Reflections on a Closed Orphanage

Last week we had a camp on Faial, one of the other Azorean islands. Since they don’t have a camp center there, we rented an old, closed down orphanage. This orphanage was originally a home for boys, and it closed down about 20 years ago. Now it’s used by a charity organization that distributes food and clothing and by groups like us who need space for activities. Although it’s been closed for years, you can still clearly see the remnants of what like was like for those kids back then: 

rooms with twin sized beds lining both walls, 

an old, no longer functional bathroom with an entire wall of sinks, 

and a “play area” that looks more like a prison yard than a place for kids.

As I lay there that first night, I couldn’t help but think about all those boys who lived there way back when; those boys who likely never had someone to tuck them in or sing them to sleep or comfort them after a bad dream. All the boys that once lived there are grown men now. How many of them grew up in this place, never knowing the love and care of a Mommy or Daddy? It breaks my heart to think about that, but it also makes me so thankful. I’m thankful that my mom was adopted into a family that taught her about loving God, and that legacy has been passed down to me and my siblings. I’m thankful that I was born into a great family, thankful for the wonderful parents I’m blessed to have but more importantly I’m thankful that God loves me so much that He made it possible to be adopted into His family, to become His child.

Every person on earth is a creation of God, but John 1:12 says “But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.” We go from being God’s creation to being God’s child when we make the decision to believe in Jesus. We’re kind of like orphans, but instead of being stuck in an orphanage, we’re stuck in our own sin, unable to get ourselves out. When we understand that it’s our own sin, not someone else’s, that separates us from God, and decide to put our trust in Jesus as the only way to reconcile with our creator, we are adopted into God’s family. Paul describes it in Romans 8 and Galatians 4 as the difference between being a slave and a son. Both a slave and a son belong to (created by) the master (God), but a slave is bound by an obligation that he cannot get out of (sin, separation from God) while a child is free and will benefit from the inheritance (salvation and eternity with God in heaven). God basically offers to take away the title of “orphan” and replace it with “son” or “daughter.” When we choose Jesus Christ, He’s fulfills His promise and says “THIS ONE’S MINE!”

He’s offering us a chance to belong. I would guess that this is one of the greatest desires of an orphan, and whether we’re technically orphans or not, I think we can all relate to that feeling. Adoption is rare at best and definitely not guaranteed for children living in orphanages. But the adoption God offers us through Christ is abundantly available and 100% guaranteed.

I know of several families who are waiting for adoptions to go through. They’ve done all the work, and now they’re just waiting for the call saying they can bring their precious child home. They’re expectant and excited; they’ve got big plans for the future of their child and their family. I think that must be kind of how God feels as He waits for us to decide. He’s done all the work. All we have to do is accept the invitation into His family.

I don’t know why this specific orphanage closed 20 years ago. I’d like to think it was because all the boys found loving homes and there was no longer a need. However, I’m sure that was not the case. Whatever the reason, I’m thankful that this particular orphanage was closed because it gave us the opportunity to have camp, and in the process, welcome two new believers in to God’s family. God’s family is big enough for all of us “orphans.” He’s ready and willing to close your orphanage and call you His child.  Have you been adopted?

 “So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.”  Galatians 4:7

 “…but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’” Romans 8:15
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