A Home for the Yatom (The Fatherless)

Not every battle is worth fighting…but some are.

15 years ago:  Penke, the director of CCIM Children’s Home, stands in the doorway staring down at two young boys who desperately need his help. They have survived the recent tsunami that has devastated the country and left many thousands homeless and many thousands more dead, including their fathers. They have nowhere to go…no one who can care for them. 

Penke is heartbroken for the boys, but doesn’t know how he will be able to care for them. Behind him is the humble children’s home, little more than a shack already filled to capacity and just days from having it’s doors closed forever due to a lack of funds.

That’s when Orphan’s Lifeline stepped in after being told about the home by their Child Care Coordinator who was there helping coordinate disaster relief.

The funds provided by Orphan’s Lifeline allowed the home to stay open. Allowed Penke to take the two boys into the home, and not much later allowed him to move into a new rented building with more room. More room to care for more orphans. It wasn’t long before it too was filled to capacity.

It is more than midway through 2016:  Penke stands outside of the rented building that is home to 40 children and once again fights back the tears as he ponders what to do. He has been informed by the landlord that the building has been sold. After an exhaustive search, Penke has been turned down by the owners of every single available building in the area. Nobody in the area wants to rent to a Christian in this predominately Hindu country. Not even for the children.

Once again, he is faced with closing the doors. Once again, he is faced with the very real possibility that he will have to turn the children out on the streets. Back to the jungles. Back to a life without any hope. It’s as if Satan himself is intent on making it happen. That’s when Orphan’s Lifeline International breaks the sad news to its donors and partners in this mission. 

By late 2016, commitments have been made by members of the Church of Christ in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, along with other Christians, to build a new home for the children. Land has been donated by the local Church which will also provide volunteers.

By fall of the same year, the children are in the new home and once again, tragedy has been avoided thanks to Christ’s followers. Satan has lost again.

It is early January, 2019: Penke stands with his hands clasped behind his back and stares upwards at the top of the CCIM Children’s Home. The sun is setting and the rebar protrudes from the roof of the concrete structure as thin, black, lines against the dusky backdrop of the evening sky.

Just yesterday, that rebar had represented a small possibility that one day, there would be another floor on this building. That one day, there could be more rooms for more orphans. That possibility had been very unlikely in his estimation, but today it was becoming a reality. On this night, the roof of the building had become a literal foundation of hope for more orphan children and already Penke begins to gather the fatherless in his mind.

Orphan’s Lifeline, once again in partnership with members of the Church of Christ in Sioux falls, as well as other followers of Christ, have committed to making the possibility a reality. When they learned that an additional story would give a home to 40 more orphans, they didn’t even hesitate!

The construction dust has barely settled. Vegetation is just now returning to the excavated soil. The children are just getting settled in and accustomed to the new home and now Penke is faced with yet another monumental task. A monumental task he will gladly undertake to save 40 more children.

It’s time to bring back the engineer. Time to hire dozens of skilled laborers and general laborers. 40 new beds will have to be built. 120 sets of clothing will be purchased. 40 new metal boxes and all the personal items for the children. 40 new Bibles. He will have to hire more caregivers and an additional cook. Buy more dishes and cookware. Hire additional security.

He will head out to the slums to identify the orphan children and then make application to the government to legally bring them into the home. It will take a lot of time. It will take a lot of work. It will all be well worth it.

Children who live in shacks made of nothing more than sticks and metal will now have a home. Children sleeping on the hard dirt without even a blanket will now have a bed. 

Children who have little to eat and go to bed hungry every day will have proper nutrition. Children who are left alone day after day to fend for themselves will have the love, comfort and security of a home filled with love. Children who can’t read or write will attend school and be given God’s Word.

Penke looks up at the skyline once again and thanks God for the task set before him.

It is August of 2019: The final touches are being put on the building. A bit of paint here, a light fixture there, still left to do. But the new children are already in the home. 

Their health has been assessed and medical needs taken care of. They have been tested to determine what grade they will be in for education. They have been given Bibles with encouraging messages and personal messages are coming from their sponsors. They are sleeping in warm beds. Eating nutritious food. 

It will take some time for these new children to adjust from a life filled with trauma, but children are resilient and it won’t be long before they are smiling, laughing and playing along with the other dozens of children in this home who live as siblings under the care of loving Christians.

Not every battle is worth fighting, but when it comes to fighting a battle for the orphans, God makes it clear that it is worthwhile. That it is His will.

The first references to the fatherless are found in Exodus, hundreds of years before Christ was born. There, is the first written text that warns against harming orphans. A warning that came with a very harsh punishment for those who ignored it.

All throughout the Old Testament, the word Yatom is found. Sometimes describing God’s compassion for the fatherless. Sometimes being used as a comparative word to describe the most poor, helpless and vulnerable of all of God’s children. Sometimes it was used to describe those who were fatherless in a spiritual sense; separated from God by sin.

But, in every case it is made clear. God has tremendous compassion for orphans and doesn’t want any orphan left uncared for. He made it clear that no amount of worship could replace keeping ones self pure and helping the orphans and widows.

Perhaps though, in the case of this story…in the story of the worthy battle to save CCIM. The story of the battle to take a potential tragedy and turn it into even a greater triumph for the orphan children who now call it home, the most poignant reference to the fatherless is in the one of 2 places where orphans are mentioned in the New Testament. 

It is in John, Chapter 14. Jesus is trying to comfort His disciples as He tells them He will be leaving. He tells them that His Father’s House has many rooms and that He is going to prepare a place for them. Later in verse 18 He says: “I will not leave you as orphans. I will come to you.”

Now, none of us are Jesus, and no home can compare to that which He is preparing for us, but it is clear that this new home in India is certainly glorifying God. It is saving the lives of more than 80 orphan children and giving them a chance to know Jesus; that they too may have a place prepared for them in their Father’s House…where no one is an orphan.