I will admit I am one of the lucky ones. I have a mom. I have a dad. I have a brother and two sisters. I even have seventeen in-laws, not counting the two who have passed away. I am lucky because I am not without family, and a healthy loving one at that.
I count my blessings for the family I have, because I know there are so many people whose families are torn apart by anger or abuse or absence. Others have lost their parents due to some horrific reason or another. And then there are those who were abandoned by no fault of their own.
Since their founding in 1998, Acres of Love has held the belief that “Children belong to in families.” Up until this point, I had never heard of this place that raises money to create safe homes for children orphaned or abandoned in South Africa, where currently there are 3-5 million orphans living in all sorts of different situations.
Unlike the orphanages we’re used to seeing in movies, Acres of Love is not a dark, grim place that is to set up to shuffle kids through a system. In fact, it’s way different. For one, children live in home, real homes with real people to form a real family to care for them. Second, children are given the tools and resources they need to help them thrive. And lastly, the organization was created to offer unconditional love to children who have been abandoned in one form or another.
“We are raising a generation who understands they are a beautiful gift to our family and the world.”
Their story and this love can teach us all a little something about who we are, and that is every human being deserves to live and everyone should be given a chance to thrive while doing so. Especially the world’s most vulnerable. At Acres of Love, children are given that chance.
“Our commitment to serving the most vulnerable population of children in South Africa is lived out on a daily basis as we continue to welcome children into our Family Homes who are literally struggling to survive. However, Acres of Love is committed to helping the children do more than survive; we help them thrive.”
Children with disabilities, HIV/AIDS, Downs Syndrome, paralysis, autism, Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder, and other diseases such as tuberculosis, cerebral palsy, cancer, or just severe malnutrition, are all given a chance to be part of a family, a community, and a world where they matter.
I have a few different friends who struggle daily to raise children with different abilities than the average kid. This is a tough job. One that takes a special person to commit and not merely volunteer. A friend once described it like this, “It’s not a job. It’s love.” Or like Acres of Love states on their website, “Our House Parents view their role as a significant calling, and they are passionate about focusing their lives to love hurting children and walk a slow and steady road toward healing, trust building, and attachment.”
Isn’t that something we all ought to be doing? Imagine if everyone made it their mission to walk slowly with the intention to bring healing and restoration to our communities.
“When a child enters the doors of an Acres of Love Family Home, they are HOME.”
The way I see it, Acres of Love is more than a home. It is hope. Every child they rescue is given the best medical, educational, emotional, and nutritional care to help them live into their best selves. Just think about how different our streets and schools and courthouses might look if only we care like this for all the children in our communities.
Imagine if we followed the example of Acres of Love and made it our goal to create self-sufficient adults by preparing them socially and emotionally for the task. Or if we gave all children the skills needed to transition into healthy adults – teaching them how to secure stable job, save money, use a bank account, pay rent, navigate transportation, cook and care for themselves, and to thrive on their own.
“Regardless of how our children arrive to our care, they each have a deep hunger to hear that they are loved, that they belong, and that they are worth fighting for...our team works to help our children understand they are fearfully and wonderfully made. And they are loved.”
I am a strong believer that where there is love is the most powerful tool we possess. It can and does transform lives and communities every day. Out of such love, we hold the power to make sure the word “orphan” no longer exists. We have the means to make sure every child has someone looking out for them – helping, teaching, and shaping their lives for the better.
“While past experiences, trauma, neglect, and abuse will be a part of their story forever, their pasts do not define or limit who they can become. Our desire is to empower them to experience hope and a bright future.”
I’m with them. I believe one should be defined or left out because of a trauma they’ve experienced or a situation they had no control over. We were all made in a divine image, and image I call love. And in and out of love we are made and called.
I believe it’s in such love that we find who we really are and what we can really do. That is thrive. And when we thrive in love, it doesn’t matter where we are.
With love, we are always at home.
Thank you to my friend Mary Prendergast who suggested Acres of Love for this year’s KNOWvember challenge.
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An ex-copywriter turned punk rock pastor and peacemaker who dedicates his life to making the world a better place for all humanity.
"that they all might be one" ~John 17:21
“Prius vita quam doctrina.”
~ St. Thomas Aquinas (1225–1274)
* “Life is more important than doctrine.”