Tuesday, April 24, 2012


Look at this pretty girl's big blue eyes! Elizabeth is 2 and she needs a family badly. She doesn't look mistreated but the sores around her mouth are likely a sign of a nutritional deficiency. Even when orphans get enough food it may not be the most nourishing...

Many little girls and boys are fed little other than a porridge-like food. This is often not cruelty or uncaring but simple poverty... in a country where many families can't provide for their children well it isn't surprising that orphans are worse off. I read about orphans who when they first come home eat everything, sometimes more than is healthy... or orphans who will eat everything but oatmeal.

I am not big on variety, but I will tell you I would get tired of an oatmeal diet pretty quickly. I am sure you have family members who would complain if they got the same food two nights in a row... or for some foods, two nights in a month. Imagine eating the exact same food every day, breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Even if it's your favorite food, I bet you'd get tired of it before a week was out.

I don't know if this is true for Elizabeth... but some orphans get the same food every single day. Often it is not as much as they really need. Even if the serving size is reasonable, think about your toddlers... don't they cycle in how much they eat? Don't they sometimes eat as much as a grown man when going through a growth spurt? It is probably rare for allowances to be made for that in the orphanage. If Elizabeth is lucky, she may have different meals for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. She may get the occasional piece of fruit on a special occasion. If Elizabeth is not so lucky, she may not have ever even had someone try to teach her how to eat. Her meals may be porridge in a bottle with a nipple that has a big hole in it. Just because orphanages are poor and understaffed and no one can spare the time and effort to spoonfeed 20 kids or teach them to eat or clean them after they try it. Again, I don't know what Elizabeth's home is like... either end of the spectrum is a possibility. But it is common for kids who are raised in orphanages, especially if they have special needs, to be undersized due to chronic undernourishment.

Because if your daughter is hungry, you feed her. If your son is going through a growth spurt, you feed him more. But if you are responsible for 20 or more babies and toddlers, and they are all screaming and moaning and wandering off, all desperately in need of attention and stimulation, you may not know one is extra-hungry today. And even if you did, you have so much to do--change diapers occasionally. Feed them all, simultaneously. If the orphanage is a good one, they may go to different rooms for therapies. They may go to play outside. They may need to be cleaned a little. And they all desperately need love and attention--and being human you may have a few favorites you try to give that to, or you might try to spread it out a little more and give each one a little bit, but you just can't be mommy to 20 toddlers all at once. The quiet ones--Elizabeth is "calm"--may just be ignored.

Remember these words?
"For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me."
Orphans are hungry. They are thirsty. (Even in better orphanages sometimes their liquid is very limited because diapers are so expensive.) They are strangers, but we can make them family. They may wear only one or two outfits for over a year, and never even own those--or they may be designed for a child of a different gender. They do not likely get special treatment when they are sick, and if they do, it is isolation and perhaps medicine, not chicken soup, cuddling, and favorite cartoons. They may or may not be allowed outside, and certainly not off the property.
And then a family comes. They feed their child, give her juiceboxes, find her a pretty new dress and bows for her hair, love on that little one even when she's in a bad mood. And they call her daughter and bring her home, as God does for us.

That's what Elizabeth needs.

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