At 16, Rute's mother, father and oldest sister died, leaving her the head of a household and caretaker of the family.
"Everywhere we turned, we heard about the crisis with orphans. Virtually every ministry I visited and every person I met seemed to be struggling with the problem on some level. Most pastors have taken in one or two children themselves, and no matter what ministry they are leading, they've expanded their program to include some outreach for these children," explains Jim Cavnar, president of Cross.
Some younger orphans are taken in by Christian families. In other cases, a teenage daughter or son may try to keep the family together with the help of the church. It's a difficult life, but with mentors and assistance from Christians, these families have a fighting chance to stay together.
"During our visit, we met several of these struggling families, and we offered our help. One young girl named Rute Salomao was living in a mud and straw house that was literally on the verge of collapsing. After returning, we sent funds to build a new cement block house for the family. It wasn't expensive by U.S. standards, but it has had a huge impact on living standards of the family, providing them with security and a solid foundation upon which they can rebuild their lives," Cavnar says.
In most other cases, children are taken in by Christian families – usually at great personal sacrifice. Poverty is a way of life in Africa, so these host families are usually struggling themselves, and they welcome any support the church can provide. Discovering this, Cross International agreed to help by funding the basic needs of the orphan by giving the host families help with food, clothing, medicines, educational expenses and other basic human needs.
The cost of this outreach – just $68 per child for the entire year – represents an astounding opportunity to provide significant help...for very little money.
"These people lead a very simple life and their needs are modest," Cavnar explains. "Still, it's amazing to think that we American Christians can have such a big impact for so little money. For just $68, we can effectively rescue a child. We can give these little ones a greater sense of security – and new hope for the future.
Ultimately, seeing the needs in Africa should bring the words of James 1:27 to mind – True religion is this: to care for orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself unstained by the world. Clearly, God's heart is broken by the suffering of these vulnerable children, and He is honored when we Christians realize that fact and respond as an act of service and worship. That alone should be reason enough for us to take up this challenge and help Africa's orphans in any way we can.
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