday. Mr. Schneider observed how this precious Body of Christ had surpassed giving what they were able in order to love sacrificially. He was impressed by the thought that he needed this–that his church needed this–that the comfortable American culture needed this.
So he took Pastor Chondwe’s tradition home.
The day Kalingalinga met Detroit
I first heard about Orphan Sunday in 2010 when a friend posted a video on social media. At the time, Luke and I were living in Detroit, knee-deep in an adoption wait. I didn’t know anything about Orphan Sunday, but I knew orphans were close to God’s heart, and I wanted them to be closer to mine. So on Orphan Sunday 2010 I started praying for a consistent opportunity to visit the vulnerable in their affliction.
See, James 1:27 cuts across the grain of what society says is good and important. Where our culture says, “Admire the rich. Respect the popular. Envy the attractive,” James says true religion pursues the weak.
You know that widow in your church? She’s a big deal to God.
You know that orphan in Ethiopia? Yep, he’s a priority to our Heavenly Father.
The single head of cabbage in my hands
Nearly 2 years ago I was given the extraordinary privilege of joining the Lifesong for Orphans team as their writer. Once a week I zigzag through the cornfields of Central Illinois to sit with some of the most committed, compassionate people I’ve ever known.
I offer my words to embolden others to pursue the vulnerable. My head of cabbage.
Shameless plug: If you want to join the fight for the fatherless, check out Lifesong for Orphans. Specifically, take a look at our brand new interactive catalog.
And tomorrow is Orphan Sunday. I hope wherever you find yourself–sitting in a Sunday School class, changing diapers in a nursery, comforting a sick child at home–you will join Pastor Chondwe and a host of others–including me–in asking God to break our hearts for what breaks His.
See you Tuesday.
*the picture at the top of this post represents a group of children we are privileged to love and serve at Lifesong Liberia. Thanks to Nicole with Whole Lotta Grace for sharing the photo.