My mother died when I was two. For the next few years, until my father remarried, my brother and I were what child welfare advocates now call "single orphans." We had a father, but he worked as a pastor about 60 hours weekly and could be absent for days. I am glad there were orphanages in case we had needed them; fortunately, a succession of extended family and church members raised us.

That experience made me especially sensitive to orphans' needs. Evangelicals have a stellar track record of caring for vulnerable children at home and abroad. People of my generation grew up hearing stories of great evangelical founders of orphanages. Our heroes were George Müller in England and Amy Carmichael in India. During the last decade, numerous orphanages founded by evangelicals have sprung up, especially in AIDS-ravaged sub-Saharan Africa.

And the needs of at-risk children, including orphans, are immense. Children worldwide face severe threats due to HIV and AIDS, armed conflict and displacement, living and working on the streets, disability, abuse, and trafficking. The UNICEF report The State of the World's Children 2005 warns, "Over half a million women die from the complications of pregnancy and childbirth each year, and 15 million women suffer injuries, infections, and disabilities in pregnancy or childbirth. … Without a concerted effort to save mothers' lives, millions of children will be denied maternal love and care during childhood." Other alarming statistics: "Over two million children under 15 are infected with HIV. Based on current trends, the number of children orphaned by AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa will exceed 18 million by 2010."

While orphanages will always be necessary for some, child-welfare advocates say ...

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January 2009

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