How Did We Get Here?
For the LORD your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God, who is not partial and takes no bribe. He executes justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the sojourner, giving him food and clothing. Love the sojourner, therefore, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt. — Deuteronomy 10:17-19
Hundreds of years ago, a soldier named Jerome lay in a prison cell after being captured at an outpost town near Venice, Italy. He was not a religious man, and his life was a mess. While the chains of that dark dungeon restrained his body, Jerome felt freedom in his soul as God began teaching him how to pray.
He eventually escaped prison and returned to Venice. There, following a plague and famine that swept northern Italy, Jerome dedicated his life to serving the Lord by loving those who were most vulnerable. Jerome saw rampant poverty and hunger, and he began to care for people directly through his own personal resources. As he worked to care for others, his eyes were opened to the many children in his city who had been orphaned due to these societal factors.
In response, Jerome resolved to devote his life to children who had been orphaned. He built a hospital and three orphanages and founded a congregation of clergy dedicated to the care of orphans.
Jerome’s entry into caring for the needs of others came in an unexpected way to him but not to God. His life was dedicated to this work, and today, we know him as Saint Jerome Emiliani, the patron saint of orphans.
The causes of children being orphaned are as varied as they are complex, with each child holding his or her own unique story. Though this list is not exhaustive, here are three significant factors that can contribute to children becoming orphaned:
Global Pandemics: It is estimated that millions of children have lost one or both parents due to global epidemics like HIV/AIDS and COVID-19, leaving this as one of the largest contributing factors in the number of children who have been orphaned.
Poverty: Nearly half the world’s population struggles to provide for their children’s basic needs, like nutrition and shelter. Poverty can leave societies and cultures very fragile, leading to the breakdown of family units—not due to a lack of love and commitment but rather a sheer lack of resources to meet the most basic human needs.
Civil Unrest: Wars and violence lead to civil unrest, causing many children to lose one or both parents. Not only are parents lost, but child welfare systems are often compromised, leading to unregulated adoptions, abduction, or trafficking of children.
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. — Romans 12:2
How is your understanding of the needs of orphans beginning to change?
What about Saint Jerome’s story stood out to you? One thing that inspired us was Jerome’s openness to God’s presence and love. When he felt the Lord calling him while in prison, Jerome responded by having an open heart to see and help meet the needs of those around him.
- Just as Jerome’s heart needed to be transformed in order to serve others, what parts of your heart need to be transformed in order to love others well?
- Use this prayer as a guide in seeking direction for how God can and will use you:
God, show me my need for you, and transform my heart to be more like yours. Show me the needs of others and the ways you have gifted me to serve those needs through your Spirit. Just as you care for me, help me care for others. Thank you for your love. Help me give it freely, just as you have given it freely to me.
Jerome’s life serves as an example of how a need can be an invitation from God. As we learn more about some of the causes that can lead children to vulnerability, we have an incredible opportunity to step into those very same spaces to make a difference. Spend time thinking of the needs you see around you, and consider ways you can meet the needs of others.
This is the second devotional blog post in a series, adapted from Show Hope’s Pause Campaign. We invite you to learn more about how you can get involved in the work of Show Hope by visiting the “Your Part” section of our website.