We were sitting on the floor, playing with the boys yesterday. J-man was in full speed 16 month-old mode, running circles around us while Tyson sat on his blanket, happily chewing on whatever toy was closest to him.
Brian looked at me and asked, "I wonder what Tyson would be doing right now if he was still in the DRC."
It was just a rhetorical question, really meant for us to think on, rather than answer. So rather than try to guess, we both just looked over in gratefulness at our little one, home with us now for seven weeks.
A few hours later, the pictures came.
One of our adoption facilitators is in the DRC right now. She is visiting orphanages and foster homes that they are either working with or hope to start working with in the near future.
She and a few other adoptive moms that are in country right now. They are spending their time delivering packages to children who have already been referred to families, giving a goat and a bag of rice to each foster home, and dropping off food and small toys to orphanages that are in desperate need.
They posted pictures of their visits to the orphanages yesterday.
Friends, no one will ever be able to convince me that the best place for a child is in an orphanage.
I'm not going to tell you that international adoption is the only answer. Because it isn't.
But THIS is not okay.
This photo was taken yesterday. These little ones are eating a piece of bread and tea. Their meal for the day. What you cannot see in the picture are the older children who are standing in the back and not eating because there was not enough food. The orphanage directors give the little ones food first because they need it more to survive.
Our friends gave some money to the director for the older children and they were able to eat yesterday. But tomorrow there is no guarantee.
In another picture, (that I cannot show you because of privacy reasons), eight month old twins lie on a sheet on the ground, just recently brought to another orphanage. About the size of newborns, their legs are spindly and all bone. The orphanage is doing all they can to nurse them to health, though they have limited resources to do it. The twins have been assigned their own "mama" who shoos away the flies and watches them at all times. They are taken to the hospital to eat to make sure they are getting enough formula, but not too much that their tummies can't handle it. Even with this care, there is no guarantee that they will make it.
Some of the children in these photos are currently adoptable. Because there is no known family, they COULD be in a forever family. They are waiting. Spending their days like this.
There are children in the orphanages that are not adoptable yet or maybe not ever. It is even more important that another option be opened up to them. It may be that the biological family could care for them with a little outside help every month to feed and clothe them. Or perhaps group homes formed that would place a smaller number of children under the care of a "Mama" and "Papa," providing more one on one care.
Our friends didn't make it to the orphanage yesterday where Tyson started out. They hope to visit it later in the week. We don't know much of our son's history. There are bits and pieces that we will share with him and him alone one day. But we do know he was referred to us because there was no family found to care for him.
Tears rolled down my face as I showed the pictures to Brian yesterday evening. This could have been our Tyson's story. He could very easily have been one of those toddlers sitting on the floor.
But this IS reality for many children in the DRC right now.
And when I look in our Tyson's face, with his beautiful skin, perfectly curled eyelashes and gummy, drooling smile, I am reminded of the millions of other children in the DRC considered orphans. I cannot help but see the children living in orphanages; sleeping 3 and 4 to a bed that often has no mattress, eating once a day, and confined to a small spaces with few toys or basic necessities.
These aren't children from the pages of National Geographic magazine or commercial.
They are living, breathing children of God who are in NEED.
Optimally, the answer will always be reunification with birth family. In the DRC, poverty is so severe, that often families cannot take care of extended members.
That doesn't mean it cannot happen though.
For those without known biological family, adoption can be an option. The process can be costly, emotionally draining, and long. But without hesitation, I will tell you it is worth the wait and the cost.
I write about adoption and orphan care often and I know I sound like a broken record. But I can't make apologies.
We have been given much. Our lives are filled with multiples cars, homes that are warm and clean, beds that are comfortable, and pantries that are stocked.
I believe there is much to be done with those gifts.
So whether that means you open your home to welcome in children through adoption or give to non-profits that you trust who are doing the legwork in various countries to solve the orphan crisis, I ask you to consider doing something.
I've been to the DRC. I have seen it. I can assure you. . . It. Is. Reality.
And just because it isn't OUR everyday reality, doesn't mean it isn't real.
Until there are no more three year-olds holding a piece of bread and cup of tea, lined up sitting on a concrete floor, I will keep asking you to DO SOMETHING.