Does God call Christians to visit orphans?

Today is the third day of ‪#‎AskBetterQuestions‬. In the days leading up to CAFO2015, We want to engage the families, churches, leaders and influencers who are passionate about adoption and orphan care to stop and ask better questions. We would love for you to join in the conversation!


One of the primary ways Christians are responding to the global orphan crisis is going on short-term mission trips to serve at orphanages. The growth in mission trips to visit orphans is part of a bigger trend. In 1998, less than half a million Americans went on a mission trip. By 2006, more than 2 million American short-term missionaries flooded the world.

Why do Christians go on mission trips?

Nearly all are motivated by both a sincere desire to help and a belief that it’s possible to make a difference in a short period of time. Christians also believe in missions because Jesus tells us to “go therefore and make disciples of all nations,” (Matthew 28:19). Likewise, James teaches us “to visit orphans and widows in their affliction,” (James 1:27). Christians often go on mission trips because we believe they will change our hearts, our priorities, our perspective.

At least on the surface, it seems like there are plenty of good reasons visit orphans on a short-term mission trip. But is this true? What does James mean with he says true religion is visiting orphans and widows?

What is wrong with visiting orphans?

I’m not throwing stones. I was sixteen when I went on my first short-term mission trip to Mexico. The experience changed my life. My experiences living, working and traveling internationally have informed by view of the world and shape my everyday life.

But I do believe something is wrong. As Amanda and I wrote in In Defense of the Fatherless:

“Millions of people are soliciting billions of dollars every year to do something not for others but for themselves. We have good intentions, but we do not understand the impact of our actions. This is especially true for mission trips that send teams to orphanages in the developing world.”

We believe it’s time for the Church to ask better questions. It’s time to consider seriously the impact of short-term mission trips on vulnerable children, families and communities. We believe it is possible to make a long-term difference on a short-term trip – but we also believe mission trips to orphanages are often harmful to the orphans we’re called to help. If you want to learn more, two chapters in our book are dedicated to this critically important topic.

Ready to #AskBetterQuestions?

We would love for you to join in the conversation by leaving a comment or by tagging your posts with #AskBetterQuestions on Instagram or Twitter.

In Defense of the Fatherless is the conversation I would love to have with a friend who is learning about the orphan crisis, considering adoption, or starting an orphan care ministry. It is the conversation I wish someone would have had with me five years ago.

In Defense of the Fatherless is designed to take you on a journey through the Bible to understand God’s heart for orphans and widows – and how you are called to respond. Learn more about In Defense of the Fatherless or read what experts have to say. If you are ready for a deeper conversation, In Defense of the Fatherless is now available on Amazon or at a bookstore near you.

Sara Brinton

SARA BRINTON is a writer and entrepreneur with a passion for reforming international adoption and orphan care. She leads marketing for Noonday Collection, a business that uses fashion to create opportunity in developing countries. Sara and her husband, Mark, live in Austin, Texas with their four children, including daughter Gabrielle who was adopted from Uganda.

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